Introduction to Comparative Politics (field lab in St. Petersburg, day 1)

Discipline: Comparative Politics
Instructor: Bunck
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 09:25
End: 10:40
Field Work: Day 1 - St. Petersburg - Thursday, 29 August | Russia
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

This course will introduce students to the basic concepts and theories employed in the comparative study of politics and regimes. We will identify, compare, and analyze the core cultures, the central political actors and institutions, and the chief political processes of a small number of states.  The concepts that will be explored include state and nation, regime and government, political institutions and behavior, political culture, democracy and authoritarianism, development, globalization, and violence.  To the extent possible, we will focus on the countries and regions on our voyage.

Field Work

Country: Russia
Day: 1 - St. Petersburg - Thursday, 29 August

For the field assignment for this course, the class will spend a day together in St. Petersburg, exploring the Russia of Fyodor Dostoevsky, one of Russia’s greatest writers and author of Crime and Punishment. First, we will visit Dostoevsky’s apartment, which today is a museum. Then, we will walk to the Pionerskaya Ploshscad, the site where Dostoevsky was to be executed. He was saved because just before soldiers pulled the trigger as he stood before them in the firing line a messenger arrived to say that the Tsar had a sudden desire to be merciful.  Instead, Dostoevsky was sent to Siberia for a sentence of hard labor.

            Next, we will go to Hay Square (also known as Haymarket), where Dostoevsky lived for many years and was heavily featured in Crime and Punishment and other Dostoevsky works. Finally, we will visit Dostoevsky’s grave, located at Tikhvin Cemetery in St. Petersburg. Dostoevsky was a superb author, who many consider to be one of Russia’s greatest. Born in 1821, his works reflected the chaotic period of the late 19th century and the weakening of Tsarist Russia, but the themes that one finds in Dostoevsky’s works have great relevance in understanding Russian politics, culture, and society across the ages and right to the present day.  Before we visit these sites, I will provide members of the class with some short reading material on Dostoevsky, including short excerpts of Crime and Punishment and other works. Academic Objectives:
  1. The class will gain an interpretation and a picture of pre-revolutionary Russia through the writings and world of arguably Russia’s most famous and important writer.
  2. The class will get a look at the culture and historical and political context in which the Russian Revolution took place.
  3. The class will dip into Dostoevsky’s works and find relevance in what he had to say for both the Cold War era and the present twenty-first century.