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Regular version of the site

Contemporary Russian Politics

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Compulsory course
2 year, 1, 2 module


Grigoriev, Ivan

Кандауров Данил Михайлович

Course Syllabus


The course revolves around four major issues in Russian politics: super-presidentialism, regionalisation, state weakness and weak political institutions, and its resource wealth and business-state relations. The tasks of the course are therefore covering these four components. The three former institutional characteristics are taken to be more stable and to produce stronger legacies traced back to the late Soviet times and the 1990s. The latter, being primarily the naughts' feature, enters analysis by the mid-term.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The course aims at forming a coherent knowledge of the recent political developments in Russia through the lens of various conceptual and theoretical approaches
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Analyzes the role of civil society in Russian politics from late 1980s to our days
  • Appreciates the significance of events that occurred in 1992-1993 for contemporary Russian political development
  • Establishes and analyzes the role of parties in Russian politics
  • Establishes prerequisites for protests and color revolutions in the post-soviet space
  • Executes applied analysis of the political phenomena and political processes taking place in Russia - by using political science methods - and in support of practical decision making process
  • Identifies the major state-building reforms in Russia
  • Interprets the varying approaches to role of business in Russian politics
  • Knows and analyzes the critical junctures in Russian Political History
  • Knows reasons and events of Perestroika, performs analysis of its successes and failures
  • Knows the role of media in Russian politics
  • Reports the results of the information retrieval and analysis, academic or applied research she/he has conducted to establish major developments in Russian politics
  • Retrieves, collects, processes and analyzes information related to Russian political development on various levels and relevant for achieving goals in the professional field
  • Thinks critically and interprets the political experience based on the examples from Russian political history (personal and that of other persons), relates it to professional and social activities
  • Understands the development of role played by courts in Russian politics
  • Uses conceptual toolkit of political science theories of federalism to analyse development of federalism in Russia
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Introduction. The institutionalist conceptual lens
  • Critical Junctures in Russian Political History
  • Soviet Politics and Perestroika
  • 1992-1993 and the New Constitution
  • Parties and Electoral Process
  • Media
  • Federalism in Russia
  • State-building and reform process in Russia
  • Rule of Law and Courts
  • Business and State
  • Civil Society and NGOs
  • Color Revolutions in the PostSocialist countries and Political Protest in Russia
  • Course recap: Societal, economic and political sources of regime resilience in Russia
  • Final test
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • blocking Exam
    The exam test is administered at the last seminar of the course. It is part a multiple-choice, and part an open-ended question test covering the material of the lectures and the reading for the seminars.
  • non-blocking Seminar work assessment
  • non-blocking Reaction paper
    Reaction paper covers the reading assignment for one specific class. (Suggested sources are available as a separate file on LMS.) Each student is free to choose any subject. The reaction paper is an 800 to 1000 words long essay where a student reviews any two to four pieces of literature assigned for the class on any given subject, gives his/her opinion and some critiques on it. Reaction papers must be submitted on November 30 by 9pm via LMS. A reaction paper briefly covers the reading, criticizes it, etc. The author is expected to answer some basic questions, e.g. what are the central issues in the literature reviewed, which arguments the works put forth, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the papers under review. The important thing about reaction paper is that it should not merely summarize the works that it reviews (reaction paper is not an annotated bibliography), but should add something to it – either in criticism, or in some interesting development of the arguments proposed, or both. It is important to show the underlying similarities and differences of the pieces reviewed in the reaction paper. Students are expected to pick at least two items from the list of suggested literature, but can also add some of the literature of their own choice. In the end there must be at least two academic sources (articles or book chapters) overall that the reaction paper builds upon. (Note not all of the sources included on the suggested reading list are academic literature – there is also fiction and media reports which can also be used in reaction papers along with the two mandatory academic papers.) If some of the sources used are not taken from the list, they should be approved by the discussion group instructor by email. The paper should also be well written. A minor, yet noteworthy thing is that the instructors are tough on plagiarism. Consult the HSE plagiarism policies on that. Importantly, the 800 to 1000 words you will have within the word count is a very scarce resource: it’s not much! Do not waste the word count: avoid unnecessarily lengthy introductions and formal conclusions. Think what exactly your message is and try to convey it as effectively as you can. If the reaction paper is watery and unsubstantial, it will show and we will grade accordingly. Finally, stick to the word count. You will be automatically deduced one point if your word count is 600-799 or 1001-1200, and two points if you fall out of the 600-1200 limit. The word count includes everything: the main text, titles and headings, references, footnotes and endnotes (if there are any). It is the count of words in the document you submit. We will grade unsatisfactory essays with 1-3; fair with 4-5; good with 6-7; excellent with 8; outstanding with 9 and 10.
  • non-blocking Group presentation: Development of a political party
    For the discussion group on party and electoral system development students prepare a group presentation devoted to the history of one particular political party currently active in Russia or historically significant in Russian politics. Specific parties are assigned to the groups by the instructors.
  • non-blocking Group presentation: Recent political developments (news report)
    Once in a semester each student should present in a group a report and analysis of the political news covering the two weeks preceding the class. Students form groups of around five people each, review the most recent political events (approximately five events covering the two previous weeks), and present the analysis of the news to the class. It is important that the news are reported in a concise, balanced, analytical, and unbiased manner, and that the report is interesting to the audience. During the class the group has 10-15 minutes to present the news in an engaging, informative, and balanced way. The presentation should be illustrated with a powerpoint. The last slide should contain all sources used to prepare the report. The night before their presentation the group should email the list of the news they will cover (which should not be detailed – just a list) to their instructor. One point (out of ten they can get for this task) comes from emailing the list on time. The other nine points come from the instructor's evaluation of how concise, analytical, balanced, unbiased, and interesting to the audience the report is. We suggest that the students both try to pick the news that proved to have the most repercussions and drew a wide response in the society, and also those that may not have been so noticeable but that are (for whatever reason) important for the current or future political developments. Following this logic, while paying sufficient attention to what is happening in Moscow, students are advised to also pick at least one piece of news from the regions.
  • non-blocking Group presentation: Political portrait of one elite group/faction
    Yet another group presentation answers a question of the type: who do they call the...? E.g., who did they call the Family in Yeltsin times? Who do they call the Piterskie? Who do they call the Liberals?, etc. The presentation builds around discussing the main personalities within any given group, where their cohesiveness comes from, how the group evolves over time, what its goals are, and which resources it commands. Each group (around six people) prepares one such presentation within the course. When grading the elite group report the instructor will pay attention in particular to the following requirements: - the report should be a supported by a presentation (e.g., PowerPoint) - the report should last 15-20 minutes; - the last slide should contain all sources used to prepare the report; - the night before the presentation the group should send to the instructor the list of names of members of the elite who belong to the elite faction. The main points that should be covered in the report are: 1 Composition of the group and how it formed; 2 Goals (if any), ideology (if any), and resources the group commands (material, political and so on); 3 The group’s opponents (and other important connections with other actors and groups) 4 Publicity and image of the group: how public is it? How popular is it among the population? 5 Historical evolution of the group: when and how it emerged; when it enjoyed most influence; where it is now. Notice that with some of these points subjective assessments are inevitable, and oftentimes the resources you would have to research would not be official or even trustworthy. Make sure to keep track of when you refer to hearsay or rumors in your argumentation, and when you present your (or somebody else’s) subjective opinion. Try to avoid being misleading about that during your presentation.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • 2022/2023 2nd module
    0.3 * Reaction paper + 0.1 * Group presentation: Political portrait of one elite group/faction + 0.1 * Group presentation: Recent political developments (news report) + 0.3 * Exam + 0.1 * Seminar work assessment + 0.1 * Group presentation: Development of a political party


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Fish, M. S. (2005). Democracy Derailed in Russia : The Failure of Open Politics. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=148155
  • Shevtsova, L. (2010). Putin’s Russia (Vol. 2nd ed). Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for Int’l Peace. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=551790

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Desai, P. (2006). Conversations on Russia: Reform from Yeltsin to Putin. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsrep&AN=edsrep.b.oxp.obooks.9780195300611
  • Sakwa, R. (2002). Russian Politics and Society (Vol. 3rd ed). London: Routledge. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=73688