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Practicing Modernity: State and Society in Soviet and post-Soviet Central Asia


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies or the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research). MA students from other programmes who want to take this course should contact Prof. Dr. T. Atabaki before the course starts.


This course aims to develop an understanding of historical backdrop of events in the former Soviet Central Asia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia and Turkmenistan during the twentieth century. The course will examine the rise of the Soviet Union, the demarcation of the region leading to the construction of territorial entities, the Sovietisation of socio-political life and the emergence of the new ethno-territorial identities and the everyday life in the Soviet era. The course will further explore the complex interplay between security concerns, conflict management, and development interventions in the post-Soviet Caucuses and Central Asia.

The course is divided between two blocks:
The First Block:
The course is structured to include formal lectures and seminars requiring students’ active participation. Students will be required to do weekly reading assignments according to the schedule set by the tutor. Every week the students write a reflection essay (500-600 words) with reference to their reading assignments. The tutor will, then, review and discuss the reflection essays during the following tutorial session. In the second 45 minutes there will be an in-depth 45-minute briefing from the tutor during which weekly themes will be discussed.

The Second Block:
There is no lecture in this block, but there will be tutorial sessions with student(s). Under supervision of the tutor, the students are required to conduct library or field work research related to the theme of the course. Based on the conducted research, the Students are expected to write a final 6000-word research paper at the end of the semester, upon the students’ reflection papers, participation in debates and the research paper, the final grade will be based.

Course objectives

The objective of this course to familiarise students with the emergence of modern nations from the perspective of both history and critical theory. It further aims to give students the necessary analytical tools to compare, contrast and investigate the interaction between historically produced knowledge and narratively processed information pertaining to the concept of modernity and nationalism in the diverse Soviet and post-Soviet Central Asian societies.



Mode of instruction

Literature seminar.

Course load

As a 10 ECTS course, the students are expected to allocate 280 hours of work for this course.

The distribution of 280 hours work could be as follow:

  • College: 3 contact hours per week: 3×8 classes= 24 hours

  • Reading: 8 hours reading for ca. 8 classes: 64 hours

  • Writing weekly reflection paper: 5 × 8 classes= 40 hours

  • Tutorial, maximum 8 sessions: 24 hours

  • Preparing for final paper, fieldwork, library work: 72 hours

  • Writing final paper: 56 hours

Total studieload: 280 hours

Assessment method

  • Attendance, Reflection Papers and Participation in Debates (50%)

  • Final Research Paper (50%)


Not applicable.

Reading list

Will be announced during class.


Registration for this course is compulsory.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Prof. Dr. T. Atabaki


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).