Fall 2011

From Petrograd to Petrostate: Power and Public in Post-Communist Russia

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-203


Constantine V. Pleshakov (Section 01)


Russia emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union a budding democracy with aggressively contested elections on the federal and local level. Twenty years later, it is an authoritarian state in which opposition is persecuted and the electorate divorced from any policy-making. This course will examine the dynamics of Russian politics from the anti-Communist revolution of 1991 to the present, attempting to answer the question why this happened. First, we will revisit the legacy of the Soviet era pertinent to “new” Russia – centralism and political repression but also social welfare systems, feminism, and communality. Second, we will look at the socio-economic factors of Russia’s metamorphosis, the products of the Russian version of a free market economy (among others: the emergence of a new dominant minority, the “oligarchs,” and the gap between the rich and the poor). Third, we will examine the concepts of democracy and human rights prevalent in Russia over the past twenty years and ask how different they are from Western concepts of democracy and human rights. Fourth, we will try determining the role of individuals in Russian politics. How did Vladimir Putin dismantle the democratic institutions of Russia so quickly? What was the voters’ reaction to that? What made his victory over the “oligarchs” possible? Was this a case of a leader going against the grain or did he fit the profile of an ideal leader the majority of Russians wanted? Is it Putin’s Russia or Russia’s very own Putin?

Fall semester.  Visiting Professor/Karl Loewenstein Fellow Pleshakov.


2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011