Tsars and Commissars: The Rulers Who Made Russia Great


The state which today we call Russia is a relatively recent creation, forged from bleakly unpromising material, sparsely populated, protected by few natural borders, and ethnically linguistically and religiously diverse.

To create from it a single political unit required superhuman energy, ambition and imagination. It may also have required a brutal and callous indifference to opponents, domestic or foreign, who stood in the way.

The citizens of few countries have suffered as much at the hands of their own rulers as the Russians. It has always been a place where the state thrived while the people withered. The superpower of today is the product of ruthless tyrants whom, fascinatingly, many Russians still remember not with loathing but with adulation and even love. This course looks at the six who did most to create the superpower of today.

Programme details

Fridays, 11am–12.30pm (UK time), 5 November 10am–11.30am

For those attending in person at Rewley House, registration takes place at 10.30am before the first lecture (22 October 2021). Tea and coffee are provided in the Common Room from half an hour before each lecture. Please note the earlier start time on Friday 5 November.

For those joining us online, please join in good time before each lecture to ensure that you have no connection problems. We recommend joining 10-15 minutes before the start time. 

Friday 22 October 2021

Prince Alexander of Novgorod (Nevsky)

Friday 29 October 2021

Grand Prince/Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible)

Friday 5 November 2021 (10am–11.30am)

Tsar/Emperor Peter I (the Great)

Friday 12 November 2021

Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, Empress Catherine the Great

Friday 19 November 2021

General Secretary Iosif Dzugashvili (aka Stalin)

Friday 26 November 2021

President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin


Description Costs
Tuition - in-person attendance £125.00
Tuition - virtual attendance £125.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr Christopher Danziger


Christopher Danziger M.A., M.Ed., was formerly Head of History at St Edward’s School, Oxford and a lecturer at the Universities of Durham and Cape Town. For the past 14 years he has been a Tutor in the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. He teaches European History, with a special interest in Napoleonic France and Romanov Russia on both of which he has written extensively.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

You can opt to attend this hybrid teaching event either online (via a livestream) or in person at Rewley House, Oxford. You will be given the option of how you wish to attend during the enrolment process. You can only pick one option. If your preferred attendance format is fully booked, you can email us to be put on the waiting list.

For those joining us online

The University of Oxford uses Microsoft Teams for our learning environment. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Teams interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

If you have not used the Microsoft Teams app before, once you click the joining link you will be invited to download it (this is free). Once you have downloaded the app, please test before the start of your course. If you are using a laptop or desktop computer, you will also be offered the option of connecting using a web browser. If you connect via a web browser, Chrome is recommended.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.