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Russia: Between Empire and Nation

Signature Courses

Russia

Russia: Between Empire and Nation
01:860:272 (4 credits) Core: 21C
Professor Edyta Bojanowska, Russian Literature

Russia—America’s global rival yet again?

Russia’s sudden interventions in Ukraine and Syria have flummoxed the West. Are we witnessing a revival of imperial aspirations? Or did the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s create a fundamentally different background for current conflicts? What assumptions, historical traditions, and cultural patterns influence popular domestic support for Russia’s expansive foreign policy? Is Russia an empire or a nation? Or is it something in between?

“Britain had an empire, but Russia was an empire—and perhaps still is.” These words by the famous historian Geoffrey Hosking point to a unique feature of Russia’s history: empire was not a set of distant and detachable possessions but an essential aspect of Russian identity from early times. Like the United States, Russia expanded across a continent and developed its own version of Manifest Destiny. It extended its rule over hundreds of ethnic groups. To this day, as a result of these processes, the Russian Federation remains a multiethnic state and, territorially, the biggest country on earth.

We will explore Russia’s imperial culture, history, and politics from the 19th century to the present day as a window onto these 21st century challenges. The course will focus on the representations of this distinctively Russian version of empire in literature, painting, and film. All readings, films, and class discussions are in English.

Students from all schools and disciplines are welcome to sign up for this course. This course is particularly recommended for students who intend to pursue majors or minors in anthropology, area studies (especially American, European, and Jewish studies), history, journalism and media studies, English, any language and literature program, political science, and sociology. The course carries credit toward the majors and minors in Russian and comparative literature. Russia: Between Empire and Nation can be used to meet the Core Curriculum goals in 21st Century Challenges [21C].

 

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