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Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

Russia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe significantly influence the politics, economy and culture of our global society. Since the end of the Cold War and the fall of Communism, the study of Russia, along with Ukraine, Eastern and Central Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia and the Caucasus, has taken on increased importance. Occupying more than one quarter of the world’s land surface and home to diverse cultures, this region is continuing to undergo major social, economic and political transformation.

The Program in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at Smith College coordinates curricular offerings, supports students’ international studies and organizes campus events that let students explore the complex history and contemporary developments of this exciting and ever-changing part of our world.

Department Update

Study Russian Over the Summer

Information about summer Russian language programs can be found here.  If you would like to learn more about the programs, please contact Ilona Sotnikova, Smith College Lecturer in Russian, isotnikova@smith.edu. She will happily help you decide which program suits your needs best.

Russian Table  

Russian language table meets every Friday at lunch in Duckett (dining room C). When remote, the table meets by Zoom at this link.  Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing you there!  
—Ilona Sotnikova (isotnikova@smith.edu)

Requirements & Courses

Goals for Majors in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

Students in REEES are expected to learn to think critically about the histories, cultures, religions, politics and economies of the region of the former Soviet Union, as well the often competing ideas and interests that have shaped these histories and cultures for the past thousand years.

Language competency:

  • Students are expected to be able to function independently in a Russian or East European-speaking milieu. While currently only Russian is offered at Smith, students who wish to focus their studies on Eastern Europe may do so through pursuing language training through the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages, summer study, etc. Linguistic competency is evaluated on the basis of nationally accepted testing practices.

Cultural and cross-cultural competency:

  • Graduating students majoring in REEES are able to choose one of two tracks of study: language and literature or broader area studies. In either case, students are expected to develop a working knowledge of the history of Russia or Eastern Europe and the ways in which literature, the visual or performing arts, religion and other modes of human expression have reflected and shaped that history.
  • Students are expected to be aware of the intellectual, social and political questions that have influenced Russian, East European or other post-Soviet societies, and be able to contextualize these questions both regionally and cross-culturally.
  • Students also develop familiarity with non-Russian cultures and traditions of Eurasia and their global influence.
  • Students are expected to become critical thinkers and participants in ongoing conversations about the ways in which Russia and other post-Soviet societies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia contribute to and challenge broader conversations regarding nationalism, transnationalism and imperialism, relations between state and religion, globalization and human rights, majority and minority relations, race, gender, sexuality, etc.

Research competency:

  • Students are expected to develop the research skills necessary to explore key issues in cultures, religions, histories and politics of post-Soviet societies using a variety of primary and secondary sources.

Global citizenship competency:

Students are expected to use their linguistic, cultural and research skills to become informed and engaged citizens of the world

Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Major

The major in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies allows students to focus on any aspect of the region’s histories, literatures, cultures, religions or politics, and to develop their own focus within the major in consultation with their advisor. In developing their focus, students are encouraged to pursue an interdisciplinary approach, combining coursework in language, government, history, literature and religion. Students may choose from courses offered both at Smith and through the Five College Consortium; students are also encouraged to study abroad during a summer, semester, or year-long program.

 

The RES program is committed to accommodating students who coordinate their studies in RES with a second major.

Area Studies Track

Students who choose the Area Studies Track will gain a working understanding of the history and culture of Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and the geopolitical significance of this region in today’s global world. Students will acquire proficiency in Russian or another language relevant to the region. By pursuing coursework in a broad array of disciplines, students will gain an appreciation for the different methodological approaches scholars use in their study of this highly diverse and dynamic region of the world.

Requirements

Eleven courses

  1. Language requirement, equivalent to four semesters, usually fulfilled with the Russian sequence below, but students are welcome to pursue the study of another language that is relevant to the region (16 credits)
    1. RES 100Y (year-long course)
    2. RES 221 and RES 222
  2. Six focus courses that span a broad range of disciplines including anthropology and sociology, art and film, government, political science and international relations, history, literature and religion, at least one of which is a course taught in Russian or another relevant language, equivalent to RES 331
     (24 credits).
  3. One 300-level seminar, a research-based special studies or a senior honors thesis (a year-long project that counts as two courses).
Language and Literature Track

The Language and Literature Track provides the opportunity for students to focus closely on the language, literature and cinema of Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Students are expected to achieve advanced proficiency in Russian or another relevant language and to engage closely with works of literature and film in the original language of study. While focusing on the language, literature and cinema of one or more cultures in the region, students in this track are also encouraged to explore correlated disciplines represented in the RES curriculum.

Requirements

Eleven courses

  1. Language requirement, equivalent to six semesters, usually fulfilled with the Russian sequence below, but students are welcome to pursue the study of another language that is relevant to the region (24 credits):
    1. RES 100Y (year-long course)
    2. RES 221 and RES 222 
    3. RES 331 and RES 332
  2. Four courses in literature or film
    • Up to one course may be at the 100-level.
    • One course in 19th-century literature.
    • Up to one course may be from the list of courses crosslisted in RES.
    • One 300-level seminar, a research-based special studies, or a senior honors thesis (a year-long project that counts as two courses).
Additional Guidelines
  • No course counting toward the major may be taken as an S/U grade.
  • Students who place out of the language requirement in Russian or another language should consult with the major advisor or program director on how best to fulfill the language requirement.
  • Students are highly encouraged to continue the study of Russian (or another language of the region), especially in a study abroad program, in order to achieve an advanced level of fluency.
  • Courses taken while studying abroad or at an accredited institution during the summer may be counted toward major requirements.
  • Students should consult with their advisors and the Smith registrar’s office prior to taking courses outside of Smith College.
  • Upon completion of transfer or study abroad courses, students must petition the RES Advisory Committee to count these courses toward major requirements. Students are advised to submit the syllabus and any relevant completed work for the course with their petitions.
  • Some of the most prominent scholars in the field of RES teach in the Five College Consortium (Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst), and students are encouraged to take advantage of the rich RES offerings available on the other campuses. Please consult the Five College RES webpage for a given semester to see a current list of approved courses.

Honors

Students are encouraged to pursue a fall-semester or yearlong Honors project in order to engage in in-depth research on a project of their own choice. In order to be considered for the Honors Program, students must have a 3.4 cumulative GPA through the junior year, have discussed their thesis with a RES adviser of their choice and have their project approved by the RES Advisory Committee.

Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Minor

Requirements

Six courses (24 credits)

  1. Language requirement, equivalent to two semesters, usually RES 100Y, but students are welcome to pursue the study of another language that is relevant to the region (8 credits)
  2. Breadth requirement: One course in three of the following fields. No more than one of these courses may be taken at the 100 level. At least two courses should be taken at Smith:
    1. government, politics or another field in the social sciences
    2. history
    3. literature, art, film and media studies or music
    4. religion
  3. Depth requirement: One advanced course involving a significant research project, which may be fulfilled by:
    1. One 300-level seminar
    2. One research-based special studies
    3. One 200-level RES course in which the student pursues an advanced research project relevant to the field of Russian, East European and Eurasian studies in consultation with the faculty member teaching the course and with approval by the program

Courses counting toward the minor may not be taken S/U.

Courses

RES 100Y Elementary Russian (5 Credits)

The four-skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) introduction to the Russian language with the focus on communicative skills development. Major structural topics include pronunciation and intonation, all six cases, all tenses and verbal aspect. By the end of the course, students are able to sustain conversation on basic topics, write short compositions, read short authentic texts, as well as develop an understanding of Russian culture through watching, discussing and writing on movies, short stories, folk tales and poems. This is a full-year course. Yearlong courses cannot be divided at midyear with credit for the first semester.

Fall, Spring, Annually

RES 126 Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature: Madmen, Conmen and Government Clerks (4 Credits)

Populated with many unique and eccentric characters--from revolutionary socialists to runaway human noses--nineteenth-century Russian literature displays a startling experimentation and innovation that advanced Russia to the vanguard of Western literature. Encompassing poetry, fiction and journalism, this survey explores how authors such as Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov positioned literature at the center of public discourse, as a venue for addressing important philosophical, political, religious and social issues, including gender and class relations; personal and national identity; and the role of the writer in public life. Conducted in English. No previous knowledge of Russian is required. {L}

Fall, Spring, Annually

RES 127 Manuscripts Don't Burn: Literature and Dissent Under Stalin (4 Credits)

Explores how Russian literary culture responded to the tumult and upheaval of the twentieth century, an epoch encompassing the Bolshevik Revolution, two World Wars, the ascent of Stalin, and the decline and collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as unprecedented aesthetic innovations. While spanning key artistic movements of the period (including the avant-garde and other modernist tendencies, Socialist Realism, conceptualism, and postmodernism), the survey focuses on Stalinism and its aftermath, considering how Soviet writers developed strategies of dissent and protest in literature. Conducted in English, no previous knowledge of Russian required.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

RES 140/ REL 140 Putin's Russia: After Communism, After Atheism (4 Credits)

Same as REL 140. Often portrayed as hostile to the West, Vladimir Putin and the Russia he rules remain little known. Going beyond the headlines, this course examines contemporary Russia, and historical events and figures that have shaped Putin-era Russia. We will trace the culture wars that have ensued in this post-communist and post-atheist state, across historical documents, art, film, literature, and journalism. Topics include state power and political opposition; the resurgence of religion, and tensions between religion and the secular in the public sphere; debates over the Soviet past, including revolution, war and political terror; human rights and "traditional values. {H}{L}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

RES 221 Intermediate Russian I (4 Credits)

The first half of a two-semester sequence. Students practice all four language modalities: reading, listening, writing and speaking. The course incorporates a variety of activities that are based on a range of topics, text types and different socio-cultural situations. Authentic texts (poems, short stories, TV programs, films, songs and articles) are used to create the context for reviewing and expanding on grammar, syntax and vocabulary. Prerequisite: RES 100Y or equivalent. {F}

Fall

RES 222 Intermediate Russian II (4 Credits)

The second half of a two-semester sequence. Students continue to practice all four language modalities: reading, listening, writing and speaking. The course incorporates a variety of activities that are based on a range of topics, text types and different socio-cultural situations. Authentic texts (poems, short stories, TV programs, films, songs and articles) are used to create the context for reviewing and expanding on grammar, syntax and vocabulary. Prerequisite: RES 221 or equivalent. {F}

Spring

RES 242/ REL 242 The Politics and Culture of Russian Sacred Art (4 Credits)

Offered as REL 242 and RES 242. As devotional objects, political symbols, and art commodities, Russia’s sacred art--the icon--has been revered as sacred, vilified as reactionary, embraced in rebellion, destroyed as dangerous, and sold as masterpieces. Engaging the fields of religion, material and visual culture, and ritual studies, this course examines the life and language of this art form, and its role in shaping Russia’s turbulent history. Topics include the production and reception of images; diverse meanings and functions of sacred imagery; visuality and spirituality; secularization and commodification; history, memory, and collective identities; the icon, avant-garde art, and film; controversial images and protest culture. No prerequisites. Open to first-year students. {A}{H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

RES 264/ WLT 264 Dostoevsky (4 Credits)

Offered as RES 264 and WLT 264. Focuses on close reading of the major novels, short fiction, and journalism of Dostoevsky, one of the greatest writers in modern literature. Combining penetrating psychological insight with the excitement of crime fiction, Dostoevsky’s works explore profound political, philosophical, and religious issues, in a Russia populated by students and civil servants, saints and revolutionaries, writers and madmen. In our close reading of his fiction and nonfiction, we’ll trace the development of Dostoevsky’s style and ideas, considering how these texts engage with issues specific to nineteenth-century Russia, as well as the broader traditions of European literature and intellectual history. In translation. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

RES 273/ WLT 273 Cosmic Cold War: Russian and Western Science Fiction in Political Context (4 Credits)

Offered as RES 273 and WLT 273. How did the "final frontier" of space become a "front" in the Cold War? As the US and USSR competed in the Space Race, science fiction reflected political discourses in literature, film, visual art and popular culture. This course explores Russian and Western science fiction in the contexts of twentieth-century geopolitics and artistic modernism (and postmodernism), examining works by Bogdanov, Kubrick, Tarkovsky, Butler, Haraway, Pelevin and others. The survey considers science fiction’s utopian content and political function, as well as critical and dystopian modes of the genre. No prerequisites or knowledge of Russian required; first-year students are welcome to enroll. Enrollment limited to 40. {A}{H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

RES 275 Avant-Garde as Lifestyle: Cinema and Socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (4 Credits)

Explores the avant-garde film traditions of Eastern and Central Europe, including works from the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The course focuses on how avant-garde filmmakers engaged with the socialist project in the USSR and Eastern Bloc, and its call for new forms, sites and life practices. The course investigates how avant-garde cinema represents everyday life amidst the public and private spaces of socialism. In approaching the relationship between cinema and space, students consider examples of architecture (Constructivist, Functionalist, Brutalist), as well as theoretical writings by and about the avant-garde. Conducted in English, no prerequisites. {A}{H}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

RES 300lt Seminar: Advanced Topics in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies- Lev Tolstoy and the Narrative Shape of History (4 Credits)

The fiction of Tolstoy is unrivaled in its psychological insight, lyrical beauty and epic scope, prompting Russian author Isaac Babel to claim that when he read Tolstoy, he felt as if the world was writing itself. This course examines works spanning Tolstoy’s literary career, from his early writings to his late stories and essays, including War and Peace, his monumental account of the Napoleonic Wars. Analysis of Tolstoy’s fiction focuses on the relationship between history and literary form, and the way Tolstoy’s narrative technique, illuminated by Russian Formalist literary theory, enriched his representation of human agency and subjectivity. Priority given to RES majors. Enrollment limited to 15. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {A}{H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

RES 331 Advanced Russian (4 Credits)

This course aims at expansion of students' vocabulary and improvement of reading, writing and speaking skills. The course is intended for students who have completed at least four semesters of Russian or the equivalent. Heritage learners of Russian (those who speak the language) will also benefit from the course. With a strong emphasis on integrating vocabulary in context, this course aims to help students advance their lexicon and grammar, increase fluency and overcome speaking inhibitions. We will read and discuss a variety of texts in the original Russian including articles, short stories and poems. Prerequisite: RES 222 or equivalent. Instructor permission required. {F}

Fall

RES 332 Advanced Russian (4 Credits)

A continuation of RES 331. Prerequisite: RES 331 or equivalent. {F}

Spring

RES 400 Special Studies (1-4 Credits)

Fall, Spring

RES 430D Honors Thesis (4 Credits)

Honors Project. 4 credits if taken as a fall semester course, 8 if taken as a yearlong course.

Fall, Spring

Crosslisted Courses

ENG 203/ WLT 203 Western Classics in Translation II: Renaissance to Modern (4 Credits)

Offered as WLT 203 and ENG 203. Considers works of literature from different linguistic and cultural traditions that have had a significant influence over time. May include Shakespeare, Cervantes, Goethe, Balzac, Tolstoy, Ibsen and others. Enrollment limited to 20. WI {L}

Spring

FYS 154 The World of Anna Karenina (4 Credits)

This course explores the social, cultural and political history of late imperial Russia through Leo Tolstoy's iconic novel Anna Karenina. Students will learn about the production of the novel but also focus on such themes as modernization and industrialization, gender and sexuality, social construction of family and marriage, empire and colonialism. They will also study the rise of realism in art and the ways in which the Russian educated classes used the new style as a form of social critique. Enrollment limited to 16 first-years. WI {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 221 European Politics (4 Credits)

This course focuses on the development of European democratic institutions in the context of military and economic conflict and cooperation. Includes an introduction to the process of European integration. Designation: Comparative. {S}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

GOV 223 The Politics of Russia and Post-Soviet Central Asia (4 Credits)

This course examines recurring issues facing the Russian state and its citizens focusing on the complex interplay between formal institutions and informal politics as well as patterns of cooperation and antagonism in relationships with other countries, in particular the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Students will examine history to provide sufficient background information for the class, but will concentrate on the period between the end of the Soviet Union and the present day. Designation: Comparative. Enrollment limited to 40. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

GOV 242 International Political Economy (4 Credits)

This course begins with an examination of the broad theoretical paradigms in international political economy (IPE), including the liberal, economic nationalist, structuralist and Marxist perspectives. The course analyzes critical debates in the post-World War II period, including the role of the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank group and IMF), international trade and development, the debt question, poverty and global inequality, and the broad question of "globalization." Designation: International Relations. Prerequisite: GOV 241 or equivalent. First-year students may enroll only if they have completed GOV 241. Enrollment limited to 40. {S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

GOV 256 Colloquium: Corruption and Global Governance (4 Credits)

What can international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank do about corruption? This course explores the theoretical and practical dimensions of the problem of corruption and analyzes how states and international organizations have attempted to combat the problem. Designation: Comparative, International Relations. Enrollment limited to 20. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

HST 201 The Silk Road and Premodern Eurasia (4 Credits)

An introduction to major developments and interactions among people in Europe and Asia before modernity. The Silk Roads, long distance networks that allowed people, goods, technology, religious beliefs and other ideas to travel between China, India and Rome/Mediterranean, and the many points in between, developed against the backdrop of the rise and fall of steppe nomadic empires in Inner Asia. We examine these as interrelated phenomena that shaped Eurasian encounters to the rise of the world-conquering Mongols and the journey of Marco Polo. Topics include: horses, Silk and Steppe routes, Scythians and Huns, Han China and Rome, Byzantium, Buddhism, Christianity and other universal religions, Arabs and the rise of Islam, Turks, Mongol Empire, and medieval European trade, geography and travel. {H}

Spring

HST 239 Imperial Russia, 1650–1917 (4 Credits)

The emergence, expansion and maintenance of the Russian Empire to 1929. The dynamics of pan-imperial institutions and processes (imperial dynasty, peasantry, nobility, intelligentsia, revolutionary movement), as well as the development of the multitude of nations and ethnic groups conquered by or included into the empire. Focus on how the multinational Russian empire dealt with pressures of modernization (nationalist challenges in particular), internal instability and external threats. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

HST 240 Colloquium: Stalin and Stalinism (4 Credits)

Joseph Stalin 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 and the Communist movement worldwide. This course covers 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. We consider several questions about Stalinism: Was it a result of Communist ideology or a deviation? Did it enjoy any social support? To what extent was it a product of larger social forces and in what degree was it shaped by Stalin’s own personality? Did it have total control over the people’s lives? Why hasn’t there been a de-Stalinization similar to de-Nazification? How is Stalinism remembered? Enrollment limited to 18. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

HST 241 Soviet Union in the Cold War (4 Credits)

Focuses on the history of the Soviet Union during the "greater Cold War," that is, between World War II and the disintegration of the USSR. Touches on foreign policy developments, but the main focus is on the social, political and economic processes, and cultural developments inside the USSR itself. Explores Soviet history in the second half of the 20th century through historical works and a range of primary sources. Topics include the post-war reconstruction, rise of the military-industrial complex, education, popular culture and dissent. Enrollment limited to 40. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

HST 300 Public Writing about Nationalism - A Calderwood Seminar in Public Writing (4 Credits)

Because of its claims to define culture, economy, and politics in the modern age, nationalism has become the subject of a multidisciplinary field which offers advanced students in an array of majors a capstone opportunity to consolidate and express what they've learned. How does nationalism today continue to underwrite political projects across the world? We will take this question as a point of departure and explore how to translate complex scholarly conversations about nationalism into public discourse interventions. The work in class will focus on writing, work-shopping, and revising the assignments designed in different formats of public discourse. WI {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

JUD 260 Colloquium: Yiddish Literature and Culture (4 Credits)

Why did Yiddish, the everyday language of Jews in east Europe and beyond, so often find itself at the bloody crossroads of art and politics? From dybbuks and shlemiels to radicals and revolutionaries, the course explores Yiddish stories, drama, and film as sites for social activism, ethnic and gender performance, and artistic experimentation in Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Americas. How did post-Holocaust engagements with Yiddish memorialize a lost civilization and forge an imagined homeland defined by language and culture rather than borders? All texts in translation. No prerequisites. Enrollment limited to 18. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

JUD 284 Colloquium: The Lost World of East European Jewry, 1750-1945 (4 Credits)

The modern history of the largest Jewish community in the world, from life under the Russian tsars until its extermination in World War II. Topics include Jewish political autonomy under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; the shifting effects on Jews in Russian, Soviet and Polish society of Partition, tsarist legislation, Revolution, Sovietization and the emergence of the modern nation-state; the folkways and domestic culture of Ashkenaz; competition between new forms of ecstatic religious expression and Jewish Enlightenment thought; the rise of mass politics (Zionism, Socialism, Diaspora Nationalism, Yiddishism) and the role of language (Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, Polish) in the creation of secular Jewish identity; and the tension between memory and nostalgia in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Concludes with an analysis of the recently opened Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Enrollment limited to 18. {H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

JUD 287 The Holocaust (4 Credits)

The history of the Final Solution, from the role of European antisemitism and the origins of Nazi ideology to the implementation of a systematic program to annihilate European Jewry. How did Hitler establish a genocidal regime? How did Jews physically, culturally and theologically respond to this persecution?. {H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

JUD 362yl Seminar: Topics in Jewish Studies-Yiddishland (4 Credits)

Explores the relationship between East European Jewish history and post-Holocaust and post-Communist memory through the prism of Yiddishland, the dream of a transnational homeland defined by language and culture rather than borders. The seminar includes a course field trip to Poland over March break. Enrollment limited to 15. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {H}{L}

Spring, Variable

REL 140/ RES 140 Putin's Russia: After Communism, After Atheism (4 Credits)

Same as REL 140. Often portrayed as hostile to the West, Vladimir Putin and the Russia he rules remain little known. Going beyond the headlines, this course examines contemporary Russia, and historical events and figures that have shaped Putin-era Russia. We will trace the culture wars that have ensued in this post-communist and post-atheist state, across historical documents, art, film, literature, and journalism. Topics include state power and political opposition; the resurgence of religion, and tensions between religion and the secular in the public sphere; debates over the Soviet past, including revolution, war and political terror; human rights and "traditional values. {H}{L}{S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

REL 238 Mary: Images and Cults (4 Credits)

Whether revered as the Mother of God or remembered as a single Jewish mother of an activist, Mary has both inspired and challenged generations of Christian women and men worldwide. This course focuses on key developments in the "history of Mary" since early Christian times to the present. How has her image shaped global Christianities? What does her perceived image in any given age tell us about personal and collective identities? Topics include Mary’s "life"; rise of the Marian cult; Marian apparitions (e.g., Guadalupe and Lourdes) and miracle-working images, especially in Byzantium and Russia; liberation and feminism; politics, activism, mysticism and prayer. Devotional, polemical and literary texts, art and film. Enrollment limited to 35. {H}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

REL 240 Religious Thought and Spirituality in Revolutionary Russia (4 Credits)

The 19th and early 20th centuries marked one of the most brilliant yet destructive periods in Russia's history. This course explores the spiritual and religious-philosophical ideas that fueled a renaissance in the arts as well as a political revolution, both of which had enormous impact worldwide. Based on works of art and literature, religious-philosophical and political writings, and film, it introduces students to some of the best-known radical thinkers and cultural innovators in Russia’s late imperial and Soviet past, and in its post-Soviet present. Topics include: religious faith, materialism and science; the meaning of history; “new religious consciousness”; theosophy and the occult; art, beauty and the Absolute; human creativity and god- building; divine wisdom and “all-unity”; the body, sex and spirituality. (E) {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

REL 242/ RES 242 The Politics and Culture of Russian Sacred Art (4 Credits)

Offered as REL 242 and RES 242. As devotional objects, political symbols, and art commodities, Russia’s sacred art--the icon--has been revered as sacred, vilified as reactionary, embraced in rebellion, destroyed as dangerous, and sold as masterpieces. Engaging the fields of religion, material and visual culture, and ritual studies, this course examines the life and language of this art form, and its role in shaping Russia’s turbulent history. Topics include the production and reception of images; diverse meanings and functions of sacred imagery; visuality and spirituality; secularization and commodification; history, memory, and collective identities; the icon, avant-garde art, and film; controversial images and protest culture. No prerequisites. Open to first-year students. {A}{H}

Fall, Spring, Variable

REL 305ec Seminar: Advanced Topics in Religion-Eastern Christian Worlds: Prayer and Politics (4 Credits)

From Putin’s Russia to Assad’s Syria, Eastern Christianity has seen increasing media attention over the past two decades. But what is Christianity like outside “the West?” This course explores: the beliefs, spirituality and practices that link these “other” Christians—who have historically lived in such diverse regions as Armenia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, Romania, Russia, Syria and Ukraine; the historical memories and political power struggles that have divided them; the geopolitical implications of Eastern Orthodoxy’s unexpected comeback in post-Soviet Russia; and the complex relationship between Eastern Christianity and its western Roman Catholic and Protestant counterparts. The course considers mystical, philosophical, theological and political sources, both ancient and contemporary, as well as art, literature and film. Enrollment limited to 12. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required. {A}{H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

RES 264/ WLT 264 Dostoevsky (4 Credits)

Offered as RES 264 and WLT 264. Focuses on close reading of the major novels, short fiction, and journalism of Dostoevsky, one of the greatest writers in modern literature. Combining penetrating psychological insight with the excitement of crime fiction, Dostoevsky’s works explore profound political, philosophical, and religious issues, in a Russia populated by students and civil servants, saints and revolutionaries, writers and madmen. In our close reading of his fiction and nonfiction, we’ll trace the development of Dostoevsky’s style and ideas, considering how these texts engage with issues specific to nineteenth-century Russia, as well as the broader traditions of European literature and intellectual history. In translation. {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

RES 273/ WLT 273 Cosmic Cold War: Russian and Western Science Fiction in Political Context (4 Credits)

Offered as RES 273 and WLT 273. How did the "final frontier" of space become a "front" in the Cold War? As the US and USSR competed in the Space Race, science fiction reflected political discourses in literature, film, visual art and popular culture. This course explores Russian and Western science fiction in the contexts of twentieth-century geopolitics and artistic modernism (and postmodernism), examining works by Bogdanov, Kubrick, Tarkovsky, Butler, Haraway, Pelevin and others. The survey considers science fiction’s utopian content and political function, as well as critical and dystopian modes of the genre. No prerequisites or knowledge of Russian required; first-year students are welcome to enroll. Enrollment limited to 40. {A}{H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

WLT 218 Holocaust Literature (4 Credits)

What is a Holocaust story? How does literature written in extremis in ghettos, death camps or in hiding differ from the vast post-war literature about the Holocaust? How to balance competing claims of individual and collective experience, the rights of the imagination and the pressures for historical accuracy? Selections from a variety of genres (diary, reportage, poetry, novel, graphic novel, memoir, film, monuments, museums) and critical theories of representation. All readings in translation. No prerequisites. {H}{L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

Additional Course Information

For spring 2024 courses offered and cross listed in REEES, use this link to the Smith College Course Search.

Students are encouraged to take advantage of the rich offerings in REEES available in the Five College Consortium, which will count toward the major. Consult the Five College REEES website for a current list of approved courses.

Faculty

Justin Cammy

Jewish Studies

Professor of Jewish Studies and of World Literatures

Justin Cammy

Tom Roberts

Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

Assistant Professor of Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

Tom Roberts

Vera Shevzov

Religion

Professor of Religion, Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

shevzov_version_for_directory.jpg

Russia in Detail

With gratitude to artist Catherine Lomoe-Thompson ’21, these drawings are from her memories of her Interterm in St. Petersburg trip: "Russia’s beauty was just begging to be memorialized on the page, and I think I enjoyed drawing it just as much as I enjoyed visiting it."

Curious About Learning Russian?

In a video produced in spring 2019, three Smith students talk about their experience taking Russian at Smith -- including for the first time!

WATCH THE INTERVIEWS

Video still of a REEES student talking

Opportunities & Resources

Majors in REEES are strongly encouraged to study abroad in Russia, Eastern Europe or Eurasia for a year, semester or summer.

Courses taken while studying abroad or at an accredited institution during the summer may be counted toward the major; however, students must petition the REEES Advisory Committee to count these courses after the completion of course work.

The Five College Russian, East European and Eurasian studies website lists study abroad resources for semester- and yearlong programs.

Other Recommended Programs

Russian, East European and Eurasian studies students have had good experiences studying in Russia and other post-Soviet countries through the Bard-AUCA Study Abroad Program and the American Councils for International Education Program (ACTR).

Students are encouraged to explore all options and consult with their advisers about study abroad.

Russian Programs in the Pioneer Valley

The Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Northeast Network

  • REEESNe comprises institutions along the Northeast corridor. The organization facilitates collaboration in order to advance teaching and learning about the REEES area with a particular goal of expanding knowledge of REEES-related career opportunities outside the academy.

Local Russian Culture

Contact Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

Wright Hall 106

Smith College

Northampton, MA 01063