Russian Studies

Russian Studies at Hamilton is an interdisciplinary concentration that consists of two general types of courses:

If a student decides to learn or continue with study of the Russian language, s/he should start during her/his first year, generally in Russian 110 (available only in the fall semester). We highly recommend that students study abroad during their junior year. We also give full credit for intensive summer language programs at a variety of institutions. The Russian Studies Department members have a complete list of these programs.

Our first-semester language course includes several sections devoted to understanding Russian culture, and, as a result, serves to introduce students to material covered in the Russian Studies courses.
Many Russian Studies courses are writing-intensive, so they tend to be smallish in size (15-20 students), and give students ample opportunity both to develop their writing skills and to discuss Russian-related issues. With the exception of Government 213, there are no prerequisites for any courses at the 100- and 200-level, so our classes tend to attract a broad range of students from many disciplines. Since many of our courses are interdisciplinary in nature (we combine history with literature, art with culture, film with contemporary politics, for example), we tend to draw diverse groups of students in our classes.

The Russian Studies Committee highly values the liberal arts experience and believes that learning about a culture different from your own teaches you to be open-minded about differences among people. Many of our students have said that they appreciate the experience of learning about how others live, and many of our graduates have found jobs and lives in Russia.

Yet, we also understand the reality many undergraduates face in the twenty-first century, and we have built a program that gives students the skills they need to live and work in the global marketplace.   Many jobs in US corporations are international in scope, and these companies are looking for people who are at ease in foreign settings. Studying Russian will provide you ample opportunities to spend part of your Hamilton experience abroad, and the skills you learn in the classroom here and in Russia will help make you a more attractive candidate for jobs when you return. Simply put, business skills plus foreign language skill make an employee more valuable in the marketplace.

Courses in Translation

169S 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.

[213F] 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, or History 222. Closed to first years except with permission of instructor. (Same as Government 213.)

221F 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.

222S Modern Russian History.
Russia from the 1861 emancipation of the serfs to the present. Study of revolution and continuity throughout the modern period, with an emphasis on the multi-national character of the Russian/Soviet state. (Same as History 222.) Keller.

225F 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. (Writing-intensive.) No knowledge of Russian required. (Same as Literature and Creative Writing 225.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Bartle.

[226S] 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 and Creative Writing 226.)

[234S] The Hero as Failure: Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature.
Why does so much classic Russian literature center on weak male protagonists unable to come to terms with stronger, more adaptable women? This course will explore this repeated pattern both as a reflection of Russian attitudes toward love and as a metaphorical expression of political frustration in a repressive society. Readings to include fiction, plays, and criticism by such writers as Pushkin, Lermontov, Belinsky, Gogol, Turgenev, Chernyshevsky, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. Prerequisite, A 100-level course in literature. Open to students who have taken LIT/RSNST 225. (History, Theme) (Same as Literature and Creative Writing 234.)

[270] 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 and Creative Writing 270.) Maximum enrollment, 20.

[295] 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.

[333S] 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. (Same as Government 333.) Maximum enrollment, 12.

[345S] 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. 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, 20.

550F,S Senior Seminar.
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. Sciacca.

Courses in Russian Language

100F 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, 20. Keller.

110F First-Term Russian.
An introduction to the Russian language in a contemporary cultural context. Focus on development of speaking skills in real-life situations. Sciacca.

120S Second-Term Russian.
Continued development of skills in spoken and written Russian. Intensive use of audio/visual and computer materials. Prerequisite, 110 or equivalent. Bartle.

210F Third-Term Russian.
Further development of conversation and composition skills, with an emphasis on contemporary topics. Prerequisite, 120 or equivalent. Bartle.

220S Fourth-Term Russian.
Continuation of third-term Russian. Introduction to the language of popular culture, including contemporary film and music. Prerequisite, 210 or equivalent. Sciacca.

[237S] 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. 114 or Russian Studies 100. (Same as Government 237.)

311F 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. (Same as Government 311.) Maximum enrollment, 20. S Rivera.

370F 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. Bartle.

380S 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. Bartle.