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Regular version of the site

Politics and Society in the South Caucasus

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Elective course
1 year, 3, 4 module


Айвазян Анна Степановна

Course Syllabus


This course explores politics and society in the South Caucasus region. It aims to provide students with nuanced understanding of political and societal transformations in three countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. While the course programme is mostly focused on the contemporary period, it will also touch upon historic period of the Russian Empire and the USSR. Key themes of the programme are: existing conceptualisations of the region; state building and state fragility; Russian/Soviet legacies; ethnicity, nationhood, nation building and nationalism; (ethnic) conflict and conflict resolution; role of gender, family, religion, formal and informal networks and institutions in state-society relations; good governance and democracy promotion, its effect on the political regimes and its limitations; regional integration projects, key factors and possible integration formats. The course will help students to acquire knowledge on the nature of state, politics and society in South Caucasus, and develop critical thinking on variations in and drivers of political, economic, social and cultural transformations in this part of the world.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • To provide students with understanding of key issues in political and societal transformations in South Caucasus countries
  • To help students develop critical thinking on the politics and society in South Caucasus, and acquire knowledge of driving forces and political, economic, social and cultural factors in present and future development of the region
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • develops knowledge of ethnic conflicts and conflict resolution in the South Caucasus
  • has an overview of historic and political background of all the three countries
  • is able to critically analyse current political and societal situation in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia
  • understands the role of different global actors in the region
  • understands the role of tradition and informality institutions, culture, religion in South Caucasian countries
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • South Caucasus in the Russian Empire. Political transformations and nation-building in the Soviet period
  • Newly independent: in search for a political trajectory
  • National identity and state-building
  • Ethnic conflicts and conflict resolution (I)
  • Ethnic conflicts and conflict resolution (II)
  • Tradition and informality
  • Gender and family
  • Role of religion
  • Migration and diasporas
  • Democracy, good governance, human rights promotion: role of external actors, limitations
  • Integration projects in the region: dividing lines and existing formats
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking In-class participation
    Assessment will be based on attendance, preparation of readings, participation in class discussion with the focus on qualitative contribution to the discussion, ability to answer questions based on the readings, come up with own interpretations and react to comments made by other students.
  • non-blocking Presentation
    Each tutorial (starting from the week 2) will commence by a presentation prepared by a small group of students (up to 4 students per group). During the first tutorial, students should propose for approval by the instructor: 1) composition of their groups; 2) topics for their presentations based on the topics/readings for the tutorials; 3) outlines of their presentations. These presentations will function as basis for further class discussion. Therefore, presenters are supposed to cover mandatory and optional readings and, preferably, use other non-assigned sources for their analysis on the chosen topic in order to make a genuinely original contribution.
  • non-blocking Mid-term paper (1000-1500 words)
    For this mid-term assignment, students need to write an analytical commentary on a recent political or societal development in Armenia, Azerbaijan or Georgia. Topic needs to be approved by the instructor by the week 3. The mid-term paper is due by the tutorial 6.
  • non-blocking Exam (Final paper, 3000 words)
    The final paper should relate to any aspect of the course. It can be a critical review of the existing literature on a specific topic, or an original piece of research (format and topic need to be approved by the instructor by the week 4). The final paper is due 10 days prior to the exam period in the module 4.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • 2021/2022 4th module
    0.25 * Exam (Final paper, 3000 words) + 0.25 * Presentation + 0.25 * Mid-term paper (1000-1500 words) + 0.25 * In-class participation


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • De Waal, T. (2012). A Broken Region: The Persistent Failure of Integration Projects in the South Caucasus. Europe-Asia Studies, 64(9), 1709–1723. https://doi.org/10.1080/09668136.2012.718416
  • Dermendzhieva, Z. (2011). Emigration from the South Caucasus: who goes abroad and what are the economic implications? Post-Communist Economies, 23(3), 377–398. https://doi.org/10.1080/14631377.2011.595135
  • ERGUN, A. (2010). Post-Soviet Political Transformation in Azerbaijan: Political Elite, Civil Society and The Trials of Democratization. International Relations / Uluslararasi Iliskiler, 7(26), 67–85.
  • Gugushvili, A., Kabachnik, P., & Kirvalidze, A. (2017). Collective memory and reputational politics of national heroes and villains. Nationalities Papers, 45(3), 464–484. https://doi.org/10.1080/00905992.2016.1261821
  • Hille, C. M. L. (2010). State Building and Conflict Resolution in the Caucasus. Brill.
  • Lynch, D. (DE-588)124718094, (DE-627)364568054, (DE-576)181876604, aut. (2004). Engaging Eurasia’s separatist states unresolved conflicts and de facto states Dov Lynch.
  • Metreveli, T. (2016). An undisclosed story of roses: church, state, and nation in contemporary Georgia. Nationalities Papers, 44(5), 694–712. https://doi.org/10.1080/00905992.2016.1200021
  • Mkhoyan, A. (2017). South Caucasus from 1918 to 1921: history and historical parallels with the contemporary era. Nationalities Papers, 45(5), 910–927. https://doi.org/10.1080/00905992.2017.1297782
  • Ohannes Geukjian. (2011). Ethnicity, Nationalism and Conflict in the South Caucasus : Nagorno-Karabakh and the Legacy of Soviet Nationalities Policy. Routledge.
  • Polese, A., & Rekhviashvili, L. (2017). Introduction: Informality and power in the South Caucasus. Caucasus Survey ; Volume 5, Issue 1, Page 1-10 ; ISSN 2376-1199 2376-1202. https://doi.org/10.1080/23761199.2017.1295671
  • Roberts, K., Pollock, G., Rustamova, S., Mammadova, Z., & Tholend, J. (2009). Young adults’ family and housing life-stage transitions during post-communist transition in the South Caucasus. Journal of Youth Studies, 12(2), 151–166. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676260802600854
  • Sushentsov, A., & Neklyudov, N. (2020). The Caucasus in Russian foreign policy strategy. Caucasus Survey, 8(2), 127–141. https://doi.org/10.1080/23761199.2020.1759888

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Aliyev, H. (2014). Civil society in the South Caucasus: kinship networks as obstacles to civil participation. Journal of Southeast European & Black Sea Studies, 14(2), 263–282. https://doi.org/10.1080/14683857.2014.904545
  • Bedford, S., & Souleimanov, E. A. (2016). Under construction and highly contested: Islam in the post-Soviet Caucasus. Third World Quarterly, 37(9), 1559–1580. https://doi.org/10.1080/01436597.2016.1166047
  • Kereselidze, N. V. aut. (2015). The engagement policies of the European Union, Georgia and Russia towards Abkhazia Nino Kereselidze.
  • Markedonov, S. M. . V. (DE-588)138518424, (DE-627)667004513, (DE-576)348920806, aut. (2015). De facto statehood in Eurasia a political and security phenomenon Sergey Markedonov.
  • Markedonov, S. M., & Suchkov, M. A. (2020). Russia and the United States in the Caucasus: cooperation and competition. Caucasus Survey, 8(2), 179–195. https://doi.org/10.1080/23761199.2020.1732101
  • Mkhoyan, A. (2017). Soft power, Russia and the former Soviet states: a case study of Russian language and education in Armenia. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 23(6), 690–704. https://doi.org/10.1080/10286632.2016.1251426
  • Nodia, G. (2009). The Wounds of Lost Empire. Journal of Democracy, 20(2), 34–38. https://doi.org/10.1353/jod.0.0084
  • Paul, A. (DE-588)1163541486, (DE-576)508037840. (2015). The Eastern Partnership, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the impact on the South Caucasus [Elektronische Ressource] / by Amanda Paul. Istituto Affari Internazionali.
  • Souleimanov, E. A., Abrahamyan, E., & Aliyev, H. (2018). Unrecognized states as a means of coercive diplomacy? Assessing the role of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Russia’s foreign policy in the South Caucasus. Journal of Southeast European & Black Sea Studies, 18(1), 73–86. https://doi.org/10.1080/14683857.2017.1390830
  • Tokluoglu, C. (2005). Definitions of national identity, nationalism and ethnicity in post-Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1990s. Ethnic & Racial Studies, 28(4), 722–758. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870500092951