Courses and Requirements
The goal of Hamilton’s Russian Studies program is to explore in a deep, interdisciplinary way the language, literature, culture, history, and politics of the Russian-speaking countries of Eurasia.
The first-year Russian language course pays particular attention to the cultural context of the language. Emphasis is placed on the language of contemporary Russian media at the second-year level, followed by the opportunity to begin close reading of Russian literature in the original in 370. Near-native and heritage speakers are encouraged to enroll in any of the Russian Studies courses. The readings can be completed in Russian with permission of instructor. Study in Russia on a semester or year program is strongly recommended for those interested in Russian Studies.
Courses in Translation
Murder, Civil War, and Opera.
Ivan the Terrible murdered his heir, and left Russia to face economic collapse and mass hunger without a stable government. Then things got really bad. Did Boris Godunov murder Tsarevich Dmitri? Was the First False Dmitri for real? Only Pushkin knew for sure, but it took Modest Mussorgsky to wrap it up in the greatest Russian opera of all time. This course will explore the relationships between history, art and national identity in Russia. (Writing-intensive.) (Same as History 100.) Maximum enrollment, 18. Keller.
Introduction to Russia: Russians and their Relationship to Authority.
Introduction to Russian civilization through an exploration of how Russians view and respond to authority. Use of biographies, historical accounts, film, and fiction to examine the lives of key leaders as well as important societal actors that have commanded respect in Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet life. No knowledge of Russian required. Rivera, S.
Revolution of the Living Word: Popular Music, Mass Film, Performance, and New Media in Russia.
Survey of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Russian culture. Focus on popular forms like music, mass film, and “stadium poetry,” as well as experimental forms like performance, Conceptualist art, and new media. No knowledge of Russian required. Cieply.
Dreams, Visions and Nightmares: Introduction to Russian Film.
Survey of Russian film from its beginnings through the Soviet period to the present. Introduction to Russian culture and to the basic grammar of film analysis. Films include Strike!, Brother, Burnt by the Sun, The Thief, and The Return. No knowledge of Russian required. Bartle.
Beyond Totalitarianism: Becoming Oneself in Stalin's Soviet Union.
Students will explore a variety of cultural artifacts (literature, film, song, visual art, and architecture), personal documents (diaries and letters), and secondary literature, which speak to the real, subjective experience of life in the Soviet Union under Stalin. (Writing-intensive.) Taught in English. No knowledge of Russian required. Maximum enrollment, 18. Jason Cieply.
Literature and Revolution: Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Russian and Soviet Fiction.
This course offers a survey of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Russian and Soviet fiction, focusing on the literature that defined this transformative period in Russia’s modern history. Taught in English. No knowledge of Russian required. Jason Cieply.
Politics in Russia.
Examines political processes in Russia after the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union. Central focus on explaining the rise of multi-party democracy in the 1990s and the subsequent consolidation of authoritarian rule under Vladimir Putin. Topics include the creation of political parties, the state’s use of propaganda and the media, the problem of corruption, and the prospects for democracy in the future. Prerequisite, Govt 112, 114, Russian Studies 100, History 221, History 222, or permission of instructor. Closed to first years except with permission of instructor. (Comparative Politics) (Same as Government 213.)
Early Russian History From Rurik to Alexander II.
A survey of Russian history from Kievan Rus’ to the Great Reforms of Alexander II. Emphasis on the development of Russia from scattered principalities to empire and the struggle for an identity between Europe and Asia. (Same as History 221.) Keller.
Modern Russian History.
An overview of Russian history from the emancipation of the serfs to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Themes of the course include how Russia and the USSR dealt with their sense of “backwardness” compared to Europe, the multi-national and multi-religious nature of this vast Eurasian state, and the meanings of “modernity.” (Same as History 222.) Keller.
Madness, Murder and Mayhem: Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature.
Readings of representative works with emphasis on major literary movements, cultural history, and basic literary devices. Primary texts by Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, as well as some critical materials. Not open to first year students. (Writing-intensive.) No knowledge of Russian required. (Same as Literature 225.) Maximum enrollment, 18. Bartle.
Sex, Death and Revolution: Twentieth-Century Russian Art and Literature.
Close analysis of major literary and artistic movements of the 20th century, with particular attention paid to the innovations of the avant-garde and the impact of the Bolshevik Revolution on the artistic imagination. Emphasis on the recurring theme of the fate of the individual in a mass society. No knowledge of Russian required. (Same as Literature 226.)
Russia and the World.
The course will examine Russia’s relations with both its immediate neighbors and the West from the Tsarist era to the present. Topics to be covered include: the formation of the Russian Empire, the Cold War, the “Gorbachev revolution in Soviet foreign policy” that ended the Cold War, the evolution of Russian-American relations since the collapse of communism, and the reasons behind Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. A central theme of the course will be the evolution of Russian national identity, especially as it relates to Russia’s status as an empire and its relationship with the West. Prerequisite, Govt. 112, Govt. 114, Russian Studies 100, or consent of the instructor. (International Relations) (Same as Government 237.)
Heaven, Hell and the Space in Between: Devils and Deities in Russian Literature and Art.
Examination of the portrayals of the cosmic conflict: Good vs. Evil, Heaven vs. Hell, God vs. Satan. The second half of the semester will be dedicated to a close reading and analysis of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. (Writing-intensive.) No knowledge of Russian required. (Same as Literature 270.) Maximum enrollment, 18.
Bloodsucking as Metaphor: Vampires, Werewolves and the Living-Dead in Myth, Literature and Film.
Exploration of vampire and werewolf myths in Russia and Eastern Europe, the cult of ancestors in Slavic ritual, folk beliefs and rituals associated with the dead and the so-called “living-dead,” and the tradition of “dying-reviving” gods. Transformation of the myths and folklore into the popular cult phenomenon of Dracula in West-European and American literature and film. Particular attention paid to bloodsucking and shape-shifting as political, sexual and medical metaphors. No knowledge of Russian required.
Advanced Language and Culture.
1/4-credit class that must be taken in conjunction with a course in English. Additional weekly session to analyze and discuss the material in the original language. May be repeated for credit. Department.
Transitions to Democracy.
Examines the origins and durability of transitions to democratic forms of governance in authoritarian states. Topics include the roles in democratization played by leadership, ethnic diversity, political institutions, and geography. Emphasis on critical reading of the large theoretical and empirical literature on democratization. Case studies will be drawn from the countries of the former Soviet Union and East-Central Europe, although students interested in other parts of the world are welcome. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, One 200-level course in comparative politics or international relations. (Comparative Politics) (Same as Government 311.) Maximum enrollment, 18.
Russia’s Destiny: Political Thought from Peter to Putin.
Russian thinkers have long been tormented about where they belong in the world. Imperial Russia wanted to be a great European power, but the Slavophiles argued that Russia had a unique destiny that was neither European nor Asian. The Soviet Union suppressed but never destroyed these ideas, and Putin uses them to legitimize his government. This historiography seminar will study Russian political philosophy with an emphasis on the meaning of history. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, Any 200- level history course. (Same as History 322.) Maximum enrollment, 18. Keller.
Topics in Survey Research.
This course will introduce students to basics of survey research, with a particular focus on measuring political, economic, and foreign policy attitudes. The class will analyze and report on the findings of an original survey of Russian elites. (Oral Presentations.) Prerequisite, GOVT 213, HIST 221 or 222, any 200-level GOVT course in comparative politics or international relations, or permission of instructor. (Comparative Politics) (Same as Government 333.) Maximum enrollment, 12. S Rivera.
The Soviet Union as a Multi-National State.
The USSR claimed to be a revolutionary political form: a state based on the voluntary union of workers from over 100 different nationalities. The Bolsheviks intended to lead Russian peasants, Kyrgyz nomads and Chechen mountaineers together into the bright Communist future. What they actually achieved is another question. This research seminar explores the concepts of nation, empire and modernization in the Soviet context. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, 221, 222 or consent of instructor. (Same as History 345.) Maximum enrollment, 18.
Independent work consisting of the preparation and presentation of a research paper, translation or other project designed by the student. Requires research using Russian-language sources. Open to senior concentrators only. Cieply.
Courses in Russian Language
An introduction to the Russian language in a contemporary cultural context. Focus on development of speaking skills in real-life situations. Bartle.
Continued development of skills in spoken and written Russian. Intensive use of audio/visual and computer materials. Prerequisite, 110 or equivalent. Bartle.
Further development of conversation and composition skills, with an emphasis on contemporary topics. Prerequisite, 120 or equivalent. Bartle.
Continuation of third-term Russian. Introduction to the language of popular culture, including contemporary film and music. Prerequisite, 210 or equivalent. Cieply.
Readings in Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature.
Close reading in Russian and English of canonical literary works from the nineteenth century to the present day. Attention paid to problems of translation. Discussion and writing assignments in Russian and English. Not intended for near-native or heritage speakers. May be repeated for credit with permission of instructor. Prerequisite, 220 or equivalent. Cieply.
Advanced Russian II.
Continuation of Russian Studies 370. Works of literature and culture examined in their historical and social context. Particular attention devoted to the improvement of reading and writing skills. Focus on translation questions. Prerequisite, Russian 220 or consent of instructor. Cieply.
(from the Hamilton Course Catalogue)