History (HIST) 327

Imperial Russia (Revision 3)

HIST 327 course cover

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: None

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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HIST 327 has a Challenge for Credit option

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History 327: Imperial Russia is a three-credit senior-level course that examines the process of empire building in Russia and that looks at the means that tsars and tsarinas used to govern and control the large multicultural territory that expanded from Europe to Asia from the early to the late imperial era (1689–1917). The course explores violence, coercion, religion, gender, ethnicity, and identity as means of expanding, unifying, and modernizing the Russian empire. It follows a thematic approach for the first part of the course, and then in the second part, looks in detail at the reigns and accomplishments of the most important Romanovs, ranging from Peter I the Great to Nicholas II.


History 327: Imperial Russia consists of thirteen units divided into two parts.

  • Part I: The Process of Empire Building
    • Unit 1: Geography, Power, and Empire explores the interrelatedness of geography, history, and power in the historical-geographic space of imperial Russia.
    • Unit 2: The Nature of the Russian Empire sets the Russian empire in comparative perspective with other empires qualitatively, geographically, and chronologically.
    • Unit 3: Violence, Coercion, Extraction, and Extermination in Russian Empire Building focuses on violence, coercion, extraction, and extermination as power tools for building and preserving the Russian empire in the nineteenth century.
    • Unit 4: Religion, Ethnicity, and Identity Building in the Age of Nationalism explores the role of religion as an identifier of Russianness and otherness.
    • Unit 5: Relations Between Church and State in Imperial Russia from Peter I the Great to Nicholas II examines the relationship between Russian Orthodoxy and the state, looks at the Russian emperors’ approaches and policies towards the Russian Orthodox Church, and explains what these policies meant for the Church.
    • Unit 6: The Challenges Faced by Missionary Priests explores the world of Eastern Orthodoxy as lived out by Russians in the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century.
    • Unit 7: Patriarchy in Practice: The Russian Empire Through a Gendered Lens examines the social mobility of women and its challenges in the late nineteenth century.
    • Unit 8: Serfdom in Imperial Russia analyzes the institution of serfdom, the origins of serfdom, and the life of peasants under serfdom.
  • Part II: Famous Romanovs
    • Unit 9: Peter I the Great (1689–1725): The Petrine Revolution looks at the transformation of Russia into a European power and a military and autocratic monarchy with the subordination of the Church to the state.
    • Unit 10: Catherine II the Great (1762–1796) examines Catherine II the Great’s enlightened absolutism and the means she used in empire building.
    • Unit 11: Alexander I (1801–1825)—The Tsar Who Defeated Napoleon examines Russia’s prominent place among European powers and the policies of Alexander I.
    • Unit 12: The Road to Revolution: Nicholas I (1825–1855), Alexander II (1855–1881), and Alexander III (1881–1894) looks at the escalation of tension between the state and society during the second half of the nineteenth century—that is, the road to the revolution that ended the era of tsarist Russia.
    • Unit 13: Nicholas II (1894–1917) and Revolution in Russia analyzes the complex factors behind the failure of tsarist autocracy, the failure to establish a parliamentary democracy, and the polarization of society that resulted in the 1917 revolution.


To receive credit for History 327, students must participate in the discussion forums, complete and submit two of the learning activities, complete and submit all parts of the assignments, and write the final exam. They must achieve a course composite grade of at least D (50 percent) and a grade of at least 50 percent on the final examination. The following table lists the course activities and the grade weights associated with each.

Activity Weighting
Discussion Forums 10%
Learning Activities 10%
Assignment 1: Slide Presentation 20%
Assignment 2: Research Essay (3 parts)
  • Assignment 2A: Research Proposal (3%)
  • Assignment 2B: Annotated Bibliography (7%)
  • Assignment 2C: Research Essay (20%)
Final Exam 30%
Total 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

Course Materials


Rey, Marie-Pierre. 2016. Alexander I: The Tsar Who Defeated Napoleon, translated by Susan Emanuel. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Smith, Stephen A. 2017. Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890 to 1928. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Other Materials

All other course materials are available online. They include an extensive study guide and recent scholarly articles, book chapters, and documentaries on imperial Russia.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the History 327 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least D (50 percent) on the entire challenge examination.

Activity Weighting
Part I: Exam 50%
Part II: Exam 50%
Total 100%

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, March 5, 2020.

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