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Unit information: Russian Politics in 2015/16

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Unit name Russian Politics
Unit code SPAI20025
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Magnus Feldmann
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit provides an overview of the key features of Russian politics since the early 1990s and introduces students to the controversies surrounding the development and nature of the emerging political system. It analyses the role of key political and social actors in shaping Russian politics and explores how the development of the political system has interacted with the dramatic social changes unleashed by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, such as the emergence of capitalism and a new class system, nationalism, civil society etc.


  • To provide an overview of Russian politics
  • To discuss the nature and development of the Russian political system since the early 1990s, incl. the significance of historical legacies
  • To analyse key issues in Russian politics, such as inequality and the new capitalist class system, the 'super-presidency', nationalism, the borders of the state and Russia's international role, esp. in neighbouring countries
  • To analyse the role of key actors in Russian politics, such as the oligarchs and business elites, the military and security sector (the 'silovarchs'), civil society, political parties and the state

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate understanding of the distinctive features of Russian politics and political development since the early 1990s
  • demonstrate understanding of the social bases of Russian politics, such as nationalism, classes and elites, civil society and the state
  • analyse the relationship between the evolution of the political system and other processes of social change
  • critically engage with the scholarly literature on Russia, incl. debates and controversies surrounding Russian politics and society and the nature of the Russian political regime

Teaching Information

2 hours of lectures and a one hour seminar per week

Assessment Information

Two summative assessments: 2000 word essay (25%) and 2 hour exam (75%)

Both assessments assess all of the learning outcomes listed above.

Reading and References

M. Steven Fish (2005), Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Stephen White (2011), Understanding Russian Politics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Stephen White. Richard Sakwa and Henry Hale (eds.) (2014), Developments in Russian Politics 8, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Dale Herspring (ed.) (2007), Putin's Russia : past imperfect, future uncertain, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield

Daniel Treisman (2011), The Return: Russia's Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev, New York: Free Press

Richard Sakwa (2008), Putin: Russia's Choice, 2nd edition, London: Routledge