Russian and Eurasian Studies

Peter Scotto, Chair

Dominique Rampton, Academic Department Coordinator


103 Ciruti Center
413-538-2648
https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/russian

Overview and Contact Information

From Pushkin to Putin, from Balanchine to Lake Baikal, from caviar to commissars, from yurts to baba yaga—Russia and Eurasia offer a glittering array of riches waiting to be discovered. Mount Holyoke’s Department of Russian and Eurasian Studies invites you to join with us in our exploration of the vast area of the world that we engage in on a daily basis. Through course work in language, literature, history and politics, our students gain a multidimensional understanding of the diverse peoples and cultures that inhabit this region—its past, its present, as well as its prospects for the future.

As the world reconfigures itself at the beginning of the twenty-first century, a reenergized Russia will play a major role in shaping the political and economic futures of Europe and Asia, and resolving issues of global importance like resource use, climate change, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation. Indeed, Mount Holyoke graduates who have focused on Russian studies can be found working in nongovernmental organizations in Washington D.C., embassies in Russia and Europe, the oil fields of Siberia, as well as in journalism and business.

Beyond the purely pragmatic, Russia’s fundamental cultural achievements—in literature, art, music, theatre, and film—are of permanent value and interest to students of the humanities. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Akhmatova and Pasternak, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, Vertov and Eisenstein, Pavlova and Baryshnikov, Gergiev and Rostropovich—the Russian legacy of achievement is profound, and continues to be a living presence in the intellectual, spiritual, and creative life of humanity. Our commitment to this legacy is at once intensely intellectual and deeply personal: until his death in 1996, Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Brodsky was counted among our colleagues.

The Department of Russian and Eurasian Studies is unique among MHC’s language departments in that its faculty includes both specialists in language, literature, and culture and specialists in history and politics. Variously trained in Russia, Europe, and the United States, we strive to bring a balance and a perspective to our subject area that is challenging, engaging, thoughtful—and never dull.

For students with a strong interest in the non-Russian nations of Eurasia, a working knowledge of Russian and a grasp of Russia’s historical role on the Eurasian continent are essential to understanding the peoples and places that have lived or continue to live under Russian influence (the Caucasus, Central Asia, Siberia). The Mount Holyoke Department of Russian and Eurasian Studies stands out among Russian departments in the Five Colleges in that it includes a specialist who is uniquely qualified to interpret events in Eurasia beyond the borders of Russia itself (Jones). Our students study not only in European Russia, but in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Siberia, and experience the multicultural expanse of Eurasia.

Beyond regular course work, the department sponsors spring and fall festivals of Russian food, a film series, lectures, and other events (like building a Mongolian yurt).

Study Abroad

Study abroad is highly recommended and may be used toward fulfillment of major requirements.

There are numerous summer, semester, and yearlong programs offered for undergraduates. Since admission to many Russian study abroad programs is competitive, students are advised to consult early in their academic careers with members of the department. We have had great success in getting our students into these competitive programs.

Opportunities to study the non-Russian languages of Eurasia are rapidly expanding. Summer immersion programs and summer and academic-year programs abroad offer instruction in Armenian, Georgian, Azeri, Uzbek, Tajik, Polish, Czech, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Estonian, and others. In some cases, applicants may be expected to have an intermediate-level command of Russian.

See Also

Faculty

This area of study is administered by the Department of Russian and Eurasian Studies:

Stephen Jones, Professor of Russian Studies

Peter Scotto, Professor of Russian

Irina Kogel, Five College Lecturer of Russian

Susanna Nazarova, Five College Lecturer in Russian

Evgeny Dengub, Five College Lecturer in Russian Language

Requirements for the Major

A minimum of 40 credits:

12 credits of Russian language courses beyond RES-20112
RES-210Great Books: The Literature of Nineteenth-Century Russia4
RES-211Topics in Twentieth-Century Russian Literature 14
RES-240Contemporary Russian Politics: From Lenin to Putin4
RES-241Russia, the West, and the Challenge of Putinism4
12 credits at the 300 level, divided among two or more disciplines12
Total Credits40

Additional Specifications

  • Majors are strongly encouraged to take elective courses that reflect their particular focus within the major and to study abroad for at least one semester.
  • When students have completed two courses at the 200 level, they may, with the permission of the instructor and in consultation with their advisor, enroll in a 200-level course for 300-level credit.
  • Students are encouraged to explore Russian and Eurasian Studies courses offered through the Five Colleges if needed.
  • The major in Russian and Eurasian Studies is interdisciplinary. Students who complete this major automatically fulfill the College’s “outside the major” requirement.

Requirements for the Minor in Language

A minimum of 12 credits above the 100 level, ordinarily drawn from the following:

RES-201Intermediate Russian4
RES-202Intermediate Russian4
RES-301Advanced Russian Language: From Reading to Speaking4
Total Credits12

Requirements for the Minor in Culture and Literature

A minimum of 20 credits, which ordinarily include:

A one-semester course in Russian history4
RES-210Great Books: The Literature of Nineteenth-Century Russia4
RES-211Topics in Twentieth-Century Russian Literature 14
Two additional courses to be chosen in consultation with the Russian department, including one at the 300 level8
Total Credits20

Additional Specifications

  • The minor in culture and literature is designed for students who have an interest in Russian literature and culture, but have not studied the language. It requires 20 credits and is not recommended for anyone who wishes to focus on Russia at the graduate level.

Requirements for the Minor in Russian and Eurasian Studies

A minimum of 12 credits, which ordinarily include:

RES-201Intermediate Russian (or its equivalent)4
Two courses in Russian studies, including one course at the 300 level8
Total Credits12

Additional Specifications

  • The minor in Russian and Eurasian studies is designed to encourage an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the former Soviet Union and its peoples and cultures and to develop intermediate-level proficiency in the Russian language.

Teacher Licensure

Students interested in pursuing licensure in the field of Russian and Eurasian studies can combine their course work in Russian and Eurasian studies with a minor in education. In some instances course work in the major coincides with course work required for licensure; in other cases, it does not. For specific course requirements for licensure within the major of Russian and Eurasian studies, please consult your advisor or the chair of the Russian and Eurasian studies department. Further information about the minor in education and the Teacher Licensure program is available in other sections of the catalog, or consult Ms. Lawrence in the psychology and education department.

Licensure also requires a formal application as well as passing scores on the Massachusetts Test of Educator Licensure (MTEL) in both the literacy component and the subject matter component. Copies of the test objectives for the MTEL are available in the Russian and Eurasian studies department and in the Department of Psychology and Education.

Additional information about the Licensure Program, including application materials, can be found on the Teacher Licensure Program website.

Course Advice

Getting Started in Russian

A student coming to Mount Holyoke with no background in Russian language should enroll in RES-101 and RES-102, a yearlong introduction to Russian language and culture.

Students who have previously studied Russian and plan to elect Russian language should consult with the department for individual placement.

In addition to the RES-101 and RES-102 sequence, recommended courses for first-year study include:

RES-210Great Books: The Literature of Nineteenth-Century Russia (Humanities I)4
RES-211Topics in Twentieth-Century Russian Literature (Humanities I)4
RES-240Contemporary Russian Politics: From Lenin to Putin (Social Sciences III)4
RES-241Russia, the West, and the Challenge of Putinism (Social Sciences III)4

As listed, courses on Russian history or literature and culture may be used to satisfy the Humanities distribution requirement, while courses on Russian and Eurasian Politics satisfy the Social Science distribution requirement.

Course Offerings

Taught in Russian

RES-101 Elementary Russian

Fall. Credits: 4

The four-skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) introduction to the Russian Language with the focus on communicative skills development. Major structural topics include pronunciation and intonation, all six cases, basic conjugation patterns, and verbal aspect. By the end of the course the students will be able to initiate and sustain conversation on basic topics, write short compositions, read short authentic texts and comprehend their meaning, develop an understanding of the Russian culture through watching films and listening to songs.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive
S. Nazarova
Coreq: RES-101L.

RES-102 Elementary Russian

Spring. Credits: 4

Continuation of Russian 101. A four-skills course, with increasing emphasis on reading and writing, that completes the study of basic grammar. Major topics include: predicting conjugation patterns, un-prefixed and prefixed verbs of motion, complex sentences, time expressions, and strategies of vocabulary building. Students watch Russian films, read and discuss authentic texts.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive
I. Kogel
Prereq: RES-101. Coreq: RES-102L.

RES-201 Intermediate Russian

Fall. Credits: 4

In-depth review of grammar topics and expansion of vocabulary with the goal of developing communicative proficiency. Readings include short stories, poetry, and newspaper articles. Students watch Russian films and discuss them orally and in writing. Classes are conducted mostly in Russian.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive
S. Nazarova
Prereq: RES-101.

RES-202 Intermediate Russian

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Emphasis on increasing active command of grammar while focusing on conversational topics. Readings include poetry, short stories, and magazine and newspaper articles. Students watch and discuss Russian films. Classes are conducted mostly in Russian.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
S. Nazarova
Prereq: RES-201.

RES-301 Advanced Russian Language: From Reading to Speaking

Fall. Credits: 4

This course aims at expansion of students' vocabulary and improvement of both writing and speaking skills. Heritage learners of Russian (those who speak the language) will also benefit from the course. With a strong emphasis on integrating vocabulary in context, this course aims to help students advance their lexicon and grammar, increase fluency, and overcome speaking inhibitions. We will read and discuss a variety of texts including short stories, films, and articles.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive
S. Nazarova
Prereq: RES-202.
Advisory: The course is intended for students who have completed at least four semesters of Russian or the equivalent.

RES-302 Advanced Russian Language: From Reading to Speaking

Spring. Credits: 4

This course is a continuation of RES-301 and is a further expansion of students' vocabulary, writing and speaking skills. We will read and discuss a variety of texts including short stories, films, and articles. Heritage learners of Russian (those who speak the language) will also benefit from the course.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities; Language
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive
S. Nazarova
Prereq: RES-301.

Taught in English

RES-210 Great Books: The Literature of Nineteenth-Century Russia

Fall. Credits: 4

In no other culture has literature occupied the central role it enjoyed in nineteenth-century Russia. Political, social, and historical constraints propelled Russian writers into the roles of witness, prophet, and sage. Yet, far from being limited to the vast, dark 'Big Question' novels of legend, Russian literature offers much humor, lyricism, and fantasy. We will focus on the Russian novel as a reaction to western European forms of narrative and consider the recurring pattern of the strong heroine and the weak hero. Authors will include: Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
P. Scotto
Notes: Taught in English

RES-211 Topics in Twentieth-Century Russian Literature

RES-211MM Topics in Twentieth-Century Russian Literature: 'Diabolic Carnival: Bulgakov's Master and Margarita and Its Contexts'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Mephistopheles in Moscow? The Gospel retold? At turns both wildly comic and metaphysically profound, Bulgakov's novel has been a cult classic since its unexpected discovery in 1967. This course will consider Bulgakov's masterpiece together with some of its literary, historical, and social contexts. Additional readings from Goethe, Gogol, E.T.A.Hoffman, Akhmatova, and others.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
P. Scotto
Notes: Taught in English

RES-213 War and Peace

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

We will be engaged in a close reading of a translation of Tolstoy's epic novel War and Peace. Tolstoy's sweeping account of men and women caught up in Russia's desperate struggle to survive against the onslaught of Napoleon's army is often considered among the greatest novels. We will focus on Tolstoy's literary strategies, philosophy, and historical contexts.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
P. Scotto
Notes: Taught in English.

RES-215 Dostoevsky and the Problem of Evil: The Brothers Karamazov

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Perhaps no other novelist has delved as deeply into the psychological and metaphysical dimensions of evil as the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. This course will be devoted to a close reading of Dostoevsky's landmark novel of murderous passion and parricide, The Brothers Karamazov. Why should crime and transgression be a privileged avenue of access into the human interior? How is psychology tied to the metaphysical aspect of human existence? What are the sources of evil--and redemption?

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
P. Scotto
Notes: Taught in English

RES-216 Pushkin: Found in Translation

Spring. Credits: 4

Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) is universally regarded as Russia's greatest poet. However, the magnitude of his achievement has remained inaccessible to readers who do not know Russian. That has now changed. With the renaissance in the art and practice of translation over the past several decades, much of what was previously unavailable to readers of English is now available, and it has become possible to offer this course. Participants will encounter Pushkin in three different, but intersecting ways: through a careful reading of his masterpieces, through a comparison of the renditions of various translators, and finally through responses to his work by his literary heirs.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
P. Scotto
Notes: Taught in English.

RES-231FA Anna Karenina and Contexts: 'Tolstoy on Love, Death, and Family Life'

Spring. Credits: 4

Anna Karenina (1873) is one of a series of important works Tolstoy wrote pondering love, death, the nature of happiness, and the foundations of family life. Our reading of Anna Karenina will be the centerpiece of this course which will also include works ranging from Childhood (1852) to The Kreutzer Sonata (1889), which shocked and repelled readers with its unsparing depictions of human sexuality and murderous jealousy. Film versions of works will be screened.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
P. Scotto
Notes: Taught in English

RES-240 Contemporary Russian Politics: From Lenin to Putin

Spring. Credits: 4

Russia was transformed by communist revolution into a global superpower that challenged the dominant ideologies of liberalism and nationalism. It became a powerful alternative to capitalism. In 1991, this imperial state collapsed and underwent an economic, political, and cultural revolution. What explains the Soviet Union's success for 70 years and its demise in 1991? What sort of country is Russia as it enters the twenty-first century? Is it a democracy? How has Russia's transformation affected ordinary people and Russia's relationship to the West?

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
C. Pleshakov
Notes: Taught in English

RES-241 Russia, the West, and the Challenge of Putinism

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Since its creation at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union dominated the minds of Western foreign policymakers. None of the West's policies in the Middle East, the Third World, Europe, or China after World War II can be understood without the study of Soviet foreign policy. We will examine the development of Soviet foreign policy since 1917 and, following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the role played by Russia and Russia and the former Soviet republics in the far more complex and multipolar 'New World Order.' What should U.S. policy be toward the emerging new states of the Baltics, Central Asia, and Caucasia?

Crosslisted as: POLIT-264
Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
S. Jones
Notes: Taught in English

RES-242 Oil and Water Don't Mix: Geopolitics, Energy, and the Environment

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Following the collapse of the USSR and the Gulf War, Central Asia and the Caucasus became new centers of geopolitical rivalry. The new states are a source of energy (oil and gas) for Western powers and a vital transit corridor between Eastern Europe and China. While a new "Great Game" is being fought between Western, Far Eastern, and Middle Eastern powers for control over energy pipelines, the region is threatened by environmental catastrophe and water shortages. Is the new oil industry a source of prosperity or an instrument for exploitation, corruption, and instability? How important are the new states to the West's strategic energy interests?

Crosslisted as: POLIT-242
Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
S. Jones
Notes: Taught in English

RES-312 Silk Roads: Ancient and Modern Highways Across the Eurasian Continent

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

The silk roads were ancient transportation and trade links that wound their way across the Eurasian continent, or by sea through the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, to Europe. They carried silk, glass, jade, and moved religions and literatures across continents. Today, the new silk roads carry oil, gas, drugs, capitalism, and immigrants seeking better lives. We will investigate the parallels between the ancient and modern silk roads and the contemporary strategic, cultural, and economic significance of these new highways, which link China, Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe.

Crosslisted as: POLIT-312
Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
S. Jones
Prereq: 8 credits in Politics, International Relations, History, or Russian and Eurasian studies.
Notes: Taught in English

RES-313 Democracy and Its Challengers: Populism, Nationalism, and Autocracy

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

After the collapse of the USSR, liberal democracy was triumphant, and history was "dead." But the new states in Central and Eastern Europe, and the revived democracies in Africa and South America soon revealed the difficulty of building and preserving liberal democracy. The challenges of populism, xenophobia, inequality, and judicial and electoral manipulation, reemerged in both Western Europe and the USA. Based on case studies from Europe, the Americas, and Africa, we will focus on the vulnerabilities of democracy, and on the sources of illiberalism's success among both European and non-European states. What explains the decline of democracy, and what measures can democratic systems take to defend themselves?

Crosslisted as: POLIT-300
Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
S. Jones
Prereq: Two 200-level courses in Politics, International Relations, History, Sociology, or Economics.

RES-330 Nationalism, Populism, and the New World Order

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

Nationalism is one of the greatest challenges to multiethnic states. They have had to create new strategies to deal with the demands of ethnic minorities. Taking the four states of Spain, Canada, Russia, and the former Yugoslavia as examples, we will focus on nationalist movements within these states and the central governments' responses. What has been the effect of the Communist legacy? Are there alternatives to federalism as a way of managing national claims? What socioeconomic policies have governments used to control ethnic tensions? What role can international organizations play in finding solutions to ethnic conflict?

Crosslisted as: POLIT-308
Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
S. Jones
Prereq: 8 credits in politics, international relations, or Russian and Eurasian studies.

RES-350 Revolutions

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

By the 1980s, after the failure of Marxist revolutions, scholars and politicians declared that "history" and with it, the age of revolution was over. From now on, they said, all states will move toward the model of market capitalism. But the last decade of the 20th century and the first fifteen years of the 21st century have shown that history, and with it, revolution, is far from over. We will look at the American and Russian revolutions, at Nazism, the Iranian revolution of 1979, Eastern Europe in 1989, the 'colored revolutions,' and the Arab Spring. Revolutions are still with us, and we will study why.

Crosslisted as: POLIT-350
Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
S. Jones
Prereq: 8 credits in politics, international relations, or Russian and Eurasian studies.
Notes: Taught in English

RES-361 Religious Nationalism and Democratic Nation-Building in Ex-Soviet States

Spring. Credits: 4

This course analyzes how religious nationalism in three ex-Soviet states -- Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia -- influences and often obstructs democratization. Students will read the literature on ethno-nationalism and banal nationalism to provide a theoretical framework for the study of religious nationalism. The course also compares the role of religion in nationalism in Western nation-states and ex-Soviet states.

Crosslisted as: IR-361
Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
T. Grdzelidze
Prereq: 8 credits in Politics or International Relations including POLIT-116.

Independent Study

RES-295 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 4

The department
Instructor permission required.

RES-395 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 8

The department
Instructor permission required.