FALL 2010  GEOG 278.00/GEOG709


T, Fr 12:45-14:00 HN 1022

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Geography resources
Russia and Central Asia links 
Other classes taught


Instructor: Dr. Marianna Pavlovskaya

Office hours:  T 2-3, F 10:30-11:30 and by appointment

Room 1003F HN Telephone: 772-5320


Course web page: http://www.geo.hunter.cuny.edu/~mpavlov/Courses/RCA278/RCAs2000syl.html

BlackBoard login page: http://bb.hunter.cuny.edu (assignments, grades, discussion board, digital readings)


The modern history of the countries of the Former Soviet Union has been that of formidable changes and social experiments. In less than a century, they went from being a backward Russian Empire to modern socialist Soviet states and to struggling but independent capitalist states. Truly vast geographically, this region once covered 1/6 of the world’s land surface and its population was the third largest after China and India. While all things Soviet are commonly equated with Russian, the population of the former Soviet Union was only half ethnically Russian. It comprised over a hundred ethnicities who spoke over two hundred languages and practiced over 40 religions (including various kinds of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism). In this part of the world, traditions fused with modernity, quest for justice clashed with brutal repressions, and gigantic construction projects unfolded in the midst of overcrowded living quarters. The cutting edge technology coexisted with labor intensive agriculture, the largest in the world factories and hydropower plants grew while consumer goods were scarce, and gender equality intertwined with the everyday patriarchy. In the end, building the future free of capitalist exploitation gave way to rebuilding capitalism. Or is it too soon to end the history here?

In this course we will learn about and try to understand the many contradictions of the former Soviet Union and its successor states. We will juxtapose their complex social, political, ethnic, cultural, economic, and environmental geographies with everyday lives of people. The course will help you to understand the current geopolitical developments involving Russia and Central Asia, appreciate their history and culture, grasp the differences between socialist and capitalist societies, see the negative and positive legacies of the Soviet era and envision an international career that focuses on this region.

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Fulfills Pluralism and Diversity group A” OR group D” and Stage 3 Focused Exposure: Social or Natural Science, but does NOT fulfill the "W" requirement.


On-line histories of Central Asia. The Eurasia Program, Social Science Research Council (SSRC) http://onlinehistories.ssrc.org/centralasia/ .

The required readings will be assigned for each topic. They will be available on reserve.


F Aug 27

F Sept 10

T Sept 14

F Sept 17

F Nov 26

First class

No class

Class meets, Friday schedule

No class

No class, Thanksgiving break

F Dec 10

Final exam

Map quizzes 

Midterm exam 

Last class

F Dec 17 11:30 - 1:30 pm

To be announced 1 week in advance

To be announced 1 week in advance


Please see BB for detailed Class Schedule. This schedule is subject to change.






History and geopolitics of Russia


Physical environment and natural resources


History and geopolitics of Central Asia


Soviet political and economic system


Democratization and transition to capitalism


Cultural geography: Ethnicity


Cultural geography: Religion and education


Indigenous peoples of Russian North


Gender relations


Social problems


Focus: Russia and energy resources


Focus: Chechnya


Focus: Kyrgyzstan


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·         Lectures will be combined with student discussions. Discussions and questions are encouraged but all opinions must be expressed in a respectful manner.

·         You are responsible for keeping up with all the postings on course web page and course schedule. They can be accessed 1) from BB; 2) by typing the URL above; 3) from Department of Geography website’s listing of current courses; 4)  from Dr. Pavlovskaya's home web page.

·         You are expected to attend all classes, read all assigned material, participate in discussions, fulfill all the assignments, and take lecture notes. Homework assignments are due before the class. Late assignments will be marked down. Once graded assignments are handed out, late assignments will no longer be accepted. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to read the assigned literature, complete the assignments, and get lecture notes from your peers. Missed assignments, quizzes, or exams result in zero points.

·         Please absolutely no talking during lectures, no eating, and no cell phones or texting.

·         The class begins and ends on time. Important announcements and attendance will take place in the beginning of the class. Three missed classes result in one less point towards your final grade and so will three late arrivals.

·         College policies regarding plagiarism will be strictly followed. Plagiarized papers result in F grade and so possibly may the course.


Midterm Exam


Class project


Class participation


Final exam






Midterm exam is a take home exam.

Final exam consists of short-answer, multiple choices, short essay questions and map-based questions.

Exercises include:

Map exercises such as coloring maps according to the instructions.

Map quizzes involve identifying key geographic features (e.g. rivers, cities, etc.) on a blank map. Some map quizzes will be stand alone, others included into the exams. Placename lists and blank maps for practicing are provided.

Reaction papers are short written commentaries on the assigned readings or films – either in class or prior to class.

News reports are three minutes presentations about the latest events in the region using The Moscow Times website (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/index.php).

Class project (see project Guidelines on BB for details) is a group research project on one of the “focus topics” that culminates in producing a written paper (approximately 10 pages long) and presenting it to the class. Each student’s grade will be an average of the two grades: for the individual contribution (research, writing, editing, putting together a presentation, presenting, designing, etc.) and for the entire report.

Class participation includes attendance, reporting and leading discussions on the assigned readings and videos, and participation in these discussions.

Extra-credit – book or movie report as approved by the instructor

Credit/No credit requirements

The requirements for CR/NC for a final grade are as follows. A student who requests CR/NC must have completed all of the requirements for the course, including taking the final exam. That includes all writing assignments, all quizzes, exams, lab work, assignments, etc., prior to the end of the semester. The student must present the CR/NC form BEFORE the final exam begins, not during, not after. Both the student and the instructor sign the form and each keeps their copy. Forms are available at OASIS. Students on probation are not eligible for CR/NC. Students are allowed only four (4) CR/NC for their entire Hunter career.


Hunter College regards acts of academic dishonesty (e.g., plagiarism, cheating on examinations, obtaining unfair advantage, and falsification of records and official documents) as serious offenses against the values of intellectual honesty. The College is committed to enforcing CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity and will pursue cases of academic dishonesty according to the Hunter College Academic Integrity Procedures. Plagiarism, dishonesty, or cheating in any portion of the work required for this course will be punished to the full extent allowed according to Hunter College regulations.

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Sahadeo, J., and R. Zanca, eds. 2007. Everyday Life in Central Asia: Past and Present. Indiana University Press.

Shaw, D. J. B. 1999. Russia in the modern world. Blackwell.

(OUT OF PRINT) Shaw, Denis J. B., ed. 1995. The Post-Soviet Republics: A Systematic Geography. Longman Scientific & Technical.

Gregory Gleason 1997 The Central Asian States: Discovering Independence, Westview Press.

Symons, L. 1992. The Soviet Union. A Systematic Geography. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

James H. Bater, 1996. Russia and the Post-Soviet Scene. Arnold: London.

Humphrey, C. 2002. The unmaking of Soviet life: Everyday economies after socialism. Ithaca, NY and London, UK: Cornell University Press.

Luong, P. J., ed. 2003. The Transformation of Central Asia: States and Societies from Soviet Rule to Independence. Cornell University Press.

Bradshaw, Michael J., ed. 1997. Geography and Transition in the Post-Soviet Republics. Chichester and New York: Wiley & Sons.

Poliakov, Sergei P. 1992. Everyday Islam: Religion and Tradition in Rural Central Asia. Armonk, New York: M.E.Sharpe.

Gilbert, Martin. 1993. Atlas of Russian History. New York: Oxford University Press. (There is an older edition of 1972).

Articles in Post-Soviet Geography and Economics (available in Hunter library).

Höjdestrand, Tova. 2009. Needed by nobody: Homelessness and humanness in post-socialist Russia. Cornell University Press.

Kleveman, Lutz. 2003. The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia. New York: Grove Press.

Rall, Ted. 2006. Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East? Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing.

ELECTRONIC SOURCES and websites of interest

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