Key Concepts of Russian Foreign Policy

Course Description: 

This course brings together several different academic approaches to making sense of Russian foreign policy. It combines the insights from the disciplines of International Relations, Political Science, Postcolonial Studies, International Political Sociology and Historical IR to provide a context-rich and historically informed understanding of the key concepts that shaped Russian foreign policy in the past and, to a large extent, continue shaping it in the present. Instead of organizing the subject chronologically, the course is divided into conceptual clusters that tackle the most enduring, contested and ambiguous categories that form the core of Russian foreign policy discourse. The purpose of the course is not to claim any direct equivalence between the old and the new key Russian foreign policy concepts. Neither is it to uncover their transhistorical nature. Instead, it offers to look at the contemporary points of contestation and convergence between Russia and other international actors through the prism of several evolving ideas that have been populating Russian political space for at least a couple of centuries

Learning Outcomes: 

The reading materials include relevant scholarly work, primary sources, policy doctrines and media publications. Such combination is meant to develop students’ ability to navigate their way within Russian and Russia-related political and academic discourse and to competently use it in further analysis. Students are not required to speak and/or read Russian, or possess a special area expertise to enrol into this course (even though such skills could be an advantage). Yet, active interest in Russia’s past and present foreign and internal affairs extending beyond the mandatory reading list is crucial for completing the course successfully.


By the end of the course, students are expected:

  • to be familiar with the foundational categories shaping Russia’s foreign policy discourse and conditioning its international moves;
  • to be able to historicize those categories in a competent and context-rich way;
  • to have the ability to interpret current developments in Russian foreign policy making;
  • to effortlessly navigate their way through relevant academic literatures and locate primary sources;
  • be able to produce an analytical essay on at least one of the discussed topics;
  • to master critical assessment skills.