The Russian House (Pleasants Hall) hosted the RPSS Homecoming reception for alumni of the program. Former and current students, friends, majors and minors gathered to catch up and enjoy delicious Russian food. It was great to learn about all the exciting things you are doing and about your future plans. Stay in touch and visit us again at next year! It was so wonderful to see you all!
On October 18, 2019, Danny Wysong, Russian Studies alumnus (2007) talked about how his expertise in Russian language and culture opened up for him an exciting career in the field of cybersecurity. His past jobs in both the public and private sector have ranged from the detection and prevention of international human trafficking to the analysis and study of emerging threats in the cybercrime arena.
On September 19, 2019, Professor David Brandenberger from University of Richmond gave a talk entitled “Stalin’s Master Narrative” in which he discussed his book Stalin’s Master Narrative: A Critical Edition of the Short Course on the History of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks), co-edited with Mikhail Zelenov (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019). Dr. Brandenberger talked about his 12-year extensive archival research that resulted in a thorough critical study of the Short Course. In Stalin’s time the book was considered to be the encyclopedia of Bolshevism and served as primer of party history both at home and throughout the communist world abroad. Prof. Brandenberger discussed the history of the Short Course, starting with the inception of the text in the twenties, Stalin’s rewriting of the original version, Khrushchev’s denouncement of the book, and the afterlife of the party catechism.
After a month, students in the Saint Petersburg study abroad program find themselves in the thick of their documentary productions, taking advantage of every opportunity while in the field. Producing a documentary film is not an easy task. It takes a lot of research and planning to develop a story idea, to consider which concepts and themes to pursue, and decide what tone the piece should have to convey the film’s overall message. After answering these questions, one needs to start considering what the piece is going to look and sound like; in other words, what are the scenes that will make the piece turn into a coherent film? Will it need interviews? If so, with whom? Will the piece be best told through narration, or archival footage, or footage of a place within the city? If so, you need to arrange for those shoots. And all of this work is even before you pick up a camera!
Documentary filmmaking is a time intensive practice, as many of these students are learning. But it also takes determination, confidence, and a willingness to stick your neck out. It’s hard enough to do it in your native language. These students have been doing it in Russian. And they’ve never made a documentary before.
What has been the biggest surprise for me has been the access we have been getting while in St. Petersburg. For example, we interviewed top government personnel about the construction of the Marine Facade development. This is a controversial and sensitive issue for many, yet we were sent a car to drive us around the Facade to get B-roll footage of the terminal while it is still under construction. For another project, we spoke with Father Viktor, who oversees Smolensky Catedral and Saint Xenia Chapel. Father Viktor, who could have easily waved us away, graciously agreed to sit with us for a morning and talk in front of a camera about the younger generation of Russians in the Russian Orthodox Church. He then took us through the Cathedral and allowed us to film while a service was going on. On other occasions we’ve gotten access to film inside the historic Aurora Theater, inside the landmark Cafe Singer, and the renowned Pushkinskaya-10 art coop.
Collaborations with St. Petersburg University journalism students have benefits not only the projects, but the entire experience. In a sense, these students are our field producers, helping us acquire access to interviews and helping out during shoots. They offer advice on the story and suggestions as to the direction the pieces could go. With only two weeks left, students are pushing to get as much accomplished before they head home. Although hard work, the city has opened up to these students, which has been rewarding to watch.
Environmental Science and Policy
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The College of William and Mary
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Officially as of today, we have been in St. Petersburg for two full weeks! It’s hard to believe that time is flying by so fast!
This past Monday, Sasha surprised us with a tour of Pushkin’s Museum, instead of our afternoon class. It was a great surprise! Pushkin’s Museum is located in the last apartment that Pushkin rented during his lifetime. The museum chronicles Pushkin’s life and gave our group a better understanding of why the Russians love Pushkin so much.
Tuesday, we toured St. Isaac’s Cathedral. It is the second tallest building in St. Petersburg…so what did we do? Climb to the top! The climb was winding and steep. It made a few of us quite nauseous. However, the breath taking view was well worth the climb.
After climbing to the top, we climbed down to actually go inside the cathedral. Personally, the most interesting part of the tour of the cathedral was learning about St. Isaac’s during WWII. The cathedral miraculously escaped being destroyed during the Siege of Leningrad, with only a few relatively minor injuries. Residents of the city consider this to be a miracle.
Earlier today, a few of us ventured to Nevsky Prospekt in search of a fun restaurant after class. We went to an Irish Pub called “O Hooligans”. We girls were very excited to learn that this week is “Fleet Week”! We hung out with a few American Navy officers who are actually based out of Norfolk, Va. Huge coincidence to be in the same place at the same time! Hopefully we will see more Navy men in the next few days before we depart for Moscow on Friday!
So I have been in Ufa for a little over a week and though it was time to post an update. Before we left for Russia, our group had a CLS orientation in Washington to meet each other and get information about how to use Russian after we graduate. It was great to meet all the people and everyone has been really nice and funin both classes and on excursions. Unfortunately, on the flight from Newark to Washington my suitcase was lost and still has not made it to Ufa, I have been told its in Moscow now, but I’m not sure if it will ever arrive. Luckily, my parents are great and drove down a new bag for me right before we had to leave, so I have clothing and such for the trip.
As for Ufa itself, it is very different than St. Petersburg. One of my favorite aspects of the city ismany of the signs are in Bashkir and Russian so one gets to see both cultures coexisting, although Russian is far more dominant.
My host family has been wonderful so far. I live with a woman, Farida Fagimovna and her 22-year old son Denis (accent on the last syllable) who just finished university. He studied water quality and control engineering which I understand very little about. But he has taken me around and we talk about sports, TV and movies so that has been interesting and really helpful for my language learning. He also worked in America last summer on the Work and Travel program so it has been interesting to hear what he thought about America and what he saw there.
Classes have been challenging, but I have been able to keep up and they are really helping my comprehension. Also, whenever I am at my homestay the TV seems to be on, so I have watched a good amount of Russian TV which helps me work on my accent and get new vocabulary. We are all are working on groups projects while we are here and I am working on media in Bashkortostan, so the things I learned in my senior seminaron Russian television last semester should come in handy.
Finally, since we are some of the few Americans to come to Ufa and a boon to their economy, we were on local television. So for you viewing pleasure, here is the link, its all in Russian but still interesting. I am seen briefly near the end.
I will update again after our excursions to religious sites in Ufa and some of the local museums.
This year WM Russian Studies students run a blog about their research, studies and adventures in Russia. If you would like to read the recent news from Russia, visit our blog at http://2011wmpetersburg.blogs.wm.edu
We wish to extend congratulations to the 2011 recipients of prizes and scholarships in Russian & Post-Soviet Studies.
- Monika Bernotas (Charles Center Scholarship for International Research)
- Monika Bernotas (Honorable Mention Certificate, ACTR National Rusian Essay Contest)
- Tara Calloway (Phi Beta Kappa)
- Sophie Kosar (2011 Dobro Slovo Scholarship)
- Jacob Lassin (Critical Language Fellowship, Ufa, Bashkortostan)
- Suzanne Reed (2011 Award for Excellence in Russian and Post-Soviet Studies)
- Suzanne Reed (Flagship Program in St. Petersburg)
- Suzanne Reed (Honorable Mention Certificate, ACTR National Rusian Essay Contest)
- William Sinnott (Post-Secondary National Russian Scholar Laureate) Will Sinnott’s Award Certificate (2011)
- William Sinnott (2011 MLL Book Award)
- 12th ACTR Russian Essay Contest (Participants: Monika Bernotas, Cheng Cheng, Eleonora Figliuoli, Ciara Kazmierski, Carl Larson, Alex McGrath, Robin Parrish, Suzanne Reed, Peter Yanev) Essay Topic
- National Slavic Honor Society, Dobro Slovo inductees (Ryan Akens, Kara Kolbe, Jacob Lassin, James O’Leary, Elizabeth Tait, and Sinead Tanner)
Monika Bernotas has been awarded the Charles Center Scholarship for International Research for her summer 2011 research project. This much sought after scholarship will help Monika to study experimental art communities in Lithuania and Russia.
Mark your calendars. Russian Studies students present three Russian fantasy films: an epic, a Soviet scifi film, and a post-Soviet action thriller. Screenings: Oct 7, Sadko (1953), Oct 14, The Amphibian Man (1962), and Oct 21 Night Watch (2004). All screenings will be in Tyler 201 at 5 pm.