Müller has used a year as a guest student to attend lectures, observe the daily life, and take interviews with lecturers as well as students, at MGIMO. Against this background as well as on the basis of discourse theory and critical geopolitics, Müller has produced an enlightening account of the social mechanisms at work, as well as the foundations, practice and implications of IR teaching, in MGIMO. The book starts with a theoretical chapter on post-structuralism, outlines geopolitical orientations in Russia as well as fundamentals of ethnographic methodology, followed by empirical chapters under the telling titles "Producing Subjects," "Dislocation," "Hegemony," and "Antagonism." In his conclusions, Müller summarizes the ways in which great power identities are framed at MGIMO, and what this could mean for an assessment of future Russian-Western relations. This is one of the most intriguing dissertation projects within the study of post-Soviet politics of the last years. The study can be recommended for seminars on Russian foreign policy, discourse analysis, and higher education.
The latter topic concerns the one critique to be made concerning Müller's otherwise flawless investigation. While his book constitutes a crucial contribution to the study of post-Soviet academia, elite formation and intellectual life, Müller has ignored most of previous research into these fields. For instance, by the time he concluded his research project, there was already a considerable body of scholarly and impressionistic literature on the conduct of social science teaching in post-Soviet states, sometimes, written by academics who had, like Müller, been long-term visitors of CIS universities. True, Müller has integrated his study into a whole number of other theoretical and empirical literatures - a fact that makes the following remarks less justified. Yet, Müller, in his conclusions, goes beyond the specific situation at MGIMO and draws conclusions about what his findings imply, in more general terms, for Russia's future. To do that adequately, a contextualization of MGIMO's role in Russian society would have been necessary.
When Müller, for instance, asserts that MGIMO alumni occupy and will be occupying crucial positions in the Russian state apparatus, this is by itself true. Yet, it is in so far misleading as recently a particular class of other institutions of higher education, namely the various academies of the security services, as well as Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs, has emerged to be even more relevant to an assessment of the nature of Russia's future political elite. MGIMO is, against this background, an untypical case in that it constituted one of the most progressive colleges, during the Soviet period, and a think-tank for Gorbachev's perestroika. Müller's study gives, nevertheless, the impression that MGIMO students are today educated in a, by Western standards, "right-wing" mode. They are trained to internalize the supremacy of national sovereignty, Russia's status as great power, and neo-imperial thinking. Yet, within Moscow's future elite, MGIMO alumni still might constitute the "left wing" of the Russian political establishment of the 21st century.