Professors Ciepiela and Rabinowitz‡, Associate Professors Kunichika and Wolfson (Chair), Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.
‡On leave spring semester 2017-18.
Major Program. The major program in Russian is an individualized interdisciplinary course of study. It includes general requirements for all majors and a concentration of courses in one discipline: literature, film, cultural studies, history, or politics. Eight courses are required for the major, including RUSS 301 and one course beyond RUSS 301 taught in Russian. Language courses numbered 202 and above will count for the major. Normally, two courses taken during a semester abroad in Russia may be counted; 303H and 304H together will count as one course. Additionally, all majors must elect at least one course that addresses history or literature pre-1850. Other courses will be chosen in consultation with the advisor from courses in Russian literature, film, culture, history and politics. Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in non-departmental courses in their chosen discipline.
Comprehensives. Students majoring in Russian must formally define a concentration within the major no later than the pre-registration period in the spring of the junior year. By the end of the add/drop period in the fall of the senior year, they will provide a four- or five-page draft essay which describes the primary focus of their studies as a Russian major. Throughout this process, majors will have the help of their advisors. A final draft of the essay, due at the end of the add/drop period of second semester of the senior year, will be evaluated by a committee of departmental readers in a conference with the student. This, in addition to a translation exam taken in the fall of the senior year, will satisfy the comprehensive examination in Russian.
Departmental Honors Program. In addition to the above requirements for the major program, the Honors candidate will take RUSS 498-499 during the senior year and prepare a thesis on a topic approved by the Department. Students who anticipate writing an Honors essay on a topic that focuses on Russia's social history should consult with Professor Glebov (History) or may request to work under his direction. All Honors candidates should ensure that their College program provides a sufficiently strong background in their chosen discipline.
Study Abroad. Majors are strongly encouraged to spend a semester or summer studying in Russia. Students potentially interested in study abroad should begin planning as early as possible in their Amherst career. They should consult members of the Department faculty and Janna Behrens, Director of International Experience, for information on approved programs and scholarship support. Other programs can be approved on a trial basis by petition to the Director of International Experience. Study in Russia is most rewarding after students have completed the equivalent of four or five semesters of college-level Russian, but some programs will accept students with less. One semester of study in Russia will ordinarily give Amherst College credit for four courses, two of which may be counted towards the major in Russian.
Summer language programs, internships, ecological and volunteer programs may be good alternatives for students whose other Amherst commitments make a semester away difficult or impossible. (Please note that Amherst College does not give credit for summer programs.) U.S.-based summer intensive programs can be used to accelerate acquisition of the language, and some of these programs provide scholarship support. Consult the department bulletin board in Webster and the department website for information on a wide variety of programs.
Russian Literacy for Russian Speakers
This course is designed for students with substantial fluency in speaking and comprehending conversational Russian but limited training in writing and reading the language. We will focus on building the students’ literacy in written Russian through readings in classical literary texts and contemporary media; analysis and application of key grammatical categories; and frequent writing exercises that will build the students’ ability to express their thoughts and interpret artifacts of Russian culture.
Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Wolfson.2023-24: Not offered
Love and Death: the Big Questions of Russian Literature
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.Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
Century of Catastrophe: Soviet and Contemporary Russia in Literature and Film
Russia was launched on a unique path by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917: it was intended to become the first Communist society in history. The Cultural Revolution that followed sought to remake institutions and even persons in the name of realizing a classless society. This utopian project came up against the actual history of the twentieth century not just in Russia but internationally: world wars, the collapse of empires, and the victory of “capitalism” over “communism.” Much of the best Russian literature and film of the twentieth century addresses the tensions of this historical period. We will trace these tensions in landmark texts, grouping them around particular moments of catastrophic change – the Revolution, the Civil War, the “internationalizing” of non-Russian peoples, collectivization and famine, Stalin’s purges, World War II and the siege of Leningrad, urbanization, and the collapse of the Soviet empire. We will consider, among other texts, Esther Shub’s “The Fall of the Romanovs,” Isaak Babel’s Red Cavalry, Nadezhda Mandelstam’s Hope Against Hope, the poetry of Anna Akhmatova, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, Lydia Ginzburg’s Blockade Diary, Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker,” Alexander Sokurov’s “Russian Ark,” and the installation art of Ilya Kabakov. All readings and discussion in English. No familiarity with Russian history and culture is assumed. Three meetings per week.
Spring semester. Professor Ciepiela.2023-24: Not offered
Second-Year Russian I
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 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Kunichika.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
Creativity and Revolution
(Offered as RUSS 216 and EUST 216) The three decades from 1890 through 1920 marked a time when Russia’s future was being radically reimagined, politically and culturally. We will study creative revolution in the arts--in literature, painting, theater and dance, and the new medium of cinema--as participating in shaping a national vision, even as Russian artists absorbed and engaged with international models. We also will study reverberations of this period in later Soviet culture, such as absurdist theater, underground art and the poetic revival of the 60s and 70s. This course is taught in English and no familiarity with Russian language and culture is assumed.
Omitted 2017-18. Professor Ciepiela.2023-24: Not offered
Strange Russian Writers: Gogol, Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Nabokov, et al
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 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Rabinowitz.2023-24: Not offered
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 discussion in English.
Fall semester. Professor Ciepiela.Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2023
Count Leo Tolstoy’s life and writings encompass self-contradictions equaled in scale only by the immensity of his talent: the aristocrat who renounced his wealth, the former army officer who preached nonresistance to evil, the father of thirteen children who advocated total chastity within marriage and, of course, the writer of titanic stature who repudiated all he had previously written, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina. We will read these two masterworks in depth, along with other fictional and non-fictional writings ("The History of Yesterday," Childhood, Strider, Confession, Sebastopol Stories, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, "What Is Art?"), as we explore his abiding search for the meaning of ever-inaccessible "self," his far-reaching artistic innovations, and his evolving views on history, the family, war, death, religion, art, and education. Conducted in English, all readings in translation, with special assignments for students who read Russian.
Omitted 2017-18. Professor Wolfson.2023-24: Not offered
Stalin and Stalinism
(Offered as HIST 235 [EU], EUST 245, and RUSS 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. The course 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. Three class meetings per week.
Omitted 2017-18. Five College Professor Glebov.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2021, Fall 2023
The Last Russian Revolution: State and Society from the Late Soviet Period to the Present
(Offered as HIST 240 [EU], EUST 240, and RUSS 345) 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.
Omitted 2017-18. Five College Professor Glebov.2023-24: Not offered
Russian and Soviet Film
(Offered as RUSS 241 and FAMS 329) Lenin proclaimed, famously, that cinema was "the most important art of all" for the new Soviet republic. This course explores the dramatic rise of Russian film to state-sanctioned prominence and the complex role it came to play in modern Russia's cultural history. We examine the radical experiments of visionary filmmakers who invented the language of film art (Bauer, Kuleshov, Eisenstein, Vertov, Dovzhenko); the self-conscious masterpieces of auteurs who probed the limits of that language (Tarkovsky, Paradzhanov, Sokurov); and the surprising ways in which films ostensibly designed to enact cultural and social myths of power, history, and national identity in the end reshaped their makers, their audiences, and the myths themselves. No familiarity with of Russian history or culture expected.
Omitted 2017-18. Professor Wolfson.2023-24: Not offered
Revolutions in Theater
(Offered as RUSS 242, EUST 246, and THDA 243) Each bold innovation in twentieth-century theater sought to redefine in its own way the very idea of theatricality, and so to reshape the relationship between text and performance, experience and interpretation, social reality and cultural tradition. The conviction that a director can, as Peter Brook put it, “take any empty space and call it a bare stage” led the great reformers whose theoretical writings and theatrical practices are examined in this course to conflicting visions of theater’s role in the esthetic, cultural and social revolutions of their times. We explore the experimental esthetics of Konstantin Stanislavsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Bertolt Brecht, Antonin Artaud, Jerzy Grotowski, Tadeusz Kantor, Heiner Müller, and Robert Wilson--and each director’s radical reinventions of theater as naturalistic, realistic, symbolist, constructivist, expressionist, epic, cruel, poor, deathlike, painterly, and holy.
Fall semester. Professor Wolfson.2023-24: Not offered
1917-2017: One Hundred Years in the Story of Labor
Russia and the Representation of Race
(Offered as RUSS 252, BLST 292 [D] and FAMS 352) This course focuses on the modes by which race has been represented in Russian and Soviet culture. We approach this topic in two ways: first, we examine how Russian and Soviet culture grappled with questions of race, focusing on episodes in the representation of minority peoples throughout the empire and the Soviet Union; secondly, we consider how Russian and Soviet culture served as a mirror in which minorities from other countries saw their experiences partially reflected or as a source from which they found models to articulate their own experience of race. These two concerns guide us through the course as we study such works as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground as it enters into dialogue with Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man and Leonid Tsypkin’s Summer in Baden Baden; the representation of Central Asia by such figures as Langston Hughes and Andrei Platonov; the appeal of the Soviet Union to Western intellectuals, in particular African-American thinkers and writers, from W.E.B. Du Bois, Hughes, and Claude McKay; Alexander Pushkin and the question of his “blackness” and universality; the cinematic representation of minorities in the films of Dziga Vertov and Vsevolod Pudovkin. We will draw our critical theoretical models from Homi Bhabha, Dipesh Chakrabaty, Patricia Hall Collins, Johannes Fabian, Stuart Hall, and Mary Louise Pratt, among others.
Spring semester. Professor Kunichika.2023-24: Not offered
Americans Writing Russia, 100 Years On
(Offered as HIST 253, POSC 253 [SC], and RUSS 253) For decades Moscow was the quintessential posting for any American correspondent with ambition. The magazines, the papers, the radio, and then the television networks sent their best to live and work in what were usually trying conditions, to try to conjure for the American media consumer a likeness of a country as fascinating as it was feared. The correspondents succeeded and failed with some regularity. Take John Reed, whose Ten Days That Shook the World, a series of dispatches on the 1917 revolution, has landed on both “best” and “worst” book lists. We will begin with Reed and go on to Walter Duranty, who earned a Pulitzer Prize for a report that has since been proved false. We will proceed to look at the work of journalists who sought (or didn’t seek) ways to work around Soviet censorship and those who have been fortunate enough to work without a censor. We will focus more closely on American coverage of post-Communist Russia. How well (or poorly) have our correspondents done – and why? What are the practices that expand or limit our ability to learn what happens in Russia? All readings and discussion in English.
Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Visiting McCloy Professor Gessen.2023-24: Not offered
Third-Year Russian: Studies in Russian Language and Culture I
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 instructor. First-year students with strong high school preparation (usually 4 or more years) may be ready for this course. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Rabinowitz and Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
Third-Year Russian: Studies in Russian Language and Culture II
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 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Kunichika.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2023
Advanced Conversation and Composition
A half course designed for advanced students of Russian who wish to develop their fluency, pronunciation, oral comprehension, and writing skills. Major attention will be given to reading, discussion and interpretation of current Russian journalistic literature. This course will cover several basic subjects, including the situation of the Russian media, domestic and international politics, culture, and everyday life in Russia. Two hours per week.
Requisite: RUSS 302 or consent of the instructor. Omitted 2017-18. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.2023-24: Not offered
Advanced Intermediate Conversation and Composition
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. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
Living the Revolutionary Utopia: Reconfiguring the Russian Empire as the Soviet Union, 1917–1920s
(Offered as HIST 445 [EU] and RUSS 345) The Russian Revolution of 1917 was the end of the dynastic imperial regime and the onset of the new, unprecedented attempt to create a utopian society of universal equality and justice. It was also the beginning of the bloody and brutal Civil War and foreign intervention. Yet the Russian Revolution as a modernist project of remaking the social order and human nature had a much longer history as it developed since the nineteenth century in politics, science, literature, and arts. Following the Revolution, the Bolshevik reordering of state, society and empire developed along with and conflicted with the futuristic project of global transformation of the old world. What Soviet life would look like and how the Soviet multiethnic empire should be built became highly contested projects. This seminar introduces students to the new research into the elaboration, implementation, domestication, taming, or overcoming of revolutionary utopianism and futurism. Studying secondary and primary sources, we will explore how people created new forms of life, moral, knowledge, gender order, postcolonial arrangements, and new state institutions. Students will produce a research paper based on primary sources, including those at the Amherst Center for Russian Culture. One class meeting per week.
Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Five College Professor Glebov.2023-24: Not offered
Advanced Studies in Russian Literature and Culture I
The topic changes every year. Taught entirely in Russian. Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
Independent Reading Course.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
Senior Departmental Honors
Meetings to be arranged.
Open to, and required of, seniors writing a thesis. Spring semester. The Department.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
First-Year Russian I
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 15 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2022, Fall 2023
First-Year Russian II
Continuation of RUSS 101.
Requisite: RUSS 101 or equivalent. Limited to 15 students per section. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer Babyonyshev.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2023
Second-Year Russian II
Continuation of RUSS 201.
Requisite: RUSS 201 or equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Ciepiela.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2023