Considerable contribution to the establishment of the Belarusian State University was made by historians. The first President of the BSU was Vladimir Picheta, the specialist in the history of the Slavs. One of the faculties founded at the BSU was the Faculty of Social Sciences. It started to train lawyers, economists, teachers and other specialists in the humanities. Curricula of all these specialities as well as those of the Workers’ Faculty included the courses in Ancient, Modern and Contemporary World History. History of Belarus and Russian history had the most significant place in the curriculum.
Together with V. Picheta about 50 professors and lecturers came to teach and carry out research at the BSU. V. Picheta (he headed the Department of History of Russian and Belarusian National Economy and the Department of Russian and Lithuanian-Belarusian Law History), D. Zharinov (he headed the Russian History Department), A. Savich, V. Ignatovsky, M. Dovnar-Zapolsky (he headed the Department of History of Russian National Economy at the Faculty of Law and National Economy), F. Turuk, A. Yasinsky, V. Druzhchiz, D. Dovhialo, I. Kraskovsky, N. Shchekotihin, M. Syrkin, I. Serbov, I. Sosis and others started teaching Russian History and History of Belarus within the context of Russian history. Alexander Savich was one of the first lecturers who came to work at the BSU (in October 1921). Together with professors V. Picheta and D. Zharinov he became a leading lecturer in Russian History two years later and headed the Russian History Department. A. Savich provided scientific and organizational support to teaching Russian History at the BSU. In October 1924 the commission on the historical disciplines agreed with professor D. Zharinov to teach the History of Russia of the 19th century and Russian History of serf economy of 17th – 18th centuries using teaching method based on combination of lectures and group work at certain problems.
The course of class struggle history based on the examples from Russian history, the course of Russian History of imperialistic wars and proletarian revolution appeared at that time. New staff took the place of former professors and provided teaching in those courses.
In April 1931 the Department of History of the USSR Peoples was founded for teaching Russian History and History of Belarus. It was formed instead of the former Russian History Department at the Pedagogical Faculty. After the division of the BSU into several independent institutions (it happened in 1930 – 1931) historical education was transferred to the recently-founded Minsk Pedagogical Institute. On 25th May 1934 Soviet of People's Commissars of the BSSR pointed out the lines of the BSU development in the resolution N 791. The History Faculty was founded under the resolution of Soviet of People's Commissars of the BSSR and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belarus in June 1934.
Teaching Russian history was resumed although a separate department was not founded yet. 3 departments of the History Faculty (the Department of the USSR and BSSR History was among them) were mentioned in the report on the first term of 1936/37 academic year. The Department of the USSR and BSSR History was divided into two departments – the Department of History of the USSR Peoples and the Department of the BSSR History – for a short period of time.
In the pre-war years lectures on the feudal period were delivered by A. Pjankov, D. Dudkov and I. Lochmel. A. Pjankov based his teaching practice on fundamental research in Russian history. His published research papers on the problems of Ancient Russian History were generally recognized by the academic community of Moscow, Leningrad and other centres where scholars studied Russian history. He was the author of the most authoritative research editions. Such a reputation gave him an opportunity to improve teaching and scientific potential of the Department of History of the USSR Peoples headed by him in 1938.
Moscow historian V. Mavrodin was invited to the BSU to deliver lectures in Russian History. He was appointed head of the Department of the USSR and BSSR History. He was formally in charge of educational process and scientific research of the department. Professors V. Bochkarev and K. Bazilevich, Associate Professor M. Sedov were also invited to the BSU.
The teacher’s charge of the department was large. The course in History of the USSR in the 4th year consisted of 1210 academic hours. It included 16 specialized courses (compulsory as well as of students’ choice ones). Moreover, students took 8 optional courses (100 academic hours). In the 5th year auxiliary historical disciplines were given much attention to. The final-year students took a course in history of one of the Soviet republics and some optional courses. Teacher’s charge of the department post-graduates was large. It consisted of 2500 academic hours for writing and approbation of dissertation and 2200 academic hours for advanced studies of Russian History and History of the USSR. 9 post-graduates studied at the department in 1938 and 6 post-graduates studied there in 1941.
Public sub-faculty meetings with discussions of the scientific papers became the common practice; research studies were carried out in more organized manner. Speeches started to be planned for every sub-faculty meeting in 1939-1941. Speech issues were chosen by the researchers and approved by the head of the department. In the pre-war years The Department of History of the USSR Peoples aimed at establishment of relations with the leading Russian historians. It was reasonable that V. Picheta was engaged in working out of the scientific subject matters of the department. Professor E. Morohovets helped to work out two of them.
The Department of History of the USSR Peoples delivers teaching “the most important historical disciplines” to other faculties of the BSU although the problem of staff had been difficult for many years.
The Division of History of the USSR and BSSR Peoples detached to Historical Museum of the Faculty was founded with the help of the department. Artifacts for the Division were delivered from different places of Russia. Students of the History and other faculties were sent to the towns and well-known places of Russia.
The post-war period of the department history was stable. It was a leading department of the History Faculty.
In 1940-50s teaching staff of the department was formed. On the one hand, the teaching staff had been trained at the History Faculty of the BSU and, on the other hand, the staff trained the majority of present-day lecturers of the History Faculty of the BSU. Many of them took part in the Second World War: A. Kazhushkov, S. Skoptsov, V. Shatillo, A. Sidorenko, Y. Dragun, P. Savochkin, I. Ignatenko, L. Abetsedarsky, M. Baranova, M. Fridman, L. Mihaylovsky, Y. Naumenko, F. Adazhchik, V. Titok.
Since being located in Skhodnya the Department of History of the USSR Peoples was headed by A. Pjankov (though A. Savich is marked as a head of the department in the documents). After his departure for Mogilev in 1950 P. Savochkin was in charge of the department.
In 1956 P. Savochkin was appointed the dean of the History Faculty and he deputed discharge of the department head’s duty to I. Ignatenko. Upon the BSU post-graduate courses he worked as a senior lecturer and then as associate professor of the department which was named ‘the Department of the USSR History’. In 1959 Savochkin was appointed head of the department and dean of the Faculty. He had been in charge of them for 16 years. Functions of the department included working out of its scientific subject matters and teaching History of Belarus. Candidates of science and doctors of science specializing in the USSR and BSSR History had been trained at the post-graduate and doctorate courses (the latter ones were abandoned in 1956). The Department of the BSSR History was founded in 1958.
Organizational changes have been made at the Department of the USSR History. It was divided into two parts: the Department of the Pre-Soviet Period of the USSR History and the Department of the Socialist Period of the USSR History. The fist one was headed by Doctor of History, Professor I. Orzhehovsky who went to the BSU from Gorky (Nizhni Novgorod). History Faculty graduate, Associate Professor I. Litvinovsky headed the latter one.
The activities of two departments were quite effective. Lecture courses were worked out, post-graduate courses were developed (about 20 post-graduates had defended their candidate’s dissertations by the beginning of 1990s). But the most radical organizational changes have been made in 1990s. In August 1991 the Department of the Pre-Soviet Period of the USSR History was called ‘Russian History Department’. Since January 1992 it was called ‘the Department of Russian and Slavonic History’ (from ancient times till the beginning of the 20th century). The Department of the Socialist Period of the USSR History has changed its name into the Department of Contemporary History of Slavonic countries.
The course “History of the USSR” was abolished. History started to be studied through the context of Eastern Slavs and World History. Such an approach required special attention to multi-ethnic phenomenon of Russian history and history of the USSR. Soon afterwards it was clear that combination of Russian and Slavonic history was not productive in the activities of the departments. Therefore in 1998 Russian History Department and The Department of History of Southern and Western Slavs were founded under the resolution of the Faculty Academic Council and the University Academic Council.
The main teaching trends in Russian and Ukrainian history through the general and specialized courses, master degree study courses have been pointed out. Textbooks, lecture courses, manuals (15 of them have been already published and 10 of them will have been published in 2008) have been produced by the lecturers of the department. All textbooks for Belarusian secondary schools were written by its staff (Russian History was considered as a part of World History). Post-graduate courses began to work at its full potential. 12 post-graduates defended their candidate dissertations on the complex issues of Russian history. In 2002 Associate Professor V. Menkovsky defeated thesis for a Doctor's degree on the theme “Power and Soviet Society of 1930s in English-American Historiography”.
Today the staff of the department consists of 2 professors (V. Menkovsky, O. Janovsky), 13 associate professors (Y. Blashkov, O. Brigadina, G. Bolsun, S. Zharko, I. Litvinovsky, S. Lugovtsova, A. Martynuk, V. Syargejenkova, S. and V. Temushev, O. Erszova) and a lecturer (Ph.D. M. Shabasova, E. Shimak, V. Kohnowich and G. Petochenko).