Russian and Eurasian Studies
(For 2016–2017 academic year)
Professors A.S. Nakhimovsky, Stevens
Associate Professor Helfant
Assistant Professor Erley
Steering Committee Epstein, Erley, Graybill (Director), Helfant, A.S. Nakhimovsky, Ries, Stevens
Russian and Eurasian studies (REST) is a multifaceted discipline that aims to give students an understanding of this vital region’s history, politics, environment, and culture, along with proficiency in the Russian language. Students can choose among courses in literary and cultural studies, anthropology, history, geography, Jewish studies, environmental studies, and political science, taking advantage of Colgate’s unusual array of Russian specialists in these diverse areas. Prospective majors, and those with an interest in Russian language, should begin REST 121 as soon as possible. The major requires a minimum of two years of language. Students who continue into advanced Russian are encouraged to spend a semester in Russia on one of Colgate’s approved programs. Courses throughout the curriculum are interdisciplinary and culminate in a senior seminar in which majors pursue a thesis or advanced research topics in a collaborative environment. Many of our students choose to combine Russian and Eurasian studies with a second major or minor in history, political science, international relations and other fields. Recent graduates have found work in government, journalism, law, NGOs, education, finance, and many other fields; some have gone to the Peace Corps, and a significant number have pursued graduate study.
The Russian and Eurasian studies major consists of ten courses. If a student double majors, only one shared course can count for Russian and Eurasian studies. The ten courses must include:
- A minimum of four semesters of Russian language;
- REST 121, 122, Elementary Russia
- REST 201, 202, Intermediate Russian
- CORE 187C, Russia at the Crossroads of East and West
- Four additional courses, at least two of which must be at the 300 level or above:
- One course dealing primarily with pre-modern and Imperial Russia. These courses are designated as “PR” courses.
REST 253, Lust, Murder, Redemption
REST 314, Dostoevsky and His World
REST/HIST 343, The Formation of the Russian Empire
- One course with a primarily Soviet era focus. These courses are designated as “SO” courses.
REST 214, Russian and the Soviet Cinema
REST 258, Reading the Russian Revolution
REST 260, The Émigrés: Lives of Remarkable Russians
REST/HIST 344, Imperial Russia and the Soviet Revolution
REST 354, Terror, Dissent, Russians, Jews: Literature and Life in 20th-Century Russia
POSC 348, The Rise and Fall of Communism
- One course using a post-Soviet era as a lens. These courses are designated as “PO” courses
REST/GEOG 308, Authoritarian Capital Cities of Eurasia
REST/GEOG 323, Arctic Transformations
REST 358, The New Russians: Post-Soviet Literature, Art, and Film
REST/POSC 359, Power in Russia from Gorbachev to Putin
- One additional course selected from one of the categories above or from the following list of electives, descriptions for which are found under the appropriate department or program’s listings.
ARTS 360, Borderlands
CORE 168C, The Arctic (subject to director’s approval)
CORE 179C, Central Asia
CORE 184C, Siberia
REST/JWST 205, Yiddish Fiction in Translation
JWST 303, Jewish Fiction before the War
HIST 263, The Silk Road
REST 303, Language and Fiction
REST 306, Advanced Russian
Students are encouraged to pursue upper-level language study and to strive for interdisciplinary breadth, as well as to place Russia in a broader comparative context.
- Interdisciplinary senior seminar: REST 412
The minor in Russian and Eurasian studies consists of seven courses including the minimum four semesters of Russian language and three courses chosen from at least two of the above primary categories, at least one of which must be at the 300 level. (Minors may apply to substitute the seminar for one of the required electives but will be admitted to the seminar only at the instructor’s discretion.)
Language Placement and GPA Requirements
Students with two or more years of high school Russian, and students who have taken an introductory level summer session course at another university, will normally matriculate into REST 122 or 201. Students with such previous Russian study, transfer students with coursework in Russian, and students from Russian-speaking families (heritage speakers) should consult with faculty for advice on placement.
An average of C (2.00) is required for graduation in the major or minor. All REST courses taken at Colgate are counted toward the cumulative grade.
Honors and High Honors
A minimum overall GPA in the major of 3.30 for honors and 3.70 for high honors is required, plus a written thesis of 40 to 60 pages. Students who write an honors thesis are required to complete an honors independent study (REST 490) in the semester following the senior seminar.
See “Honors and Awards: Russian and Eurasian Studies” in Chapter VI.
The Russian and Eurasian studies faculty and Off-Campus Study/International Programs have collaborated to identify a small number of approved programs for students with at least two years of college Russian who wish to spend a semester in Russia. Two course credits toward the major or minor can be earned through study in Russia. Consult with the Russian and Eurasian studies faculty for further details.
Many REST courses count toward the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement, unless otherwise noted.
121, 122 Elementary Russian
I. Helfant, Staff
These courses combine an overview of Russian grammar with an intensive emphasis upon classroom communication and the development of oral skills. In addition to the textbook, students make use of an array of web-based materials ranging from interviews with contemporary Russians, to YouTube videos, to cartoons in order to provide students with a sense for life in Russia today, as well to facilitate rapid acquisition of the language. Students will receive credit for one semester but are strongly encouraged to continue for the year-long sequence (and beyond). By the end of the first year students will have covered the fundamentals of Russian grammar, learned a great deal of vocabulary, and should be able to converse effectively in a variety of everyday situations in Russian. (Formerly RUSS 101-102.)
201, 202 Intermediate Russian
M. Erley, A.S. Nakhimovsky, Staff
REST 201 and 202 complete the presentation of the fundamentals of the language and focus upon further vocabulary acquisition and developing more advanced conversation and writing skills, as well as real-life Russian in context. Students in 202 make use of the Colgate-developed MannX program to work through digitized segments of a beloved romantic comedy The Irony of Fate. MannX presents the film in a browser with ready links to cultural commentary, a dictionary, and a transcription. (Formerly RUSS 201, 202.)
205 Yiddish Fiction in Translation
This course is crosslisted as JWST 205. For course description, see “Jewish Studies: Course Offerings.” This course counts toward the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement. (Formerly RUSS 205.)
214 Russian and Soviet Cinema (SO)
This interdisciplinary course introduces the history and theory of Russian cinema and features a selection of the most influential Russian and Soviet films of the 20th century. Beginning with the Great Silents (Evgenii Bauer, Sergei Eisenstein), the course explores constructivist montage and Socialist realism, concluding with the post-modern consciousness of Andrei Tarkovsky and Aleksandr Sokurov. Students screen one or two films each week and study them in depth. They discuss cinema in relation to literature, performance, and visual art, and learn how film language was developed. Films are discussed in a broad cultural, social, and aesthetic context, with a focus on the ways in which the images have been used as carriers of cultural value and ideological meaning. Emphasis is placed on such issues as art, propaganda, and the power of “spectacle” in contemporary society. All films have English subtitles. A FLAC section of the course may be offered for advanced Russian language students with a primary emphasis on the development of advanced language skills. (Formerly RUSS 214.)
253 Lust, Murder, Redemption (PR)
I. Helfant, Staff
Written by an educated elite, eerily self-conscious because of czarist censorship and political repression, 19th century Russian literature nevertheless confronts many of the crucial concerns of human existence. It often focuses upon characters who are at an existential breaking point because of ideological, spiritual, sexual, or economic pressures. In this course students read a combination of short stories and novels, concentrating upon canonical “greats” (Pushkin, Lermontov, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov) but also sampling lesser-known writers, including neglected female authors. By examining literary depictions of such social institutions as warfare, dueling and gambling, courtship and marriage, adultery and spousal abuse, work and leisure, the course emphasizes the relationship between literary text and cultural context. Particular attention is paid to the cultural construction of gender, as well as the relationship between humans and nature. A range of theoretical and critical texts informs discussions, as do film adaptations of certain works. All works are read in translation, but a FLAC section of the course may be offered for advanced Russian language students who are interested in trying to read selections in the original Russian. (Formerly RUSS 253.)
258 Reading the Russian Revolution (SO)
This interdisciplinary course examines and re-examines the Russian revolution(s) through a close study of histories, cultural products, historical roots, later interpretations, and re-imaginings. Beginning with the idealists, nihilists, and terrorists determined to bring the Russian monarchy to an end in the 19th century, the course explores history, politics, and culture through a range of genres and media — from the 19th-century Russian realist novel, the political manifesto, the avant-garde film, revolutionary poetry, to the works of seminal historians who have shaped how we “read” the Russian revolution today. Is the revolution over, so to speak? Are we ever finished with an historical event of such monumental consequence? Course requirements include readings, film screenings, local Colgate events, an excursion to New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, an emphasis on writing assignments, as well as a final poster project and presentation.
260 The Émigrés: Lives of Remarkable Russians (SO)
This course examines the phenomenon of Russian émigré cultures through the life stories of four remarkable artists — Ivan Bunin, Igor Stravinsky, Vladimir Nabokov, and Joseph Brodsky. What happens to national cultures outside of the confines of the state, and to individuals divorced of context? The course explores themes of exile, memory, and nostalgia; hybrid cultural identities and cosmopolitan elites; language and bilingualism; as well as the aesthetics of modernism in different media. Students read novels, essays, and poetry; listen to musical compositions; look at painting and the visual arts; and watch footage of performances, as well as several films. The course moves from the 1920s salons of Paris and Berlin to American college towns and New York City in the 1990s. (Formerly RUSS 260.)
303 Language and Fiction
A.S. Nakhimovsky, Staff
This course focuses on developing strong reading and translating skills while aslo developing students’ command of written and spoken Russian. Since reading is inevitably about something, the course is at the same time an exploration of some aspect of Russian history and culture, using the medium of memoir. Prerequisite: REST 202 or permission of instructor. (Formerly RUSS 303.)
306 Advanced Russian
M. Erley, Staff
Reading, discussion, and writing in Russian. Texts will be from contemporary online sources and depend on the interests of the class. Grammar reviewed as needed for readings. Prerequisite: REST 202 or permission of instructor. (Formerly RUSS 306.)
308 Authoritarian Capital Cities of Eurasia (PO)
This course is crosslisted as GEOG 308. For course description, see “Geography: Course Offerings.” This course counts toward the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement.
314 Dostoevsky and His World (PR)
Reading Dostoevsky’s novels is tiring, exhilarating, exasperating, and unsettling. One of the greatest writers of the 19th century, Dostoevsky was obsessed both with the social injustice he saw in czarist Russia and with humanity’s eternal struggle between good and evil, religious faith and atheism, rationality and irrationality, sexual lust and purity. One of the characters in The Brothers Karamazov exclaims, “God and Satan are at war and the battleground is the human soul,” and Dostoevsky seems to have shared this conviction. In this course students read a variety of Dostoevsky’s fictional works, as well as selections from his diaries and journalism in a shared quest to unravel his complexity as a man and as a writer. All works are read in translation, but a FLAC section may be offered for advanced Russian language students with a primary emphasis on the development of advanced language skills. (Formerly RUSS 314.)
323 Arctic Transformations (PO)
This course is crosslisted as GEOG 323. For course description, see “Geography: Course Offerings.” This course counts toward the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement.
343 The Formation of the Russian Empire (PR)
This course is crosslisted as HIST 343. For course description, see “History: Course Offerings.” This course counts toward the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement. (Formerly RUSS 343.)
344 Imperial Russia and the Soviet Revolution (SO)
This course is crosslisted as HIST 344. For course description, see “History: Course Offerings.” This course counts toward the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement. (Formerly RUSS 344.)
354 Terror, Dissent, Russians, Jews: Literature and Life in 20th-Century Russia (SO)
The individual and the state in times of upheaval; dreams of utopia and their aftermath. Not all writers are Jewish, but all of them look at Jews in some way, Jews being for better or worse a kind of Russian obsession. In addition to looking at Russians in the Russian Revolution, the course examines Jews in the Russian Revolution, both as victims and participants. In the context of a novel about World War II whose subject is Soviet heroism and cowardice, students see Jewish soldiers, Jewish victims, and Jews reacting to postwar anti-Semitism. Writers include Chekhov, Mayakovsky, Babel, Il’f and Petrov, Bulgakov, Grossman, Kundera, and Nabokov. All works are read in translation, but students with three years of Russian or the approval of the instructor are welcome to sign up for a FLAC section. This course is crosslisted as JWST 354. This course counts toward the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement. (Formerly RUSS 354.)
358 The New Russians: Post-Soviet Literature, Art, and Film (PO)
Two decades after the fall of communism, Russian culture has shape-shifted once more, both internally and in the eyes of the world. The New Russians seems to suggest a range of extremes, from a raw capitalism without limitations, a darkly “demonic” or horror-inflected strain of postmodernism, to a new spiritualism and a fascination with earlier epochs of Russian history. This course explores a range of genres and media: students read novels, short stories, and poems by Boris Akunin, Viktor Pelevin, Dmitri Prigov, Vladimir Sorokin, and Tatiana Tolstaya, and look at a selection of films and works of visual and performing arts by Boris Eifman, Ilya Kabakov, Sergei Loznitsa, Nikita Mikhalkov, and Aleksandr Sokurov. The course raises questions of cultural continuity and rupture, as well as about transculture and influence across national traditions in a rapidly changing world. All works are read in translation, but a FLAC section may be offered for advanced Russian language students, with an emphasis on the development of advanced language skills.
359 Power in Russia from Gorbachev to Putin (PO)
This course is crosslisted as POSC 359. For course description, see “Political Science: Course Offerings.” This course counts toward the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement (Formerly RUSS 359.).
412 Senior Seminar
M. Erley, Staff
In this seminar students explore the theoretical, methodological, and linguistic challenges that underlie serious research in Russian and Eurasian studies. In addition to common readings and assignments, each student pursues an individual research topic, updating other seminar participants periodically via presentations and selected readings. By semester’s end each student has produced a substantial research paper that utilizes Russian primary sources appropriately. Students who wish to pursue a thesis topic in the spring will be required to obtain permission from the faculty supervisor and the department to enroll in an independent study in the spring semester following the senior seminar. Prerequisite: offered to senior REST majors and to REST minors or other qualified students with permission of instructor. (Formerly RUSS 412.)
291, 391, 491 Independent Studies
Outstanding students may, with the approval of the instructors, pursue investigations of topics relating to Russia or the Soviet Union. The use of primary sources in Russian is stressed. (Formerly RUSS 291, 391, 491.)