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


Fall 2014 quarter

Taught by

Russian language and literature
Russian history, environmental history

This program offers an interdisciplinary approach to Russian and Eurasian history, literature, culture, geography and film. Our journey will take us across all of the vast 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 thriving cities of Constantinople and Baghdad; from the windswept grasslands of Mongolia to the Moscow cathedrals built by Ivan the Terrible; from the Artic 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 one that no longer exists—the Mongol empire—and one that in many senses still does—the Russian empire. We will investigate the development of the Russians and their nation through history, starting with Viking invasions of Slavic territories in the 800s and progressing to Russia's thriving imperial era in the 1800s. This latter period witnessed not only Napoleon's massive invasion of Russia, but also the emergence of some of the world's greatest literature (including Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol and Turgenev). 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. 

Faculty will provide lectures to guide our study and students will read and discuss a diverse selection of historical and literary texts in seminars, view and discuss relevant documentaries and films, and write three major essays based on seminar readings. One field trip will be to the Maryhill Museum to view its collection of icons and other Russian-related items along with a visit to a Greek Orthodox women's monastery for a tour of the grounds and the icon studio. Another field trip will take us to the Pacific Coast village of La Push, Washington, and the Quileute Reservation, where in the early 19th century a Russian ship was grounded—an event which was preserved in Quileute oral tradition and is significant in our study of the Russian historical presence in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. 

Students are strongly urged to take the Beginning Russian Language segment within the full-time program. Studying Russian will enhance their learning experience. Those who opt out of language should register for only 12 credits.


Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

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.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day

Final Schedule and Room Assignment


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$75 for two overnight field trips.


Date Revision
December 16th, 2013 Title changed from "Vikings, Mongols and Slavs: Russia and the Forging of Empires"

Registration Information

Credits: 12, 16 (Fall)

Variable Credit Options

A 12-credit option is available to students who do not wish to participate in the daytime Russian language segment within the program; a four-credit option available to students wanting only the Russian language segment. 

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16 credits): 10162
So - Sr (1-16 credits): 10163
So - Sr (12 credits): 10235

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