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Regional Trends: Contemporary Russian Politics and Security


Admission requirements

Required course(s):


Recommended course(s):



This course introduces students to the history, politics and government of the Russian Federation. It is divided into four parts. We begin with an introduction to history of Russia but focuses more specifically on the origins, structure and development of the USSR. We also examine the reasons behind its collapse, particularly the impact of Gorbachev’s perestroika. This part of the course is designed to increase your knowledge about the ideas, influences and forces that have shaped contemporary Russia politics and foreign policy specifically.

In the second part, the focus turns towards contemporary Russian politics. We examining how the state works i.e. party systems, civil society and human rights, democratisation in theory and practice, the media as well as the nature of post communism, political culture and Russian nationalism.

The third part of the course provides an overview of Russia‘s foreign policy and examines the way Russia manages the current insecurity and instability in the Russian and post-Soviet space, with reference to the North Caucasus and Chechnya, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

Finally, we explore Russia’s role in the international system including its relations relations with other global actors such as the US, EU, China and the BRICS in general as well as Russia‘s role in international crises, among them the Arab Spring, Syria, and Iran.

Course Objectives

The course is aimed to provide a critical examination of Russian politics and security within world politics. In successfully completing this course, you will:

  • Understand the key features of the USSR as a political system, the reasons behind its disintegration, and its relevance for understanding contemporary Russia;

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the key institutions and processes in Russian Politics

  • Identify competing analytical and ideological approaches for understanding Russian Politics

  • Conceptualise Russia as a foreign policy actor

  • Develop key transferable skills of written and oral communication, group working, and the ability to think critically about individuals, processes, events, ideas and institutions in light of the scholarly literature.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. During the course of the seminar students are expected to take part in both large and small group discussions; participate in seminar discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in a group project. The role of the instructor is to ensure the efficient running of the discussion. Each seminar has a ‘required readings’ list that must be read in advance of each seminar. Students are also recommended to read some of the items listed under ‘recommended readings’ prior to each seminar and use this extended list as a starting point in their preparation for the exams and group projects.

Assessment Method

Four elements of coursework constitute the final mark for the course:

  • Participation (18%)

  • In class exams - two (25% each)

  • Group presentations (32%)

Reading list

Richard Sakwa, Russian Politics and Society (5th edition, 2021)

Because of the rapid changes in Russia and the former Soviet Union, and because this is 300-level course most of the assigned readings will be from academic journals; however, students will also be provided by a list of relevant and reliable websites to keep up-to-date with recent developments.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr Beatrix Futak-Campbell,