Russian Politics in Transition module (PO41009)

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Module code


Module Aims

This module aim:

  • to provide you with a good grounding in the political science literature on Russian politics and the relevant academic debates.
  • to place the study of Russian politics within a comparative politics framework and the wider study of countries in transition.
  • to introduce you to a wide range of theoretical models and hypotheses drawn from the field of political science.
  • to encourage and facilitate student participation in seminar discussions and debates and advance your essay writing and oral skills.

Module Details

In the first few lectures of this module we provide a general overview of Soviet politics under Gorbachev 1985-December 1991. We examine the reasons for the failed August 1991 coup and the collapse of the USSR. We then move on to study Russian politics 1992-2014.

The major thread running through the module are questions concerning the prospects for creating a viable democracy in Russia.  In order to help us understand such developments we shall look to the field of comparative politics and compare developments in Russia with other "transitions from authoritarianism" in Latin America, Southern Europe and Eastern Europe. From this perspective we examine political, economic and social developments and assess their impact on regime change and democratization.

Finally, we assess the degree to which civil society has been revived following the mass protest demonstrations that have rocked the country since 2011.

Specifically the topics covered are:

  • Russia’s Transition in comparative perspective.             
  • The battle over Russia's Constitution: parliament versus executive 1990-1993.
  • Economic reforms in Russia: from plan to market or plan to clan?
  • The development of political Institutions: parties and elections.
  • The Russian parliament.
  • The development of a super-presidential system.
  • Federalism and regional politics.
  • Political culture.
  • Civil society.
  • Democratization in Russia: Is Russia a hybrid-regime?


This module consists of 11 lectures and 11 seminars, plus additional contact time for discussion of assessed essays where feedback will be given on a one to one basis.


This module places emphasis on developing writing skills. The assessment consists of two 3000-3500 word essays.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

On completion of this module you will:

  • have developed understanding of a wide range of theoretical models and hypotheses drawn from the field of political science.
  • have developed understanding of the key features and trends in Russian politics from Yeltsin to Medvedev.
  • have developed understanding of the problems of democratization in Russia.
  • have developed understanding of the comparative politics literature on ‘transitions from authoritarianism’.


On completion of this module you will be able to present and critically analyse, in both oral and written form, the main theoretical literature on democratic transitions and the standard works on Russian politics.

Indicative Reading

  • Catherine Danks., Politics Russia. (Pearson, Longman, 2009)
  • Daniel Herspring (ed.)., Putin’s Russia. (Rowman and Littlefield, 4th edition 2010)
  • Richard Sakwa., Russian Politics and Society. (Routledge, 4th edition, 2008)
  • Richard Sakwa., Putin: Russia’s Choice. (Routledge: 2nd edition, 2008)
  • Stephen White., Henry Hale and Richard Sakwa, Developments in Russian Politics – 7. (Macmillan, 2010)
  • Thomas Remington., Politics in Russia. (5th edition, 2008)
  • Michael Bressler (ed.).,  Understanding Contemporary Russia. (Lynne Reinner 2008)
  • Alex Pravda (ed)., Leading Russia: Putin in Perspective. (OUP: 2005)
  • Edwin Bacon and Matthew Wyman., Contemporary Russia. (Palgrave, 2006)
  • Michael Waller., Russian Politics Today. (MUP, 2005)
  • Michael McFaul., Nikolai Petrov and Andrei Ryabov, Between Dictatorship and Democracy. (Carnegie, 2004)
  • Cameron Ross., Russian Politics under Putin. (MUP, 2004)


30 credits