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Post-Soviet Wars and the Violent Collapse of the USSR


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations


The Soviet Union disintegrated into historical oblivion on December 25, 1991 - except that 30 years later, its detritus is still ablaze. The Russian Federation’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine is only the latest and most expansive of the many post-Soviet wars, which have stretched from Moldova to Tajikistan and from 1991 to the last few months. Rather than the supposedly bloodless and calm transition from socialism to markets predicted and often observed in the face of contradictory evidence, we can now see that the collapse of the USSR was, and is, anything but peaceful. Instead, it has been rife with conflict and war since its inception.

This MA seminar provides a historical overview of the past thirty years of conflict across the former USSR, leading up to the 2022 war in Ukraine. It links the conflicts to the collapse of the USSR itself, as well as to the Soviet superstructure in which all post-Soviet republics were once inked, drawing upon the economics, social makeup, and political systems of the region to understand the violence occurring since 1991. An interdisciplinary course, it draws upon works from many fields, including contemporary history, economic history, conflict studies, and international relations.

Course objectives

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

Demonstrate an understanding of the social, political, and economic causes of the many post-Soviet wars;

Explain how Soviet history and the particular shape of the Soviet collapse have helped to predicate post-Soviet violence;

Explicate some of the many complications that have made numerous post-Soviet conflicts and wars seemingly intractable.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


This course is graded as follows:

  1. Participation and in-class presentations: 30%. As a seminar, this class is built around in-depth discussions of the assigned materials and students are expected to come to class prepared and ready to discuss the readings each week. In addition students will be asked to prepare two short presentations over the course of the term, each one about a selected assigned reading (10% for each presentation, with the remaining 10% representing an overall participation grade).

  2. Research proposal: 10%. In the first third of the class, students will be asked to select a topic for their final essay and fill out a form providing background and an outline for their ideas. The topic is of the student’s choice, but should be related to the course theme. The proposal provides an important opportunity for feedback on the essay idea, and for the possibility of amendment thereafter if needed.

  3. Final essay: 60%. The main product of this class is a research paper, which should expand upon a topic related to the course theme; it can be an empirical case study or a more theoretical evaluation (or a combination thereof). Students are encouraged to speak with the course instructor about their ideas and to outline them in the research proposal.

Final essays should be between 4,000-6,000 words in length, excluding notes and bibliography.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


Resubmission of final essays: in the case of a failing course grade, students can resubmit an updated draft of their final essay within three weeks of the date on which the final grade is released.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list



Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.