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


Winter 2015 quarter

Taught by

Russian history, environmental history
Russian language and literature

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, Tolstoy and Chekhov; examine paintings by Repin, Nesterov and Vereshchagin; and listen to the compositions of Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky. We will also examine the rise of the Russian Empire’s radical intelligentsia, thinkers 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, Lenin and Trotsky, 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 gain an appreciation for the cultural, social and political nuances of these expansive, beguiling and enigmatic lands.

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

New language students will be accepted in the Beginning Russian Language segment within the program if they have one college quarter of Russian or the equivalent.

A special history workshop segment is available to students within or from outside the program for 4 credits. It will investigate the origins, development and dissolution of nine separate wars in which the former Russian Empire, the former Soviet Union and contemporary Russia have been involved. The workshop, entitled "Russian, Soviet, and Post-Soviet Wars," will start with the Napoleonic invasion of the Russian Empire and progress chronologically to a new war each week.

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


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$10 for supplies for a special folk craft workshop.


Date Revision
December 16th, 2013 Title changed from "Imperial Beauty, Turmoil and Tragedy: Russia Falls, the Soviet Union Rises"

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Winter)

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 or the special workshop; a four-credit option available to students wanting only the Russian language segment or special workshop.

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50



Faculty will provide students with suggested readings for some advance preparation. 

Course Reference Numbers

So (16 credits): 20136
Jr (16 credits): 20137
Sr (16 credits): 20138
So - Sr (1-16 credits): 20139

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