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Michael Kraus

Frederick C. Dirks Professor of Political Science

 work(802) 443-5306
 FIC 214

Michael Kraus, Frederick C. Dirks Professor of Political Science, directs Russian and East European studies at Middlebury College. Native of Prague, he earned his Ph.D. in Politics at Princeton. He is the recipient of major national fellowships from the National Council of Soviet and East European Research, Ford Foundation, the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), Fulbright-Hays, Rotary International Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council. His publications include Irreconcilable Differences? Explaining Czechoslovakia's Dissolution; Russia and Eastern Europe After Communism: The Search for New Political, Economic, and Security Systems; Perestroika and East-West Economic Relations: Prospects for the 1990s, as well as book chapters and articles in the Journal of Democracy, Current History, Foreign Policy, Politique Internationale, New England Review, European Affairs, and elsewhere.

He has held research and teaching appointments at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and at the Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Columbia University's Harriman Institute, Stanford University's Hoover Institution, George Washington University's Institute for European, Russian & Eurasian Studies, Charles University's Institute of Political Studies (in Prague) and Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and most recently at the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

FYSE 1283 - Transitional Justice      

Transitional Justice: Reckoning with the Past
In this seminar we will examine how emerging democracies reckon with former authoritarian regimes and their legacies. In contrast to stable democracies, societies in transition that seek to overcome a legacy of large scale human rights violations—and minimize the risks of their recurrence—must search for a delicate political compromise that will bring some justice without undermining the new order. Several case studies from Asia, Latin America, South Africa, and postcommunist Europe will help us understand the forces and factors that shape the dilemma: to prosecute and punish versus to forgive and forget. Course readings will be supplemented by documentaries and fiction films. 3 hrs. sem. CMP CW SOC

Spring 2020

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IGST 0701 - REES Senior Thesis      

Russian and East European Studies Senior Thesis
(Approval Required)

Winter 2018, Winter 2019, Winter 2020

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IPEC 0500 - Independent Project      

Independent Project
(Approval Required)

Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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IPEC 0700 - Intl.Pol.&Economics SR. Thesis      

Senior Thesis
(Approval Required)

Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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PSCI 0227 - Soviet & Russian Politics      

Soviet and Russian Politics
This course seeks to introduce the student to a major phenomenon of 20th century politics, the rise and decline of the Soviet Union and the emergence of Russia as its successor state. The first part of the course provides an overview of key factors that influenced Russian and Soviet politics under communism, including history, economy, ideology, institutions of the communist party, and the role of political leadership from Lenin to Gorbachev. The second part surveys radical political and social transformations in the 1990s and analyzes Russia's struggle with the twin challenges of democratic and market reform under Yeltsin and Putin. 3 hrs. lect./disc. (Comparative Politics)/ EUR HIS SOC

Spring 2020, Spring 2022

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PSCI 0228 - Central/East European Politics      

Central and East European Politics
This introductory course surveys the key stages in the political development of East and Central Europe in the 20th century, including the imposition of communist rule, crises of de-Stalinization, the revolutions of 1989, the politics of post-communist transitions, the Balkan wars, and democratization. It focuses on those factors that either promote or impede the development of stable democratic regimes and assesses East Europe's prospects in the context of EU enlargement and NATO expansion. 3 hrs. lect./disc. (Comparative Politics)/ EUR HIS SOC

Fall 2019, Spring 2021

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PSCI 0325 - Transitional Justice      

Transitional Justice
This course examines how democracies reckon with former authoritarian regimes and their legacies. Measures adopted to overcome the legacy of large-scale human rights
violations include apologies, amnesties, trials of perpetrators, truth commissions as well as restorative justice. Case studies from Asia, Europe, Latin America, South Africa, and the US help us understand the forces and factors that shape the difficult choices: to prosecute and punish versus to forgive and forget. Course readings supplemented by documentaries and fiction films illuminate the dilemmas societies confront to provide accountability for the victims, bystanders and perpetrators. (Not open to students who have taken FYSE 1283) 3 hrs. sem. (Comparative Politics)/ CMP SOC

Spring 2021

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PSCI 0424 - Comparative Democratization      

Seminar on Comparative Democratization
“Why do some countries have democratic institutions while others do not? This seminar explores critical issues concerning democracy and democratization. We seek to address such questions as: What is democracy? What are the main theories of democratization? What factors account for the "third wave" of global democratic expansion? How do newly democratic societies deal with their authoritarian past? What challenges confront countries that are undergoing simultaneously processes of democratic change and economic transformation? What conditions favor/hamper consolidation of new democracies? How do we account for the current democratic backsliding and the antiliberal turn? Is a wave of democratic breakdowns already under way? What role do international actors and factors play? To contend with these (and other) questions, we analyze and compare the experience of many countries and regions.” (One course in comparative politics) 3 hrs. sem. (Comparative Politics)/ SOC

Fall 2019

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PSCI 0454 - Leadership Pol & Personality      

Leadership: Politics and Personality
What difference do leaders make? Are leaders born or made? What accounts for effective leadership? Do answers to these questions change when the social, cultural, and political context varies? This course will approach the subject of leadership from a multidisciplinary perspective, focusing on (1) the individual personalities and values of leaders; (2) the relationship of leaders to the institutions they serve; (3) the role of the state and cultural context in which the leadership is exercised; and (4) the process of leading. (One course in comparative politics) 3 hrs. sem. (Comparative Politics)/

Spring 2021, Spring 2022

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PSCI 0500 - Independent Project      

Independent Projects
A program of independent work designed to meet the individual needs of advanced students. (Approval required)

Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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PSCI 0700 - Honors Thesis      

Honors Thesis
(Approval required)

Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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Faculty Expert Profile

Michael Kraus Faculty Expert Profile

Recent Publications

Prezident Zeman a jeho vitezstvi ve volbach, (“The election victory of President Zeman: what accounts for it and what it means,”) Hospodarske noviny, 1 February 2018.

Michael Kraus et al, (extended review article) “The Cold War and East-Central Europe, 1945-1989,” Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 19, 2017, No. 2: 158-214.

“Czechoslovakia’s Dissolution Twenty Years After” in Mark Stolarik, ed., The Czech and Slovak Republics: Twenty Years of Independence, 1993-2013, (Budapest-Boston: Central European University Press, 2016)

“Rusko nelze ani ignorovat, ani izolovat, ani přeceňovat.” (“Russia cannot be ignored or isolated or overestimated”) in Karel Hvížďala, ed.,  Evropa, Rusko, teroristé a běženci (Europe, Russia, Terorrists and Refugees), (Prague: Mlada fronta, 2016).

“The Countries that Gave me a Second Chance as a Refugee,” Open Society Foundations, November 23, 2015:  

“Twenty Five Years of Transitional Justice and Coming to Terms with The Past in Central and Eastern Europe”) in Luba Hedlova and Radka Sustrova, eds., Česká paměť: Národ, dějiny a místa paměti (“Czech Memory: The Nation, History, and Places of Memory”) (Prague: Akademia Publishers, 2015)

“Russia as a Lonely Power,” a two-part interview (in Czech) with Karel Hvizdala about the crisis in Ukraine and East Europe; 4/16 and 4/20, 2015: also translated and published in English in The New Presence magazine:

“Za Ludvíkem Rybáčkem,” Paměť a dějiny, 1, 2014 (a portrait of one the leaders of the Prague Spring 1968 reforms)

“Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and Security Services Archive,” in Lavinia Stan and Nadya Nedelsky, eds,  Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), vol. 3, pp. 195-200

“On the Origins and the Activities of a Czech Institution of Memory,” ("Ke vzniku a činnosti české instituce paměti") Paměť a dějiny VII, 2, Spring 2013)

“When institutional loyalty binds,” (“Když loajalita k instituci zavazuje,)” Denik Referendum, May 7, 2013

“Confronting Acts of Terror,” Hospodarske noviny, April 17, 2013, (interview in Czech)

“Obama the Second Time Around,” (“Obama podruhe,”) Orientace-Lidove noviny, Feb. 2, 2013

“Assessing First Direct Presidential Elections” (in Czech Republic) Hospodarske noviny, January 28, 2013

“Reassessing the Soviet-Czechoslovak Crisis of 1968,” Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 14, no. 4, 2012, pp. 216-223

"A Country that Doesn't Trust its Own Parliament," in Lidove noviny (Prague), 29 May 2010

"The Prague Spring Revisited," in M. Mark Stolarik, ed., The Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia, 1968: Forty Years Later (Chicago: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 2010)

"Obama's First Year," in MFDnes (Prague), 20 January 2010

Švejnarova zkušební jízda," ("Švejnar's trial balloon campaign") interview with Karel Hvíždala, Reflex, no. 13, 2008,

“La Charte 77, trente ans après," (Charter 77 after Thirty Years) La Charte 77: Origines et Heritages, La Nouvelle Alternative (Paris), vol. 22, no. 72-73, mars-juin 2007, pp. 141-153

"Rusko - co od něj můžeme čekat a jakou bude mít budoucnost?" ("Whither Russia? Our Expectations vs. Russia's Challenges,"), monograph, co-authored, Center for Economic, Political, and Social Studies, Prague, No. 20, September 2007

“Letter from Prague: A Tale of Two Vaclavs,” European Affairs, nos. 2-3, Summer/Fall 2007

“Did the Charter 77 Movement Bring an End to Communism?” New England Review, Volume 28, Number 2 / 2007

"K zásadním reformám vládu donutí jedině krize" (“Only a Crisis Will Force the Government to Enact Real Reforms”), Hospodářské noviny, 11 May 2006

"American Constitution" and "International Telecommunication Union" (co-author) in the World's Most Enduring Institutions,Booz Allen Hamilton, December 2004

"O zacatku globalniho informacniho veku a demokratizaci medii," ("The Dawn of the Global Information Age and the Democratization of Media,") in Karel Hvizdala, Moc a nemoc medii (The Power and the Sickness of the Media) Prague: Dokoran, 2003

Russia and Eastern Europe After Communism: The Search for New Political, Economic and Security Systems.Edited with Ronald D. Liebowitz. Boulder: Westview Press; published online by Questia Media America, Inc. ( <>), 2003

"The Czech Republic's First Decade, " Journal of Democracy, No. 2, April 2003, Vol. 14

"Vaclav Havel jako politicky vudce," (Vaclav Havel as a Political Leader), Hospodarske noviny, February 5, 2003

"The End of the Czech Press?" (review article), Foreign Policy, January/February 2003; also selected for inclusion in the Arabic edition of Foreign Policy, January/February 2003

"Ani Klaus, ani Zeman," ("Neither Klaus nor Zeman"), Mlada fronta dnes,J anuary 15, 2003

"Bushova doktrina se rozsiruje," ("Bush's Doctrine is Expanding"), Mlada fronta dnes, January 31, 2002

Irreconcilable Differences? Explaining Czechoslovakia's Dissolution, co-edited and co-translated (with Allison Stanger), Foreword by Vaclav Havel, Rowman and Littlefield, 2000

Research Interests

Comparative Democratization
Russian and European Politics
Transitional Justice
Ethnic Conflict