Friday, August 17, 2007

Russian Politics Syllabus

Russian Politics
Fall Semester 2007
J. Otto Pohl, Ph.D.

Course Description: This is a course covering the political system of the Russian Federation. In particular it will examine the political geography of the state as an ethno-territorial federation. The course will start with a review of the history of the USSR followed by specifically looking at the formation and solidification of the RSFSR, the administrative territory that became the Russian Federation. It will then cover such issues as the structure of the federal system of the Russian Federation, ethnic identity, economic reform and the formation of political parties. Finally, the class will analyze the causes and consequences of the conflicts in Chechnya since 1994.

Requirements: The course will consist of assigned readings, lectures, discussion, short writing assignments, an oral report and a research paper. For each of the twelve weeks with reading assignments, students will be required to submit 150 to 200 word summary of the material along with one question for class discussion. Students will also have to complete a 1400 to 2000 word research paper on some aspect of Russian politics. The paper is due the last week of class. In the two weeks prior to this deadline each student will be required to give a short oral presentation on the subject of the paper followed by a question and answer session.

Policy on Plagiarism: Plagiarism will result in a zero on the assignment for the first offense. A second offense will result in a grade of F for the course. Please be sure to cite your sources.


Twelve short papers – 36% (3% each)
Written research paper – 20% (Due last week of class)
Oral report on research – 10%
Class participation -34%

Class Schedule

Week One: Introduction to the course and review of the syllabus.

General History of the USSR

Week Two: Read “Legacies: The Burdens of Russian and Soviet History” (chapter one) in Robert Strayer, Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?: Understanding Historical Change (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998), pp. 21-44.

Week Three: Read “Cracks in the Foundation: The Post-Stalin Years” (chapter two) in Robert Strayer, Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?: Understanding Historical Change (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998), pp. 47-83.

History of the Formation of the Russian Federation

Week Four: Read Terry Martin, “An Affirmative Action Empire: The Soviet Union as the Highest Form of Imperialism” in Ronald Grigor Suny and Terry Martin, eds., A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin (NY: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 67-82.

Week Five: Read “The Reemergence of the Russians” (chapter ten) in Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (London: Cornell University Press, 2001), pp. 394-431.

Week Six: Read “The End of Communism in Russia” (chapter one) in Richard Sakwa, Russian Politics and Society (NY: Routledge, 1993), pp. 1-37.

Ethnicity, Demography and Migration

Week Seven: Read “What is Rossia? Identities in Transition” (chapter twelve) in Valery Tishkov, Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Conflict and after the Soviet Union (London: Sage, 1997), pp. 246-271.

Week Eight: Read “’Normal’ Deaths During the First Decade of Transition” (chapter six) in Michael Hayes and Rumy Husan, A Century of State Murder?: Death and Policy in Twentieth-Century Russia (London: Pluto Press, 2003), pp. 144-175 and Timothy Heleniak, “Migration Dilemmas Haunt Post-Soviet Russia,” Migration Information Source (Oct. 2002). Found at and downloaded on 23 July 2007.
Week Nine: Review

Government Institutions, Political Parties and Economics

Week Ten: Read “Rebirth of the Russian State” (chapter two) in Richard Sakwa, Russian Politics and Society (NY: Routledge, 1993), pp. 38-93.

Week Eleven: Read “Development of Multi-Party Politics” (chapter four) in Richard Sakwa, Russian Politics and Society (NY: Routledge, 1993).

Week Twelve: Read “The Seventh Oligarch: The Jewish Billionaires of Post-Communist Russia” (chapter three) in Amy Chua, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (NY: Doubleday, 2003), pp. 77-94.

The Chechen Wars

Week Thirteen: Read “The Road to War” (chapter five) in Valery Tishkov, Chechnya: Life in a War-Torn Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), pp. 57-74 and “From Chechen Revolution to Jihad” (chapter fifteen) in Moshe Gammer, The Lone Wolf and the Bear: Three Centuries of Chechen Defiance of Russian Rule (London: Hurst & Company, 2006), pp. 200-218.

Week Fourteen: Read “Our New Middle Ages, Or War Criminals of all the Russias” (chapter two) in Anna Politkovskaya trans. Arch Tait, Putin’s Russia” Life in a Failing Democracy (NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2004), pp. 25-80.

Student Research

Week Fifteen: Student oral presentations.

Week Sixteen: Student oral presentations continued.

Week Seventeen: Written version of the research paper due and concluding remarks.


Anonymous said...

Love Affirmative Action Empire..., drew heavily from it for my thesis last year. Where are you teaching?

J. Otto Pohl said...

I am teaching at American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.