Course syllabi and assignments

This page features sample syllabi and course assignments for courses on the history of socialist cities and related topics. If you wish to contribute a syllabi or assignment to be included here, please send them to and include a short description that can be added alongside the document itself.


HIST-471E6-SHarris-201401 (Steven E. Harris, University of Mary Washington). This is an upper-level seminar, “Second World Urbanity” on the history of cities in the USSR and socialist Eastern Europe. It includes some theoretical works on transnational history and the concept of the “Second World.” The course also examines how contacts and competition with the West shaped socialist urbanity, as well as the role that Second World architects and urban planners played in the developing world. For more about this course, you can contact me at

History 479–Readings in Twentieth Century Urban History (Annemarie Sammartino, Oberlin College.) This course will investigate the history of the city over the course of the tumultuous twentieth century. During this century, cities were the homes of more people than any other form of settlements. Whether justly or unjustly, cities have also been the repositories of dreams, hopes, and fears of the future. We will engage both the experiences of urban dwellers as well as the visions of planners. As urban history was not necessarily bounded by national divides, this course is transnational in focus. We will be looking at topics including provincial Japanese cities in the interwar period, Eastern European cities under Communism, and North American cities struggling with urban crisis. Throughout we will be looking for both the connections that can be made between different urban centers and the differences that distinguish them.

2013 Arch 600 20thC Cities Cap Soc Mod Syllabus SWU2012 Arch 600 syllabus (Marie-Alice L’Heureux, University of Kansas). This upper-level undergraduate/graduate seminar examines the history of the 20th century city under capitalist and socialist ideologies through the lens of “the modern.”  A city is a palimpsest of multi-variable influences and this course considers the intersection of city life, form, and culture through the ideological beliefs of the founders, architects, developers, and residents and the development of urban life in the 20th century.  The idea of “modern” has many interpretations, but our focus will be on the work of Marshall Berman All That Is Solid Melts into Air. The focus will be on how modernity was expressed among cities within or under the sphere of influence of the former Soviet Union or of a Socialist ideology such as Havana and cities in China using the general development of capitalist cities as a foil. Through readings and discussions, we will explore the concept of the “modern” (modernity and modernization) and the characteristics of socialist cities compared to capitalist, their ideology (how power relationships functioned and shaped them); their morphology (their form and spatial relationships), and their physiology (how people experienced them).

HIST R1B Zubovich 2015 (Katherine Zubovich, Ryerson University). This is a lower-division seminar on the history of socialist city planning and urban life in the twentieth century. The course explores the history of attempts throughout the socialist world to build “socialist” cities, distinct in their appearance, economy, and infrastructure from capitalist urban spaces. Since this is a lower-division seminar, readings are short. The course nonetheless covers a wide geography, starting in Magnitogorsk and Moscow before moving to Beijing, Pyongyang, Havana, Dar es Salaam and then returning again to Eastern Europe. The courses asks students to think comparatively, posing questions about how city planners dealt with the legacy of pre-socialist urban spaces, how socialist architecture and plans shaped people’s everyday lives, and how socialist city planning in the twentieth century continues to shape urban development and life today.

Eurasian Urbanisms (Markian Dobczansky, The Harriman Institute, Columbia University). Cities encapsulate the social, political, and economic processes of their time and studying them offers a window into the societies that produce them. This course
explores the institution of the city across Eurasia from the nineteenth century to the
present. Before World War I, rapid urbanization began to significantly alter how the
Russian Empire was run, how its economy functioned, and how its various peoples
interacted. With the rise of Soviet socialism, the “socialist city” became an object of intense discussions, while experimental architecture, massive public works projects,
and the Soviet forced labor economy changed the face of cities across Eurasia. The
Cold War ushered in a new era of state-sponsored nuclear research, competition
over consumer goods, and a new Soviet role in the so-called Third World. Finally,
with the collapse of Soviet socialism, cities were simultaneously nationalized and
globalized. The Soviet city is at the core of the course, while its predecessors, imitators, and successors are also considered. In taking this course, students will examine broader
processes and trends through focused case studies of cities such as Moscow, St.
Petersburg/Leningrad, Tashkent, Lviv, and Berlin. Students will learn to think about
these cities in a comparative context as well as to tease out what was specific to the
experience of socialism. By examining primary sources, scholarly work on urban
history, and films, students will become familiar with the urban experience in
Eurasia and how it has been portrayed.


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