“Thank you very much for the opportunity to spend two weeks in Russia.  I learned a lot about Russian history and culture.  I now have a much different perspective on the world.  It was an amazing experience. Hopefully I will be able take Russian in the future.”

“I just wanted to let you know that I truly, truly appreciated you taking us on this trip.  I know how much work it was both before and during the trip, and it means a lot to me to know you wanted us to share this cultural experience with us.  My learning truly increased more than I can possibly tell you, and I also gained a whole new appreciation for the Russian culture. I can't wait to continue my studies in it!"

“It was the most fascinating experience in my life.”

Russian Culture and Society.  A report of previous summers.

Instructor: Dr. Boris Briker, Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures, SAC 332

"Russian Culture in Context" is a three-week intensive program on Russian culture, offered for the first time in the summer of 2004, whose goal is to expose students to the richness of Russian culture, history, and contemporary society. 

The first week of classes took place at Villanova, and consisted of an intensive overview of topics in Russian history and literature, cities and customs. We met four hours every day.  I was the main instructor for these classes which entailed lectures and discussions.  My presentations were supplemented by guest speakers--all experts from various academic disciplines of Russian Studies.  Historians Dr. Lynn  Hartnett  and Dr. Adele Lindenmyer from Villanova and Dr. Robert Weinberg from Swarthmore College lectured on the Moscow and St. Petersburg periods in Russian history, Dr. Joseph Loya from Villanova spoke on religions in Russia.

The introductory week at Villanova was followed by two weeks in Russia,  divided between Moscow and St .Petersburg, where I accompanied the students on all excursions and classes, and coordinated all arrangements. 

We arrived in Moscow and settled in Moscow State University (MSU), under the auspices of its School of Public Administration.  MSU enjoys the reputation of being the most prestigious university in Russia (Russia's equivalent to Harvard), and its School of Public Administration is one of the most reputable institutes at the University.  At MSU our daily schedule consisted of two-hour morning classes, followed by daily field trips to historical sites, museums, churches, and monasteries.  In the early evening we met informally to share and discuss students' experiences.  Later in the evenings students had free time.  We also made trips to the ballet and circus and took informal walking tours of the cities..

In Moscow professors from Moscow State University and Moscow State University of the Humanities delivered guest lectures on Russian history, Russian art and architecture, and on ethnic relations of the peoples of the Russian Federation.  We also were fortunate to attend the Moscow headquarters of the Carnegie Foundation for Peace and Justice. One of the leading experts on Russian politics, Dr. Ryabov conducted a class for us on Russian government and contemporary society.  

Our students also benefited from open forums with MSU students in their English language classes. Students had the opportunity to participate in question and answer sessions with their Russian counterparts. They raised and responded to challenging questions about the politics and society of contemporary Russia and the USA.

Our daily excursions to historical cities were enjoyable and academically beneficial.

We visited the magnificent churches of the Kremlin, observed medieval objects on display in the Armory Palace and the residence of Ivan the Terrible.  Villanova students saw an extraordinary collection of Russian art and icons in the famous Tretyakov Gallery. We took two separate daily trips outside of Moscow.  Indeed, we visited the medieval city, Vladimir (150 miles north of Moscow), and explored the Russian village, Bogolubovo.  We also visited the Russian monastery in Sergiev Posad. 

We went by overnight train to St. Petersburg, where we met and worked with students and faculty of European University.  Dr. Pavel Lysakov delivered a series of lectures on the myth of Petersburg in Russian history and literature and on contemporary popular culture.  Dr. Kushkova conducted class on popular religion in Russia. She also took our students on a walking tour of the historical streets and parks of the city during the White Nights. We also visited the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Art Museum, St Isaac's Cathedral and the Peter and Paul Fortress. Students also followed the routes of literary characters, made famous in poetry, short stories and novels by Pushkin, Gogol, and Dostoevsky.  They also visited the Dostoevsky Museum.  Students enjoyed our trip to magnificent Peterghof, the summer residence of Russia's emperors. A visit to the world renowned Kirov Ballet completed the trip.