Courses

RUSS 101(F)Elementary Russian I

An introduction to contemporary standard Russian, this course provides opportunities to acquire basic proficiency in all five language skills--listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and culture--through immersion, intensive use of authentic materials, and a strong emphasis on the spoken word in all class activities. Greater emphasis is placed on writing in the second semester. For students who already know some Russian, consultation with the department is required before registering for any Russian language course in the sequence 101 through 252. In 2020-2021, RUSS 101 will be a hybrid course. Most of the instruction will be online in both big and small-group format, but there will be some in-person components as well. The final course format will be developed together with students, taking into account health and safety considerations, pedagogical needs, and learning preferences. [ more ]

RUSS 102(S)Elementary Russian II

An introduction to contemporary standard Russian, this course provides opportunities to acquire basic proficiency in all five language skills-listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and culture-through immersion, intensive use of authentic materials, and a strong emphasis on the spoken word in all class activities. Greater emphasis is placed on writing in the second semester. For students who already know some Russian, consultation with the department is required before registering for any Russian language course in the sequence 101 through 252. [ more ]

RUSS 140 TCrime and Punishment in Russian History

Last offered Spring 2020

For centuries, people have used crime in Russia and the Russian state's response to crime as lenses through which to examine Russian history and the Russian experience. This tutorial will follow in this tradition, but will adopt a more critical approach to question how or if crime and deviance can speak to the nature of the Russian state and its relationship to Russian society writ large. To answer this question, we will read a combination of original historical sources and recent scholarship that cover the entirety of Russian history: from the creation of the first legal code in Medieval Muscovy to the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago in 1962 and beyond. By semester's end, students will have developed an understanding of both the major historical actors and events in Russian criminal and legal history, and the intellectual debates that they sparked among contemporaries and present day scholars alike. [ more ]

RUSS 151(F)Continuing Russian I

This course develops all five skills--listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and culture--for students who have completed at least one year of college-level Russian. Coursework includes a systematic review of Russian grammar, as well as an examination of a variety of authentic materials from Russian and Soviet culture, current events, and daily life. Intermediate students will concentrate on expanding their vocabulary, while more advanced students will focus on reading and writing about unabridged texts in Russian. Students who complete the yearlong sequence of RUSS 151 and RUSS 152 should be well prepared to undertake study abroad in Russia and are encouraged to do so. Each year this course is custom-designed to meet the needs of those students who enroll, so that both intermediate and advanced students can benefit from taking RUSS 151 and/or RUSS 152 more than once, which may be done with the permission of the instructor. [ more ]

RUSS 152(S)Continuing Russian II

This course develops all five skills--listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and culture--for students who have completed at least one year of college-level Russian. Coursework includes a systematic review of Russian grammar, as well as an examination of a variety of authentic materials from Russian and Soviet culture, current events, and daily life. Intermediate students will concentrate on expanding their vocabulary, while more advanced students will focus on reading and writing about unabridged texts in Russian. Students who complete the yearlong sequence of RUSS 151 and RUSS 152 should be well prepared to undertake study abroad in Russia and are encouraged to do so. Each year this course is custom-designed to meet the needs of those students who enroll, so that both intermediate and advanced students can benefit from taking RUSS 151 and/or RUSS 152 more than once, which may be done with the permission of the instructor. [ more ]

RUSS 203Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature: Rebels and Rebellion

Last offered Fall 2019

"God save us from seeing a Russian revolt, senseless and merciless," famously proclaimed Alexander Pushkin. But is revolt always senseless? And if it's not, what is the meaning behind it? Throughout the nineteenth century, Russian literature gave different answers to these questions. In this course, students will familiarize themselves with the masterpieces of the Golden Age of Russian literature with a particular focus on rebellion understood in its broadest sense: philosophical, psychological, social, sexual, and aesthetic. We will examine the confrontation of the archetypal figure of Russian literature, the "superfluous man," with his milieu in Pushkin, Lermontov, Turgenev, and Goncharov. The social and psychological revolt of another key figure--the "little man"--will be addressed in the works of Pushkin and Gogol. We will then discuss woman's sexual rebellion in Nikolai Leskov and the forms of spiritual rebellion in Leo Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Finally, we will examine the aesthetic revolution of Chekhov's plays, which challenged the principles of the old theater and marked the turn to new modernist drama. All readings are in English. [ more ]

RUSS 204(S)To See the Past: Russian and Soviet Cinema on History

This course surveys Soviet and Russian cultural history of the 20th- and 21st-centuries through the history of the cinematic medium. We will watch and analyze key films of this period--films by Eisenstein, Vertov, Tarkovsky, Muratova, Balabanov, Zviagintsev, and Fedorchenko among others--from a double perspective. On the one hand, we will study the cultural and historical contexts of the Soviet Union and Russia; on the other hand, we will learn the formal and stylistic aspects of the cinematic medium as it developed historically (from silent, to sound, to color, to digital etc.). From this double perspective, we will try to answer a larger question that underlies this course: What kind of historical thinking we can learn through cinema as a medium? In other words, we will take cinema neither simply as a direct reflection of state ideology nor as pure aesthetic form or entertainment for the masses. Rather, we will approach the films of this period as audio-visual texts that are rich in historical content and require our informed and attentive interpretation. [ more ]

RUSS 210 TTolstoy: The Major Novels

Last offered Spring 2012

This tutorial will focus on Lev Tolstoy's four novelistic masterpieces--War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Resurrection, and Hadji Murat--placing them in their appropriate historical, social, and philosophical context. For each week of class, students will read a significant portion of a novel by Tolstoy, as well as a selection of secondary literature taken from those works that inspired the author, reactions that arose at the time of the novel's publication, and scholarship that seeks to explain the power and enduring significance of these novels. Students will meet with the professor in pairs, with one student writing a five-page paper for each class session and the other student providing a critique of the paper. For those students without Russian language skills, all works will be read in English translation. Those students who have completed at least three years of college-level Russian may take the course in Russian. [ more ]

RUSS 213Why do Pussies Riot and What is "Homosexual" Propaganda? Gender and Sexuality in Putin's Russia

Last offered Fall 2019

Since Vladimir Putin's rise to power, the media has highlighted events in Russia that at first glance resemble oddly sexualized jokes. At the same time that the Kremlin has reinstated authoritarian policy reminiscent of the Soviet Union, the Western press has chronicled Putin's topless vacations in Siberia, protests by the feminist collectives Pussy Riot and Femen, a 2011 ban on women's lacy underwear, federal legislation from 2013 prohibiting "homosexual" propaganda, and a 2017 court decision that outlawed a meme of Putin as a "gay clown." This course examines the Putin regime's ongoing attempts to police gender expression and private sexual behavior, as well as how Russian citizens' performance of gender and sexuality has changed in the past twenty years. We will consider gender and sexuality as distinctive features of Putinism, which have contributed to a biopolitical turn in official policy and inspired resistance and protest among Russian feminists and queers.All readings will be in English, and all films with have English subtitles. [ more ]

RUSS 218(S)Extreme Persuasions: The Far Right in the United States and Russia

The purpose of this course is to explore the unexpected recent confluence of the American and Russian far-right movements, among advocates for authoritarianism in both countries who have traditionally understood the 'other' superpower to be an implacable enemy. How have nationalist movements in the United States come to see the Russian Federation as a vanguard for 'whiteness' and traditional masculinity in European identity, overturning the perception of Russia as a racial Other that was prevalent among American conservatives during the Cold War? What are the affinities between the imperial and openly patriarchal aspirations of Putinism and the goals of American religious Reconstructionism, with its interpretation of the Confederacy as a God-given model for racial separatism and gender complementarianism? We will discuss repressive historical legacies and homophobia in both countries, devoting particular attention to debates about protest art and the removal of monuments, and to movements that situate themselves in opposition to neoliberal forms of ethno-nationalism. [ more ]

Taught by: Alexandar Mihailovic

Catalog details

RUSS 219 T(S)Cults of Personality

First uttered by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, the phrase "cult of personality" was formulated to discredit the hero-worship that accompanied Joseph Stalin's iron-fisted rule of the Soviet Union. Since then, the phrase has gained currency as a condemnation of a variety of seemingly all-powerful leaders in oppressive political regimes, including China's Mao Zedong, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, and the ruling Kim family in North Korea. In this course, we will examine the phenomenon of the cult of personality from a variety of perspectives, beginning with the cult surrounding Stalin and ending with that of Vladimir Putin. Our course material will encompass scholarship from multiple disciplines, including history, sociology, political science, cultural and media studies, as well as artistic expression typically labeled propaganda in literature, the visual arts, and film. Although our course will begin in the Soviet Union and end in contemporary Russia, we will explore how the cult of personality has been adapted and updated for different cultural and political purposes in fascist Germany and Spain, China, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba. All readings will be in English, and all films will have English subtitles. [ more ]

RUSS 232Phantasmagoria, Madness, and the Absurd in Russian Literature and Film

Last offered Spring 2020

In one of Nikolai Gogol's most famous stories, a man wakes up one day to find that his own nose has left his face and taken on a life of its own. This situation, which we might label bizarre or absurd, just as easily shows how reality often fails to meet our expectations and even suggests that the story's leading character might have gone mad. But what then is insanity? Likewise, one of Dostoevsky's socially marginal characters contemplates the fact that only sick people see ghosts, which, in his opinion, "only proves that ghosts cannot appear to anyone but sick people, not that they themselves do not exist." This course aims to analyze the rich tradition, typified by Gogol and Dostoevsky, of the absurd, the fantastic, and madness in Russian literature and film of the 19th-21st centuries. Addressing the aesthetic, historical, and political circumstances that nurtured this tradition in Russian literature and cinema, our course material will explore new dimensions of reality, point out the many paradoxes and absurdities of human existence, and question our perceptions, as well as the assumption that we are sane. Close analysis of literary and cinematic texts will lead us to a broader discussion of the relationship between reality and representation, as well as the notions of the absurd and madness. Authors/directors will include Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, Andrey Tarkovsky, and Kira Muratova, among others. All readings will be in English, and all films will have English subtitles. [ more ]

RUSS 240(S)The Soviet Experiment

In 1917, the former Russian Empire became the site of the world's first socialist revolutionary government and the twentieth century's largest multiethnic state. Over the next quarter century, the Soviet Union witnessed the rise of one of history's most violent dictatorships, an apocalyptic war that claimed upwards of 26 million lives, and communist expansion into Eastern Europe and the decolonizing world. It also became the site of vibrant and optimistic utopian cultural projects, flights into space, bitter and hilarious political satire, and a society that was, for the most part, economically equal. Then in 1991, everything fell apart. This course will survey the origins, life, and collapse of the Soviet Union, paying particular attention to the ideas that shaped its development, the mark its architects' and leaders' policies left both at home and abroad, and the impact it had on the people who lived and didn't live to tell the tale. [ more ]

RUSS 241(F)Imperial Russia: State and Society between Europe and Asia

Russia. The name alone evokes wonder, fear, romance, and history itself. Over the past ten centuries, the territory that we now call the Russian Federation has witnessed dramatic transformations that underwrote its transition from feudal backwater to global superpower. Its journey from tribalism to imperialism, feudalism to autocracy, agrarianism to industrialization, monarchism to parliamentarianism, Orthodox Christianity to revolutionary atheism, left a mark not just on the collective Russian conscious, but on a world that has grown accustomed to viewing Russia as a site for ideas, projects, and processes both exemplary and tragic. How did Russian state power borrow and depart from west European norms? How did foreign and domestic norms contribute to the creation of a "Russian" identity? How did Russian elites and ordinary people resist, collaborate with, or develop an apathy towards the Russian state, and to what success? This course will seek to answer these questions through a survey of Russian Imperial history from its founding in Kievan Rus' in the 10th century to the October Revolution of 1917. [ more ]

RUSS 248 T(F)Altering States: Post-Soviet Paradoxes of Identity and Difference

Critics and apologists of Soviet-style socialism alike agree that the Soviet ideology was deeply egalitarian. Putting aside for a moment the very reasonable doubts about how justified this perception actually was, it is still worth asking, how did people who lived in the world in which differences in rank, class, gender or ethnicity were not supposed to matter, make sense of their postsocialist condition, one in which new forms of difference emerged, and old ones assumed greater prominence? And how do these encounters with difference impact current events, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict or the persistent tensions between East and West Germans? This tutorial will examine new dilemmas through ethnographic studies and documentary films that aim to capture in real time the process of articulating and grappling with newly discovered divides. We will focus especially closely on Russia, but will also read studies on East Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, Latvia and Ukraine. This course fulfills the DPE requirement by exploring comparatively the ways in which people in different countries made sense of the social, cultural and political heterogeneity of the postsocialist condition. [ more ]

RUSS 251(F)Continuing Russian I

The same course as RUSS 151 but for students at the advanced level. See RUSS 151/152 for full course description. [ more ]

RUSS 252(S)Continuing Russian II

The same course as RUSS 152 but for students at the advanced level. See RUSS 151/152 for full course description. [ more ]

RUSS 275Russian and Soviet Cinema

Last offered Spring 2019

In this course, we will survey over a hundred years of Russian and Soviet film to explore how cinema has reflected and, at times, created the country's most important historical events and cultural myths. We will pay close attention to Russian filmmakers' varied reactions to Hollywood cinema, as well as to the lively body of cinema theory that these reactions generated. Our survey will begin in the pre-Revolutionary era and include representative films from the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalinism and World War II, the Thaw and Stagnation, Glasnost, and the Putin era. In addition to studying films by auteur filmmakers, such as Sergei Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Aleksandr Sokurov, we will watch movies made for the masses, which have helped to form Russians' understanding of their country and themselves. All readings will be in English and all films will be viewed with English subtitles [ more ]

RUSS 305(F)Dostoevsky: The Riddle of the Self and the Other

This course offers a comprehensive survey of Fyodor Dostoevsky's literary and intellectual legacy. We will read his major works including Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, Demons, The Brothers Karamazov and a selection of celebrated short works. Close textual analysis will be accompanied by a discussion of aesthetic, philosophical, and psychological aspects of Dostoevsky's oeuvre. The problem of the self-other relationship in the artistic, philosophical and religious contexts of Russia and Western Europe is one of the key themes that we will trace in this course. More broadly we will look into the problems of the modern individual and modernity in the times of Dostoevsky as well as in our times. All readings are in English translation. [ more ]

RUSS 306Tolstoy and the Meaning of Life

Last offered Spring 2020

This course examines the works of the great Russian writer Lev Tolstoy, whose stories and novels represent a life-long quest to uncover the meaning of life. Readings include Tolstoy's two major novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, as well as several shorter works, such as The Death of Ivan Ilych and Hadji Murad. We will also examine Tolstoy's aesthetic and didactic writing so that we understand precisely how Tolstoy answers life's most troubling questions, as well as what role artistic representation plays in these answers. All readings will be in English. [ more ]

RUSS 331 TThe Brothers Karamazov

Last offered Spring 2019

Widely hailed as one of the greatest novels ever written, Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov contains a series of enigmas, not the least of which is precisely who murdered the Karamazov father. In addition to exploring the shared guilt of all four of the brothers Karamazov in the crime of patricide, Dostoevsky poses the most probing questions of his day: Are families tied together merely by blood or by deeper spiritual bonds? Is religious faith possible in an age of reason, science, and technology? Can man's earthly laws ever carry out divine justice? Is humanity prepared to bear the burden of responsibility that comes with freedom? This tutorial will spend an entire semester exploring Dostoevsky's masterwork, and we will read a variety of secondary sources alongside The Brothers Karamazov, including history, philosophy, and literary theory. Our goal will be to understand Dostoevsky's answers to these so-called "accursed questions" through the unique artistic form of The Brothers Karamazov. [ more ]

RUSS 337After Stalin: Soviet History from "Thaw" to Collapse

Last offered Fall 2019

When Joseph Stalin died in 1953, the crowd of people that gathered to view his embalmed body on Moscow's Red Square grew so large, it provoked a stampede that killed nearly 500 people. This moment embodies the uncertainty and challenges that ordinary citizens and state officials faced when they imagined what a post-Stalin future might bring to the Soviet Union. For all the suffering that his rule infected on the Soviet people, Stalin remained for many a reliable constant in a life dominated by revolution and war. Stalin's successors faced a classic dilemma: how to reform and breathe new life into a system without disturbing the foundation it needs to stand intact? Despite superpower status and some stunning achievements at home and abroad, the fault lines in Soviet society ran deep. This course will consider the experiences that grew out of the uncertainty that emerged after Stalin's death. We will examine how the "Soviet experiment" evolved - politically, legally, socially, culturally - once the last of the original Bolshevik revolutionaries left the Kremlin. What opportunities did the post-Stalin moment open up for political elites, members of the professional class, the intelligentsia, and citizens from Soviet republics and satellite states? What obstacles did they face, and how successful were they at overcoming them? In what ways did the spirit of the October and Stalinist Revolutions persist or erode from 1953 until 1991? Most importantly, how did the "children of the revolution" participate in, check out of, or contest the socialist system whose birth their parents witnessed first hand? After all, more generations experienced the Soviet Union without Stalin as their leader than generations who only knew a life with the "Vozhd" in power. Through secondary and primary source readings, we will attempt to recover the voices of those whose lives both shaped and were shaped by the nearly four decades after Joseph Stalin's death. [ more ]

RUSS 341(F)Collapse: The Fall and Afterlife of the Soviet Union

On Christmas Day 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev ended two things: his tenure as President of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union itself. In the years that followed, the Soviet Union's fifteen national republics splintered overnight into more than a dozen nation states along uneven and highly contest ethnic lines. In Russia, Boris Yeltsin assumed office as the first president of the Russian Federation, and without delay, began to institute radical economic and social reforms. Under his watch, the country privatized national industry, cut the state budget, and courted foreign multinational businesses. The world most commonly used to describe Russia in the early 1990s is "disappear": money, jobs, food, and people. The very things that Soviet-style socialism had committed itself to providing for started to vanish as a result of invisible and market forces. Russian nationalism replaced Soviet internationalism as a guiding national idea. This course will explore what emerged in the spaces left empty after Soviet-style socialism's demise in three parts. The first part of the semester will examine the origins of the Soviet Union's collapse and its breakup into fifteen successor states. The second part of the semester will survey the political, economic, and social processes that followed the collapse. Finally, the third part of the course will focus on Putin's ascendancy to the presidency and its consequences for Russian citizens at home and Russia's image abroad. Three themes will occupy a prominent place in the course: political-economy, nationalism, and identity. By semester's end, students will have acquired the content and analytical literacy to place the former Soviet Union in its specific historical context and identify multiple sources of causation that may help explain Russia's transition from socialism to capitalism to Putinism during the past quarter century. [ more ]

RUSS 343Spectacles on His Nose and Autumn on his Heart: The Oeuvre of Isaac Babel

Last offered Fall 2013

Known alternately as "master of the short story" and "Russian Maupassant," Isaac Babel was not only one of the most celebrated and intriguing authors of early Soviet Russia, but also a cultural figure of profound national and international significance. For a number of reasons (political, aesthetic, professional, ethical) Babel was not prolific and this will allow us to read almost all of his creative output, something we rarely get to do in the course of a single semester. Babel's writing is extremely varied--it includes sketches, journalistic prose, short stories, plays, movie scripts, one unfinished novel--and richly intertextual. This will afford us the opportunity to read the work of some of his contemporaries and predecessors, from both Russia and abroad, with whom he fashioned brilliant literary conversations, among them Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, Sholem Aleichem, and Ivan Turgenev. All course readings will be in translation, but students are highly encouraged to read in the original (Russian, French, Yiddish) whenever possible. [ more ]

RUSS 401(F)Senior Seminar: A History of the Russian Internet

How did the Russophone Internet (RuNet) start and develop? What were its predecessors? What are the possible trajectories for its future development? How is the cultural history of post-Soviet Russia inscribed in the history of the RuNet? In this course we will trace the history of the Internet in the Russian-speaking world by reading, watching and analyzing materials on such topics as the rise of the Soviet cybernetics, the fate of Russian search engines and social media platforms, RuNet language and counterculture, Russian "troll-factories" and internet censorship, RuNet as a battleground for civil society, and the idea of a "sovereign Internet." The course will be conducted in Russian. [ more ]

RUSS 493(F)Senior Thesis: Russian

Russian senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). [ more ]

RUSS 494(S)Senior Thesis: Russian

Russian senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). [ more ]