A Voyage of Discovery: The Trans-Siberian Railway


The West has always found Russia an unfathomable place. Churchill famously described it as a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. For all the spotlight recently thrown on it, recent events have only intensified the enigma. The enigma is only likely to deepen in Russia’s present status as a pariah state. A journey through Russia may resolve some of those complexities. How better to travel than on what is probably the most famous railway in the world, the Trans-Siberian Railway. Not only does it span Russia’s 6000 miles and 9 time zones, but it also links all the light and dark phases of Russian history.

The route allows variations, so the six cities which we will visit best illustrate that historical journey. We will start in another country on a branch line in Kiev, which was once, according to the medieval Primary Chronicle “the mother of all Russian cities”. This takes us to Moscow, where the Trans-Siberian Railway officially begins, far from the oldest, but the most successful of the pre-Romanov Varangian principalities. Next stop is Kazan, the last of the old Mongol khanates, and even today, a Muslim stronghold in the heart of European Russia. Then on to Ekaterinburg, the first great city in the Urals, and the site of one of Russian history’s most dramatic episodes. Now we are in Asia, and our next leg covers 1200 miles to Irkutsk, the “Paris” of Siberia, product of another uniquely Russian conflict. And finally, 2400 miles further on, we disembark in Vladivostok, the face of a different Russia – Pacific and global rather than Baltic and European.

The story of the Trans-Siberian railway itself is fascinating enough in its own right but from its windows the whole of Russian history unravels from its pagan beginnings to the would-be superpower of today.

Programme details

Fridays, 10.30am-12pm (UK time)

For those attending in person at Rewley House, registration takes place at 10.00am before the first lecture (21 October 2022). Tea and coffee are provided in the Common Room before each lecture, from 10.00am.

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 21 October
Kiev: Conquerors and converts

Friday 28 October
Moscow: From wooden fort to megalopolis

Friday 4 November
Kazan: Asia in Europe

Friday 11 November
Ekaterinburg: The turbulent frontier

Friday 18 November
Irkutsk: The “middle of the earth”

Friday 25 November
Vladivostok: The Lord of the East


Description Costs
Tuition - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £130.00
Tuition - virtual attendance £115.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

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. He has been a Tutor in the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education for over 15 years. He teaches European History, with a special interest in Napoleonic France and Romanov Russia, on both of which he has written extensively.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this course. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom 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.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.