SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

State and Society in Central Asia and the Caucasus

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 2

This course 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 course 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 course 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 course 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

Method of assessment

Assessment is 100% coursework (consisting of a 5000-word essay, and a 1500-word seminar paper and accompanying presentation). The normal regulations for resubmission of coursework do not apply to the seminar presentation element of this course.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules