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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Undergraduate Course: Contemporary Russian Politics (PLIT10048)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryAfter a period of collapse and chaos in the 1990s, Contemporary Russia looms large in global politics. However, Russia's domestic functioning and motivations, which underpin its wider global aspirations, are poorly understood. Much media and cultural coverage continues to see Russia through hackneyed prisms, focusing a 'return to the USSR' or a new Tsardom. Nevertheless, Russia's brutal reinvasion of Ukraine in 2022, after its first invasion in 2014, puts the issue of the nature of the Russian 'threat' to Europe and the wider world in the centre of attention.

This course focusses explicitly on the politics and government of the contemporary Russian Federation. Format varies each year but follows the following general outline. It first analyses the nature of a Soviet 'legacy'. It then looks in detail at Russian state and institution-building. Foci generally include party systems, civil society, nationalism and social movements, the making of Russian foreign policy and the drivers of Russia's war against Ukraine.
Course description The course examines the primary actors, institutions, ideas and developments in contemporary Russia (also known as the Russian Federation).

The course has three principal themes:
- The historical aspect: examining points of continuity and change in contemporary Russia, be they cultural, ideational or institutional;
- The comparative aspect: examining points of similarity and difference (e.g. compared with other post-Soviet states; with contemporary forms of democracy and authoritarianism);
- The empirical aspect; examining and analysing the key features of the contemporary Russian polity and clarifying their role in the light of common misconceptions (e.g. unpicking the narrative of the 'super-presidency').

The exact content will change from year-to-year, but will be held together thematically by three main components:
- Context: the course starts by focusing on the impact of the collapse of the Soviet Union on contemporary Russia (e.g. political-cultural and institutional legacy; the (mis)development of democracy in the post-Soviet space);
- Content: the course looks in detail at Russian state and institution-building. Foci generally include party systems, civil society, nationalism and social movements, and comparative post-Soviet government;
- Consequences: the course concludes by looking at the impact of Russian internal politics externally (e.g. Russian foreign policies towards the EU and US, relations with the post-Soviet space and Ukraine specifically);

Student learning experience: The course will be delivered using a lecture plus tutorial format. The lecture will provide a detailed introduction to facts, background, and debates concerning the week's topic. Tutorials will give room for student presentations, debates, group and individual work. In most weeks, one team of students will take the lead in inspiring and leading a tutorial discussion. The aim of this task is to practice debate leadership and teamwork skills while stimulating productive and critical discussion among peers.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Introduction to Politics and International Relations (PLIT08004) OR Politics in a Changing World: An Introduction for non-specialists (PLIT08012) OR Politics and International Relations 1A: Concepts and Debates (PLIT08017)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students who lack the compulsory pre-requisites but have completed comparable courses should contact the Course Organiser to confirm if they are eligible to take this course.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisites Visiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 40 %, Coursework 40 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 40% essay 1,
40% essay 2,
10% group presentation,
10% participation (participation will be one mark at end of semester, reading reflections will receive formative feedback)
Feedback Tutorial participation. You will receive regular feedback on your tutorial assessment, including written feedback on your group presentations within two weeks after the presentation. Presentations will consist of: a handout (max 2 pages) and a ppt presentation (or any other format easily accessible to all course participants). The following components of the presentation will be assessed: handout, ppt presentation, presentation delivery style and tutorial discussion leadership.

Provision of written feedback on the essay. Students will be encouraged to consult the course organiser via Guidance and Feedback hours for guidance on essay topics. Essay topics will be designed not to overlap with tutorial presentation topics but reading summaries may be used as preparation for exam questions. The second essay topic is chosen by students in discussion with the course organiser.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Develop conceptual knowledge of the key institutions and processes in Russian Politics.
  2. Analyse competing analytical and conceptual approaches to Russian Politics.
  3. Evaluate alternative explanations for particular political developments and events in Russia and the CIS.
  4. Develop a personal assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the Russian political system.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements This course has a quota. Preference will be given to Politics and IR students.
Additional Class Delivery Information Plus 1 hr tutorial per week
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Luke March
Tel: (0131 6)50 4241
Course secretaryMiss Karen Leung
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