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Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

Russia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe significantly influence the politics, economy and culture of our global society. Since the end of the Cold War and the fall of Communism, the study of Russia, along with Ukraine, Eastern and Central Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia and the Caucasus, has taken on increased importance. Occupying more than one quarter of the world’s land surface and home to diverse cultures, this region is continuing to undergo major social, economic and political transformation.

The Program in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at Smith College coordinates curricular offerings, supports students’ international studies and organizes campus events that let students explore the complex history and contemporary developments of this exciting and ever-changing part of our world. 


We are very happy to report that REEES major Caroline Dunbar '20 has been selected as the 2019 winner of the Five College consortium's  Lorna M. Peterson Prize.  The committee choosing Caroline wrote in its award letter "you are doing wonderful work that honors you and the Five College Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies program, work that is fully in the spirit of the prize. The committee is impressed by your involvement and leadership in your Russian language courses, the Smith Russian Club, and your off-campus programs."  Congratulations, Caroline! 

The third annual Five College undergraduate symposium in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies takes place Saturday, April 20 on the Smith College campus.  Information about the symposium and instructions on how to apply to submit a student paper are here.  A prize for best paper will be awarded and two papers will be awarded an honorable mention!

Hear from students who went this past January to St. Petersburg with Smith to study for three weeks at HSE University in this article.  

Our Community

Remember to check out the REEES Facebook page for the latest information on events, photos and more!



Students in REEES are expected to learn to think critically about the histories, cultures, religions, politics and economies of the region of the former Soviet Union, as well the often competing ideas and interests that have shaped these histories and cultures for the past thousand years.

Language competency:

  • Students are expected to be able to function independently in a Russian or East European-speaking milieu. While currently only Russian is offered at Smith, students who wish to focus their studies on Eastern Europe may do so through pursuing language training through the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages, summer study, etc. Linguistic competency is evaluated on the basis of nationally accepted testing practices.

Cultural and cross-cultural competency:

  • Graduating students majoring in REEES are able to choose one of two tracks of study: language and literature or broader area studies. In either case, students are expected to develop a working knowledge of the history of Russia or Eastern Europe and the ways in which literature, the visual or performing arts, religion and other modes of human expression have reflected and shaped that history.
  • Students are expected to be aware of the intellectual, social and political questions that have influenced Russian, East European or other post-Soviet societies, and be able to contextualize these questions both regionally and cross-culturally.
  • Students also develop familiarity with non-Russian cultures and traditions of Eurasia and their global influence.
  • Students are expected to become critical thinkers and participants in ongoing conversations about the ways in which Russia and other post-Soviet societies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia contribute to and challenge broader conversations regarding nationalism, transnationalism and imperialism, relations between state and religion, globalization and human rights, majority and minority relations, race, gender, sexuality, etc.

Research competency:

  • Students are expected to develop the research skills necessary to explore key issues in cultures, religions, histories and politics of post-Soviet societies using a variety of primary and secondary sources.

Global citizenship competency:

Students are expected to use their linguistic, cultural and research skills to become informed and engaged citizens of the world

Advisers: Sergey Glebov, Thomas Roberts, Vera Shevzov

The major in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (REEES) allows students to focus on any aspect of the region’s histories, literatures, cultures, religions, or politics, and to develop their own concentration within the major in consultation with their advisor. In developing their concentration, students are encouraged to pursue an interdisciplinary approach, combining coursework in language, government, history, literature, and religion. Students may choose from courses offered both at Smith and through the Five College Consortium; students are also encouraged to study abroad during a summer, semester, or year-long program.

The REEES Program is committed to accommodating students who coordinate their studies in REEES with a second major.

In order to help guide students in developing their concentrations, the REEES Program offers two tracks: 1) Area Studies; 2) Language and Literature


Area Studies Track

Students who choose the Area Studies Track will gain a working understanding of the history and culture of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, and the geopolitical significance of this region in today’s global world. Students will acquire advanced proficiency in Russian or another language relevant to the region. By pursuing coursework in a broad array of disciplines, students will gain an appreciation for the different methodological approaches scholars use in their study of this highly diverse and dynamic region of the world.

The Area Studies track consists of 11 courses, which include the following requirements:

  • Four semesters of language instruction, usually fulfilled by taking RES 100Y (a year-long introductory course to the Russian language) or RES 120 (an intensive 8-credit semester-long course which covers a year of Russian), and RES 220 and RES 221 (the combination of which is equivalent to second-year Russian). Students are welcome to pursue the study of another language relevant to the region. Students who place out of first- or second-year Russian (or other relevant language) will consult with their advisor or Program Director on how best to fulfill the four-semester language instruction requirement.

Students are highly encouraged to continue the study of Russian (or another language of the region), especially in a study abroad program, in order to achieve an advanced level of fluency. Credits earned in study-abroad language courses may count toward the fulfillment of the major requirements. 

  • Six semester (4-credit) courses, at least one of which will include a semester course taught in Russian (equivalent to RES 331) or another relevant language. In developing their area of concentration, students are strongly encouraged to seek out courses that span a broad range of disciplines, including anthropology and sociology, art and film, government/political science/international relations, history, literature, and religion.
  • A 300-level seminar, a research-based Special Studies, or a Senior Honors Thesis (which is a year-long project that counts as two courses).

Language and Literature Track

The Language and Literature Track provides the opportunity for students to focus closely on the language, literature, and cinema of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia. Students are expected to achieve advanced proficiency in Russian or another relevant language, and to engage closely with works of literature and film in the original language of study. While focusing on the language, literature, and cinema of one or more culture in the region, students in this track are also encouraged to explore correlated disciplines represented in the REEES curriculum.

The Language and Literature track consists of 11 courses, which include the following requirements:

  • Six semesters of language instruction in Russian, or another relevant language of the region. For Russian, this will usually be fulfilled by taking RES 100Y (a year-long introductory course to the Russian language; this may also be fulfilled by taking the equivalent RES 120, an intensive single-semester course), RES 220 and RES 221 (the combination of which is equivalent to second-year Russian), and RES 331 and RES 332 (the combination of which is equivalent to third-year Russian). Students who place into a higher level of Russian or another language, on the basis of existing knowledge, will consult with their advisor or Program Director on how best to fulfill the six-semester language instruction requirement.

While six semesters of language instruction in Russian, as well as courses in other languages of the region, are normally offered at Smith or in the Five Colleges, students in the Language and Literature track are highly encouraged to enroll in a study abroad program (or comparable program in the United States). Credits earned in these language courses will count toward the fulfillment of the Major requirements, while they may also provide the opportunity for students to achieve a higher proficiency in the language.

  • Four semester (4-credit) courses in literature or film, only one of which will normally be at the 100-level. Normally, one of these course will be in nineteenth century literature. Of the four courses students may also choose one from the list of approved REEES courses in other disciplines.
  • A 300-level seminar, a research-based Special Studies, or a Senior Honors Thesis (which is a year-long project that counts as two courses).

Additional Guidelines for the Major 

  • Some of the most prominent scholars in the field of REEES teach in the Five College Consortium (Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and UMass), and students are encouraged to take advantage of the rich REEES offerings available on the other campuses. Please consult the Five College REEES webpage for a given semester to see a current list of approved courses.
  • Courses taken while studying abroad or at an accredited institution during the summer may be counted toward the major. Students should consult with their advisors prior to embarking on such courses, as well as check with the Smith Registrar’s office regarding the possibility of transfer of credits. Upon completion of such a course, students must petition the REEES Advisory Committee to count these courses. Students are advised to submit the syllabus and any relevant completed work for the course with their petitions.
  • No course counting toward the major may be taken as an S/U grade.

The minor is structured to offer students interdisciplinary breadth as well as the opportunity to pursue a particular area of interest within the field of REEES in more depth.

Requirements consist of six 4-credit courses, which include two semesters of language study in addition to four 4-credit REEES-approved courses:

  1. Language requirement: RES 100Y (a year-long introductory course to the Russian language) or RES 120 (an intensive 8-credit semester-long course which covers a year of Russian). Students electing to study another Eastern European or Eurasian language must complete the equivalent of two semesters of college study.
  2. Breadth requirement: Three 4-credit courses in three of the following fields: a) government, politics, or another field in the social sciences; b) history; c) literature, art, film and media studies, music; or d) religion. Normally, no more than one of these courses may be taken at the 100-level.
  3. Depth/capstone requirement: An advanced course involving a significant research project, which may be fulfilled by a) a seminar; b) a special studies arranged with a faculty member; c) a 200-level REEES-related course in which the student pursues an advanced research project relevant to the field of Russian, East European and Eurasian studies in consultation with the faculty member teaching the course and after approval by the program.

In choosing their courses, students should keep in mind the following:

  • Normally, at least two of the three breadth courses should be taken at Smith.
  • Courses taken toward the minor may not be taken S/U.


Courses offered spring 2019


Language Courses


RES 100Y Elementary Russian 
The four-skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) introduction to the Russian language with the focus on communicative skills development. Major structural topics include pronunciation and intonation, all six cases, all tenses and verbal aspect. By the end of the course, students are able to sustain conversation on basic topics, write short compositions, read short authentic texts, as well as develop an understanding of Russian culture through watching, discussing and writing on movies, short stories, folk tales and poems. This is a full-year course. Yearlong courses cannot be divided at midyear with credit for the first semester. Credits: 5 
Evgeny S. Dengub

RES 222 Intermediate Russian II
The second half of a two-semester sequence. Students continue to practice all four language modalities: reading, listening, writing and speaking. The course incorporates a variety of activities that are based on a range of topics, text types and different socio-cultural situations. Authentic texts (poems, short stories, TV programs, films, songs and articles) are used to create the context for reviewing and expanding on grammar, syntax and vocabulary. Prerequisite: RES 221 or equivalent. {F} Credits: 4 
Evgeny S. Dengub 

At Mount Holyoke College: RES 302
This course is a continuation of RES-301 and is a further expansion of students' vocabulary, writing and speaking skills. We will read and discuss a variety of texts including short stories, films, and articles. Heritage learners of Russian (those who speak the language) will also benefit from the course.  Meets Tuesdays at Mount Holyoke College and Thursdays at Smith College. Credits: 4 
Susanna Nazarova 


Introductory Courses 


RES 127 Manuscripts Don't Burn: Literature and Dissent Under Stalin 
Explores how Russian literary culture responded to the tumult and upheaval of the twentieth century, an epoch encompassing the Bolshevik Revolution, two World Wars, the ascent of Stalin, and the decline and collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as unprecedented aesthetic innovations. While spanning key artistic movements of the period (including the avant-garde and other modernist tendencies, Socialist Realism, conceptualism, and postmodernism), the survey focuses on Stalinism and its aftermath, considering how Soviet writers developed strategies of dissent and protest in literature. Conducted in English, no previous knowledge of Russian required. {L} Credits: 4 
Thomas Lee Roberts 


History and Politics


GOV 223 Russian Politics 
This course examines recurring issues facing the Russian state and its citizens: the complex interplay between formal institutions and informal politics, patterns of cooperation and antagonism in relationships with other countries, and the "resource curse." It also addresses the importance of public opinion in a hybrid political regime; the use of the Internet and the mass media; and human rights in contemporary Russia. It examines history to provide sufficient context, but will concentrate on the period between the end of the Soviet Union and the present day. Enrollment limit of 40. {S} Credits: 4 
Alla N. Baranovsky 

HST 241 (L) Soviet Union in the Cold War 
Focuses on the history of the Soviet Union during the “greater Cold War,” that is, between World War II and the disintegration of the USSR. Touches on foreign policy developments but the main focus is on the social, political and economic processes and cultural developments inside the USSR itself. Explores Soviet history in the second half of the 20th century through historical works and a range of primary sources. Topics include the post-war reconstruction, rise of the military-industrial complex, education, popular culture and dissent. {H} Credits: 4 
Sergey Glebov 

JUD 287 The Holocaust 
The history of the Final Solution, from the role of European antisemitism and the origins of Nazi ideology to the implementation of a systematic program to annihilate European Jewry. How did Hitler establish a genocidal regime? How did Jews physically, culturally and theologically respond to this persecution? {H} Credits: 4 
Ernest Benz, Justin Daniel Cammy 

Literature and Film


RES 210 Environment and Ecology in Russian Culture 
How does a culture conceptualize its natural environment in aesthetic, political, and even religious terms, and what does a landscape “mean” in this context? This interdisciplinary course explores how Russian writers, filmmakers, and artists have represented the vast territory comprising Imperial Russia, the USSR, and the Russian Federation, from the Enlightenment to present. In addition to considering how artistic production has reflected and shaped understanding of the Russian “anthropocene,” we will compare these works with cultural production of the Western tradition. The course also explores initiatives to legislate and transform the Russian environment, which often precipitated ecological and social disasters. {H} {L} {S} Credits: 4 
Thomas Lee Roberts 

CLT 203 Western Classics in Translation, From Chrétien de Troyes to Tolstoy 
Same as ENG 203. Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvain; Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra;Cervantes’ Don Quixote; Lafayette’s The Princesse of Clèves; Goethe’s Faust; Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Lecture and discussion. CLT 203/ENG 203, like CLT 202/ENG 202, is among the courses from which comparative literature majors choose two as the basis of the major. Students interested in comparative literature and/or the foundations of Western literature and wanting a writing-intensive course should take 202 or 203 or both. WI {L} Credits: 4 
George P. Katsaros 



RES 242 The Politics and Culture of Russian Sacred Art 
Same as REL 242. How can we explain the power and aura of the devotional object, political symbol, and art commodity known as “the Russian Icon”? Revered as sacred, vilified as reactionary, displaced and sold as masterpiece, this course examines the life and language of this art form, and its role in shaping Russia’s turbulent history. Situating the icon in the broader fields of religion, ritual, and visual studies, students will consider topics such as the production and reception of images; the notion of visual “presence”; visuality and spirituality; secularization, commodification, and the sacred; history, memory, and collective identities; religion and modern art; visual propaganda, culture wars, and contemporary protest movements. No prerequisites. Open to first-year students. {H} {L} Credits: 4 
Vera Shevzov 

Students are encouraged to take advantage of the rich offerings in REEES available in the Five College Consortium, which will count toward the major. Consult the Five College REEES website for a current list of approved courses.


Featured Event

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Majors in REEES are strongly encouraged to study abroad in Russia, Eastern Europe or Eurasia for a year, semester or summer.

Courses taken while studying abroad or at an accredited institution during the summer may be counted toward the major; however, students must petition the REEES Advisory Committee to count these courses after the completion of course work.

The Five College Russian, East European and Eurasian studies website lists study abroad resources for semester- and yearlong programs, as well as summer opportunities.

Other Recommended Programs

Russian, East European and Eurasian studies students have had good experiences studying in Russia and other post-Soviet countries through the Bard-Smolny Study Abroad Program and the American Councils for International Education Program (ACTR).

Students are encouraged to explore all options and consult with their advisers about study abroad.

Come experience Russia even if you don't speak the language! Make your friends jealous by sending them photos of frozen rivers and canals and beautiful snowflakes in the sun.

Join this program in one of the world's most beautiful cities and you will:

  • Learn about the history and contemporary culture of Russia and its second capital.
  • Immerse yourself in Russian culture during visits to course-related sites, and a variety of cultural excursions and activities.
  • Meet and spend time with English-speaking Russian peers.
  • Explore the city's impressive historical and cultural sites with weekly field trips.


January 3-20, 2019, with two predeparture mandatory meetings in Northampton in December 2018 as well as one meeting in February 2019 after the program.

Housing and Meals

Students will stay in a centrally located hostel or hotel. Breakfast and lunch will be provided at the university cafeteria. Dinner is not provided by the program.

About the City

Envisioned by Peter the Great as the "Window to the West" and created by French and Italian architects, St. Petersburg became a testimony to opulence with golden palaces, pastel-colored mansions and landscaped parks, gardens and canals. Having endured the horrors of World War II and Stalinist repression, the people now cope with a new political and economic reality. Known as Leningrad from 1924 to 1991, the city of nearly five million is easily navigated by foot, bus, trolley and an efficient metro system.

Program Cost

The program fee for 2019 is $3,800.  The fee includes:

  • Tuition, housing and meals
  • Visa and air travel from New York to Saint Petersburg
  • Full-time program leadership and support
  • Field trips and cultural activities

The program fee is subject to change.

Financial Aid

Financial aid for Smith students will depend on their financial need. Students can also apply for an International Experience grant.

Program Requirements

Students must be in good academic standing (a minimum overall GPA 2.5 or above). Due to the length of the visa process, students must have a valid passport by October 1. The passport must be valid at least 18 months after the program ends.

The program is open to Five College students.

Application Process & Deadline

Students can find the application materials and apply to the program online using the Smith International Travel Experiences System (SITES).

The application deadline for the January 2019 program is October 1, 2018.  


Contact Professor Evgeny Dengub at

Academic Program

In St. Petersburg, students will take three courses at the Higher School of Economics, one of the leading and largest universities in Russia:

  1. International Relations: A View from Russia
    In this course we approach sociocultural premises of Russian foreign policy, which often remain implicit but which invite direct inquiry. We use the concept of symbolic politics to "untangle" four dimensions of Russia's international relations: the language with which Russians define their society (the "we" dimension); how Russia frames messages about its "friends" or "enemies" (the "significant others" dimension); how Russian elites produce narratives and metaphors of collective memory (the "time" dimension); and how Russia perceives its geopolitical space (the dimension of "political space"). These four dimensions comprise the four principal parts of the course. We will study the texts of key public intellectuals, analyzing Russia's role in modern world politics in relation to what shapes the country's identity (often defined as "the derzhava"), and to how Russian ruling elites construct relationship with both the West and China. We examine key narratives of Russia's "heroes", "triumphs", and "historical victims" (WWII), as well as the principal symbols of geopolitical space (for example, the Crimean Peninsula).

  2. Approaching the Culture of Politics in the Russian Revolution of 1917
    What makes people mobilized or immobilized during a radical change? Addressing this topical question, the course is aimed at a close reading and discussion of historical sources produced during the events of the 1917 revolution. Special emphasis is placed on political language and symbolism. The approach sheds light on the grass-roots level of politics, revealing methods of political agency of ‘ordinary people’ during the process of revolution. The objective of the course is to contextualize hegemonic Socialist ideology as a set of practices which were in many cases distant from how intellectuals understood ‘theory’.

  3. St. Petersburg as a Cultural Capital: History, Politics, Culture
    St. Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 as a part of his ambitious project of westernization of Russia. The new capital of the Russian Empire was to become a "window to Europe" that would help to modernize the country socially, politically and culturally. Although since 1918 St. Petersburg (Petrograd) lost its status of the capital city of the country, it continued to be considered its cultural capital because of its vibrant intellectual and aristic life, and because of the "shadows of the past" visible in its cityscape. The course will deal with various aspects which make this "fragile, gritty, and vital to an extraordinary degree" city a cultural capital of Russia.

  4. Russian Language Practicum for Beginning and Intermediate Students 
    Students who have had at least one semester of Russian may choose this instead of the course The Russian Empire: Sovereignty, Nationalism, and Politics of Diversity.  

In Northampton, prior to departure, students attend three lectures to introduce them to Russia and St. Petersburg and familiarize themselves with the historic and cultural context of their destination. Students will register for RES 105 St. Petersburg: History, Politics and Culture: Interterm in Russia, a two-credit course.

Cultural Program

The academic program with co-curricular field trips is supplemented with extracurricular excursions and cultural and social activities. You will explore the city through a series of visits to museums (including the world-famous Hermitage), concerts, ballets and other events.


Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

Wright Hall 106
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3662

Administrative Assistant: Phoebe McKinnell