Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST21M1: The History of Modern Ukraine from Borderland to Bloodland, 1850s to 2000s

Department: History

HIST21M1: The History of Modern Ukraine from Borderland to Bloodland, 1850s to 2000s

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 48 Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level 1 module in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide an overview of the history of Ukraine in the modern period.
  • To explore the ethnic complexity of east European borderland and how it complicated the relationship between statehood and national identity, and the history of twentieth-century bloodshed and resilience that lies at the core of the early twenty-first century war.
  • To acquaint students with several historiographic traditions of writing the history of Ukraine
  • To contribute towards the achievement of the Department’s generic aims for study at Level 2.


  • This module aims to understand the history and identity of this ethnically diverse nation that has been divided through history between several empires and nation states and whose periods of modern statehood were episodic and short lived. Before Russia's military invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the broader western public knew Ukrainians largely as 'an unexpected nation' (Andrew Wilson): a Slavic nation in the shadow of its Northern neighbour, whose independence was allegedly due to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Some of the old myths have persisted even after the 2022 invasion: 'divided Ukraine,' 'borderland,' 'country without history' are just some examples for this, each with their own complex history and at the service of different political agendas. How should we as historians approach these questions? Often described as 'borderland,' Ukraine is central to understanding the conflict in Europe during both world wars, and the current war seems to have redefined the meaning of geopolitics as well as European identity. Ukraine’s twentieth-century history has been described as the history of ‘bloodlands’ between Hitler and Stalin (Timothy Snyder); at the same time, Ukraine was 'made Soviet' through Moscow's comprehensive policies, and Soviet legacies, controversial and uncomfortable as they are, continue to shape its public spaces and culture. Students on this module will explore key events and themes in the history of Ukraine, such as Ukrainian identity in the nineteenth-century in the Russian and Habsburg Empires, Jewish history in the Pale of Settlement, the histories of the two world wars in this region of Europe, Ukrainian independence of 1917-1921, Soviet history of Ukraine, especially Stalinism and the man-made famine Holodomor, the history of the Holocaust, and post-Soviet transformation leading to the annexation of the Crimea in 2014 and the open warfare of 2022.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge and understanding of the history of Ukraine and the broader region of East Central Europe
  • Knowledge and understanding of the current trends in historical scholarship and an understanding of the global significance of the ongoing conflict in the twenty-first century
  • Critical use of concepts in historical research
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Building on and developing skills gained at Level 1
  • Deepening and extending historical understanding through focused, concentrated modules
  • Developing precision, depth of understanding, and conceptual awareness.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to employ sophisticated reading skills to gather, sift, process, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources (print, digital, material, aural, visual, audio-visual etc.)
  • The ability to communicate ideas and information orally and in writing, devise and sustain coherent and cogent arguments
  • The ability to write and think under pressure, manage time and work to deadlines
  • The ability to make effective use of information and communications technology.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • Lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates, and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • Seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning and develop key time management skills. The examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative coursework will test students’ ability to communicate ideas in writing, present clear and cogent arguments succinctly and show appropriate critical skills as relevant to the particular module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 17 16 in Term 2, Revision Lecture in Term 3 1 Hour 17
Seminars 7 7 in Term 2 7 7
Preparation and Reading 176
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 2 Hours 100%
Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2000 Words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment consists of a ‘mock’ exam, which will be held in form of timed exam-style sessions in place of the lecture slots the first week of Easter term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University