Introduction to the contemporary Russian language, presenting the fundamentals of Russian grammar and syntax. The course helps the student make balanced progress in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and cultural competence. Five meetings per week.
Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Continuation of RUSS 101.
Requisite: RUSS 101 or equivalent. Limited to 12 students per section. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
This introduction to Russian culture and history examines Russia’s vast and varied contributions to world culture, from literature and the arts to intellectual and political history. Setting aside cultural commonplaces about Russia—from borscht to nesting dolls and vodka—and various clichés of Russia as some enigmatic, reason-defying civilization, this course considers Russia’s ongoing development as it responds to the world and fashions its own forms of art, culture, and thought. The course will survey Russian culture and history from the early eighteenth century to the present, a broad span of time in which we see periods of upheaval and change to which its writers, artists, and intellectuals gave artistic and intellectual expression. We will be guided throughout the course by such questions as: How has Russia imagined its place in the world and in world culture? How has it responded to developments from abroad in fashioning its own culture? What is distinctive about Russia’s literary, visual, and performing styles? What can Russian cultural history tell us about the ways people experience, negotiate, and navigate multiple identities in a single polity stretching from Germany to Alaska? About class and gender politics?
This course will draw upon the rich holdings of the Amherst Center for Russian Culture and the Mead Art Museum, which, together, form a premier teaching and research collection of Russia’s culture history in the West. Each module of the course will, for example, focus upon an archival, verbal, or visual artifact held in these collections, using it as a springboard to consider broader themes of Russian culture and history.
Spring Semester. Professor Ciepiela.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Who is to blame? What is to be done? How can we love, and how should we die? In an age when such larger-than-life questions animated urgent debates about self and society, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov and other writers whose famous shorter works we’ll read in this course reinvented the idea of literature itself. Political terrorism and non-violent resistance, women’s rights and imperial expansion, quests for social justice and personal happiness: as nineteenth-century Russian authors explored the cultural anxieties provoked by these challenges of modernity, their ambition was not to mirror experience but to transform it by interpreting its deepest secrets. This is an introduction to the daring, contradictory visions of life and art that forever changed how we do things with words. No familiarity with Russian history or culture expected. All readings in English.
Spring Semester. Professor Wolfson.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
This course stresses vocabulary building and continued development of speaking and listening skills. Active command of Russian grammar is steadily increased. Readings from authentic materials in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Brief composition assignments. Five meetings per week, including a conversation hour and a drill session.
Requisite: RUSS 102 or the equivalent. This will ordinarily be the appropriate course placement for students with two to three years of high school Russian. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor TBD.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Continuation of RUSS 201.
Requisite: RUSS 201 or equivalent. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Parker.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as RUSS 225 and ENGL 315) This course looks at the fiction and career of Vladimir Nabokov, a trilingual fiction writer of genius and a sophisticated self-promoter. As a liberal aristocrat living in exile in Berlin and Paris during the 1920s and 1930s, the young Nabokov was hailed as the hope of an entire generation of émigrés – artists and writers forced out of their homeland following the Russian Revolution. We first examine this European career in its publishing and media contexts, including his writing for translation into German, French, and English and for adaptation into screenplays for silent and early sound cinema. We then track to his move to America and discover how a transnational career is crafted. Modernist fiction of this period was shadowed and overshadowed by a burgeoning film industry: we will watch a number of great movies from the silent and early sound era, including some of the masterpieces of Weimar cinema by the directors who would go on to create film noir in Hollywood. We will focus on a range of Nabokov’s darkly comic novels: The Luzhin Defense, Laughter in the Dark, Invitation to a Beheading, Lolita, Pnin, and Pale Fire. During the course we will learn through Nabokov’s fiction to appreciate the subtleties of irony, voice, and parody; to think more deeply about the relation between history and culture (how do events engender works of art?); and to study the interaction between literature and visual culture. All readings in English.
Fall semester. Professor Parker.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novels remain relevant to readers across the globe for their daring critique of modernity. A journalist himself, he took his material from the newspapers – stories of crime, corruption, poverty, addiction, terrorism, politics – and mined it for existential meaning. He also drew on his own difficult experience as a political prisoner who spent a decade in Siberia, an eternal debtor, and an incurable epileptic. In this course we will study Dostoevsky’s fiction and journalistic writings, alongside reactions to his work from international thinkers (Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche), writers (D.H. Lawrence, Richard Wright, David Foster Wallace) and filmmakers (Alexander Sokurov, Robert Bresson). We will begin with several early works (“Notes from Underground,” “The Double,” House of the Dead) whose concerns persist and develop in the novels that are the focus of the course: Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. All readings and discussions in English.
Fall semester. Professor Ciepiela.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 235 [EU/TC/TE/TR/TS], EUST 245 and RUS 235) Joseph Stalin, the infamous Soviet dictator, created a particular type of society in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Stalinism became a phenomenon that influenced the development of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, and North Korea. The course will begin with the exploration of Stalin’s own life and then focus on what historical forces enabled the emergence of Stalinism. It will cover the period on the eve of and during the Russian Revolution, Stalinist transformation of the USSR in the 1930s, WWII, and the onset of the Cold War. Among issues to be explored are the extent of popular support for Stalinist-type regimes, the mechanisms of large-scale political terror, the longevity of Stalinist regimes, and historical memory about Stalinism. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Professor Glebov.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 236 [EU/AS/TE], EUST 238, and RUSS 237) The Cold War indelibly shaped the second half of the twentieth century. Spies seemed ubiquitous; nuclear annihilation imminent. Films such as Red October and the James Bond series forged a Western image of the Soviet Union. But how were these decades experienced behind the Iron Curtain? This course explores Soviet history between the end of World War II and the collapse of the USSR. We will study the roots of the Cold War; the politics of de-Stalinization in the USSR; the unfolding of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe; and Soviet relations with the West, China, and the developing world. We will also explore the internal dynamics of Soviet society: the rise of the Soviet middle class, consumerism, tourism, the entertainment industry, demographic trends, education, and public health. Two class meetings per week.
Not offered in 2023-24. Professor Glebov.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as ARCH 238, ARHA 238, RUSS 238) This course investigates the complex relationship between Russia, its imperial subjects—in the Baltics, Caucasus, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Siberia—and global cultures of architecture and city-building. Case studies from across this vast territory (one-sixth of the Earth’s landmass) demonstrate that, far from being isolated on a “periphery” or behind an “Iron Curtain,” the region’s architects and planners actively participated in complex international design debates. How could buildings incorporate new technology and still reflect local cultures? What role should the state play in improving quality of life for the urban masses? Could redesigned spaces influence things like crime and public health? Beginning with Tsar Peter I’s construction of Saint Petersburg, proceeding through the rapid transformations of the Russian and Soviet empires, and concluding with the post-socialist “transition” of the 2000s, we will explore architecture and urban planning as tools of empire, modernization, and identity. Through lectures, research, writing, and discussion designed around visual and historical analysis, we will follow the region’s architects and policymakers as they interacted with, critiqued, selectively adopted, and influenced international architecture and city planning practices.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester: Visiting Lecturer Wheeler.2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 240 [EU/TE], EUST 240, and RUSS 240)
This course explores the tumultuous and unprecedented transition from the late Soviet Communism to contemporary Russian Federation. We will discuss the state of the Soviet Union on the eve of dissolution and politics of nationalism; emergence of the post-Soviet states and divergence in their historical development; transition to capitalism and privatization; challenges of federalism and regionalism in post-Soviet Russia; relations between the Russian Federation and “Near Abroad,” NATO and China, and the social and cultural developments from the late Soviet period to the early twenty-first century. The class will also explore the historical evolution of the phenomenon of Putinism as rooted in long-term transformation of the former Soviet space. Two class meetings per week.
Not offered in 2023-24. Professor Glebov.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as RUSS 245, EUST 245 and FAMS 245). Are our screens really windows through which we glimpse other worlds? Or just mirrors reflecting our own preconceptions? Are they doors through which we enter new experiences? Or cheap frames for prepackaged content? The power of visual media to emancipate its users – or trap them – was first recognized in the cinema, from the earliest silents to the flourishing of classical sound film. Film has always been the great art of exile, produced by immigrants and cosmopolitans facilitating the circulation of images, identities and ideologies. Yet it was also the battleground of competing visions of modernity, from Hollywood’s exported Americanism to Soviet political and artistic utopias, to Nazi promises of national renewal. In this course we focus on the interactions between Soviet, German, and American cinemas in the first half of the twentieth century as a way of understanding visual media’s power to shape identity and circulate ideology. We will look not only at questions of propaganda and censorship, but also at mediation, circulation, and exchange, as well as the crucial skills of (self-)translation and adaptation. Key figures include Grigory Alexandrov, Boris Barnet, Bertolt Brecht, Louise Brooks, Marlene Dietrich, Sergei Eisenstein, Greta Garbo, Piel Jutzi, Lev Kuleshov, Fedor Otsep, G.W. Pabst, Anna Sten, and Josef von Sternberg. No previous background or language knowledge required – all films with English subtitles.
Professor Parker2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
This course advances skills in reading, understanding, writing, and speaking Russian, with materials from twentieth-century culture. Readings include fiction by Chekhov, Babel, Olesha, Nabokov, and others. Conducted in Russian, with frequent writing and grammar assignments, in-class presentations, and occasional translation exercises. Two seminar-style meetings and one hour-long discussion section per week.
Requisite: RUSS 202 or consent of the instructor. First-year students with strong high school preparation (usually 4 or more years) may be ready for this course. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor Ciepiela and Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
We will be reading, in the original Russian, works of fiction, poetry and criticism by nineteenth-century authors such as Pushkin, Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Turgenev and Chekhov. Conducted in Russian, with frequent writing and translation assignments.
Requisite: RUSS 301 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Spring semester. Professor Wolfson.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as EUST 303, ENGL 320 and RUSS 310) Acts of translation underwrite many kinds of cultural production, often invisibly. Writers of the Harlem Renaissance, for instance, engaged with black internationalism through bilingualism and translation, as Brent Edwards has reminded us. In this course we will study literary translation as a creative practice involved in the making of subjects and cultures. We will read key statements about translation by theorists and translators, such as Walter Benjamin, Roman Jakobson, Lawrence Venuti, Peter Cole and Gayatri Spivak. We also will directly engage in translation work: each student will regularly present translations in a workshop format to produce a portfolio as a final project. The class will be “polyglot,” meaning that students are welcome to translate from any language of which they have knowledge; when they share translations, they will be asked also to provide interlinear, or “literal,” translations for those who may not understand the language they are working in.
Requisite: Two years of college-level study of the chosen language. Limited to 15 students. Professors Bosman and Ciepiela.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
A half course designed for intermediate-level students who wish to develop their fluency, pronunciation, oral comprehension, and writing skills. We will study and discuss Russian films of various genres. Two hours per week.
Requisite: RUSS 301 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2021-22. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
At the turn of the twentieth century, Russia staged a revolution in the arts. In an atmosphere of social crisis, artists worked to shatter the wall between art and life – so that art might become more vital and relevant, and life might become more beautiful. How differently might nature, the city and man himself look? Can we access other dimensions? How can we more fully experience the world? This course introduces you to experiments in Russian writing, painting, theater and music that helped influence how we think of art today, such as Malevich’s Suprematism, the Ballets Russes and Soviet constructivism.
These artists’ faith in creative freedom meant that they followed their own paths, and the amazing variety of their work is part of the story we will follow. We will experience that variety first-hand by working with objects from the Whitney Russian Collections. Thomas Whitney ‘37 gave to Amherst his collection of Russian books, housed in the Amherst Center for Russian Culture (Webster Building); we will work with fine art journals from the period and very rare, handmade books by the Russian futurists. Whitney’s Russian art collection, held at the Mead Museum, features major artists of many schools. Work in the course will involve researching an object from the collections and making a presentation on it, either in the mode of scholarship or performance. The course requires no prior knowledge of Russian culture or the arts.
Spring Semester, Professor Ciepiela2022-23: Not offered
A course that examines the stories and novels of rebels, deviants, dissidents, loners, and losers in some of the weirdest fictions in Russian literature. The writers, most of whom imagine themselves to be every bit as bizarre as their heroes, include from the nineteenth century: Gogol (“Viy,” “Diary of a Madman,” “Ivan Shponka and His Aunt,” “The Nose,” “The Overcoat”); Dostoevsky (“The Double,” “A Gentle Creature,” “Bobok,” “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”); Tolstoy (“The Kreutzer Sonata,” “Father Sergius”), and from the twentieth century: Olesha (Envy); Platonov (The Foundation Pit); Kharms’ (Stories); Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita); Nabokov (The Eye, Despair); Erofeev (Moscow Circles); Pelevin (“The Yellow Arrow”). Our goal will be less to construct a canon of strangeness than to consider closely how estranged women, men, animals, and objects become the center of narrative attention and, in doing so, reflect the writer Tatyana Tolstaya’s claim that “Russia is broader and more diverse, stranger and more contradictory than any idea of it. It resists all theories about what makes it tick, confounds all the paths to its possible transformation.” All readings in English translation.
Not open to first-year students. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Emeritus Rabinowitz2022-23: Not offered
(Offered as RUSS 321, ARHA 321 and ARCH 320) Taking case studies from Russian, Soviet, and Post-Soviet history, this course examines monuments and memorials in literature, cinema and the arts. Focusing on specific episodes and case studies, we will consider the form and cultural politics of monuments and memorials, and especially how these objects become arenas in which conceptions of art, history, and politics are contested. We will be interested as much in monuments that were built as those that were destroyed—or dismembered, defaced, dismantled, or relocated—and those that were envisioned but never realized. Case studies will include monuments to Peter the Great, the Soviet avant-garde’s attack on traditional monuments, the monumental assemblage of the Soviet Pavilion at the Paris 1937 Universal Exposition, to Leninopad (the demolishing of monuments to Lenin in Ukraine). We will also consider how these case studies may help us to better understand the dynamics at play in debates around monuments from other periods and cultures—as well as the creative responses that artists have imagined as they grappled with the question of what to do with monuments. No knowledge of the history and culture of Russia and the Soviet Union is required.
Spring semester. Professor Kunichika.2022-23: Not offered
The contemporary Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk claimed in 1999 that “the book of the millennium is Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I know of no other book which dramatizes with such beautiful intensity, and on almost encyclopedic scale, the problems of living in this world, of being with other people, and dreaming of a next world.” Through a careful reading of Dostoevsky’s final work of fiction (1880) and universally regarded supreme artistic masterpiece, we shall investigate the applicability of Pamuk’s claim, availing ourselves of additional works that shed light on the novel’s socio-political, psychological, religious/spiritual, philosophical and aesthetic dimensions. Other texts to be considered include: 1) Dostoevsky’s early travelogue “Winter Notes on Summer Impressions” (1862); 2) excerpts from Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s utopian novel What is to be Done? (1863); 3) a medieval saint’s life, “The Life of St. Theodosius”; and 4) two critical studies by American Dostoevsky specialists James Rice (Dostoevsky and the Healing Art, 1985) and Liza Knapp (The Annihilation of Inertia: Dostoevsky and Metaphysics, 1996). Our semester-long examination of The Brothers Karamazov will conclude with a discussion of Jose Ortega y Gasset’s “Why Dostoevsky Lives in the Twentieth Century,” from his 1925 essay “Dostoevsky and Proust,” and Leonid Tsypkin’s short novel Summer in Baden Baden (1980), which will help us to articulate further the attractions, the challenges and the ambiguities we encounter when reading a writer as profound, and as controversial, as Dostoevsky.
Limited to 20 students; open to first-year students with instructor's permission. Omitted 2021-22. Professor emeritus Rabinowitz.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
The topic changes every year. Taught entirely in Russian. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as HIST 428 [AS/EU/US/TE/TR/TR] EUST 428 and RUSS 328.) Following Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, putting an end to the Communist experiment in Eurasia and to the Cold War. This momentous and defining event was the outcome of different historical processes, the fall of the Communist Party rule, the collapse of the command economy, and the disintegration of the Soviet multiethnic state under the pressures of nationalism. In this research seminar, students will explore social, political, and cultural forces that shaped the end of the Soviet Union and study the impact of the Soviet collapse on the post-Soviet developments. Using a range of primary and secondary sources, students will develop and execute independent research projects focusing on the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the legacies of this historical moment in Eurasia and the world. Student research will result in a 25 page research paper. One meeting per week.
Limites to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Glebov.2022-23: Not offered
Independent Reading Course.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
Open to, and required of, seniors writing a thesis.
Fall semester. The Department.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022