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Russia and the World



The aim of this course is to provide students with an introduction to Russian politics, to increase both their knowledge and understanding of Russia’s political system as well as their understanding of Russia’s position in international relations.
The course consists of two main blocks, which cannot be neatly separated. In the first block we will focus on the collapse of the Soviet Union, on attempts of to “redefine” Russia, and on Russia’s political system. et Union, attempt to define Russia’s political system, and situate it in a comparative perspective. More specifically, we will analyze the changes that occurred in the institutional arrangement and state-society relations during the transition years and under Putin’s rule. The second block of the course will focus on Russia’s foreign policy and international relations. We will discuss competing ideas about Russia’s place in the world present among Russian elites and the actual relations of Russia with countries in different regions of the world (USA, EU, and China). Moreover, we will discuss the role of Russia in international organizations (United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Eurasian Economic Union, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization). We will debate the conflicts in Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2013-) and the idea of a “New Cold War”. Students will be encouraged to apply concepts of nationalism, sovereignty, democratization, globalization, and human rights in the context of Russian foreign policy, as well as reflect on the links between domestic and international politics.

Methods of Instruction

Lectures, seminar-style discussions, student presentations and reports


Course participation, including oral presentation and short papers, and the final paper are equally important as far as grading for the course is concerned.

Study Material

Part I (Obligatory for all)
Remington, Thomas F., Politics in Russia, Seventh Edition, Longman, Boston etc. 2012 (or later edition).

White, Stephen, Richard Sakwa & Henry E. Hale (eds.), Developments in Russian Politics 8, Duke University Press, Durham 2014.

Part II (Optional)
Åslund, Anders, How Ukraine Became a Market Economy and Democracy, The Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington D.C. 2009.

Balmaceda, Margarita M., James I. Clem & Lisbeth L. Tarlow (eds.), Independent Belarus: Domestic Determinants, Regional Dynamics, and Implications for the West, Harvard U.P., Cambridge (Mass.) 2002.

Barany, Zoltan & Robert G. Moser (eds.) Russian Politics: Challenges of Democratization, Cambridge U.P., Cambridge etc. 2001.

Cadier, David & Margot Light (eds.), Russia’s Foreign Policy: Ideas, Domestic Policy and External Relations, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2015.

Colton, Timothy J. and Stephen Holmes (eds.), The State after Communism: Governance in the New Russia, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, etc. 2006.

Dawisha, Adeed, & Karen Dawisha (eds.), The International Politics of Eurasia, Volume IV: The Making of Foreign Policy in Russian and the New States of Eurasia, Routledge 2015 (fourth Revised edition) (e-book).

Dawisha, Karen & Bruce Parrott (eds.), Democratic changes and authoritarian reactions in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, Cambridge U.P., Cambridge 1997.

Dawisha, Karen & Bruce Parrott (eds.), Conflict, cleavage, and change in Central Asia and the Caucasus, Cambridge U.P., Cambridge 1997.

Fish, M. Stephen, Democracy Derailed in Russia. The Future of Open Politics, Cambridge U.P., Cambridge etc. 2005.

Herzig, Edmund, The New Caucasus. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, London 1999.

Jones, Stephen, Georgia: A Political History since Independence, I.B.Tauris, London and New York 2013.

Linz, Juan J. & Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe, The Johns Hopkins U.P., Baltimore & London 1996.

Mearsheimer, John J., “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault. The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin”, in: Foreign Affairs, Vol. 93, Issue 5, September-October 2014, pp. 77-89.

Mendras, Marie, Russian Politics. The Paradox of a Weak State, C. Hurst & Co, London, 2012. (originally: La Russie: L’envers du Pouvoir, 2008).

Sakwa, Richard, The Crisis of Russian Democracy. The Dual State, Factionalism and the Medvedev Succession, Cambridge U.P., Cambridge etc. 2011.

Sakwa, Richard, Putin Redux. Power and Contradiction in Contemporary Russia, Routledge, 2nd edition, London 2014.

Sakwa, Richard, Frontline Ukraine. Crisis in the Borderlands, I.B. Tauris, London & New York 2016 (updated edition) [eerste uitgave 2015].

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

White, Stephen, Understanding Russian Politics, Cambridge U.P., Cambridge etc. 2011.

Wilson, Andrew, Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World, Yale U.P., New Haven etc. 2005.

Wilson, Andrew, Belarus. The Last European Dictatorship, Yale U.P., New Haven & London, 2011.

General literature (History):
Riasanovsky, Nicholas V., & Mark D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, Eight Edition, Oxford U.P., New York & London 2010 (1963).

Magocsi, Paul Robert, A History of Ukraine. The Land and Its Peoples, Second Edition, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Buffalo & London 2010 (1996).

Subtelny, Orest, Ukraine: A History, Fourth Edition, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Buffalo & London 2009 (1988).

In addition, a collection of academic book chapters and journal articles will be used (to be announced). A course syllabus will be made available via Blackboard.


Active participation (10%), presentation (15%), mid-term essay (30%), final paper (45%). Regular attendance is required; students who miss more than two sessions will automatically fail the course.


Master students that started their studies in September 2016 can register for one seminar in uSis from Tuesday 6 December 10.00 hrs. until Tuesday 13 December 10.00 hrs.

For Master students that start their studies in February 2017 registration is possible from Tuesday10 January, 10.00 hrs. until 17 January, 10.00 hrs. Please send an e-mail with your full name, student number and preference for your seminar courses to the Institute Secretariat at You will receive an auto-reply with a confirmation that we have received your e-mail. You will be informed about the seminars for which you have been registered before 1 February 2017.