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Politics & International Relations – Russia: A New Type of Authoritarianism?


Admission requirements

BA degree


In this course we will critically examine and analyze the political system of the Russian Federation, in a comparative context. We will discuss various empirical and theoretical aspects of the country’s evolving domestic politics. These include the pattern of political transformation during the 1990s and the working of Russia’s major political institutions, the issues of (political) legitimacy and identity, as well as the link between domestic and foreign policies. We will discuss the various concepts and theories developed to capture the nature of the Russian and comparable political systems in the Eurasian region: from ‘managed democracy’ to ‘competitive’ and ‘deliberative’ authoritarianism, and beyond.

Course objectives

On the basis of carefully selected issues, students develop a better understanding and a deeper knowledge of Russia’s institutional political structure and its domestic and international policies, from the early 1990s, in a comparative (post-communist) perspective: key events, institutions, procedures, personalities and policies. Knowledge of the major theoretical approaches developed to comprehend the specific nature of Russian politics is an important aspect of the course. Insight into the dynamics of political change in the Russian Federation is another key objective. Students are expected to independently and critically research major aspects of Russian politics. They will be required to write and present short assignments, and to complete (during the second part of the course) a research paper on some aspect of contemporary Russian politics.


First bloc: lectures, required readings, assignments, designing and presenting research paper outline.
Second bloc: lectures, required readings, presenting research papers.

Assessment method

Assignments (50%)
Research paper (50%)


Yes, see Blackboard

Reading list

Core text books:

  • Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way, Competitive Authoritarianism. Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

  • Richard Sakwa, The Crisis of Russian Democracy. The Dual State, Factionalism and the Medvedev Succession. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

  • Stephen White, Understanding Russian Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

A full list of additional literature and reading assignments will be announced on Blackboard before the start of the seminar.


Via uSis

Contact information

With the professor, by e-mail: Prof. A.W.M. Gerrits