Russia has long fascinated the Western imagination, with its huge land mass extending eastward from the center of Europe to the Pacific, its Christian ties to the East, rather than Rome, its culture walled off from the European Renaissance by two centuries of Tartar occupation and then, after another two centuries, forcibly and imperfectly harnessed to European models by Peter the Great, its self-image – no less than the image held of it by outsiders – replete with accumulated contradictions and mysteries. In the nineteenth century, this autocratic society astonished the world by producing several generations of brilliant novelists, playwrights, and poets whose art, broadly accessible and profoundly democratic, touched depths of human experience seldom plumbed before. The main character in Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov seemed to Virginia Woolf to be the human soul itself, presented with unprecedented fullness, directness, and variety. But by the time she wrote of these matters in the early 1920s, Russia had already passed through a brilliant Silver Age of modernist experiment in all the arts, and was now embarked on one of the defining experiences of the twentieth century, the great, tragic, and utopian experiment of Communism, which ended with unforeseen abruptness (and with consequences still unforeseeable) in 1991. Here is endlessly fascinating material for students of human nature, modern writing in its many forms, political theory and practice, history, economics, high culture and mass culture—and it is available for firsthand exploration through an incomparably rich and expressive language which, once acquired, can be used to open new doors throughout a lifetime.
Whether you are interested in the language, culture, literature, or history and politics, you will find courses to exercise both your linguistic abilities and your mind, and a friendly community of students and faculty eager to welcome you to this fascinating area of study. The department's Russian program has the largest selection of courses of any college or university in the country, with a number of innovative "topic courses" at the intermediate and advanced levels. Study here or study abroad, in dozens of locations from St. Petersburg to Siberia, for a unique and unforgettable language experience.