Postgraduate taught 

Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies PgDip/MRes

De Facto States in the Post-Soviet Space CEES5068

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course investigates the dynamics surrounding the emergence and survival of de facto states in the post-Soviet space (Transnistria in Moldova; Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia; Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan; People's Republic of Donetsk and People's Republic of Luhansk in Ukraine). The course will also highlight the strategies that de facto state leaders employ to gain domestic and international legitimacy. 


1 x 2-hour seminar per week over 10 weeks

Excluded Courses





Summative assessment for this course will comprise of two components:


Summative assessment 1: Research design critique (1,000-1,250 words, 20% of the final grade). For this assignment, students will be asked to critically assess the research design in one of required class readings. A research design critique will include a description of the research strategy adopted by the author/s, an assessment of whether the respective strategy was appropriate for answering the research question/s (testing the hypothesis/es), and a discussion of limitations and alternative strategies for analysing the respective phenomenon under enquiry. The instructor will provide further instructions for this assignment on Moodle at the start of the semester.


Summative assessment 2: Final essay (3,500-4,000 words, 80% of the final grade). The students will be asked to write an essay on one of the key topics covered during the semester. A list of essay questions will be distributed to the students during the first session of the course.

Course Aims

The aims of the course are to:

- encourage an advanced knowledge of the breakaway entities in the former Soviet Union

- provide students with the intellectual tools to understand and analyse how the Soviet legacy impacts the internal politics of the Soviet successor states

- offer a comparative analysis of internal conflict outcomes in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine

- investigate from a multi-disciplinary perspective the factors that allow post-Soviet de facto states to survive

- compare internal and external processes surrounding the emergence/survival of 'older' de facto states (Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh) and 'younger' de facto states (People's Republic of Donetsk, People's Republic of Luhansk)

- explore various research approaches to the study of the post-Soviet de facto states, including qualitative, interpretive, experimental, and quantitative methods, macro- and micro-level levels of analysis, cross- and sub-national designs

- evaluate current works on de facto states with respect to how theory and empirics are integrated  

- expose students to the key concepts, theoretical traditions, and debates in the study of civil war and conflict resolution

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

- identify the key concepts, theories, and methods in the study of the post-Soviet de facto states

- assess the dominant theoretical frameworks on the emergence and survival of the post-Soviet de facto states

- evaluate the influence of domestic and foreign actors on the resilience of the post-Soviet de facto states

- apply existing theoretical approaches to the study of particular de facto states 

- assess how non state actors such as de facto states challenge conventional understandings of sovereignty, authority, and governance in the contemporary international system

- construct rigorous research designs (develop a theoretical argument, draw out implications, assemble and analyse relevant evidence, present the findings)

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.