Find and select an artifact or primary source (a text, image, ad, cover, logo, illustration, etc…) from a book, magazine, newspaper published between 1900 and 1940 that is related to the Russian Revolution. You can choose a material artifact from Davidson’s Special Collections and may also consider other artifacts, such as maps, private letters, paintings, sculpture, songs, and objects.

The Marxist Internet Archive is also a great place to search for primary sources (historical objects of study), but make sure you don’t choose a secondary source (scholarly or critical analysis of a primary source) or tertiary source (encyclopedia, handbook, or dictionary entry that sums up what scholars and experts generally agree on today). You can find a treasure trove of print and electronic sources listed in our library catalog (get help from a reference librarian) and/or catalogued in the Index of Modernist Magazines (co-authored by Davidson Students!), as well as in the digital archives linked the Resources section of the Index. Or explore one of our favorite sites (for visiting in person and electronically): the Tretyakov Gallery: an impressive collection of Russian art, with a website in Russian and English.

Once you’ve selected an artifact, write a short essay (750 words max) in which you identify and briefly describe the artifact, and analyze its relationship or attitude to the Russian Revolution. What does the article tell you about the period or revolution? What vision or version of the Russian Revolution does it offer? You are encouraged to focus your analysis on a specific aspect or issue within the period, such as the representation of women or children, workers, peasants, monarchy, Western influences, industrialization, violence, etc. The more narrow your focus, paradoxically the more you can say about your artifact.


  • Think carefully about what kind of claims you can make based on a single artifact. What can you conclude about an entire period based on one poem, article, ad, or image? Not much, but you can draw a conclusion about your artifact.
  • If you consult secondary sources, think of yourself as collaborating with, rather than attacking scholars who have come before you. This doesn’t mean that you can’t challenge or even reject their findings, but do so respectfully, in a spirit of a shared commitment to intellectual inquiry into this rich, dynamic period of Russian / world history.
  • Don’t get hung up on research! The point of this assignment is NOT to do a lot of research, but to hone your close reading skills.

Your essay should include:

  • Word Limit: 750 words (max)
  • Category: Artifact draft / Artifact final
  • Relevant title & featured image
  • Exposition: identify the artifact, source, date, and audience.
  • “They Say”/ Critical Conversation: Situate your artifact in relation to some popular assumption (“Americans often assume” or “I was taught to believe”) or scholarly argument (e.g. Sheila Fitzpatrick) about the Russian Revolution or your particular aspect of it.
  • Intervention: Assert a clear thesis about how your artifact supports, contradicts, or complicates that assumption.
  • Defend your claims with specific evidence (quotations, details)
  • Analyze the evidence to explain how it supports your claim.
  • Include a clear, well-cropped, legible image of the artifact in your essay.
  • Include a bibliography of works cited & consulted (MLA Style).
  • Attention to detail: no more than 3 errors in standard English usage