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Contemporary Russian Politics

July 5 – 9, 2021

20 Contact hours

Russian politics might seem a riddle for many observers. However, this course sheds the light on different aspects of Russian politics and policy.

Course Description

This is a broad introductory course to Russian politics but it gives a good general understanding of how Russia works. The course shall constantly bring us back to how Russian politics interacts with Russian society and economy, and by the end of the course students should get a firm grasp of how this triangle works. To achieve that, the course offers a reasonably vast reading of scholarly articles seasoned with ongoing political commentary and media reports. There are no strict prerequisites for the course, though some prior training in social sciences would make it a more rewarding experience.

The course is taught by Ivan Grigoriev.

We will talk about Russian politics in the last 30 years or sopartly taking a historical perspective but mostly trying to establish the main drivers behind Russia's political development: the structures and institutions that make Russia's politics what it is and prevent it from evolving into something different

Why Choose This Course?

The course will help understand whatever weird or unusual things happen in and around Russia and will, therefore, normalize Russian political development to some extent. But it is also supposed to give a much more nuanced understanding of the drawbacks and shortcomings of Russian politics.


  • Why do Russians support autocracy, or do they? 
  • Is it good Russia is a presidential republic? What happened to Russian federalism? What about its opposition?
  • Who were those people in the streets in 2011-2012, and what did they want? Where are they now?
  • Why does Russia sometimes support the bad guys internationally? Are Russian courts as bad as they are told, and why?
  • Did the 1990s' reforms fail or succeed? And the 2000s'? Why do they turn the hot water off in summer? Are oligarchs still politically mighty? How much corruption is there and is it bad for development? In general, what's wrong with Russia: is it the history, the climate, is it spoiled by its oil wealth? Maybe, is it, in fact, a well-developed country?

Skills and Competence

Students shall acquire some sound general knowledge of contemporary Russian politics and get to know a variety of approaches to understanding the current political events in the country.


The course has no formal entry requirements.

Teaching Methods

One lecture per day, 9 days of classes in total and a final exam on the 10th day. 

Final Assessment

Class attendance and participation, written test. 

Final Grade Background

The course is a seminar, therefore, attendance and participation are essential. Each student is expected to do some reading (which will be provided beforehand) and to contribute to the discussion. Class participation amounts to 40% of the final grade. Another 60% comes from the final test covering mostly Russian political history in the last three decades, as well as some of its constitutional and institutional features.

Recommended Reading List

Stephen White, Understanding Russian Politics, Cambridge University Press 2011.

Brian Taylor, The Code of Putinism, Oxford University Press 2018.  

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