SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Geopolitics and Security in Central Asia and the Caucasus

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 2

The module will explore some major regional conflicts and security challenges in Central Asia and the Caucasus as well as assess the role of key regional powers and international actors in shaping the geopolitics and security regimes in the region. By focusing on some major ethnic and social conflicts in specific states, analysing the shared traits as well as divergences in political processes across the region, it will identify some fundamental shifts taking place in the region. It will begin with exploring the historical debates on the geopolitical importance of the broader region (the ‘Great Game’ perspective), analyse the effects of its isolation during the Soviet years, and highlight the new strategic salience of the region since September 2001. It will examine the centrality of oil and energy resources in shaping cooperation and competition among the states in the region as well as the engagement of international actors (Russia, China, EU and the US in particular) in the region.

Topics in the syllabus:

  1. Geopolitics: Old and New (the ‘Great Game’ and post Sept-2001 scenario)
  2. Politics of Energy and Pipelines
  3. Influence of Russia, China and other Regional Powers
  4. Regional Security Arrangements: CSTO, SCO
  5. US and EU: Economic and Security Interests, Democracy promotion
  6. Sovereignty and the Challenges of Regional Cooperation
  7. Border Conflicts, de facto States and the Challenges of Peace-building in the Caucasus (Nagorny-Karabakh, Abkhazia-Georgia)
  8. Conflicts, Violence and Peace-building in Central Asia (civil war in Tajikistan, ethnic violence in Osh, uprising in Andizhan)
  9. Roots of Political Instability: Effects of ‘Colour revolutions’ and ‘Arab spring’
  10. Labour Migration, Transnational Networks and Reconfiguration of Eurasian Space

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On completion of the course students will have the following:

  • A broad understanding of the nature of geopolitics, major conflicts and security concerns in the region
  • A competent knowledge of how the local context, Russian and Soviet legacy and international actors are defining the geopolitics, conflicts and security framework  in Central Asia and the Caucasus
  • A critical understanding of processes driving regional cooperation or 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.


  • One-hour lecture per week
  • One-hour tutorial 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