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Regular version of the site

Transformations of Post-Soviet Space: Politics, Societies, Economies

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Elective course
2 year, 1, 2 module


Course Syllabus


The post-Soviet/Eurasian space is a great natural experiment for social sciences. Studying its transformation makes possible to explore a wide range of topical issues: democratic transitions and authoritarian backlashes, state-building and nation-building, the transformation of single political institutions and political regimes in general. The fundamental question of the course is what social sciences can learn from post-Soviet states transformation? This course is an introduction to the topic of post-Soviet/Eurasian studies. The central scope of the course is newly-emerged polites and its transformation from different angles. Social aspect uncovers the idea of ‘homo soveticus’ as a unique phenomenon. It helps to contemplate how social engineering of a new type of human beings was implemented and affected a wide range of social attitudes. Economic aspect deals with approaches to the transitional economy. These topic embraces not only members of the former USSR but covers all postcommunist regimes that followed different economic tracks switching from a planned economy to free market. And the last but not least aspect touches political processes. It unearths the causes of transformation the former USSR republics into a variety of political regimes from full democracies (Baltic states) to hybrids and tough autocracies (Turkmenistan and Karimov’s Uzbekistan). This provides a good basis for profound comparative studies. The course gives firm ground to elaborate on the topic of post-Soviet/Eurasian studies and to amplify perspectives.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The first objective of the course is to make students familiar with the major concepts, theories, and debates in post-Soviet/Eurasian studies from the angle of fundamental social, economic and political approaches/
  • The second objective of the course is to to develop and/or foster the ability to critically review published research outcomes, which are based on contemporary research and global best practices in post-Soviet/Eurasian studies.
  • The third goal of the course is to cultivate students' ability to prepare reports in the proper academic form on topics related to ongoing research activities.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • The objective of this class is to point out prominent cases of successful and poor expertise on post-Soviet macroregion. As a result, students should acquire a basic understanding of the region and processes that take place there.
  • The students should have a clear vision of post-Soviet transformations in general. It concerns trilemma: what's first - state-building, democratization and liberalization of the economy. The students should make a difference between state-building and nation-building. Also, it's important to match countries' prerequisites and possible trajectories of transformation.
  • Students should know salient cases of separatist movements in the post-Soviet countries such as Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh, Transnistria/Pridnestrovie and Gagauzia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Donetsk and Luhansk, Chechnya/ Ichkeria and some minor cases. Besides, students could compare the cases on a global scale trying to work out possible approaches to solution of the conflicts.
  • After completing this part of the course students will know about the large-scale cross-national projects and lesser integrational initiative which touches upon post-Soviet countries.
  • The attendants should know the recent political history of the post-Soviet nations and answer the question of why it's so different? It there a way out of dependence path?
  • The planned result is to learn how post-Soviet economies developed? Why some of them managed to succeed whilst others stagnate or failed? It is anticipated that the students could explain the difference between the countries' trajectories and make their own conclusions on it.
  • The topic unearths the relevant field of post-Soviet identities. The purpose is to demonstrate how people's minds have been changed after the USSR collapsed. The students should find out if the homo sovieticus still applicable as an analytical frame or not.
  • As transformation processes touched upon quite all the spheres of the former USSR countries, it's important to trace down how religious institutions evolved for the period? It is expected that the attendants of the course will may explain the crucial milestone in the process.
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Theme 1. Introduction. Crisis of expertise in the 2000s. Why the post-Soviet area is urgent again?
    The general crisis of science in post-Soviet countries. Brain drain. Military and secret services expertise vs expertise for civil and business purposes. The non-prestigious area for the scholars and disregard of the decision-makers. The ‘first calls’ of the emerging expertise crisis in Russia: the ‘Rose’ revolution in Georgia, the ‘Orange’ revolution in Ukraine and other cases. The failure of the policy towards Ukraine in 2013-onwards. New challenges for Russia: Armenia, Kazakhstan, Belarus. The post-soviet area as the core of the greater Eurasia. The upcoming prospects: integration projects (Western one vs Chinese one).
  • Theme 2. the USSR collapse and post-Soviet states emergence: state-building and nation-building
    Post-communist trilemma: state-building, democratization and liberalization of the economy. What is the first? The problem of consequencing. Crash of hierarchies. Monopoly for legitimate violence: state vs criminals. States without nations: problems of nation-building. Soviet background of artificial nation-building. Migration. Diasporas.
  • Theme 3. Separatist movements.
    Soviet roots of separatist movements. Administrative and territorial structure of the USSR. Socialist federalism and nations self-determination. Causes of separatism. Why some movements were successful (Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh/ Artsakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Luhansk and Donetsk republics), and some not (Karakalpakstan, Gagauzia, Ichkeria)? Are new separatism movements looming? Non-recognized and partlyrecognized polities: strategies of survival and approaches to break the deadlock (comparing with Northern Cyprus, Kosovo, Somaliland and the others)?
  • Theme 4. Democratization, hybridity and autocracies.
    Part 1. Trajectories of democratization. Is democratization possible in post-Soviet autocracies? Hybrid regimes: electoral autocracy, sovereign democracy, managed democracy etc. Can revolution bring democracy? ‘Colour revolutions’: causes, techniques, outcomes, consequences. Problems of post-crisis consolidation. Civil societies, NGOs, GONGOs. Part 2. Political regimes of the Baltic countries. Political regimes of Russia and Belarus. Political regimes of Ukraine and Moldova. Political regimes of Transcaucasia. Political regimes of Central Asia. Regional aspect. The problem of power transfer in hybrid regimes and autocracies. Prospects of post-Soviet regimes transformation.
  • Theme 5. Economies in transition.
    The centrally planned economy in the USSR and satellite-states (‘Goulash communism’ in Hungary, the economic model of communist Poland). The economy of favours (‘blat’). Liberalization and shock therapy. Legal and institutional reforms. Privatization and its political implications. Did any countries succeed? Yegor Gaidar reforms in Russia. ‘500 Days Programm’ of Yavlinsky and Shatalin. Mikheil Saakashvili reforms in Georgia: how it did become possible? E-government and libertarian economy in Estonia. Putinomics: is an alternative? Early Putin vs Putin 2.0 (state-capitalism) and Putin 3.0 (other types).
  • Theme 6. Sociology of post-Soviet states: understanding the ‘homo soveticus’.
    Part 1. Is ‘homo soveticus’ a common type for all post-Soviet countries? Its peculiarities and features. Is it reproduces nowadays? Is ‘homo soveticus’ a collectivist or an individualist, a paternalist or a self-made person? Soviet and post-Soviet lifestyle. Consumerist ideal in the USSR. ‘Homo soveticus’ and politics: political culture and electoral behaviour. Part 2. Identity. Ethnicity. Gender.
  • Theme 7. Church and power in post-Soviet countries.
    The Bolshevik regime and anti-religious policy. The Great Patriotic War and the revival of religious organisations. Post-war clergy-authority relations. The Russian Orthodox Church as an actor of influence (within Russia and abroad). Ukrainian autocephaly and its consequences for Russia-Ukrain relations. The role of clergy in Georgia and Armenia. Islam in post-Soviet states: why clergy failed?. Radical Islam movements. Buddhism. Judaism. Minor confessions.
  • Theme 8. Post-Soviet/ Eurasian integration project.
    The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS): more dead than alive? Macroregional initiatives: the Eastern Partnership of the EU, the conception ‘Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok’. Post-Soviet states and ‘One road, one belt’. EU vs China. Pluses and minuses of these integration projects. Local initiatives: EAC, GUAM, OCAC, Baltic Assembly, Union State of Russia and Belarus.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking In-class presentation
  • non-blocking The essay
  • non-blocking Written homework
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (2 module)
    0.2 * In-class presentation + 0.35 * The essay + 0.45 * Written homework


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • After homo sovieticus: Democratic governance gaps and societal vulnerabilities in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood. (2018). https://doi.org/10.1177/1781685818808715
  • Aliyev, H., & Souleimanov, E. A. (2019). Why Do De Facto States Fail?: Lessons from the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Problems of Post-Communism, 66(3), 161–171. https://doi.org/10.1080/10758216.2017.1383166
  • Donnacha Ó Beacháin. (2019). Cheque-Mates? Abkhazia’s Quest for International Recognition. Studies of Transition States and Societies, (1), 55. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsdoj&AN=edsdoj.1dcf46bef4534d80be8cc33269c76135
  • Kania, E. (2018). Homo sovieticus – ‘a single-dimensional client of communism’ or a ‘multifaceted phenomenon’? ; Homo sovieticus – „jednowymiarowy klient komunizmu”, czy „fenomen o wielu twarzach”? Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.D582E6F7
  • Kasperowicz, A. (2012). Sustainable Development and the Homo Sovieticus Syndrome. Acta Prosperitatis, 3, 49–60. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=asn&AN=84962047
  • Mokryk, R. (2018). Na Ukrajině končí epocha „homo sovieticus": Rozhovor s Myroslavem Marynovyčem. SALVE, (3), 25–32. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=asn&AN=134211682
  • Novikova, K. (2015). Informal networking as effective resource and sociocultural traditions of homo sovieticus. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.9EB2B709
  • Rada Cristina IRIMIE. (2014). Homo sovieticus: călătoria europeană a Omului Nou (Homo sovieticus: the European journey of the New Man). Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.71C4698B
  • Vasili Rukhadze, & Glen Duerr. (2016). Sovereignty issues in the Caucasus: contested ethnic and national identities in Chechnya, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.2CC34EB0
  • Wojciech Woźniak. (2014). From underclass to Homo sovieticus. Human constraints towards modernization. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.3C930AD4
  • Woźniak, W. (2014). From underclass to Homo sovieticus: Human constraints towards modernization. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.81A63621
  • Woźniak, W. (2014). Od underclass do Homo sovieticusa: Czynnik ludzki hamulcem modernizacji ; From underclass to Homo sovieticus. Human constraints towards modernization. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.D8677543

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Abkhazia and South Ossetia: time to talk trade / International Crisis Group. (2018). Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.506196690
  • Bakke, K. M., O’Loughlin, J., Toal, G., & Ward, M. D. (2014). Convincing State-Builders? Disaggregating Internal Legitimacy in Abkhazia. International Studies Quarterly, 58(3), 591–607. https://doi.org/10.1111/isqu.12110
  • Berg, E. (DE-576)186772246. (2015). Was the West’s engagement with Abkhazia doomed to fail? [Elektronische Ressource] / Eiki Berg. Washington/D.C: PONARS Eurasia. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.454717121
  • Binová, G. P. (2013). Homo sovieticus eroticus ; (Формы и деформации эротической тематики в литературе советского периода) ; (Formy i deformacii èrotičeskoj tematiki v literature sovetskogo perioda). Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.BE827674
  • Dzutsati, V. (DE-588)1163247235, (DE-576)50785120X. (2015). Russia to strip Abkhazia and South Ossetia of their limited sovereignty / Valeriy Dzutsev. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.444964088
  • Fischer, S. (2016). The conflicts over Abkhazia and South Ossetia in light of the crisis over Ukraine / Sabine Fischer. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.488469503
  • Fischer, S. V. (DE-588)128518138, (DE-627)37420120X, (DE-576)297190644, aut. (2019). The Donbas conflict opposing interests and narratives, difficult peace process Sabine Fischer ; Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, German Institute for International and Security Affairs. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.1663346933
  • Gachechiladze, Z. (1995). The conflict in Abkhazia : a Georgian perspective / Zaza Gachechiladze. [Washington, D.C.] : National Defense University, Institute for National Strategic Studies, 1995. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsgpr&AN=edsgpr.000438378
  • Harzl, B. V. (DE-588)1093586982, (DE-576)327476575, aut. (2017). Russia’s approach to Abkhazia and South Ossetia : problematic legal and normative rationales for citizenship and bilateral treaties / by Benedikt Harzl (University of Graz/Johns Hopkins University). Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.494541210
  • Javaid, F., & Ali Dashti, A. (2018). Reviewing the Role of Commonwealth of Independent States (Cis) with Special Reference to U.S. Rivalry Towards Centralasia. New Horizons (1992-4399), 12(1), 69–84. https://doi.org/10.2.9270/NH.12.2(18).05
  • Kompa, K. (2012). Commonwealth of Independent States Economic Development: Multidimensional Comparison of States. Folia Oeconomica Stetinensia, (2), 72–89. https://doi.org/10.2478/v10031-012-0027-4
  • Kopeček Vincenc, Hoch Tomáš, & Baar Vladimír. (2016). De Facto States and Democracy: The Case of Abkhazia. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.3BB11FF0
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, T. (2003). The Russian-Chechen tragedy: the way to peace and democracy. Central Asian Survey, 22(4), 481–509. https://doi.org/10.1080/0263493042000202698
  • Moore, C. (2010). Contemporary Violence : Postmodern War in Kosovo and Chechnya. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=515083
  • NIERODKA, P. (2012). Józef Tischner W Sporze O Społeczną Naturę Człowieka. Homo Sovieticus a Homo Solidaritus. Studia Philosophiae Christianae, 48(4), 75–95. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=asn&AN=102961627
  • Nikolaevna Chumakova, O. (2019). Comparative Analysis of the Historical Development of the Legal Regulation of the Preliminary Contract in the Russian Federation and Some CIS Countries. Journal of History, Culture & Art Research / Tarih Kültür ve Sanat Arastirmalari Dergisi, 8(2), 43–50. https://doi.org/10.7596/taksad.v8i2.2077
  • Nikolai V. Mityukov. (2016). The Periodization of Fighting on Donbass in 2014–2015 years. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.9092E06A
  • Rasoulinezhad, E. (2019). Analyzing Energy Export Patterns from the Commonwealth of Independent States to China: New Evidence from Gravity Trade Theory. Chinese Economy, 52(3), 279–294. https://doi.org/10.1080/10971475.2018.1548145
  • Susanna Bagdasaryan, & Svetlana Petrova. (2017). The Republic of Abkhazia as an Unrecognized State. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.7C2B467
  • Tobór-Osadnik, P. D. K., Wyganowska, P. D. M., & Kabalski, P. D. P. (2013). International Financial Reporting Standards vs. homo sovieticus personality the case of Poland. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.BC1B9426