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Identity and Conflict in the Post-Soviet Space

An insight into the complex history of some of the countries that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.
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About Program

This semester course introduces the general theories of conflict and conflict resolution, augmented by intensive Russian language study. The case studies focus on the conflicts in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Our approach explores the links between the state policy and conflicts, conflict resolution, and conflict prevention. We will explore the connection between these conflicts and international terrorism, the future of conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy, and the processes of integration and disintegration in the Post-Soviet Space (PSS).



Dates: 30 August 2021 - 11 December 2021

Application Deadline: 15 July 2021

Program Location

The course is based in Ukraine (11 weeks), Moldova (1 week), Armenia (1 week), and Georgia (2 weeks).

RS-391 Conflict and Policy Course (60 academic hours)

Students will achieve a broad understanding of the origins, engines, evolution and the future of conflicts in the PSS, and various methods to manage and resolve them. All courses (except Russian language sessions) are taught in English and designed to fulfill credit requirements in multiple areas.

Policy and Conflict Program Syllabus

RUSS 100/200/300/400 Russian Language Course (240 academic hours)

Russian lessons will be tailored to fit your specific language needs and personal interests. These lessons will perfectly complement your language practice on the streets and at home.

Multicultural Lab

In addition to the lectures and guest speakers for PC-301, students will participate in related excursions, travel, roundtables with local university students, and hands-on cultural events in four countries to further improve their knowledge of the modern cultures and peoples being studied. Students will complete a substantial research project for this course.

University credits

Student evaluations will be based on the expressed learning objectives of the course and the results of the final examination.


Course Itinerary

The main part of the program – 11 weeks – is spent in Kiev, Ukraine. After the foundation coursework in Ukraine, students will relocate to Moldova (1 week), Armenia (1 week), and finally Georgia (2 weeks).

Classes and Lecturers

The course consists of 240 hours of Russian language and daily lessons in conflict studies. All lectures – those given by local scholars and those by guest speakers – are in English or will be translated. Some of these lectures will be conducted via Skype. Students are offered the chance to regularly and informally socialize with Russian-speaking peers, who will be instrumental in developing the conversational skills of the students.

Class Participation

Before every lecture, students will receive material to familiarize them with and prepare them for the lesson. This material will range in length from twenty to forty pages. Every member of the course will be expected to submit in advance 3-5 questions based on the reading. This exercise will help the students better absorb and digest the material. Additionally, students will be expected to write 3-4 policy briefs. The course tutor will be responsible for overseeing these briefs, questions, and for the participation in program in general.


The cost of the program includes boarding with a Russian-speaking family, which will help ensure a better grounding in Russian, as well as in the local culture of each country visited.


Cornel Ciurea | Moldova

Cornel Ciurea | Moldova Cornel Ciurea, expert in politics and governing institutions and former Moldovan politician. He graduated from the National School of Administration and Political Science of Bucharest and the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova. He served as the director of the weekly Democraţia (2006–2009), a political expert of the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives since 2009. Between 2010 and 2011, was an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe expert on political party legislation and a coordinator of a project on the National Convention for European Integration.

Also, served as a Vice President of the Social Liberal Party (May 9, 2001 - February 10, 2008).

Richard Giragosian | Armenia

Richard Giragosian | Armenia Founding Director of the Regional Studies Center. Visiting Professor, Yerevan State University’s Centre for European Studies. Contributing analyst for Oxford Analytica, a London-based global analysis and advisory firm. From 2009 to 2011, Richard served as the Director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies. From 1999 to 2008, he was a regular contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. From 2003 to 2010, he covered political, economic, and security issues in the South Caucasus, Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region for the London-based Jane’s Information Group. From 2008 to 2010, he was a regular columnist for the Turkish-language edition of Newsweek. Richard is a consultant to several Turkish media outlets and analytical publications.

Sergiu Panainte | Romania

Sergiu Panainte | Romania Sergiu Panainte holds Master of Arts degree in International Relations from the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. Sergiu is currently employed by the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (a Project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States). Sergiu specializes in the analysis of foreign policy, European integration, and conflicts. His interests include democratization, politics in countries that border the EU, relations between Moldova and Romania, and international security studies.

Alexander Iskandaryan | Armenia

Alexander Iskandaryan | Armenia The director and one of the founders of the Caucasus Institute. His areas of interest include ethnopolitical conflicts, post-Communist transformations and nation-building in the former USSR in general and in the Caucasus in particular. He has published and spoken on the emergence of post-Soviet institutions, elites and identities, conducted and supervised research on conflicts, migrations, and cross-border integration. For five consecutive years, he authored the chapter on Armenia in the Freedom House’s Nations in Transit.

Alexander Komarenko | Ukraine

Alexander Komarenko | Ukraine Assistant Professor, History Department, Shevchenko National University of Kiev. As a Fulbright Scholar, spent eight months at Stanford University. Taught a course at the University of Iowa.

Archbishop Evstratiy | Ukraine

Archbishop Evstratiy | UkraineHead of Press Service of Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Secretary of the Supreme Synod of Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Graduate of the Kiev Orthodox Divinity Academy (2001). Holds a Ph.D in Religious Studies. Teaches at the Kiev Orthodox Divinity Academy.

Sergiy Solodky | Ukraine

Sergiy Solodky | Ukraine First Deputy Director of the Institute of World Policy and an expert in international relations and security policy. He has been working at the Institute of World Politics since its inception. Since 1999 he has served as an editor of international news desks at the leading Ukrainian newspapers, participated in the writing of analytical papers "A Call for the EU – Time to Step In " (2014), "Ukraine: Diagnostics of the National (in)Security" (2013), " How to Get Rid of Post-Sovietness" (2012), "Soft Power of Ukraine in the Region" (2011),"A New Foreign policy for Ukraine" (2010) and others. He graduated from the Westminster University majoring in International Relations and from the Institute of Journalism of the Shevchenko National University of Kiev.

Bakar Berekashvili | Georgia

Bakar Berekashvili | Georgia Professor at Georgian-American University teaching Introductory Courses in Philosophy and Political Science. Bakar also studied history and philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and the University of Graz, Austria. For many years, Bakar has been involved in various social science projects on the national and international level. His academic interests are: structural theory of revolution; social changes in the post-Soviet space; challenges of modernization; class and class society; crisis of ideologies.Bakar has a BA degree from the Tbilisi State University and a Master’s degree from Lancaster University, United Kingdom.

Sergey Minasyan | Armenia

Sergey Minasyan | Armenia Deputy Director and Head of the Political Studies Department at the Caucasus Institute in Yerevan, Armenia. He holds a Doctoral degree in Political Science from the Armenian Institute for National Security Studies (2013) and a Ph.D from the Armenian Institute of History (2002). Sergey graduated from the Council of Europe’s Yerevan School of Political Studies (2010). He holds an MA from the Yerevan State University (1998).

Leonid Litra | Moldova

Leonid Litra | Moldova Political scientist, a senior research fellow at the Institute of World Policy in Kiev and an associated expert of the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives "Viitorul" (IDIS) in Chisinau. He has previously worked as deputy director of IDIS in Moldova (2010-2012) and programme coordinator at European Movement of Moldova (2008-2009). His main areas of interests include EU-Moldova and EU-Ukraine relations, visa liberalisation and Schengen related processes, Eastern Partnership and conflict settlement.

Nika Chkhartishvili | Georgia

Nika Chkhartishvili | Georgia Founder of the Center for Democratic Initiatives, Nika studied at the Faculty of English Language and Literature of Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University in 1990-1997. In 2003 he received the Certificate of Police Management of International Republican Institute (IRI). He served as Coordinator of Social and Analytical Board under Defense and Security Committee of Parliament of Georgia and worked at Customs Department of the country. In 2008 he founded the Non-Governmental Organization Center for Democratic Initiatives. From 2009 to 2011, he was a member of the Commission on Pre-Term Release of Prisoners under The Ministry of Corrections of Georgia. In 2011 he was the editor of a collection of prison memoirs entitled “The World behind Bars”.

Excursions and Tours

Tbilisi City Tour
Trip to Kakheti region
Kutaisi tour
Batumi City Tour
Yerevan City Tour
Monastery complexes
Old Orhei
Soroсa fort
Wine cellars tours
Trip to Gagauzia
Bucharest City Tour
Tbilisi City Tour
Tbilisi City Tour

Trip to Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia and cultural center of the South Caucasus. You will be amazed by the beautiful architecture and stunning views that characterize the city.

The name Tbilisi derives from the old Georgian word "Tpili", meaning "warm", referring to the area's numerous sulphuric hot springs. Archaeological studies of the region have indicated human settlement in the territory of Tbilisi as early as the 4th millennium BCE. Sulphuric baths still exist, and the oldest ones date from the XVI century.

Out of the city's historic landmarks, the most notable are the Narikala fortress (4th–17th century), Anchiskhati Church (6th century, built up in the 16th century), Sioni Cathedral (8th century, later rebuilt), Church of Metekhi (13th century), etc.We will also see places connected to Georgia’s recent history, such as Liberty Square.

We will also visit the first capital of Georgia, Mzkheta, a small town 20 km from Tbilisi. There we will see the famous Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedral in the country.

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Trip to Kakheti region

A day tour to Kakheti, the wine producing region of Georgia, where grape seeds dating from 5th century BC were found. Exploring the Kakheti province, you will visit the most important architectural sites and feast on traditional dishes and famous wines.

The tour includes trip to the 16th century wine cellar in the village Velistsikhe. Also we will have lunch at a restaurant with the view over the Alazani valley. We will visit the town of Sighnaghi whose economy is dominated by the production of wine, traditional carpets, and traditional Georgian food. The area is known for its landscapes and historical monuments. Sighnaghi has recently undergone reconstruction, becoming an important center for Georgia's tourist industry.

Kutaisi tour

Since 2012, Kutaisi is the location of the Georgian Parliament, and we will have an opportunity to visit it and meet its members. Kutaisi has many old cathedrals and an interesting Historical Museum. It also has the Museum of Martial Arts. The 11th-century Bagrati Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is nearby.


Gori is a center of Eastern Georgia and one of the oldest cities in the country. According to the medieval Georgian chronicles, the town of Gori was founded by King David IV the Builder (1089-1125).

The city is famous as a birthplace of Josef Stalin that ruled the Soviet Union for thirty years until his death in 1953. We will visit the museum dedicated to his life. We will also visit Uphlistsikhe (God’s Fortress), a three thousand year old cave city that still has 150 caves. The city, built by pagans, was continuously inhabited from long before the Common Era until 19th century.


Guided hiking tour to the height 2750m. From that height, you will have a beautiful view of the highest mountains in the Caucasus. The ascent and descent will take around 6-7 hours; we will have to hike for 13 km (8 miles) altogether.

We’ll also visit to Ushguli, the highest village in Europe. The lovely village is located at the foot of the Shkhara mountain, the highest peak in Georgia.

No trip to the area would be complete without visiting the 9th-12th century watchtowers here. These works of early medieval architecture will take you back to a time when local clans feuded among themselves. In 1996, this mountainous region of Georgia was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Batumi City Tour

Batumi is a seaside city on the Black Sea coast and capital of Adjara, an autonomous republic in southwest Georgia. It is one of the main port cities of Georgia, and an important tourist center. It wasn’t very popular during the Soviet era, but during the presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili the city was extensively renovated. Batumi became main seaside resort in the country with warm sea, subtropical climate, historical monuments, and futuristic buildings.

The city has a unique location on the seaside, and is surrounded by the mountains. Apart from beautiful landscapes and modern buildings, you will enjoy local traditional cuisine.

We will also visit the ancient Roman fortress at Gonio, located 15 km south of Batumi. The fortress was built in the first century AD.

Introductory Tour of Yerevan

Yerevan is a capital of Armenia and its largest city. The history of Yerevan dates back to the 8th century BC. While here, we will visit the Armenian Genocide museum. The documents on display indicate that, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Turks planned and carried out a genocide against the Armenians.

We will visit the World War Two Museum to see the Armenian perspective on the conflict.

And of course we will visit the world-famous Matenadaran, a library-museum that holds 17,000 ancient manuscripts and several bibles from the Middle Ages. Its archives hold a rich collection of ancient Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, Hebrew, Roman and Persian manuscripts.

We will finish the excursion at the Ararat brandy factory. Winston Churchill claimed that Armenian brandy was better than French… and we will have the opportunity to judge for ourselves whether he was right!

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Monastery complexes of Armenia

Echmiadzin Cathedral (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Mother Church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, is located in the city of Vagharshapat, Armenia. It is the religious center of Armenia. The first cathedral in ancient Armenia stands here, and it is considered the oldest cathedral in the world. The original church was built in the early 4th century by Armenia's patron saint Gregory the Illuminator, following the adoption of Christianity as a state religion by King Tiridates III.

Saint Hripsime church named after Hripsime, one of the 35 Armenian virgins who dedicated themselves to God. Saint Hripsime church is one of the oldest surviving churches in Armenia. It was erected by Catholicos Komitas in 395 AD that contained the remains of the martyred Saint Hripsime. Saint Gayane church is a 7th-century Armenian church in Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin). It is located within walking distance from the Etchmiadzin Cathedral. St. Gayane was built by Catholicos Ezra I in the year of 630. Its design has remained unchanged despite partial renovations in 1652.

Geghard Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site) is a unique structure partially carved out of the mountain and surrounded by cliffs. The monastery is located in Kotayk province. It was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring located inside a cave. The name commonly used for the monastery today, Geghard (or more fully Geghardavank, meaning "the Monastery of the Spear"), originates from the spear, which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, and stored amongst many other relics. Now it is displayed in the Echmiadzin treasury.

Temple of Garni (also situated in Kotayk province)is a reconstructed classical Hellenistic temple. It is the only Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union. It is the best-known structure and symbol of pre-Christian Armenia. It was probably built by king Tiridates I in the first century AD as a temple to the sun god Mihr.

Khor Virap is an Armenian Apostolic Church monastery located in the Ararat valley in Armenia, near the border with Turkey. Khor Virap's place in history as a monastery and pilgrimage site is attributed to the fact that Grigor Lusavorich, who later became Saint Gregory the Illuminator in recognition for having introduced Christianity in Armenia, was initially imprisoned here for 14 years by King Tiridates III of Armenia.

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Old Orhei

The ancient city Old Orhei offers visitors a natural and historical complex in the open air. Located 60 kilometres north-east of Chisinau, on the Raut River, it combines beautiful natural landscape and vestiges of ancient civilizations. Archeological excavations discovered here the cultural layers of different epochs such as the Paleolithic, Eneolithic, and Iron Age. Old Orhei contains traces of different civilizations, including the earthen and wooden fortresses (6th-1st centuries BC), a Golden Horde fort (14th century), a Moldavian fort (14th-16th centuries), and Orthodox monasteries (14th century).

There is a well maintained and still active Orthodox cave monastery and an archeological museum that we will visit. There is also a church built in neo-Russian style (neo-Russian style means it is somewhat old and not really Russian). We will also visit a traditional 19th century peasant household, where we will see traditional handicrafts and agricultural implements of that era. We will see the remains of the Tatar baths. (The Tatars came from afar to kill and rob the Moldovans. Apparently, they wanted to wash off afterwards!)

And then we are ready to relish Moldovan cheese pies.

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Soroсa fort

Soroca fort is located in the modern-day city of Soroca, 160 km from Chisinau. In the medieval period this fortress was part of a Moldovan defensive system, which comprised four fortresses on the Nistru river, two on the Danube and another three in the northern part of the country. With this “stone belt of fortresses”, the country borders were well protected. Soroca fortress was built at the Nistru river crossing, on older fortifications. In 1499, on the order of Stefan cel Mare, a square wooden fortress was built, on the site of a former Genovan fortress called as Olihonia (Alciona).

Between 1543–1546 the fortress was completely rebuilt in stone, and in the shape one can see it today – a perfect circle, the diameter of which is 37,5 m and with 5 bastions situated at equal distances. Note that the walls are not built straight, but are curved to better resist the projectiles.

Wine cellars tours

There is a small town of Milestii Mici in twenty kilometers from Chisinau, which is known worldwide because The State Enterprise for Quality Wines is located there. The enterprise runs underground cellars whose combined length is 200 kilometers. In August 2005, Milestii Mici was registered in the Guinness World Records as the biggest wine collection in the world. Overall, the complex holds nearly 2 million bottles.

The wine cellars of Cricova are the second largest in Moldova, after Milestii Mici. It boasts 120 kilometers of tunnels that have existed under Cricova since the 15th century, when limestone was dug out to help build Chisinau. They were converted into an underground wine emporium in the 1950s.


During your time in Moldova, you’ll take a day excursion to this autonomous region of Gagauzia, and spend some time in its countryside and capital, Comrat. The legal status of Gagauzia as an autonomous region was legalized in the Constitution of Moldova in 1999, and they the conflict between Gagauzia and the rest of Moldova still simmers.

In Gagauzia, you’ll explore a typical Gagauz village, visit the museum of Gagauzia, and interview Gagauz political analysts and NGO representatives.

Bucharest City Tour

Bucharest, in southern Romania, is the country's capital and commercial center. There is so much to see that we discuss the options with participants and see what they want to see.

The most iconic structure of the city is the massive, communist-era Palace of Parliament, which has 1,100 rooms and is the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon. Nearby, the historic Lipscani district is home to an energetic nightlife scene as well as tiny Eastern Orthodox Stavropoleos Church and 15th-century Curtea Veche palace, where Prince Vlad III (“The Impaler”) once ruled.

Calea Victoriei is Bucharest's oldest and arguably most charming street. Built in 1692 to link the Old Princely Court to Mogosoaia Palace, it was initially paved with oak beams. The street became Calea Victoriei (Victory Street) in 1878, after the Romanian War of Independence victory. Between the two world wars, Calea Victoriei developed into one of the most fashionable streets in the city.

Stroll along this street from Piata Victoriei to Piata Natiunilor Unite to discover some of the most stunning buildings in the city, including the Cantacuzino Palace, the historical Revolution Square, the Military Club, and the National History Museum.

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In June of 2015 we recorded our faculty-led excursion to Georgia and Armenia. From a great excursion, came a great clip. Take a look!

Justin Seim
(in English)
Natalie Budner
(in English)
Sean Ongley - USMA
The Policy and Conflict course at NovaMova provided me with key insights into an area of the world that is highly complex, yet understood by few. The memories and lessons I have learned from these trips will last a lifetime.
Sean Ongley
Katherine Macvarish - USMA
These trips were amazing cultural and educational experiences; and as recent events in Crimea have shown, the more we understand the nature of Post-Soviet conflict, the better.
Katherine Macvarish
Olivia Route - Penn State University
This trip is something I’d highly recommend – I’m very excited to continue my studies with this experience under my belt.
Olivia Route
Penn State University
Benjamin Hagan - USNA
NovaMova's Policy and Conflict course is, far and away, the most efficient modern politics course I have taken. The lectures before each trip to the target country provided a historical context to the modern scenario.
Benjamin Hagan

Our partners

Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDIS) | Moldova

A research, education and outreach organization which activates in the field of economic analysis, governance, law, political sciences, strategic and organizational science. IDIS is also a common platform that brings together young intellectuals who are concerned with the success of transition towards the free market and the open society. IDIS helps them to contribute with their energies, values and virtues, providing its logistic, moral and intellectual support and advises them regarding their future projects and initiatives. Consistent with this mission, IDIS has forged several linkages between the academic and policy-making environments, generating policy analysis and recommendations for various areas of public interest, creating and disseminating of the best practices, good governance, and economic analysis.

Caucasus Institute | Armenia

The Caucasus Institute is a policy think-tank based in Yerevan, Armenia. Its goal is to promote inclusive policy-making in Armenia through conducting research, producing and advocating policy documents and encouraging a pluralistic and informed public policy debate. The Institute attains this goal through education, think-tanking and networking. Think-tanking includes debates, research (themes), consultancy and publications. The debates focus on issues of importance to society. Research fills the gap between information and understanding of the region and its development. Publications, disseminated throughout the Caucasus and former USSR, provide an insight into the problems of our region. The audiences, researchers and speakers come from various backgrounds – journalism, research, education, development, government and civil society.

Regional Studies Center (RSC) | Armenia

The Regional Studies Center (RSC) is an independent, nonprofit think tank offering a wide range of strategic analysis and objective research, and implementing a number of educational and policy-related projects. As a leading think tank based in Armenia, the RSC conducts research and analysis and develops policy initiatives aimed at bolstering political and economic reform and conflict resolution in the broader South Caucasus region. The RSC strives to elevate political discourse and deepen civic activism while broadening engagement in the public policy process. In this way, the RSC partners with various actors and decision makers, including civil society, international organizations, the private sector, academia and state institutions.

Media Initiatives Center | Armenia

Media Initiatives Center (MIC) is the new name of Internews Media Support NGO. MIC promotes freedom of expression and open media. Towards this end, MIC organizes training courses for established and emerging journalists, promotes media literacy, advocates for improved media legislation and protects journalists' rights. The NGO develops media production on human rights, European integration, civic conflict, migration, elections, national minorities, gender and many other issues for a wide range of target audiences. The Media Initiatives Center has been working in Armenia since December 1995. The Media Support Internews NGO was registered in 1996. The organization is a founder and member of Internews International Association.

Caucasian House | Georgia

"Caucasian House" is a cultural, educational and peace building organization, pursuing the goal of creating an ideological and intellectual basis for peaceful development of Georgia and the Caucasus. For a long time "Caucasian House" has been working on projects that promote integration of the peoples of Caucasus and regional development. The fundamental strategy is peaceful stabilization of the conflicts and endorsement of the minority integration policies through the public diplomacy and cultural-educational programs in the region. Caucasian House has been engaged in peace-building on a regional scale. It has been playing an important role in confidence-building between Georgians, on the one hand, and Abkhaz, Ossetians, Russians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis and North Caucasian peoples, on the other. In September 2014, Caucasian House started to implement the project Ukraine – out of the Crisis through a Dialogue, supported by the British embassy Kiev.

Institute of World Policy | Ukraine

The mission of the Institute of World Policy (IWP) is to develop analytical research and implement project activities in order to promote European standards and practices inside Ukraine, as well as to increase support of the foreign opinion leaders, EU and NATO officials for the European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Ukraine. The IWP’s vision is that Ukraine should be integrated into the EU and NATO - not merely as a formalized membership but as adopting the best standards and practices which means joining actually the Euro-Atlantic space of values.

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