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Soviet and Post-Soviet Nationality Problems and Politics
CEUS-R 697
William Fierman

This course will examine nationality problems in the former USSR.  The focus will be on the last decades of Soviet rule, especially the Gorbachev era.  After the introductory course meeting, we will spend three weeks considering some theoretical concerns related to nations and nationalism.  Following this will be a three-week historical review of Soviet nationality policy (two weeks on the years until 1985, and a one-week overview of the Gorbachev era).  We will then take two weeks to consider problems from a geographic perspective: we will briefly look at individual republics and regions of the USSR, concentrating on developments between 1985 and 1991.  The remaining weeks of the course will be divided according to issue, not geographical area or republic.  We will examine the following topics: 1) economy and environment, 2) history and culture, 3) religion, 4) language, and 5) demography.

For the first five sessions beyond the introductory one, readings will come from the four books listed below (in the order they are listed).  If you have read these books for other courses you have recently taken, please consult with me to select an alternative reading or alternative readings. Assignments for the rest of the course will be available in packets placed online through the e-reserves

Many of the readings for the last five weeks of the course will be Western scholarly writings, including Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reports.  They will also include many materials translated from Russian and other languages by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service and the Joint Publications Research Service.

All students will be required to attend class regularly and participate actively in discussions.  In preparation for each weekly class, students will write up comments on the readings and distribute them by e-mail to the entire class.  These should be brief papers, generally in the range of 850 to 1000 words.  Naturally, they cannot be comprehensive.  They are also a good place to raise questions about the readings which we can address in class.  Students should upload their comments by 9 am each Monday to the “Resource” area for the course Oncourse. (For each session there will be a separate folder.) If for some reason you cannot meet the deadline a particular week, please send me an e-mail in advance explaining the circumstances. During the course of the semester you may select one week to skip writing a paper. Alternately, you may write a paper for every week and I will drop your lowest grade at the end of the semester. (If you decide to skip a paper, please advise me in advance of that week’s class. Even for the week when you may skip paper writing, I still expect you to participate actively in clas.

For the two weeks when we consider individual republics, no papers based on the readings will be required; instead, students will write a single short (4-5 page [1000 to 1500 word]) "republic sketch."  In addition, there will be one "major" paper for the course, approximately 15 pages of text excluding notes (in the range of 3750 words).  This paper should be devoted to some problem of nationality policy or problems in the USSR. Please clear your paper topic with me BEFORE you begin organizing or writing it. We will discuss requirements for the paper in class.

GRADING: The course grade will be calculated with about 30 % based on class participation, 35 % based on weekly short papers, 10 % on the “republic sketch,” and 25 % based on the major paper. 

Required readings for the first four weeks (after initial session):
Harold Isaacs:             Idols of the Tribe (1975)                                 (Session 2)
Ernest Gellner:            Nations and Nationalism (1983)         (Session 3)
Anthony D. Smith National Identity (1993) (1 session)        (Session 4)
Gerhard Simon:           Nationalism and Policy Toward the
 Nationalities in the Soviet Union                                           (Sessions 5-6)