First Year Program - Russian and Eurasian Studies Skip Navigation

Russian and Eurasian Studies (REST)

Chair: J. Graybill
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Russian and Eurasian studies (REST) is a multifaceted discipline that aims to give students an understanding of this vital region’s history, politics, environment, and culture, along with proficiency in the Russian language. Students can choose among courses in literary and cultural studies, anthropology, history, geography, Jewish studies, environmental studies, and political science, taking advantage of Colgate's unusual array of Russian specialists in these diverse areas. Prospective majors, and those with an interest in Russian language, should begin REST 121 as soon as possible. The major requires a minimum of two years of language. Students who continue into advanced Russian are encouraged to spend a semester in Russia on one of Colgate's approved programs. Courses throughout the curriculum are interdisciplinary and culminate in a senior seminar in which majors pursue a thesis or advanced research topics in a collaborative environment. Many of our students choose to combine Russian and Eurasian studies with a second major or minor in history, political science, international relations and other fields. Recent graduates have found work in government, journalism, law, NGOs, education, finance, and many other fields; some have gone to the Peace Corps, and a significant number have pursued graduate study.

Courses

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FSEM 159, Cyborgs
Faculty Profile for Professor Erley

What does it mean to be human? Can our species survive climate change? Can we build a utopian society on Mars?

These are questions that science fiction—a zone between the “two cultures” of science and the humanities—has posed and answered for over a century. Focusing on philosophical, ethical, and environmental questions, this course introduces students to several important works of science fiction literature and film, with a strong emphasis on works from Russia, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe from the 20th century to the present day. This region offers some of the most sophisticated works of science fiction, owing to the radical “otherness” of its philosophical and political traditions and the challenges they pose to dominant Western constructions of self, nature, and society. The course places this tradition in conversation with works of fiction and film from other countries, in order to understand how political and economic systems set the values and boundaries that science fiction tests. Among other topics we will discuss human-machine interfaces and ethics, life extension and transhumanism, space travel and colonization, and the prospects and perils of the rationally planned society. Course readings are in English. No prior experience in Russian studies required. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for REST 250 and satisfy one half of the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry requirement.

Mieka Erley studies the cultural history of Russia and Central Asia, and has traveled extensively through the ruins of techno-utopia throughout the former Soviet Union.

REST 121, Elementary Russian I
Combines an overview of Russian grammar with an intensive emphasis upon classroom communication and the development of oral skills. In addition to the textbook, students make use of an array of web-based materials ranging from interviews with contemporary Russians, to YouTube videos, to cartoons in order to provide students with a sense for life in Russia today, as well to facilitate rapid acquisition of the language. Students cover the fundamentals of Russian grammar, learn a great deal of vocabulary, and should be able to converse effectively in a variety of everyday situations in Russian.

REST 201, Intermediate Russian I
Complete the presentation of the fundamentals of the language and focus upon further vocabulary acquisition and developing more advanced conversation and writing skills, as well as real-life Russian in context. Students work through digitized segments of a beloved romantic comedy, The Irony of Fate to greater understand cultural commentary and develop transcription skills.

REST 253, Lust, Murder, Redemption
Written by an educated elite, eerily self-conscious because of czarist censorship and political repression, 19th-century Russian literature nevertheless confronts many of the crucial concerns of human existence. It often focuses upon characters who are at an existential breaking point because of ideological, spiritual, sexual, or economic pressures. Students read a combination of short stories and novels, concentrating upon canonical "greats" (Pushkin, Lermontov, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov) but also sampling lesser-known writers, including neglected female authors. By examining literary depictions of such social institutions as warfare, dueling and gambling, courtship and marriage, adultery and spousal abuse, work and leisure, the course emphasizes the relationship between literary text and cultural context. Particular attention is paid to the cultural construction of gender, as well as the relationship between humans and nature. A range of theoretical and critical texts informs discussions, as do film adaptations of certain works. All works are read in translation, but a FLAC section of the course may be offered for advanced Russian language students who are interested in trying to read selections in the original Russian. (PR)