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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Herbert J Ellison
SIS 440
Seattle Campus

History of Communism

Communism from its origins in Bolshevik faction of Russian social democracy to the present, treating the development of the ideology, the various communist parties, and the communist states. Recommended: two history or politics of Europe courses. Offered: jointly with HSTEU 440.

Class description

The course covers the history of communism from its origins in the European Marxist socialist movement of the nineteenth century to the organization of the Russian Bolshevik Party and the Communist International, and through the process of formation of communist parties and states internationally before and after World War II. The focus is on the way in which the ideology and organizaton of communist parties developed, how communist revolutions were made, what was the special character of the political, economic, social and cultural life of communist states, why the bulk of the communist states collapsed in the 80s and 90s, and what is the legacy of communism both in the states that repudiated it and in the few that have retained much of the old system.

The course also emphasizes the impact of the foreign and revolutionary policies of communists states, particularly the Soviet Union, on international relations and the Cold War.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

The course makes use of lecture and discussion in the classroom, and the course requirement can be met either by writing a set of five essays on fixed themes outside of class or by taking a mid-term and final examination and submitting two book reviews.

Recommended preparation

It is useful, but not requried, to have some background in twentieth century European and world poltics.

Class assignments and grading

The five-essay option questons are focussed on major questions of the history of communism--ideology, society, economy, international policy, etc. The same is true of the exams, though the later will be based more on the material provided in the classroom lectures. Text: Zbygniew Brzezinski, History of Communism.

Quality of performance on the requirements set forth in the two optional patterns indicated.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by M Jane Meyerding
Date: 10/08/2001