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Contemporary Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia

image4 This track is designed for students in the social sciences.

In the Contemporary Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia concentration, the assumption is that students will take courses in more than one discipline. The aim should be to develop a comprehensive understanding of the political, social, economic, cultural, and geographical situation of post-socialist Eastern Europe and/or the former Soviet Union. This may be accomplished through formal coursework on the region, but because of the way that social science departments define their courses, students may also need to take general methodological courses in which our region is merely one of several discussed in the course. The REEES standard for counting a course toward the degree is that 40% of the total workload for the course, including both assigned readings and independent projects undertaken by the student, should be connected to Russia, Eastern Europe, or the former Soviet Union. Thus, even if a course on, say, political geography, draws most of its examples from Latin America, a student’s independent projects can bring the total workload up to the 40% threshold. Students wishing to apply a course to their concentration that does not have a title indicating a focus on our region should bring the syllabus to the REEES director for approval.

Like other concentrations in REEES, the Contemporary Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia concentration requires students to take a written MA exam (typically in the winter of the second year) and to write a thesis. The exam has two unequal parts. In the first part, students are expected to show general mastery of political, social, economic, and cultural development in the region, such as might appear on an undergraduate area studies final exam. In the second part, students do independent readings on four themes of their choice, within certain parameters.

  1. One of those themes should concern a distinct region within the larger area, such as Central Asia, the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Siberia, or Ukraine. For this theme, students’ reading should be directed at developing a comprehensive understanding of the geography, culture, society, and economic and political development of this specific region during the period since 1989/91.
  2. At least two of the four themes must be comparative, in the sense of being devoted to a topic that played out in several countries of Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union.
  3. Because of the dominance of Russia in the region, at least two of the four themes must either center on Russia or include it as one of the comparative cases.

Thus, a student could choose to do independent readings on the republic of Georgia, on women and gender in post-socialist Eastern Europe, on ecological problems in the former Soviet Union, and on the Russian military. This is just an example; in fact, there are many possible sets of themes. The student should consult with his or her main adviser to develop themes, as well as with the REEES director. The amount of reading expected, and the ratio of articles to books and web resources, will vary by discipline. For the actual exam, the student will develop essay questions in advance with his or her adviser or advisers (one per theme), and two will be selected at random for actual inclusion in the exam. The exam is intended to take eight hours.

Master’s students also write a thesis, typically 45-100 pages, based on original research. Use of sources in Russian or another regional language is mandatory. Ideally, students will begin to develop a topic by the end of their first year in the program, so that they can spend some time researching it over the summer. In the second year, while students continue taking courses, they should also try to leave space in their schedule for directed readings (REEES 605 Readings), and to devote the entire spring quarter to completion of the thesis (nine credits of REEES 503 Thesis).


Mikhail Myagkov, Associate Professor of Political Science. Ph.D. California Institute of Technology, 1997. Author (with collaborators Peter Ordeshook, D. R. Kiewiet, and others) of more than ten journal articles and several book chapters that analyze elections and the electorate in contemporary Russia and Ukraine. Specific topics include election irregularities, the role of elites, the electoral strength of communism, the urban-rural divide in voting patterns, geographical cleavages, and political shifts over time. Theoretical interests include statistical methods in political science, game theory, experimental design, and formal political theory. Teaching interests: Russian politics, comparative politics, theoretical and methodological courses.

Carol Silverman, Associate Professor of Anthropology; core faculty member in the Folklore Program. Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 1979. Her numerous publications explore the interplay of music, politics, ethnicity, ritual, and gender in Bulgaria and Macedonia, with a special focus on the region’s Roma. Recent writings include “‘Move Over Madonna’”: Gender, Representation, and the ‘Mystery’ of Bulgarian Voices,” in Over the Wall, After the Fall: Post-Totalitarian Cultures, East and West (Indiana University Press, 2004); “Trafficking in the Exotic with ‘Gypsy’ Music: Balkan Roma, Cosmopolitanism, and ‘World Music’ Festivals,” to be published in Balkan Popular Culture and the Ottoman Ecumene: Music, Image, and Regional Political Discourse (Routledge Perspectives in Global Pop Series), “Researcher, Advocate, Friend: An American Fieldworker among Balkan Roma,” in Fieldwork Dilemmas: Anthropologists in Postsocialist Societies (University of Wisconsin Press, 2000). Founding member of Trio Slavej, an ensemble that performs Balkan music. Teaching interests: Eastern and southeastern Europe, cultural anthropology, gender, folklore, performance.

Caleb Southworth, Associate Professor of Sociology. Professor Southworth studies labor relations in both the United States and post-socialist world. Recent published work includes a study of migration for work in Ukraine (“Eastward Bound: A Case Study of Post-Soviet Labor Migration from a Rural Ukrainian Town” Europe Asia Studies 2006), an examination of labor market participation and household agriculture in Russia (“The Dacha Debate: Household Agriculture and Labor Markets in Post-Soviet Russia” Rural Sociology 2006), and an analysis of trade and democracy in post-Soviet states (“How International Trade Ties Affect Democratization: The Case of Post-Soviet States” in Industries and Markets in Central and Eastern Europe 2007). Dr. Southworth is the principal investigator of a historical study that collects data on American labor unions throughout the 20th century. Teaching interests: labor and the workplace, comparative-historical methods, post-Soviet society and Eurasia.