Political Science | Comparative Politics
Y657 | 12239 | Fierman

Topic:  Soviet and Post-Soviet Nationality Problems and Politics

This course meets with CEUS R697

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-
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)