IR479      Half Unit
Eastern Europe: Domestic Regimes and Foreign Policies

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Tomila Lankina CBG.10.13


This course is available on the 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), MSc in Political Science (Global Politics) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is not available as an outside option.

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

Course content

The course offers an analysis of key issues in the development of the domestic, foreign and security policies of East European countries. The course covers the various factors shaping the domestic, foreign and security policy of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, as well as countries in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Baltic states. It will explore both the domestic aspects of politics, political regime and protest; and foreign policy and security issues, such as national liberation struggles, geopolitical orientations, membership in regional organizations and alliances. It will also discuss Russia's war against Ukraine and Ukraine’s popular movements and mobilization against Russia’s aggression.

Other topics that we will discuss in class are the economic power projection of countries in the region and those of external players like China and the European Union; the geopolitics of oil and gas; soft power and soft security aspects of the foreign policies of the countries studied in this class. We will also discuss authoritarian and democratic diffusion processes in the 1990s and 2000s; the role of the Russian state media and propaganda and attempts of other states to resist it; the role of ideas and norms in shaping national politics and geopolitical orientations; and the historical legacies influencing the politics and political regimes of the countries in the region. Each of the ten topics covered will speak to the major theoretical debates on the factors shaping domestic and foreign policy and students will be encouraged to evaluate the merits of the various theories based on available evidence.

The background class focuses on the domestic and international politics of the countries studied, in the twentieth century, including national liberation struggles and Soviet forcible annexations, and we will also discuss the period immediately preceding the collapse of the Soviet Union. The subsequent sessions analyse the domestic and foreign policies of the countries surveyed with a special focus on the 2000s, including processes of democratization and authoritarian backsliding, domestic civil society and protests, energy politics, the role of China, cross-border cooperation among states in Central Asia and the Caucasus, ethnic and religious conflicts, European Union accession and/ or prospects for accession, the role of the US in the various states, and Russia’s wars against Georgia and Ukraine.

Some of the questions to be addressed in the course of the ten seminars and lectures are: How have domestic institutions and political regimes changed over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? What are the impacts of domestic politics on foreign policy making and thinking? How has Russia sought to use traditional security mechanisms, hard power and soft power to influence its neighbours and what mechanisms have the target states devised to resist Russian hard and “soft” power? What kind of relationships have the countries in the region forged with countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, North and South America, and with the EU and other non-EU European states? And what are the factors shaping these relationships? What role do energy politics play in the ties and alliances that countries have forged?


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the AT.

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

Formative coursework

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

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.

Indicative reading

  • Astapova, Anastasiya, Vasil Navumau, et al. 2022. "Authoritarian Cooptation of Civil Society: The Case of Belarus." Europe-Asia studies 74 (1): 1-30.
  • Clarke, Charles. 2023. Understanding the Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania since 1991. London: Hurst & Company.
  • Greene, Samuel A., and Graeme B. Robertson. 2019. Putin v. the People: The Perilous Politics of a Divided Russia. New Haven: Yale University Press
  • Guriev, Sergei, and Daniel Treisman. 2022. Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press
  • Broers, Laurence, and M. Yemelianova Galina. 2020. Routledge Handbook of the Caucasus. Taylor and Francis.
  • Onuch, Olga, and Henry E. Hale. 2022. The Zelensky Effect. New Perspectives on Eastern Europe & Eurasia. La Vergne: Hurst Publishers.
  • Van den Bosch, Jeroen, Adrien Fauve, Bruno De Cordier (eds). 2021. European Handbook of Central Asian Studies. History, Politics, and Societies. Stuttgart: Ibidem Verlag.


Essay (80%, 5000 words) in the WT.
Class participation (20%) in the AT.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2022/23: 28

Average class size 2022/23: 13

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

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Personal development skills

  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication