SyllabusShow trialsOppositionalResearch toolsCharactersScriptsRUSSIAN JUSTICE - SPRING 2014

CRJU 475T-04, #19755, Tuesday 7-9:45 pm, UH-246

Faculty information (UPS item 1)

Instructor: Julius (Jay) Wachtel
Office: LH 624
Hours: T 6-6:45 pm
Tel.: (657) 278-6740 (email preferred)
E-mail: jwachtel (at) fullerton (dot) edu

Course information (UPS item 2)

CRJU 475T, Section 04, #19755, Wed.7-9:45 pm, UH 246


Objective and learning goals

This course explores factors leading to the establishment of a totalitarian regime in post-Revolutionary Russia. Students will learn how the organs of state security and the Russian judicial system were employed as instruments of repression, with special attention to the 1936-38 Moscow Show Trials. Stalin's success in gaining support for his actions from the West will also be discussed.

To better comprehend Stalinīs purges and their consequences, and to convey this knowledge to the broader campus community, students participate in a scripted dramatic presentation of the trials, which is rehearsed and staged during the second half of the term.

Required Texts

  • Kenez, Peter.  A History of the Soviet Union From the Beginning to the End. Cambridge University, 1998 (paper).
  • Wachtel, Julius. Stalin's Witnesses. Knox Robinson, 2012 (paper, hardcover). NOTE: This novel has two threads: a third-person narrative spanning the period from the late Czarist era to the 1937 Moscow show trial, and a prison diary purportedly written by the main character. Students will not be tested on the diary.

Grading standards and policy, exams, assignments (UPS items 3, 4, 5)

Grading standards and policy

100 points can be earned: 15 for each exam (there are four), 10 for the narrative analysis and 30 for class participation (five points for each rehearsal and performance day and five points for the course critique). Semester grades will be assigned using the conventional scale (A=90, B=80, C=70, D=60, F=59 or lower), curved if necessary to reflect class performance.

Exams, narrative analyses, the trial reenactment and course critique are required components. To earn a grade higher than "F" students must participate in each. Unexcused failure to participate in any component of the course will result in a term grade of "F". Work turned in late without an acceptable reason loses half the points. No extra credit assignments will be given.

The plus/minus system is not used.

Any instance of academic dishonesty will result in a term grade of "F" and referral to the Dean.


There are four exams, each covering a two-week portion of the course. Exams are comprised of three medium-length essay questions, each worth five points. Two questions will ask students to describe and analyze specific issues and events discussed in A History of the Soviet Union and in class. One question will ask students to apply current passages from Stalin's Witnesses to these issues and events.

Makeup exams may be given for a documented emergency. Students who cannot take an exam on the scheduled date should e-mail. They will have one opportunity to take the make-up during the next class session; if they cannot they should drop the course. Students cannot make up more than one exam.


    Narrative analyses

Students will be broken into four teams. Each team will be assigned a series of narrative segments from Stalin's Witnesses - one to three segments per student (see schedule).

Each student prepares a formal three to five-page paper about their assigned segment(s):

  • In one or two pages describes what took place in Stalin's Witnesses and places it in context of historical trends and events discussed in class, slide shows and A History of the Soviet Union. Here the tone should be a straightforward summary.
  • In two or three pages describes the points of view, goals and motivations of key characters in Stalin's Witnesses. What brought each to their present situation? What do they seek? What do they fear? Why? Students should consider all pertinent influencers, external and internal, including the political situation, personality characteristics, ideology and self-interest. Here the tone should be argumentative, backed by solid analysis.

On the assigned date teams will hold a panel discussion. Each panel member will have ten minutes to present their papers. Class discussion will follow. Papers will be turned in at the end of the class session.

NOTE: Students must summarize, describe and analyze using their own words. They must not copy or paraphrase from texts, slides or any other source - that will lead to a loss of points (and, if sufficiently serious, may have other consequences.) Please do not use quotations, whether or not their source is identified. Nothing should be in (or need to be in) " " marks. Questions about this policy should be directed to the instructor well in advance of submitting a paper or making a presentation.

    Trial reenactment

Students will participate in a scripted reenactment of the Moscow show trials, to be presented to members of the Division and outside guests on the indicated dates, with one or two performances per date. Students will perform the role of a character in the script or help stage the production. Students will be given an opportunity to indicate their preferences. Roles will be assigned without regard for gender or prior acting experience.

Students earn five class participation points for each rehearsal and performance. There are no opportunities for a makeup.

Students who perform scripted roles are expected to memorize their lines, but will not be graded on acting ability. Knowing one's lines, showing up and cooperating with others is sufficient. Students are urged to refer to online resources about basic acting techniques. For one resource, click here. For an inexpensive, excellent paperback, click here.

Students who help stage the production will be expected to work closely with the instructor, as necessary arriving early and remaining late.

    Course critique

On the final class meeting each student will turn in and orally present a one to two page critique commenting on the course and making recommendations for improvement. There are no makeups.

Classroom management

Cell phones, pagers and laptops

Please set cell phones and pagers to silent mode.

Absolutely no unauthorized use of laptops or other electronic devices in class. NO recording. Laptops and other devices are distracting to users, other students and the instructor. Students with special needs are excepted (please bring your form on the first day of class.) Please take notes the old-fashioned way and plan your online activities accordingly.

Why the rule?  For an illustrated reason, click here.

Attendance and class participation

This is a participatory course. Attendance is mandatory and roll will be taken at the end of each class meeting. Leaving early is same as missing a session. Students who for any reason miss three class meetings will drop one letter grade, and who for any reason miss more than three class meetings will receive an "F" grade. Students who foresee or develop serious attendance issues should drop the course.

Accommodations, academic integrity (UPS items 6-7)

Accomodations for documented special needs:

Academic integrity:

Any instance of academic dishonesty will result in a term grade of "F" and referral to the Dean.

Emergency Instructions (UPS item 8)

Emergency instructions homepage:

Active shooters and hostage-takers – escape and shelter in place information:

  • Depending on the suspect's proximity, quickly decide whether to stay or run.
  • Either way, spread out.
  • If shelter in place, lock or barricade the door.
  • Take whatever cover is available. Use furniture to your advantage.
  • Quietly plan what to do if suspect gets in. Confronting the shooter is an option.
  • If run away, keep spread out. Use multiple routes.
  • Don't charge into arriving officers. Keep both arms visible.
  • Call 911 asap. Don't wait for others to do it.

Earthquakes and fires

  • In case of earthquake, drop and cover.
  • In case of a fire, leave immediately. Use the stairs.
  • Assembly point is the adjacent faculty parking lot.

Schedule, including assignments and topics (UPS item 5)

Meeting no. - Date - Topics - Readings - Slide shows - Assignments

(SW narr means the novel's narrative sections, not the prison diary)SyllabusShow trialsOppositionalResearch toolsCharactersScripts

1 - 1/21 - First half: Introduction to the course

    Second half: Kenez chp. 2 (1917-1921, Revolution, civil war) - SW narr pp. 25-102 - slide show

2 - 1/28 - Week 1 cont'd

3 - 2/4 - First half: Narrative analysis, Team 1

    Panelist 1: Vilna (1905) and The Romms (1906-07)
    Panelist 2: Journeys (1915), The Commissar (1917) and A New Order (1917)
    Panelist 3: Socialist Reality (1918) and Return to Vilna (1918)
    Panelist 4: Communists (1918-19) and Tambov (1920)

    Second half: Discuss roles, "A Machine of Terror"

4 - 2/11 - First half: Exam 1 (weeks 1-3)

5 - 2/18 - First half: Week 4 cont'd

    Second half: Narrative analysis, Team 2

    Panelist 1: The Comrade (1921), A Struggle Within (1922) and Moscow Center (1922)
    Panelist 2: Berlin (1922-23) and Essen (1923)
    Panelist 3: The Colonel (1923), Hamburg (1923) and City of Light (1924)
    Panelist 4: Savinkov (1924), Trud (1924-25) and The Manifesto (1926-27)

6 - 2/25 - First half: Exam 2 (weeks 4 & 5)

    Second half: 1928-1932 - Stalin triumphs, collectivization, industrialization - Kenez chp. 4, SW narr pp. 205-274 - slide show

7 - 3/4 - First half: Week 6 cont'd

    Second half: Narrative analysis, Team 3

    Panelist 1: Lev (1928) and Siberia, Ukraine, Tokyo (1928)
    Panelist 2: Fumiko (1928) and Georgie (1928-29)
    Panelist 3: The Tokkō (1929-30) and Berck-Plage (1930-31)
    Panelist 4: Geneva (1931)

8 - 3/11 - First half: Exam 3 (weeks 6 & 7)

    Second half: 1932-1938 - Stalin consolidates power, repressions - Kenez chp. 5, SW narr pp. 279-363 - slide show

9 - 3/18 - First half: Week 8 cont'd - Moscow trials - slide show - trials page

    Second half: Narrative analysis, Team 4

    Panelist 1: Dreams of Peace (1932-34), America (1934)
    Panelist 2: Chicago, Cleveland (1934-35) and Liquidation (1935-36)
    Panelist 3: Show Trial (1937) and The Trial of Vladimir Romm
    Panelist 4: The Next Morning and Moscow (2002)

10 - 3/25 - First half: Exam 4 (weeks 8 & 9)

    Second half: Read-through script

11 - 4/1 - Spring break.  Memorize dialogue.

12 - 4/8 - Rehearsal (5 points)

13 - 4/15 - Rehearsal (5 points)

14 - 4/22 - Dress rehearsal (5 points)

15 - 4/29 - Performances (5 points)

16 - 5/6 - Performances (5 points)

17 - 5/13 - Final exam day - Discuss and turn in course critiques (5 points)