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International MA in Russian Studies >>

Courses offered in 2007/2008

(each course consists of 14 lectures and 14 follow-up discussion sessions)

All instruction is in English

Politics and Economy
Society and Culture

IMARS Policy on Tutorials: Courses in which the number of registered students is less than 3 are taught in the format of tutorials, which means that less time will be spent in class and the students will meet with the instructor mainly for discussion sessions. This will not affect the amount of credits received for the course.

Politics and Economy:

Vladimir Gel’man. Contemporary Russian Politics: An Overview (Spring 2008).

This course focuses on post-Soviet political dynamics, with special emphasis on the “making” and “unmaking” of political structures and institutions. The topics discussed cover such issues as the present condition of presidency and parliamentarism, political parties, elections, federalism, and regional and local government in Russia.

Grigorii Golosov. Political Parties and Elections in Russia (Fall 2007).

This course is focused on the emergence of competitive political parties within the context of Russia’s partial democratization. Starting with the mass anti-regime mobilization of the late 1980s, the course traces the origins of contemporary political parties by examining the national electoral campaigns of 1993-2004, and regional executive and legislative elections. Special attention is given to the organizational aspects of party system formation under constraints imposed upon political actors by post-communist institutional settings, including strong presidency, federalism, and a parallel electoral system.

Oleg Kharkhordin. Political Theory and Russian Studies: the Main Concepts of Russian Politics (Spring 2008).

The course will discuss theoretical approaches to the study of Soviet and Russian politics, concentrating on persisting interesting continuities that eschew positing conventional breaks of 1917 or 1991 as points of major change. It will offer a survey of the main concepts used in the analysis of the XXth century Russian politics—“state,” “civil society,” “nation,” “the individual,” “the collective,” etc.—with an emphasis on their perception in everyday life. Some background knowledge of political theory is useful; however, necessary works of major political theorists will be included in the syllabus and discussed together with interpretations of Russian politics.

Nikita Lomagin. Russia and the World: the Foreign Policy of Russia and the Former Soviet Union (Spring 2008).

This course offers a comparative look at the making and implementation of Russian Foreign Policy after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The course offers a combination of two options. We shall begin with an investigation of the sources of the Russian conduct (theories, frameworks and approaches) and analyze Russia’s foreign policy institutions and priorities. We will examine several theoretical models that focus on the impact of different factors on Russian Foreign Policy: type of government, ideology, leadership politics, bureaucratic and interest group politics, the European security system, Russia’s historic borderlands and “empire,” and the international economic system. The second part of the course is aimed at close examination of regional aspects of Russian Foreign Policy with particular attention to relations with the West, newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, and the Far East.

Vadim Volkov. The State, Violence, and the Mafia in Comparative Perspective (Spring 2008).

This course addresses the major complication of Russia’s transition to the market economy: the weakening of the state and the rise of organized crime. This problem is examined from interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives. The first, theoretical part of the course focuses on historical relations between states and markets. The purpose of the second part is to achieve understanding of structural conditions, economic functions and cultural patterns of violent entrepreneurship in Russia, and to assess its effects on the Russian state. Apart from theoretical readings, students will be offered a selection of Russian original sources on criminal groups, their practices and subculture. Other topics covered include theories of the state in different traditions of thought, the idea of sovereignty and its prerequisites, formative conditions and major functions of the state.


Society and Culture:

Evgenii Golovko. The Russian Arctic Region in the 20th century: Rapid Social and Cultural Change (Spring 2008).

This course offers an overview of the present social, ethnological and ethno-linguistic situation in the Russian "Far North" – a vast sub-Arctic and Arctic area that stretches from the North of the Ural mountains to the Northern Pacific. The main emphasis is on the current, "post-socialist" circumstances of Northern minority groups who constitute the indigenous population of "the North." The situation is analyzed from social, anthropological, historical, and socio-linguistic perspectives. Among the topics discussed in the course are the following: neo-elites and changes of attitude in the 1990s; ethnicity and identity; shamanism and the orthodoxy; the orthodoxy and the Soviets; current problems of education; language situation; constructing and reinventing the tradition; patterns of cultural contact and cultural mixture.

Pavel Lyssakov. Films, Texts, and Theory in Comparative Perspective (East vs. West) (Fall 2007).

This Cultural Studies course offers a view on selected Russian and East European films and literary texts through the prism of modern philosophical and aesthetic theory. The course’s main concern is the interpretation of selected films with the help of the up-to-date theoretical apparatus, and the analysis of cinematic and literary texts as means of reflection of certain cultural and social tendencies and values. The course will also compare the treatment of certain topics and subjects in “Western” and Russian/East-European cultures and specifically in films. Among the theories explored will be the Psychological and the Formalist Theory, the Myth and Structural Theory, Gender Theory, the issues of the Individual and the Collective, Freudian and Lacanian approach, Existentialism, Theories of Humor and Parody. Relationships between literary works and plays, and their screen versions will be explored as well. The course will cover films by Eisenstein, Kuleshov, Vertov, Tarkovsky, Konchalovsky, Makaveev, Khytilova, Wajda, and other masters lesser known in the West.

Dimitri Ozerkov, Stanislav Savitskii. Utopia & Identity: Russian 20th century Art (Fall 2007)

In this course Russian art is considered in the context of history of a totalitarian culture. The course focuses on the interrelationship between the Soviet utopian society and art communities, which transforms both the role and the self-representation of the artist. The structure of the course is not chronological. In the framework of totalitarian problematics we propose to trace back the development of Russian art of the 20th century from two points of view: on the one hand, as part of the Western Modernist tradition that essentially influenced it in many respects, on the other, as a cultural experience of the Soviet utopia that still remains a prominent, and historically unexplained phenomena of the last century. We start with contemporary art technologies and the problem of invasion of technologies in Western Modernist art since the 19th century. Then, considering the cases of influence of the Western tradition on Russian art, we come to the most famous and interesting examples of the Avant-Garde at the beginning of the political project of the new communist society. The course ends with the problematics of Symbolism as the first Utopian link in the chain of evolution of Russian 20th century art.

Eduard Ponarin. Ethnic Issues in Post-Soviet Space (Fall 2007).

This course examines the role of the ethnic factor in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and in post-Soviet conflicts. It begins with a survey of theories of nationalism. The theories are then applied to the late Soviet period and a particular emphasis is made on the Soviet institutionalization of ethnicity. In the second part of the course, various theoretical approaches are checked against a number of post-Soviet cases.

Anna Temkina and Elena Zdravomyslova. Gender and Sexuality in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia. (Spring 2008)

This course will introduce students to the study of gender issues and sexuality in Russia. It focuses on the reproduction of gender inequalities and on opportunities for social change. The course moves from pre-revolutionary Russia through the twentieth-century Soviet period and then to recent transformations. We analyze the methodology of gender studies and examine its relevance for the research of Soviet and post-Soviet societies. Topics for discussion include: Russian gender culture in historical perspective, and its conceptualization (women's movements, women's issues and man's question in the 20th century), and contemporary gender transformation in different post-Soviet contexts. For comparative purposes we shall discuss gender transformation in Armenia and Tajikistan. Gender inequality is examined within the spheres of economy, politics, family, sexuality, as well as in the field of symbolic representations. Biographical interviews, mass-media and literary texts, and films will supplement critical analysis of gendered practices and structures.


Mikhail Dolbilov.  State, Nationalism and Religion in the Russian Empire’s Borderlands  (Fall 2007).

The course focuses on the dynamic and uninterrupted processes of the empire building under the Romanov dynasty’s rule from Peter the Great (1689-1725) to the First World War, as viewed first of all from the perspective of multiethnic and multiconfessional composition of the Russian empire. It is designed to overcome the failings of nation-centered narratives that anachronistically apply the standards of a modern nation state to studying the imperial dimensions of the pre-1917 Russian state.
The course aims at illuminating the key and, paradoxically, central role of the imperial borderlands (in particular, the former lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Baltic Region and the Grand Duchy of Finland, the North Caucasus and Transcaucasia, Turkestan) in political, administrative, spatial and representational structures of the empire. Of primary interest are various interactions between the state policies, the evolution of loyalty and allegiance patterns, and the shaping of ethno-cultural, ethno-confessional and national identities of Russian and non-Russian groups under the imperial rule. Special accent is to be placed on both alliance and tension between the imperial state and the Russian nationalism in its secular and religious (based on the Russian Orthodoxy) versions. Among other central subjects of the course are the following: modes of governance in borderlands; relationship between the monarch and the local elites; flexibility of the imperial strategies of assimilation and acculturation (to not be subsumed under the single rubric “Russification”); imagined geography of the empire; cultural phobias of imperial rulers. The course offers elements of comparative analysis of policies and mentalities in four contiguous empires – the Romanov, Habsburg, Hohenzollern, and Ottoman ones. Seminar meetings will be devoted to topical issues of historiographic debates about the Russian empire.

Boris Kolonitskii. The Political Culture of the Russian Revolution (Fall 2007).

This course is devoted to the language of the Revolution. Central topics include different images of power, political functions of revolutionary symbols (flags, songs, uniforms, etc.), the lexicon of the Revolution. The course also explores different connotations of key political words (‘democracy’, ‘bourgeoisie’, ‘freedom’, etc.). The Revolution is viewed as a battle to control systems of symbolic meaning. Political actors tried to monopolize important political words and symbols and give them their own interpretation. Other topics of the course also include the cult of the revolutionary leader and the images of the enemy.

Sergei Podbolotov. Russian Political and Social History (Spring 2008).

The first part of this course aims at tracing the evolution of forms of political and social organization preceding the emergence of modern Russia. Special attention will be given to changes in political institutions, relations between rulers and their subjects, local government, social strata, the Russian religious mind, and the origins of patriotism and ethnicity. The second part gives an overview of the development of the state and society in imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Specifically, it aims at providing a comparative perspective on the processes of modernization in Russia and in the rest of Europe. Discussion sessions will concentrate on major debates about the key problems of modern Russian history.


This is an optional course. It covers all the basic aspects of the language: pronunciation, grammar, reading, and writing. Classes will focus mainly on everyday conversational language and on developing communication skills. Russian mass media and discussions of hot political and social issues are an important part of the course. Placement tests are run early in September and February to establish prospective students’ proficiency level. At the end of the course a final test may be administered and certificates are issued upon request.

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