This course explores how Soviet leaders used culture to legitimize their authority and create a unified sense of identity across the vast territory they inherited from Imperial Russia. As an explicitly anti-imperialist regime, the Soviet Union faced a dilemma in asserting its governance over non-Russian lands after the revolution. Its leaders sought to mark their difference from the previous imperial regime and gain the loyalty of its diverse peoples by employing the rhetoric of national liberation and advancement. They supported the flourishing of national self-expression, yet their methods could be destructive and even violent. Their project also rested on a Eurocentric notion of “modernity” that denied the value of non-Western ways of life. We will begin by investigating the development of Soviet nationalities policy, including questions of how to define a “nation” and what constitutes acceptable “national” expression. Then, we will explore clashes between tradition and modernization in Soviet Central Asia. Finally, we will focus on specific cultural genres, including literature and theater, music, and architecture, and explore efforts to bring these cultural products into conformity with Stalinist norms. Through close engagement with primary and secondary sources, we will discover the Soviet state’s motives for transforming minority cultures and methods for doing so. Further, we will learn how minorities resisted or repurposed Soviet nationalities policy to serve their own ends.