POLS 366: Politics of Russia and Eurasia
Spring 2005

:                        Laman Rzayeva
Meeting time and place:   246 Dusable Hall, M, W 3:30-4:45 PM
Office address:                420 Zulauf
Office hours:                   T 2:00-4:00 PM , and by appointment.
E-Mail:                            lrzayeva@yahoo.com

Course description/objectives: The first objective of this course is to provide students with an introduction to the politics of the newly emerging states of Eurasia, namely, countries which used to be parts of the Soviet Union. While the main focus of this course will be Russian politics, there also will be discussion of the other fourteen former Soviet republics and relations among these states. The course is divided into four units. The first unit discusses the geography and climate of the region. The second focuses on the political and economic history of the Soviet Union. Special attention is given to the legacies of the Tsarist and Soviet periods. The third unit will survey of recent political developments and problems in some of the other Eurasian States. The final and the largest unit focuses on the politics of contemporary Russia.

As most of you are aware, Russia and the other Eurasian states are now undergoing a period of rapid and profound change. The course will address these ongoing changes. During each Wednesday class session, the first 15 minutes of class will be set aside to discuss these developments. Student participation is highly encouraged during this time (and in the class as a whole). This will provide an opportunity to discuss political developments in Eurasia, and to voice competing opinions. To provide material for these discussions, students will be required to read Gazeta, currently Russia’s most read on line newspaper. An English language version of Gazeta may be accessed at: http://www.gazeta.ru/english/. The second course objective is to help students develop their abilities to think and argue logically both orally and in writing. The course thus presents numerous opportunities for class participation. In addition to the weekly discussions, students are expected to read and discuss in class the six cases assigned below. As much as the professor would like each of you to dedicate your lives to the study and analysis of Russian politics, this is not likely. Realistically, therefore, the opportunities the class offers you to develop your analytical and communication skills may be its greatest benefit to you. The professor recognizes that students come to this course with extremely varied backgrounds and majors. Some will undoubtedly bring to the course extensive background in political science, while others will have extensive knowledge of Russian area studies. Thus the professor will not presume any specialized background knowledge. However, the professor will gladly assist any students who wish to pursue additional reading or research.


Required/recommended texts: It should soon become apparent that the lectures are not a mere reiteration of the readings. The readings and lectures are presented as complementary (and only sometimes overlapping) sources of information. You will be responsible for the material presented in both. Thus, some of the test questions will cover material from the readings that has not been specifically addressed in class.

Readings from the following texts have been assigned as specified in the course outline. They are available at both the Village Commons and the Holmes Student Center Bookstores.

  1. Thomas F. Remington, Politics in Russia, 3d ed., New York, NY: Pearson Longman, 2004.
  2. Daniel R. Kempton & Terry D. Clark, eds., Unity or Separation: Center-Periphery Relations in the Former Soviet Union, New York, Praeger Publishers, 2002. (recommended)

The following seven cases have been assigned. These are short readings and can also be purchased in either the bookstore. Copies of each case will also be placed on reserve at the library.

1.       Summit or Standoff: Responding to Lithuania's Bid for Independence (KSG C16-91-1092.0)

2.       Elena Kotova and the Moscow Privatization Agency (KSG C16-92-1141)

3.       The August Coup: Part A (KSG C16-92-1147-0)

4.       Northern Territories Controversy (Pew Case #364)

5.       Up in Arms: Russian Rockets Sales for India (Pew 99-N)

6.       From Russia to Kaliningrad: The Case of Russian Transit Rights through Lithuania. (Pew 370-96N)

7.       After the Empire: Estonia and Russia Negotiate Borders and Citizenship (Pew 474-99-N)

Each Week students are required to read at least two stories about Russian politics in Gazeta, Russia’s leading on-line newspaper. The online version of the newspaper in English is available at: http://www.gazeta.ru/english/ . Please read articles that focus on politics in Russia, or the other states of the former Soviet Union.Most often the story labeled “leading article” will be a good choice. For those with Russian language skills, you are encouraged to try the Russian language version of the politics section at: http://www.gazeta.ru/politics/ .

Writing assignments:

Journals: To learn more about contemporary developments in the former Soviet Union, each student will be expected to keep a journal that summarizes recent political developments in Eurasia as they are reported in Gazeta

Each week in their journals students will be expected to write entries for two major articles dealing with Russian politics.  These entries should include a brief summary of the basic development, but should primarily consist of the student’s assessment of the implications of these developments. 

For example, what do these developments mean for Russia's future political stability or for democracy in Russia?  Do you agree with the policy being undertaken? Approximately two entries should be made every week.

Each entry should be approximately one page in length double spaced and standard fonts and margins (no jumbo or minute text) and can tie together multiple "related" articles. Journal articles should be cited in text by date, for example (www.gazeta.ru, 6 January 2004). The name of the month unfortunately only appears in Russian, but you should convert it to English. Direct quotes must be placed in quotes. Journal entries may not be taken verbatim from the text.

If there are not a sufficient number of stories, articles from Pravda (http://english.pravda.ru/) may also be included in your journals. This Pravda is a pro-government publication and is not affiliated with the Communist Party of Russia. All journals must be typed on a computer or word processor so that they may be revised.

Due dates for the journals: In total, students are expected to type and submit journal entries for the first ten academic (excluding spring break week) weeks of the semester (assuming that first week starts on January 24, 2005). Each Monday students should submit two journal entries (covering two articles of the past week). Each entry is worth of 1 point, which equals to 1 percent of the total grade. In sum, students should submit 20 journal entries, and their grade from journals will constitute 20% of their total grade. For the due dates please see table at the end of the syllabus.

Late journals will be downgraded 1/3 letter grade for each weekday that they are late. (A journal submitted after the beginning of class will be considered one day late).  Thus, an "A" brief becomes and "A-" after one day and a "B+" after two days. There will be no exceptions to this rule. Therefore, students with sick relatives, paper-eating canines, low-life typists, or ill-tempered computers--as well as those students who are routinely taken hostage aboard alien spaceships--are strongly encouraged to compensate for any potential mishaps by preparing their journals in advance of the submission deadlines.

Essay: In addition to the journal entries, students should write an essay. The essay should be approximately 5 pages, double-spaced with normal margins and type size. As with the assigned cases, the topic chosen for the essay should involve a decision or dilemma for a specific post-Soviet politician, government, or governmental organization. (You are encouraged to discuss your topic.)

The essay will then look at the dilemma from the perspective of an identified government or individual decision maker. Make sure to be clear about who is a decision-maker, from whose perspective are you looking at the problem of your essay. Next, identify the objectives or goals of the decision-maker and at least two alternative policies to meet the objectives. Then analyze the alternatives in terms of the likelihood that they will each meet the decision maker’s objectives. Then recommend a policy based on the likelihood that a given policy will meet the objectives (or comment on the already taken decision: do you agree with it or not, and why).

Students may elect to write the essay using only RFE/RL Gazeta articles. Thus, summarizing in your journal multiple stories on the same topic would be prudent.To add background and depth, however, outside sources may be consulted. There is a listing of some other useful sources at the end of this syllabus. All sources should be properly footnoted using an accepted style. The essay should be submitted by April 18, 2005. It will count for 10% of the semester grade.

Prior to the submitting an essay, students should submit an essay proposal. Essay proposals are due by March 7, 2005. Essay proposals will be returned to the students with feedback from the professor in the shortest period of time. Essay proposals should be 1-2 double-spaced pages long and should describe subject, which students want to explore in their essays, how are they going to approach it, from which perspective they would like to look at the chosen dilemma. Essay proposals will NOT be graded. The purpose of this assignment is to encourage students to start thinking about subject of their future essays and to help them in identifying potential problems. Students are encouraged to discuss their essay topics with professor.

Plagiarism Statement: "The attempt of any student to present as his or her own work that which he or she has not produced is regarded by the faculty and administration as a serious offense. Students are considered to have cheated if they copy the work of another during an examination or turn in a paper or an assignment written, in whole or in part, by someone else. Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university." Northern Illinois University Undergraduate Catalog.

Grading:  In addition to the journals and essays there will be two examinations, a mid-term and a final examination. Each will represent 30% of the semester grade. The examinations will cover the material presented in the lectures, the readings and class discussions. The mid-term examination will be administered in class on February 28, and the final will be administered on May 9, 4-5:50 PM. The final will NOT be cumulative in the traditional sense.

An alternative examination date will be offered on May 11, in the classroom at 8 PM. Any changes in time and place of the alternative examination will be announced in the class.  IMPORTANT: If you wish to take the examination on the alternative date, for whatever reason, you must submit a hand written request to do so by May 4. Those who do not submit such a request will take the examination at the regular time. Before each of the examination there will be revision sessions, where students will have an opportunity to address all questions about exams.



Midterm Exam = 30%
Final Exam = 30%

Journals = 20%

Essay = 10%
Participation = 10%

Attendance policy: Students who miss more than two case days or more than five class periods in total will have a deduction taken from their participation grade. The participation grade will assess the quality and quantity of each student's participation in class. The participation grade will account for 10 % of the semester grade.

Undergraduate Writing Awards

The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies. Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing. Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28. All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name. Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.

Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU us committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.

Department of Political Science Web Site

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu





LINKS to Relevant Sites:

Gazeta Online (http://www.gazeta.ru/english/)

GazetaSNG, General CIS News (http://eng.gazetasng.ru/)

(Itar Tass, News Agency (http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/)

Moscow News, Weekly Online (http://www.mn.ru/english/)

Moscow Times Online (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/indexes/01.html)

Pravda Online (not affiliated with the Communist Party) (http://english.pravda.ru/)

RIA-Novosti, State Run News Agency (http://en.rian.ru/rian/index.cfm)

Russian Government (http://www.gov.ru/index.html)

Russian Political Weekly, for US Radio Liberty (http://www.rferl.org/rpw/)

BBC World News
Christian Science Monitor
CNN Breaking News
The Times (London)
New York Times
Washington Post

Maps of Russia and Eurasia











Assignments and Due Dates:

Jan 19

Introduction and Distribution of Course Syllabus

Jan 24

Journals 1 and 2 are due!

Case #1 Summit or Standoff: Regarding Lithuania’s Bid

Jan 26

The Geography and Climate of Eurasia

Remington, Preface and Chapter 1

Jan 31

Journals 3 and 4 are due!

History of Eurasia

Tsarist Period

Remington, Chapter 2

Feb 2

History of Eurasia

The Soviet Economic System

Remington, Chapter 3

Feb 7

Journals 5 and 6 are due!

Case #2 Elena Kotova and the Moscow Privatization Agency

Feb 9

The Soviet Political System

The Soviet State

Remington, Chapter 5

Feb 14

Journals 7 and 8 are due!

The Soviet Political System

The Communist Party

Remington, Chapter 6

Feb 16

Case #3 The August Coup

Feb 21

Journals 9 and 10 are due!

Mikail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the Soviet Union

Remington, Chapter 7

Feb 23

Review Session

Feb 28



Mar 2


Baltic region: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia


Mar 7

Journals 11 and 12 AND Essay proposals are due!


Ukraine, Belarus, Moldavia

Mar 9


South Caucasus: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia

Mar 14 & 16

Have a nice break!

Mar 21

Journals 13 and 14 are due!


Central Asia: Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

Mar 23


Central Asia: Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan

Mar 28

Journals 15 and 16 are due!

Case #4 Northern Territories Controversy

Mar 30


The Politics of Federalism

Kempton and Clark , Chapters 1, 2, & 4

Apr 4

Journals 17 and 18 are due!


The Politics of Federalism (continued)

Apr 6


The Executive

Kempton and Clark, Chapters 8&14

Apr 11

Last two journals, 19 and 20 are due!

Case #5  Up in Arms: Russia Rocket Sales for India

Apr 13


The Legislative Branch

Remington, Chapter 8

Apr 18

Last day for submitting your essays!


The Judicial Branch (and the Bureaucracy)

Apr 20


Parties, Participation, and Democracy

Remington, Chapter 4

Apr 25

Case #6 From Russia to Kaliningrad: Transit Rights…

Apr 27


Russian Foreign Policy

Remington, Chapter 9

May 2

Case #7 After the Empire: Russia Negotiate Borders and Citizenship

May 4

Revision Session

May 9

 4-5: 50 PM

Scheduled Final Examination

May 11

8 PM

Alternate Final Examination