Russia and the Forging of Empires: Vikings, Mongols, and Slavs

Fall 2018 quarter

Taught by

Russian language and literature
  • TBD

This program offers an interdisciplinary approach to Russian and Eurasian history, literature, culture, geography, and film. Our journey will take us across the territories that once comprised the Russian and Soviet empires—territories that today make up more than 15 independent states. In lectures, seminars, and film analyses and discussions, we will travel from the fjords of Norway to the cities of Constantinople and Baghdad; from the grasslands of Mongolia to the Moscow cathedrals; from the Arctic Ocean to the marketplaces of Central Asia; from the peaks of the Caucasus Mountains to the deserts of Uzbekistan.

Our focus is the rise and fall of empires in this region, beginning with the Mongol and Russian empires. We will investigate the development of the Russians through history, starting with Viking invasions of Slavic territories in the 800s and progressing to the thriving imperial era in the 1800s. This latter period witnessed not only Napoleon's invasion, but the initial emergence of the great culture for which Russia is well known: the literature of Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, and Turgenev; the beginnings of the Russian national school of art; the start of Russian nationalist music; and the first collections of Russian folklore. The diverse ethnicities that had cultural, political, social, economic, and religious contact with the Russians—the Vikings, Mongols, Greeks, Tatars and Turkic peoples, among others—will all play key roles in our examinations.

Students will read and discuss a diverse selection of historical and literary texts in seminars, view and discuss documentaries and films, and write three major essays. We will also undertake a field trip to the Maryhill Museum to view their icon collection and other Russian- and east European-related items and to a Greek Orthodox women’s monastery in Goldendale, Wash., for a tour of the grounds and the icon studio, all geared to expanding our understanding of the spiritual roots of the evolving early Russian culture.

Students are strongly urged to take the Beginning Russian Language segment within the full-time program. A 12-credit option is available to students who do not wish to participate in the daytime Russian language segment within the program; a 4-credit option is available to students wanting only the Russian language segment.

Program Details

Fields of Study

cultural studies geography history language studies literature

Preparatory For

education, diplomatic and security services, film, music, art, international business, and graduate studies in international affairs and in Russian and Slavic literary, historical, political and social studies.


Fall Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$40 for an overnight field trip.