POL 240 Comparative Politics

Course Description

The central objective of this course is to provide people with an opportunity to acquire some sense of what they do and do not know about the world – by looking at how culture, history, geography, and economics influence politics in different societies, and why political institutions and patterns of political behavior sometimes vary from one part of the world to another.

This course is built around three themes:  revolution, democracy, and genocide. Each person chooses which theme he or she wants to focus on during the semester. Each theme has a corresponding set of readings that are organized by geographic region. Examples of the reading assignments, and the corresponding questions asked about them, are shown below.

Region: Europe

Common readings:

  • Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana, Villard, 2004, section 1.

Given Stephanie Griest’s experiences, what is the most important difference between Russia and China? How does this difference affect politics in Russia?


  • Yulia Marushevska, “I am a Ukranian,” 10 February 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hvds2AIiWLA.
  • Andrew Higgins and Andrew E. Kramer, “Ukraine Leader Was Defeated Even Before He Was Ousted,” The New York Times, 3 January 2015 (Evernote).
  • Glenn Kates, “The Conflict in Ukraine: More Complex Than You Might Think,” The Atlantic, 27 February 2014 (Evernote).
  • Erik Olsen, “Declaring Victory in Kiev,” The New York Times, 23 February 2014 http://nyti.ms/1fkuiaq.
  • Peter Pomerantsev, “Is There a Future for Ukraine?” The Atlantic, 8 July 2014 (Evernote).
  • Timothy Snyder, “The Battle in Ukraine Means Everything,” New Republic, 11 May 2014 (Evernote).

Will the revolution in Ukraine result in the country becoming a European-style democracy or an authoritarian state like Russia? Why?


  • Alec Luhn, “Scenes from Putin’s Economic Meltdown,” Politico, 25 December 2014 (Evernote).
  • Peter Pomerantsev, “The Hidden Author of Putinism,” The Atlantic, 7 November 2014 (Evernote).
  • Strobe Talbott, “The Making of Vladimir Putin,” Politico, 19 August 2014 (Evernote).

Do Stephanie Griest’s experiences in Russia predict what has happened to Russia’s political system since Vladimir Putin became the country’s president? Why?


Does Charles Tilly’s argument in “States and Nationalism in Europe 1492-1992” predict what happened in Bosnia? Why?