UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Post-Soviet Brief

The Post-Soviet Brief is the analysis blog of the SSEES Post-Soviet Press Group. The goal of the Post-Soviet Brief ("the Brief", for short) is to provide short, engaging analyses from SSEES academics and students on interesting developments across the region. This analysis is aimed at a range of audiences, including policymakers, journalists, and academics. Topics range from informal politics and corrupt practices to Crimea, from elections in Central Asia to law and courts in Russia.

New content will be posted on a rolling basis, but notices of new stories will be included in the weekly email from the Post-Soviet Press Group sent out during Terms 1 and 2. If you would like to pitch a story for the Brief, please see instructions on how to do so.

2022 Kazakhstan protests

Does 'Bloody January' signal the onset of post- Nazarbayev Kazakhstan?

Dismissing former Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev as 'Chairman of the Security Council', in response to the January 2022 unrest in the country, reflects President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s acknowledgement of citizens’ disaffection with the former 'Leader of the Nation' – but does it also signal the start of the post- Nazarbayev era?

Vladimir Putin

Let him not be mad – why the narrative that Putin has "lost it" is unhelpful and dangerous

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there has been a wide variety of speculation about President Vladimir Putin’s sanity. This is an unhelpful and dangerous part of the coverage, which should be pushed back on by both academics and the media.

Olaf Scholz, Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance, Germany

Identity crisis – Germany’s Social Democrats and their relationship with Russia

The Ukraine-Russia crisis and its broader impact, including on Nord Stream 2, are the first major test for the new Social Democratic Party-led coalition government in Germany.

Putin and Biden in Geneva 2021

Possible US-Russia prisoner exchange?

In 2021, US President Biden and Russian President Putin seemed to entertain a potential exchange of prisoners, possibly involving former American Marines Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed in exchange for Russians Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko.

A photo of woman crying

Domestic violence in Russia – is change possible?

Domestic violence is not currently classified as a criminal offence in Russia. Activists have been fighting for this to change – but will the political establishment comply?

Vladimir Putin at a press conference

Journalism in Russia – what’s left?

The past year has seen a clear crackdown on Russian media outlets, to an extent not witnessed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A photo of Zelensky

Zelensky vs. the oligarchs – where are we now?

This brief picks up from a previous Post-Soviet Brief post, “Ukraine Fights Back?”, published in March 2021. This current article provides an update on the situation and examines what progress President Zelensky has made in his “fight” against Ukrainian oligarchs.

Russian dolls

A demographic disaster in Russia... averted?

A demographic crisis has unfolded in Russia over the past three decades. Recently published data indicates the situation is worse than ever.

Former Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili

Crisis in the Caucasus – the return of Mikheil Saakashvili

Former Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, awaits trial following arrest earlier this month after returning from exile in an attempt to galvanise voters against the government in local elections.

Norilsk, Russia is the center of a region where nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum, palladium and coal are mined

Russia to Unveil Most Ambitious Climate Change Strategy Yet

Speaking in Moscow during Russian Energy Week, President Vladimir Putin confirmed earlier reports that Russia will seek to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. 

A photo of Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy

Ukraine fights back?

Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy has vowed to fight back against the oligarchs. Since the start of 2021, his government has taken several measures against oligarchic interests. Is the reform agenda back on track?

Social media icons

How anti social media are the Russian authorities?

Legislatively and rhetorically, the Russian authorities are closing in on foreign social media companies. After recent anti-regime protests fuelled by social media, will this translate into concrete action?

ECHR Building

On the battlefield of human rights: Russia and the European Court of Human Rights

With Biden’s administration and the condemnation by international actors of Navalny’s imprisonment, will the ECtHR take a stronger position in dealing with Russia?




President Armenia and Azerbaijan
The War in Nagorno-Karabakh and the Politics of Armenia and Azerbaijan

As the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh continues, what role has domestic politics played?


President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
Political Repression in Azerbaijan

What explains the latest political repressions in Azerbaijan?



Lukashenko’s Catch 22

Belarus has parliamentary elections on 17 November 2019. What can we expect to see?

Belarus-Russia Border

Belarus and Russia at the border

As top officials in Russia and Belarus meet to discuss drug trafficking, cracks are clear in the effort to construct a “common migration policy” for the Union State.

Man in gas mask at protest
Belarus goes nuclear: Is the country’s turn eastwards now irreversible?

Amidst continued political turmoil how does the Astravets plant affect the Belarusian international outlook?


Pile of euros
Moscow’s financial grip on Estonia

The problem of money laundering in Estonia won't go away. We need to focus on Russia in order to understand why.


Giorgi Margvelashvili

An impartial Georgian constitution at last?

After heated debate, Georgia has finally passed controversial constitutional amendments. What are the details, and what will be the likely effects? 


Nursultan Nazarbayev
Kazakhstan: The Times They Aren't a-Changin'

Who really rules Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev or Tokayev?

Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan Row

Tensions with neighbouring Kazakhstan did not disappear after presidential election results were published in Kyrgyzstan. What does this mean for the region and for Russia’s interests in Central Asia?


kyrgyzstan flag
Challenging the cancellation of repeat parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber agrees to hear appeal challenging the cancellation of parliamentary elections.

kyrgyzstan map
Divided Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan’s regional rivalries often lead to civil unrest, rioting, and regime change. What implications does this have for Central Asia’s "only democracy”?

#metoo in Kyrgyzstan

Music video by Zere Asylbek continues debate about women's dress in Kyrgyzstan.


More news stories coming soon


More news stories coming soon


Moldova: How to Win an Election (Despite Coming Third)

Moldova held parliamentary elections on 24 February 2019. How did political parties do at the ballot box?


Binary Code
Norwegian government blames Russia for cyber attack

The Norwegian government has accused Russia of hacking into the email system of the Norwegian parliament





What a Biden presidency means for Russia-US relations

As a divisive US election draws to a close, what does a Biden presidency mean for the future of Russia-US relations – and what legacy will Trump’s isolationism leave?

Putin holding a baby
Putin’s Pursuit of the Baby Boom – The Next Chapter

How should we make sense of measures announced by Vladimir Putin to tackle Russia’s ongoing “demographic crisis”?


bombed building
omb Hoaxes Continue to Plague Russia into the New Decade

Who is responsible for bomb hoaxes being made by anonymous telephone calls in Russia?

Russian naval ships
Russia’s Shrinking Navy

Military drills in the Black Sea and the harassment of a US Navy destroyer mask a worrying outlook for the Russian Navy.


Internet laws protest russia
What Russia’s Latest Internet Laws Mean for the Country’s Online Future

The start of a new decade heralds the first steps of Russia’s most stringent internet laws to date.

Russian ship in the arctic
Beneath the Surface: Russia in the Arctic

The security challenge of Russia’s concentration of its economic resources in the Arctic leaves the West struggling to respond.

Putin giving address
Putin’s Address to the Federal Assembly

What did Putin say in his 2019 annual Address to the Federal Assembly and how should we make sense of it?

Putin at Russia Africa Summit
Russia-Africa Summit showcases increasing Russian influence on the continent

The opening of the inaugural Russia-Africa Economic Forum and Summit in Sochi, Russia, has brought Russia’s search for influence in the region to the interest of the world’s media.

Greta Thunberg
What is it about Greta?

There are few figures capable of uniting Russia’s pro-Kremlin and opposition camps, but Greta Thunberg has more than succeeded.

US Russia
US to pull out of INF treaty

President Donald Trump announced on Saturday 20 October that the US will unilaterally pull out of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia. What does this mean for US-Russia relations?

Nord Stream Logo
Nord Stream 2: Just a Pipe Dream?

Nord Stream 2 will most likely be constructed for three key reasons, but delays in finishing the project are plausible.


Little Green Men
Little Green Men 2.0

"Russia's "little green men" played a pivotal role in the annexation of Crimea. Is the Kremlin continuing to use similar actors in other places?"

Thaw in Russia

Pre-electoral "thaw" in Russia?

Recent appointments at both regional and federal levels in Russia seem to favour a softer line, with signs of a technocratic agenda in anticipation of the spring 2018 presidential elections.  


Amplifying Assange

Russia has once again been accused of interfering in other countries’ politics – this time in the controversial vote on Catalan independence on 1 October. The fact that its repertoire of dirty tricks is now fairly standard is doubly distressing.

Fixing the Figures

Fixing the Figures

The Russian Government has prepared its draft of the federal state budget for 2018-20. Spending battles between ministries will, however, likely continue for the next few months. 

Invisible Soliders

Russia's Invisible Soldiers in Syria

President Putin recently announced Russia’s military withdrawal from Syria, but the continued presence of military contractors means that Russia’s military footprint will not be diminished in Syria for the foreseeable future. 

Smashed Glass
Regulating the Runet: Russia’s internet and the disconnect between legislation and implementation

How effective are internet restrictions in Russia – and what is their wider significance?




 Doctor giving injection
Vaccines as resources: The rise of Sputnik V as a new tool for Russia

Resources to stop the pandemic are precious and powerful. If Russia has found one, what will its effect on international relations be?




Nord Stream 2
Worlds collide as sanctions again hit Nord Stream 2

What do US sanctions mean for the future of Nord Stream 2– and do they represent a litmus test for Western relations with Russia?


Serbia putin handshake
Kosovo and Russia-Serbia relations

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić’s determination to resolve the conflict in Kosovo may result in the worsening of Russia-Serbia relations.


More news stories coming soon


More news stories coming soon


The "anti-Kolomoisky" bill and oligarch influence in Ukraine

What does the passage of the "anti-Kolomoisky" bill tell us about the oligarch's influence in Ukrainian politics?

Zelensky leads in the polls

Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky is leading in the Ukrainian presidential election polls.

Happy Christmas, Ukraine

On 7 January 2019, Ukrainians celebrated a double-holiday: Orthodox Christmas and the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Why Unite Ukraine’s Orthodox Church Eight Months Before the Presidential Election?
Why Unite Ukraine’s Orthodox Church Eight Months Before the Presidential Election?

With candidates rallying up for the 2019 presidential election, a united, independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church could prove a well-timed boon in winning the hearts and minds of voters.

Poroshenko Seeks Reelection

Ukraine is already in election year. Both the president and parliament chosen in the tumultuous year of 2014 are due to be reelected in 2019.

Kyiv's New Squad
Kyiv's New Squad

The sudden emergence of ‘national militias’, bent on ‘restoring Ukrainian order’ on the streets of Kyiv, has been met with a mixed public response and raises uncomfortable questions for Ukrainian law enforcement.

Petro Poroshenko and Christine Lagarde
Poroshenko's Anticorruption Waltz

Despite growing impatience in the West, President Petro Poroshenko continues to wage an undeclared war on the anticorruption sector through rogue legislation and, more recently, fake news.

Kyiv's education bill
Kyiv's education bill irks EU capitals

A recently passed Ukrainian education bill promised to bring Ukraine's education system in line with international standards. But a contentious clause seen as disadvantaging language minorities has sparked a backlash abroad.


Peace-Keepers in the East?

On the edges of the Donbas, the current peace-monitors (the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission) do their limited job. What are the chances for a real peace-keeping mission?

Sweet Shop


Ukraine’s Sweet Counter-Revolution

The fundamental question that keeps on being asked: can Ukraine really reform? This summer, Ukrainian NGOs have raised the alarm, talking of a ‘sweet counter-revolution’. 


More news stories coming soon


Covid vaccine vial
COVID-19 vaccination in Eastern Partnership countries off to bumpy start

States in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus face difficulty vaccinating their citizens against COVID-19 – and the EU is not offering much help.