Sociology 451-651
Russian Society in Transition

Instructor: Dmitri Shalin

Office: CBC-237, 895-0259,
Office hours: Tuesday 2:30-4:00, 6:30-7:00 p.m., or by appointment


EMPHASIS: The course is a sociological survey of Russian society and culture. It reviews major Soviet institutions and examines current attempts to transform Russian society. Special attention is given to the origin of glasnost and perestroika and the difficulties that the former Soviet Union faces in reforming its communist system and building democracy and a market economy. At the end of the class students are expected to understand how Russian history and culture have shaped this country’s politics, education, mass communications, social stratification, sexuality, family life, deviance and crime. Video materials, audio sessions, and intensive class discussions are an integral part of this class. During the course of the semester students conduct a crosscultural dialogue over internet with students at a Russian university. The Russian potluck dinner is held in the first week of November. The course fulfills the UNLV foreign culture and international studies requirements, and it does not require knowledge of Russian language.

READINGS: A collection of essays Russian Culture at the Crossroads. Paradoxes of Postcommunist Consciousness, Dmitri N. Shalin, ed. (Boulder, CO.: Westview Press), serves as the textbook for this course. The book by Hedrick Smith, The Russians (Quadrangle Publication) is a supplementary source. A series of newspaper columns and articles on Russia written by Dmitri Shalin can be found on this web site, Additional readings from various sources are available in the digital form. In the list that follows, required readings are marked with asterisk (*). Other works are recommended for independent studies and/or term papers.

REQUIREMENTS: All students will be given a written mid-term exam in the 9th week of the class. At the end of the semester, undergraduate students choose between writing a paper and taking a final examination. Graduate level students will receive some additional class readings and are required to write a paper at the end of this class. All tests are based on assigned readings, lectures, class discussions, and special video session materials. Undergraduate students taking this class write a paper on the order of 8-12 double-spaced typewritten pages, and graduate students write a paper on the order of 12-16 double-spaced typewritten pages. Participation in class discussions is strongly encouraged. Class attendance and individual contributions to class discussions will be reflected in the final grade. The midterm and final exams are given equal weight in determining the final grade, with consistent class participation adding half a point to the overall grade.


1.   Introduction:  Problems of studying other cultures
2.   History and present challenges
3.   Political system and national aspirations
4.   Education and mass communications
5.   Youth culture and popular art
6.   Social stratification and inequality
7.   Crime and deviance
8.   Family and sex-roles
9.   Conclusion:  Prospects for the future


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  *D. Shalin, “Introduction,” in Russian Culture at the Crossroads.
   *D. Shalin, “Emotional Barriers to Democracy Are Daunting,” Los Angeles Times, 1993, October 27.    
   *D. Shalin, “From Lies to Half-Truth in the USSR.” Chicago Tribune, 1988, August 25.    
   *D. Shalin, “Reforms in the USSR: Muckraking Soviet Style.” Chicago Tribune, 1987, February 16.     
     P. Hollander, Soviet and American Society.  A comparison.  ch. 1.
     B. Eklof, Soviet Briefing, ch. 3.
     D. Lane, Soviet Society under Perestroika, ch. 11.
     D. Shalin, “Behavioral and Post-Behavioral Methodologies in Communist Studies.” Soviet Union, pp. 186-222, 1981, vol. 8.
    E. Mickiewicz, Handbook of Soviet Social Science Data, pp. 1-41.


  *Map of Major Historical Events.
   *Russian Culture at the Crossroads, chs. 1, 2.
   *F. Hill, and C. Gaddy, “Putin and the Uses of History.”
   *D. Shalin, “Vladimir Putin's KGB Democracy.Las Vegas Review Journal, 2007, October 24.
   *D. Shalin, “Why Economic Reforms Have Failed.” Chicago Tribune," 1990, May 30.    
   *D. Shalin, “For Marxism, A Problem of National Proportions.” Los Angeles Times, 1988, March 22.    
     D. Shalin, “Soviet Civilization and Its Emotional Discontents,” International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 1996, vol. 16.
     D. Shalin, Review of “Olga Shevchenko, Crisis and the Everyday in Postsocialist Moscow,” Society, 2009, vol. 46.
     H. Smith,
The New Russians, Parts 1, 2.


  *Russian Culture at the Crossroads, chs. 1, 2, 11.
   *H. Smith, The Russians, ch. 10.
   *S. Holmes, “Fragments of a Defunct State.”
   *D. Shalin, “Former Communists May Never Reach the Promised Land.” Las Vegas Review-Journal, 1992, December 13.
   *D. Shalin, “Review of Larissa Remennick, Russian Jews on Three Continents: Identity, Integration, and Conflict,” Contemporary Sociology, 2009.
   *D. Shalin, “A Malaise that Plagues the Soviets.” Chicago Tribune, 1990, October 19.    
   *D. Shalin, “Perestroika's Ugly Brother, Anti-Semitism.” Los Angeles Times, 1990, July 25. 
    A. Venediktov, “Alone at the Top.
    H. Smith, The New Russians, Parts 1, 2, 5.
    P. Hollander, Soviet and American Society, chs. 2, 3.
    D. Lane, Politics and Society in the USSR, pp. 1-19, 125-201.
    C. Cohen, Communism, Fascism, and Democracy, pp. 481-85.
    Z. Brzezinski and S. P. Huntington, Political Power:  USA/USSR, pp. 17-75.


  *Russian Culture at the Crossroads, chs. 3, 5, 6, 8.
   *Smith, H. The Russians.
   *U. Bronfenbrenner, Two Worlds of Childhood:  US & USSR.
   *D. Shalin, “Ethics of Survival.” Christian Science Monitor.” 1990, December 4.    
     D. Shalin, Review of “Nancy Ries, Russian Talk: Culture and Conversation During Perestroika.” Slavic Review, 1998.
     A. Jones, ed., Soviet Social Problems, chs. 2, 12.
     P. Hollander, American and Soviet Society, chs. 4, 5.
     D. Lane, Politics and Society in the USSR, ch. 14.
     A. Inkeles, Social Change in Soviet Russia, chs. 14-15.
     D. Shipler, Broken Idols, Solemn Dreams, ch. 1.
     G. A. Geyer, The Young Russians, chs. 14, 19.
     J. W. Santrock, Adolescence, pp. 465-81.
     R. Hingley, The Russian Mind, ch. 2.          
     D. Levin, Leisure and Pleasure of Soviet Children.


  *Smith, H. The Russians, Ch. 7.
   *D. Shalin, “Glasnost and Sex.” New York Times,” 1990, Janury 24.
   *D. Shalin, “Sexual Counter-Revolution in the U.S.S.R.,” Boston Globe, 1991, August 19.
   *D. Shalin, Review of “Thomas Cushman, Notes from the Underground: Rock Music Counterculture in Russia.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.
   *M. Lapenkova-Maximova, “Boozy Russian Remain Wary of Alcoholic Anonymous.”
     I. Kon, The Sexual Revolution in Russia, Parts 2, 3.
     A. Jones, Soviet Social Problems, ch. 13.
     J. Riordan, Soviet Youth Culture, chs. 1 & 3.
     P. Hollander, American and Soviet Society, pp. 353-60.
     J. Gagnon, and K. Greenblat, Life Designs, pp. 81-8.
     G. A. Geyer, The Young Russians, ch. 11.


    *Russian Culture at the Crossroads, chs. 6, 10.
   *D. Shalin, Review of “Alena V. Ledeneva, Russia’s Economy of Favours: Blat, Networking, and Informal Exchange.” Contemporary Sociology 1999.
     H. Smith, The New Russians, Part 3.
     A. Jones, Soviet Social Problems, ch. 8.
     P. Hollander, Soviet and American Society, ch. 6.
     A. Inkeles, Social Change in Soviet Russia, chs. 7-9.
     M. Djilas, The New Class, pp. 1-69.
     D. Lane, The End of Social Inequality?


   *Russian Culture at the Crossroads, ch. 2.
   *Smith, H. The Russians, ch. 18.
   *D. Shalin, “Settling Old Accounts.” Christian Science Monitor. 1989, December 29, Ddecember 29.       
   *D. Shalin, Review of “Renee Baigell and Matthew Baigell. eds., Soviet Dissident Artists: Interviews after Perestroika.” Slavic Review. 1996, vol. 55.
     A. Jones, Soviet Social Problems, ch. 6, 7, 14.
     P. Hollander, Soviet and American Society, pp. 304-37.
     W. Connor, “The Manufacture of Deviance: The Case of the Soviet Purge, 1936-1938.” American Sociological Review, vol. 37, 1972.
     J. Gliksman, “Social Prophylaxis as a Form of Soviet Terror,” pp. 60-73, in C.J. Friedrich, ed. Totalitarianism.
     B. Moore, Jr. Terror and Progress in the USSR, chs. 4-6.
     R.L. Tokes, ed. Dissent in the USSR.


  *Russian Culture at the Crossroads, chs. 5.
   *Smith, H. The Russians, ch. 5.
   *D. Shalin, “Glasnost and Sex.” New York Times,” 1990, Janury 24.
   *D. Shalin, “Sexual Counter-Revolution in the U.S.S.R.,” Boston Globe, 1991, August 19.
     I. Kon, The Sexual Revolution in Russia, chs. 1-3, 4-5, 10-11.
     Francine du Plessix, Gray, Soviet Women.
     A. Jones, Soviet Social Problems, ch. 11, 15.
     J. Riordan, Soviet Youth Culture, ch. 3.
     P. Hollander, Soviet and American Society, pp. 245-81.
     D. Lane, Politics and Society in the USSR, ch. 11.
     M. Field, “Workers and mothers:  Soviet women today,” pp. 7-56 in D. R. Brown (ed.), The Role and Status of Women in the Soviet Union.
     M. Stern and A. Stern, Sex in the USSR, pp. 3-122.


 *Russian Culture at the Crossroads, ch. 11, conclusion and postscript.
   *D. Shalin, handouts provided by the instructor.
     H. Smith, The Russians, ch. 20.
     H. Smith, The New Russians, Part 5, 6.
     P. Hollander, P. American and Soviet Society, ch. 9
     D. Shalin, D. N. “Marxist paradigm and academic freedom.” Social Research, 1980.          
     D. Shalin, D. “Sociology for the Glasnost Era.” Social Forces,” 1990.   
     D. Shalin, “Becoming a Public Intellectual,” ch. 9 in D. Shalin, Pragmatism and Democracy: Studies in History, Social Theory and Progressive Politics.
     Transactions Publishers, 2011.



Regional Maps 
The Moscow Times 
Russian History and Foreign Relations Outlines
UNLV Center for Democratic Culture Russian Culture Project

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