SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

State and Society in Central Asia and the Caucasus

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 1

This module will analyze the key aspects of Soviet-era transformation and post-Soviet transition in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan) and the Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia).

The module aims to enable students to acquire an in-depth knowledge and understanding of critical issues of state-society relations in the region such as: the contradictions between nation and state building; politics of Islam, culture, ethnicity, and gender; the patterns of resistance and compliance; the relationship between formal and informal institutions; the consolidation of neopatrimonial regimes and their fragility, and debates on indigenous versus neoliberal conceptions of democracy and civil society. By developing a comprehensive understanding of the encounters between Soviet legacy and post-socialist transition, the module will enable the students to assess and engage in a comparison of the divergent trajectories of post-Soviet transition in the region.

Topics in the syllabus:

  1. Soviet Modernity and Socialist Transformation
  2. Socialist construction and nation-building under Soviet rule
  3. Soviet collapse and Sovereignty: Debating Empire, Colonialism
  4. Challenges of Nation and State-building in a Multiethnic Context
  5. Islam: Identity, Organization and Resistance
  6. Gender and the Debate on Tradition and Family
  7. Transition, Markets, Development Strategies
  8. Informal institutions: Clans, mahalla, and family networks
  9. Consolidation of Neopatrimonial Regimes and their Fragility
  10. Civil Society, NGOs, and International Actors: indigenous and neoliberal conceptions

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On completion of the module students will have the following:

  • A broad understanding of the nature of state and society in the region
  • An appreciation of the shared Russian and Soviet legacy as well as different cultural, socio-economic and developmental trajectories in Central Asia and the Caucasus
  • A critical understanding of processes aiding post-Soviet transition and hampering it
  • An analytical perspective that questions the prevalent myths and stereotypes about the region
  • An in-depth inquiry into a topic of their interest pertaining to the region
  • The ability to apply social science concepts and theories to analyse political developments in the region


  • Two-hour seminar per week

Method of assessment

Assessment is 100% coursework (consisting of two assignments, a 1000-word essay at 20% and a 4000-word essay at 80%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules