Friday, July 17, 2009

Russian Politics Syllabus

Russian Politics
ICP 250
3 credits
International and Comparative Politics
American University Central Asia
Fall Semester 2009
J. Otto Pohl, PhD

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 ethnic structure of the Russian Federation, political culture, transition from a socialist to a capitalist economy, and human rights.

Requirements: The course will consist of assigned readings, lectures, discussion, short writing assignments, an oral report and a research paper. Students will have to write two short papers during the semester. These papers should focus on the assigned readings and be from 600 to 800 words. 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. Late papers will lose one letter grade for each day they are late. Students must come to class on time. Being more than fifteen minutes late will count as an absence. Students will lose one letter grade after four unexcused absences and fail the course after seven. Written proof of an emergency from a doctor or other appropriate authority is required for an absence to be excused. Please turn off all cell phones while in class. I will eject any students carrying on cell phone conversations during class from the room. This will count as an unexcused absence. Finally, I have a significant hearing loss and may have to ask people to repeat their questions or statements from time to time. You can minimize this by speaking clearly and loudly. This syllabus is tentative and subject to change.

Readings: All the readings are contained in the course packet

Policy on Plagiarism and Citations: I have a zero tolerance policy regarding plagiarism. If I catch any student plagiarizing I will give them a zero for the assignment the first time. If I catch a student plagiarizing a second time in the class I will fail them from the class. Plagiarism includes any verbatim copying of from a source without using quotation marks or setting the text up as an indented single spaced block quotation. If I find that more than four words in a row in your paper show up in the same order in a Google search and you do not have the words in quotation marks or set up as a block quotation I will fail you. Putting a footnote, end note or other citation after the copied words without the quotation marks or block quotation form is still plagiarism, you are claiming to have paraphrased verbatim text, and you will still receive an F for the course and be recommended for expulsion from ICP. Taking text from a source without citing it and rearranging the words so that it does not show up in a verbatim Google search is also plagiarism. I will also do Google searches to see if you have taken text and merely rearranged the words. You must either paraphrase the sentence by putting it completely in your own words and citing it with the proper footnote, end note or in text citation or quote the actual text verbatim complete with the proper citation. Completely paraphrasing sentences in your own words, but neglecting to cite the source of the information is also plagiarism. All information that would not be known to the average person on the street with no university education must be cited. When in doubt always cite a legitimate source. Wikipedia is not a legitimate source. Books published by university presses and academic journal articles found on JSTOR are legitimate sources. Other sources may or may not be legitimate. If you have questions about whether a particular source is legitimate you can ask me. Using Wikipedia or other illegitimate sources will result in a reduction of one letter grade for each citation in a paper.


Two short papers – 30% (15% each)

Written research paper – 30% (Due last week of class)

Oral report on research – 15%

Class participation -25%

Grading Scale:

100-96 = A
95-91 = A-
90-86 = B+
85-81 = B
80-76 = B-
75-71 = C+
70-66 = C
65-61 = C-
60-56 = D+
55-51 = D
50-46 = D-
45 and lower = F

Class Schedule

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

General History of Russia and 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.

Week Four Read: Yuri Veselov, “Changing Trust in the History of Soviet Society,” in Heiko Schrader, ed., Trust and Social Transformation: Theoretical approaches and empirical findings from Russia (Munster: Litverlag, 2004), pp. 55-78. The first short paper is due at the end of the week.

The Formation, Structure and Ethnic Nature of the Russian Federation

Week Five Read: Yuri Slezkine, “The USSR as a Communal Apartment, or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism,” Slavic Review, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Summer 1994), pp. 414-452.

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

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

Week Nine Read: Michael McFaul, “Lesson’s from Russia’s Protracted Transition from Communist Rule,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 114, no. 1 (Spring 1999), pp. 103-130. The second short paper is due at the end of the week.

Past Repression and Current Human Rights: is there a Link?

Week Ten: Read Arseny Roginsky, “The Embrace of Stalinism” at

“Epilogue: Memory” in Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps (London: Allen Lane, 2003), pp. 505-514 and Conclusion of Lynne Viola, Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements (NY: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 183-193

Week Eleven and Twelve: 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

Weeks Thirteen, Fourteen, and Fifteen: Student oral presentations.

Week Sixteen: Final research paper due and concluding remarks.

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