IR479      Half Unit
Russia in World Politics

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Tomila Lankina CBG.10.13


This course is available on the MSc in Global Politics, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International Relations, MSc in International Relations (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Relations (Research) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is not available as an outside option.

The course offers an analysis of key issues in the development of Russian domestic politics and foreign and security policies and the role that it plays in global politics. It is primarily intended for the courses listed above and is available as an outside option on the MSc in Comparative Politics to students with permission.

All students are required to obtain permission from the Teacher Responsible by completing the online application form linked to course selection on LSE for You. Admission is not guaranteed.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access) and demand is typically high.


There are no formal prerequisites but some knowledge of social science methods and an interest in Russian politics will be taken for granted.

Course content

The course covers the various factors shaping Russian domestics politics and political regime, foreign and security policy. It will explore the domestic politics, economy and society changes in political regime over time; and both the traditional foreign policy and security issues, such as Russia’s military build-up, economic power projection, the geopolitics of oil and gas, as well as soft power and soft security aspects of Russia’s foreign policy, including the role of the media and propaganda; hybrid warfare; the role of ideas and norms; we will also explore the historical legacies influencing how Russia sees the world and its neighbours. There will be separate sessions exploring in detail Russia’s war in Ukraine. Each of the ten topics covered will speak to the major theoretical debates on the factors shaping security and foreign policy and students will be encouraged to evaluate the merits of the various theories based on available evidence. The background seminar focuses on the domestic and international context preceding Russia’s emergence as a successor to the Soviet Union. The subsequent sessions analyse post-communist Russian domestic politics and foreign policy with a special focus on domestic politics and foreign policy under President Putin, including the consolidation of autocratic rule, the wars against Georgia and Ukraine, the securitisation of Russia’s media and Russia’s attempts to influence politics in the EU and beyond.

Some of the questions to be addressed in the course of the ten seminars are: How have domestic institutions and political regime changed following the collapse of the USSR? What are the impacts on Russian society and economy? How have these developments impacted on foreign policy making and thinking? How has Russia sought to use traditional security mechanisms, hard power and soft power to influence the “near abroad”? What are the key mechanisms of Western influence on Russia? Are sanctions against Russia effective? What kind of a relationship has Russia forged with China and what are the factors shaping this relationship? What drives the nuances of Russia’s policy in the Middle East? What role do energy politics play in Russia’s relations with its neighbours and in Russia's foreign policy globally? The final section will address the question of the other longer-term historical influences shaping Russian politics.


This course is delivered through seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Michaelmas Term.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Students who are new to international politics are advised to attend the lectures for IR202, Foreign Policy Analysis.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 presentation and 1 other piece of coursework in the MT.

Each student will write a review of one of the required readings in no more than 500 words.

In the course of the academic term, each student will be also expected to make one presentation on a given topic. Presenters will be expected to distribute a 1 paragraph summary of the main points of their presentations to Professor Lankina and students in advance of the seminar.

Students will also produce a 2-3 page outline of their assessed essay by Week 6 of the MT.

Indicative reading

Tomila V. Lankina, The Estate Origins of Democracy in Russia: From Imperial Bourgeoisie to Post-Communist Middle Class (Cambridge University Press 2022)

Catherine Belton, Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and then Took on the West (William Collins 2021)

Kathryn E. Stoner, Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order (Oxford University Press 2021)

Timothy Frye, Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin’s Russia (Princeton University Press 2021)

Andrei Tsygankov, ed. Routledge Handbook of Russian Foreign Policy (Routledge 2020)

Gulnaz Sharafutdinova, The Red Mirror: Putin's Leadership and Russia's Insecure Identity (Oxford University Press 2020)

Alexander Sergunin, Explaining Russian Foreign Policy Behavior - Theory and Practice: 147 (Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society), Stuttgart, Ibidem, 2016


Essay (80%, 5000 words) in the LT.
Class participation (20%) in the MT.


Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: 23

Average class size 2021/22: 11

Controlled access 2021/22: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication