Since Russia is the second largest oil exporter (and in some months even beats the Saudis), oil and Russia go together well. I have begun to look at some promising avenues for a book on oil and Russian politics (very few of these exist, by the way). Just anecdotally, there seems to be a relationship between the price of oil and the degree of freedom in Russia. When oil prices go up, Russian revenues (over 65% of which come from oil and gas) increase dramatically and the Russian government seems to be emboldened by the wealth. In periods of high oil prices, the government is far more active and tends to ignore protests. The Russian government also tends to use a heavier hand in cracking down on protests during boom times. When oil prices fall, the government gets quiescent and seems more willing to compromise with societal groups. I would like to systematically test whether these casual observations hold. In order to truly understand these relationships, I need to understand the history and economics as well as politics of oil. In addition, I need to explore the nature of oil including how it is found, how quickly/slowly it is depleted, what geologists mean when they quote proven reserves versus estimated reserves, the logistics of moving/transporting oil, etc. because these practical issues impact the nature of the politics surrounding oil. As I embark on this project, I have requested funding to attend an international energy symposium in July 2010 in Baku Azerbaijan.