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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

Course Syllabus


This course will focus on the recent history and politics of the South Caucasus. The region is also known through Russian sources as Transcaucasia and includes three UN member states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) as well as three unrecognized or partially recognized states (Abkhazia, Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh), and South Ossetia Through a series of lectures and seminars, the course delves into the political and societal dynamics of the South Caucasus, offering students a nuanced understanding of transformations in the region. Key themes include conceptualizations of the region, state building, Russian/Soviet legacies, ethnicity, nationhood, (ethnic) conflict, gender, family, religion, and governance. Additionally, it delves into democracy promotion, regional integration projects, and factors influencing integration formats. The course fosters knowledge acquisition on the nature of state, politics, and society in the South Caucasus, encouraging critical thinking on the drivers of political, economic, social, and cultural changes. As we journey through the recent history and politics of the region, we will consider its location with Russia, Turkey, and Iran. The course covers the impact of Ottoman (Turkish), Russian (including Soviet), and Iranian empires on the region. We will then zoom into the 20th and 21st centuries, exploring what happened after these empires, looking at state formation, conflicts, and how they influenced local elites, popular movements, and various aspects like religion, culture, and economics.
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

  • The 19th-century Russo- Persian wars and the conquest of the South Caucasus
  • Russian Revolution of 1917. Establishment of First Republics of Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan in 1918
  • WWII and Cold War in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan Crisis.
  • Soviet Transcaucasia (South Caucasus)
  • Collapse of the USSR. Newly independent states of the South Caucasus.
  • (Re?)Birth of conflicts in the South Caucasus.
  • De-Facto States and Unresolved Conflicts Today.
  • Role of religion
  • Migration and diasporas
  • Regional Powers in the South Caucasus. Integration projects in the region: dividing lines and existing formats
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Presentation
    Each tutorial (starting from class 2) will commence by a presentation prepared by one or two students. During each tutorial, students should propose for approval by the instructor: 1) name of the presenter(s); 2) topics for their presentations based on the topics/news/readings for the tutorials. 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 Exam (Final paper, 2500 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). The final paper is due 10 days prior to the exam period in the module 4.
  • 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 Multiple choice test (10 questions)
    For this end-of-term assignment, students need to choose the right answer (out of three options) to ten questions/assertions based on the readings and discussions.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • 2023/2024 4th module
    0.25 * Exam (Final paper, 2500 words) + 0.25 * In-class participation + 0.25 * Multiple choice test (10 questions) + 0.25 * Presentation


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Charles King. (2008). The Ghost of Freedom : A History of the Caucasus. Oxford University Press.
  • 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.
  • Looking toward Ararat: Armenia in modern history, Suny, R.G., 1993
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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
  • SLEZKINE, Y. (1994). The USSR as a communal apartment, or how a socialist state promoted ethnic particularism. Slavic Review, (2), 414. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsfra&AN=edsfra.3717682
  • 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.
  • 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