Russia Falls, the Soviet Union Rises: Imperial Beauty, Turmoil, and Tragedy

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Winter 2017 quarter

Taught by


Students choosing the Russian language segment within the program must have at least one quarter of college-level Russian or the equivalent.

This program emphasizes the Russian Empire’s extraordinary political, historical, literary, artistic, and musical developments of the 19th and early 20th centuries. We will explore literary masterpieces by Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Chekhov; examine paintings by Repin, Nesterov, and Vereshchagin; and listen to the compositions of Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Tchaikovsky. We will also examine the rise of the Russian Empire’s radical intelligentsia who rebelled against autocratic tsarist policies and the institution of serfdom and whose activities led to the world-changing revolutions of the early 20th century.

Readings from social and revolutionary activists, such as Marx and Lenin, will allow us to better understand how these thinkers managed to transform the economically and socially “backward” Russian Empire into the planet’s most experimental and, at times, most feared political power. Our diverse readings from Russian and Soviet imperial literature and history will help us appreciate the cultural, social, and political nuances of this expansive, beguiling, and enigmatic land.

Along with faculty lectures to guide our study, we will read and discuss in seminar a diverse selection of historical and literary texts; view and discuss relevant documentaries and films; and write two major essays based on seminar readings. A special all-program workshop in the art of pysanky  (wax-resist egg decorating) will offer a hands-on Slavic folk art experience. 

Students may choose between Russian language study and a special history workshop segment to earn the full 16 credits. The history workshop familiarizes students with Russia’s status as a multiethnic and multi-confessional empire. Students and faculty explore the myriad of nationalities within the expanding 19th-century Russian Empire from the perspective of the Imperial government and from the viewpoint of the non-Russian peoples resident in the empire. We will consider the impact of growing Russian nationalistic discourse in the late 19th century and assess its role in the disintegration of the empire. 

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.          


Winter Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First class meeting: Tuesday, January 10th at 9am (Sem II D3105)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$10 for supplies for a special folk craft workshop.


2016-11-17Description updated.