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Post-Soviet Wars: Economic Collapses and Their Violent Consequences


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Russian and Eurasian Studies
Knowledge of Russian language.


The Soviet Union disintegrated into historical oblivion on December 25, 1991 – and yet, 30 years later, its detritus is still very much with us. The Soviet economy, once the world’s second largest, both essentially flatlined and broke into fifteen independent pieces in the space of just a few years, an economic collapse unseen in scope or magnitude elsewhere in the 20th century. In turn, economic collapse gave rise to a myriad of local and international conflicts across the now post-Soviet space, many of which grew into full scale war.

From 1988 onward, the historical experience of Soviet economic collapse during the final years of the 1980s has motivated and shaped many post-Soviet wars, from Nagorno-Karabakh in the late 1980s to the Russian Federation’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. As recent events have made tragically clear, the repurcussions of the Soviet economic breakup and breakdown remain alive and well, and still capable of driving states and individuals to violence.

This MA seminar investigates the ongoing field of post-Soviet war and violence from an economic and historical perspective, considering how economic downturn and collapse has helped to lead to war in many post-Soviet environments. Drawing upon recent scholarship that has connected these phenomena in the post-Soviet space, it considers the past thirty years of conflict across the former USSR, leading up to the 2022-2023 war in Ukraine. It links the conflicts to the collapse of the USSR itself, and first and foremost to the breakdown of the Soviet economic system within which all post-Soviet republics once once linked. 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 economic, social, and political causes of the many post-Soviet wars; ⁃ Explain how the Soviet economic system and the particular form of the Soviet economic collapse have helped to predicate post-Soviet violence; ⁃ Evaluate 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 a short presentation about one selected reading during the course of the term (20% for the presentation; 10% for overall participation).
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



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