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Russia in and against Europe: Entangled Socio-Political Transformations after the Cold War


Admission requirements

No admission requirements. No restrictions.

Course Description

This course aims to engage students in a critical interrogation of the entangled socio-political transformations in the relationship of Russia in-and-against Europe. The seminar will provide a safe environment for an open and inclusive discussion that can help with navigating the discourses of contestation in the context of war. Accordingly, the course draws on a wide range of perspectives (history, comparative politics, international relations, political economy) to shed light on the pathologies of the on-going transformations. Rather than following a chronology of landmark events in an increasingly bloody history, the course adopts a problem-oriented approach focussing on key issue areas (including interdependence, hegemony, cooperation, and conflict) that can help structure the analysis of on-going developments. As such, the course will equip students with analytical tools for engaging in independent research.
The curriculum complements the substantive interactive sessions with student research sessions in which students work with a variety of empirical sources (archival documents, public speeches, quantitative data, audiovisual material) relevant to the respective topic. Students are expected to be familiar with the basic conceptual and theoretical apparatus in social science research. In addition, basic knowledge of the recent Eastern European history will help in keeping pace with the discussions.

Course objectives

The course aims to help students learn:

  • About the various historical forms of interaction in Russia’s relationship with and against Europe;

  • About the different theoretical approaches to studying Russia’s relationship with and against Europe;

  • How to use and evaluate primary empirical sources;

  • How to navigate the discourses of contestation (and make sense of the senselessness).

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Position paper (30%):
Students are expected to write a position paper on one of the assigned readings (article or book chapter) for the substantive sessions. For this task students should reflect on the key problem (research question) and main argument of the text, along with providing a substantiated assessment of the research design/approach of the author(s). The papers should be 800-1000 words and should be submitted to the instructor a day before the respective session.
Group presentation (30%):
The group presentations are a key element in the student research sessions, as they showcase different (often contrasting) perspectives on the respective topic of discussion. Students are expected to work in groups of 2 or 3 and present the perspective that they have been pre-assigned to. Special attention will be given to the clarity of exposition and the linkage to the provided empirical material. The presentations should be max. 15 mins long.
Essay (40%):
In the essay students are expected to engage more closely with one of the substantive topics covered during the course and to juxtapose it onto the empirical material from the corresponding student research session. Students are expected to go beyond the reading list provided with the syllabus for this task. The essays should be 1600-2000 words and should be submitted by the end of the course.

Reading list

The required readings for the course will be included in the syllabus (to be uploaded on Brightspace a week before the first session). Students are expected to have read the assigned readings for each session and participate actively in the seminar discussions. This is essential for the quality of the discussions and for the attainment of the learning objectives.


Ivan Bakalov