Trip to Saint Petersburg Inspires US Students
A group of 20 undergraduates from the United States visited St. Peteresburg, 'the Venice of the North', this January, taking part in a programme that blended the history, society and culture of the Russian Empire’s capital. Participants arrived from Mount Holyoke College and Smith College, opting to spend two weeks of their winter holidays here (6 – 22 January) learning about this city. Participants were diverse in their fields of studies, Russian knowledge, and travel experience, some even choosing this trip as their first chance to travel outside the borders of the United States.
Students shared different reasons for embarking on the programme. Elizabeth Nolasco said, 'I thought this was an interesting opportunity. You’re going to go to St. Petersburg and study history where the capital of the empire was.' Literature had played a key role in sparking Caroline Dunbar’s interest in the country and its heritage years earlier. Having read the works of Dostoevsky and Akhmatova, she jumped at the chance to visit the city where they had lived and worked. Samantha Linder wished to rediscover the country of her ancestors, as well as to experience the wealth of Russian art in the city first hand. Daisy Paez was inspired to come here because of a strong female figure in Russian history, telling us, 'The first thought that came to me was Catherine, and right away I just knew I wanted to come to Russia and study her, especially. I had never been to Russia, or even out of the US, so two weeks outside of the country was just ideal for me.'
After even a short time in Russia, participants agreed that the trip had been transformative. Ms. Nolasco talked about how the reality compared with longstanding assumptions about the people, saying, 'Any time I focus more on the people and the stereotypes that we heard – they’re unfriendly and they don’t smile – but I’ve met so many amazing people here.'
After coming here, I am very happy that I did. It’s a beautiful city, and when I compare it to places like Paris or Rome, I think it is even more charming and romantic, because there is an honesty to St. Petersburg
Some of the people Ms. Nolasco was referring to included HSE staff and faculty who had put together this programme with the specific aim of introducing the rich history of this city and country, the evolution of its society, art forms and politics in a compelling way. Their success in this was obvious from the praise participants placed upon the enthusiasm of the professors and their ability to bring long-dead czars and artists to life in their lectures. But the praise of HSE did not stop with administrators and lecturers. Participants of the programme were very grateful to meet their Russian peers, students at HSE, through the Buddy System. After long days of lectures, tours, and activities, the participants were able to explore modern Russia and see it through the eyes of their 'buddies'.
Participants took excursions to the city’s key points of interest, as well as did a large amount of sightseeing on their own, but they agreed that in all cases the material they had covered in their lectures complemented these tours nicely. Ms. Dunbar shared her thoughts on the programme, saying, 'It’s all been rewarding. My friends and I have done a lot of sightseeing on our own. We’ve gone to the museums for Pushkin, Dostoevsky, and Akhmatova, and there were things we had learned in class that were helpful in those museums. Like in our History class, we had talked about political thought in the 19th century, and those political thought movements always come up in the background of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky novels. So, it was great to learn about them from a historian.'
Ms. Paez summed up the overall impressions the participants shared about the city quite nicely, stating, 'After coming here, I am very happy that I came here and very appreciative. It’s a beautiful city, and people like to say that it is a European city. And when I compare it to places like Paris or Rome, I think it is even more charming and romantic, because there is an honesty to St. Petersburg.' Two weeks here in St. Petersburg, experiencing the culture, braving the Russian winter, and beginning to scratch the surface of the rich culture heritage the city has to offer has left a lasting impression on each of the students, with many looking forward to the next chance to return.
‘We Have Always Loved You, Sakhalin’: Research Expedition Studies Sociocultural Anthropology of Miners' Working Life in the USSR
Researchers from the School of Foreign Languages and the Group for Historical Research, together with students of the History programme at the HSE University campus in Perm, have come back from an expedition to Sakhalin Island, where they studied Soviet industrial culture and the working life of miners. The expedition participants shared their impressions of their ‘immersion into the past’ and the extraordinary landscapes of the island with the HSE News Service.
‘I Have Always Respected the University’s Comprehensiveness and Inclusiveness’
Throughout July, students of the HSE International Summer University are studying Russian History and Behavioural Economics. The courses are taking place in an online format—something that seemed unthinkable for a summer programme before the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent years have shown that online learning is a unique opportunity for students from all over the world to study with leading HSE University professors from the comfort of their own homes.
Funny Pictures of Difficult Era
The first major Soviet publisher of children's literature, Raduga, was established a century ago and featured the debuts of many authors who would later go on to become famous, as well as illustrations by prominent artists. Based on a research paper by Marina Sazonenko, graduate of the HSE Doctoral School of Art and Design, IQ.HSE examines how — and why — the illustrations in Soviet periodicals for children changed over time.
‘There Is Something Inherently Interesting in People Who Break the Mainstream Norm’
This December, HSE University’s Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities hosted Professor Juliane Fürst, from Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History, who gave a lecture about Soviet hippies and the Soviet Flower Power. In an interview with HSE News Service, Professor Fürst spoke about her interest in Soviet subcultures and her research plans.
‘Boundaries of History’ Seminar Starts New Season of Meetings
On September 30, Stephen Riegg, Assistant Professor of History of the Texas A&M University, presented his book Russia’s Entangled Embrace: The Tsarist Empire and the Armenians, 1801-1914 at the first seminar of this year’s Boundaries of History series.We spoke with Professor Alexander Semyonov, the seminar chair and the Director of the HSE Centre for Historical Research, about the goals of the seminar and to Stephen Riegg about his research.
European Values: From the Discovery of America to the First World War
The English-language course ‘Europe and the World, ca. 1500 to 1914’ has launched on Coursera. Its author, Andrey Iserov, Deputy Dean for International Affairs at the HSE Faculty of Humanities, examines a historical span of four centuries during which European states reached the peak of their economic, military, and political power. Students of the course will learn how the independence of Hispanic America by the mid-1820s influenced China, what caused the religious schism in Western Christianity in the 16th century, and how European colonial policy developed.
‘The Past Is Never Dead. It's Not Even Past’
This summer, the HSE Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences was reorganized to become the HSE Institute for Advanced Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies. Oleg Budnitskii, Doctor of Historical Sciences, head of the Centre and director of the Institute, talked to the HSE News Service about the new division.
Exploring the History of Places and Environment in Russia
The collective volume Place and Nature: Essays in Russian Environmental History, co-edited by David Moon, Nicholas B. Breyfogle, and HSE researcher Alexandra Bekasova, was recently presented at a seminar of the Laboratory for the Environmental and Technological History of the Centre for Historical Research at HSE – St. Petersburg. The book is one of the fruits of a networking project carried out in 2013-2016 with active participation of HSE researchers.
Conference Brings Together New Perspectives on the Russian Far East
On March 28-31, 2021, the HSE International Laboratory ‘Russia’s Regions in Historical Perspective’ held an international conference ‘The Russian Far East: Regional and Transnational Perspectives (19th -21st cent.)’. The event was jointly organized by the Laboratory with the German Historical Institute Moscow, Indiana University Bloomington (USA), and the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East FEB RAS (Vladivostok).
Studying the Middle Ages Is Fascinating
The recently launched Master's Programme in Medieval Studies is the only Master’s degree in Russia fully dedicated to medieval studies. HSE News Service spoke with Juan Sota, a second-year student of the programme, about its unique features, interacting with professors, and his research interests and aspirations.