This past year has been a year full of new developments and achievements in the CIEE Russia world. The academic 2014-15 year began with the unveiling of CIEE’s second study center in Russia, a Business and International Relations program in the heart of Russia’s capital city, Moscow, and has concluded with the worldwide CIEE reconfiguration of multiple CIEE summer programs, including St. Petersburg’s Russian Area Studies program! The previous 6-week program has evolved into three four-week long sessions. This has enabled students to enroll in consecutive sessions, studying from 4 weeks up to 12 weeks, or to pair sessions with multiple CIEE sites in other countries!
Photograph by Nico Pcholkin (University of Toronto ’17) of St. Isaac’s Cathedral on the first day’s walking city-tour.
As we approach late-June, our first four-week session has drawn to a close. These past four weeks have been full of new adventures, discoveries, and exploration of Russia and its enigmatic culture.
The first summer session began with orientation and a walking city tour led by CIEE Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova. Traversing along the historic center of St. Petersburg, one of the first stops was on Palace Square in front of the State Hermitage Museum (pictured left) and St. Isaac’s Cathedral (pictured right) near the Palace Embankment of the Neva River.
Unique Academic Courses
Part of the Russian Area Studies Program, as well as the multi-site Summer Eastern European Cinema Program in St. Petersburg and Prague is Center Director, Dr. Irina Makoveeva’s course, A Century of Russian Cinema. Beginning with an exploration of Russian filmography in the early 20th century, students watched impressive short-silent films such as Evgenii Bauer’s “Child of the Big City” (1913), and Dziga Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera” (1929), which played a significant part in Russian cinematography. The course continued its overview of Russian cinema and its development, paying special attention to World War II, and continuing through the turbulent 1990s, as represented in Aleksei Balabanov’s “Brother” (1997).
Jiyeon Kim (Claremont McKenna College ‘17) is a multi-site student part of the Summer Eastern European Cinema Program. She spent the first session studying in St. Petersburg, and will continue her studies in Prague during the second session:
“I have never been to a European country, so linking St. Petersburg and Prague in one study abroad experience seemed like a great way to experience the most. I’m an economics and film studies major, so learning from other professors with different perspectives and cultures seemed like a beneficial experience. It’s been really interesting to see how what I learned about Russian film in the states differs from how I learn about Russian film in Russia. Here, I saw a whole new perspective to film during the Soviet Era. I’m looking forward to Prague, and all the new perspectives I’ll gain there!”
Dr. Alexander Sherstobitov, professor of political science at St. Petersburg State University, led this session’s political science course, Topics in Post-Soviet Russian Politics. Delving into larger topics such as the political culture of Russian people and its impact on political processes, this intensive 4-week course examines the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the transformation of the Russian political regime in the beginning of the 1990s, including Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin’s domestic policy and liberal reforms, as well as the development of the party system in Russia.
The State Museum of Political History
Students visited the State Museum of Political History, which is the former villa of aristocratic family Kshesinskaya. After fleeing during the February Revolution, the villa became a pivotal station to further the aims of the Revolution. This guided tour enabled students to look deeper into the various stages of the political history of Russia, view one of the places in which Vladimir Lenin worked, and see the very balcony from which he directed his famous "speech from a balcony" on April 4th, 1917. Paired with the Topics in Post-Soviet Russian Politics course, this museum’s visit did well to further what our students have been learning in the classroom.
[Left to right] Andrew Dunivan (University of Arkansas ‘17), Nico Pcholkin (University of Toronto ’17), and Madeleine Traverse (Cornell University ‘17) in one of the rooms of the Museum of Political History.
Russian Cooking Class
Undoubtedly, a quintessential part of experiencing a new culture and country is to explore its cuisine. Living with a host family has, without a doubt, given students the opportunity to fully immerse themselves into Russian family life, and get their fair share of Russian cuisine. However, our students managed to not only get accustomed to Russian food and some of its peculiarities, but to also tackle the challenge of learning to cook a few typical Russian dishes. Gathering at Student Services Assistant, Liz McBean’s apartment, students embarked on an intensive master class in Russian cooking led by CIEE staff.
Andrew Dunivan (University of Arkansas ’17)
“We had a small group, so we were all involved in cooking Russian food together. We made borscht and traditional Beef stroganoff and zapekanka. Working together was a great way to learn how this delicious Russian cuisine is made. And in the end, eating our great creation was the best part.”
The Siege of Leningrad Museum & Tour
St. Petersburg, formerly Leningrad, has a brave, yet tragic and turbulent history. Together with Leningrad-native CIEE Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova, students embarked on a tour devoted to the heroic defense of Leningrad during WWII and to the life in the besieged city. This tour began with a walking tour of places of significance during the blockade, and culminated in a visit to the Rumyantsev Mansion Siege Museum.
Madeleine Traverse (Cornell University ‘17)
“The siege museum made a very strong impression on me. I didn’t realize the extent to which the siege was still a part of the people of St. Petersburg. It made my understanding of Russia’s part in World War II clearer.”
Intercultural Exchange (ICE) Trip to Moscow
Every semester, CIEE has traveled to Russia’s capital city, Moscow, and explored the faster pace of one of the largest cities in the world. This semester was no exception!
After the overnight train ride to Moscow, we set out on a city bus tour. In addition to visiting the Red Square and Cathedral of Christ the Savior, we visited one of the highest spots in Moscow that marks the place of Victory Park, Poklonnaya Hill. After a full afternoon exploring the city, students enjoyed a welcome dinner of traditional Russian and Ukranian dishes at the quaint restaurant, Korchma. Serenaded with traditional Russian folk songs by musicians dressed in folk costumes, students enjoyed zharkoe (meat goulash) and homemade pelmeni (meat dumplings), while drinking homemade kvass, a traditional Russian drink made from fermented rye bread. Never shying away from new adventures, our students proved to be a brave bunch when they tried traditional appetizer, salo s gorchitsoy, (lard with mustard) and the vast variety of pickled vegetables offered at Korchma!
No visit to Moscow, the political, economic, and scientific epicenter of Russia is complete without a visit to the Kremlin. Students toured the Kremlin, as well as one of Moscow’s oldest museums, the Armoury Chamber. Another highlight was our walk through the grounds of the VDNKh, vystavka dostizheniy narodnogo khozyaystva, which translates to, Exhibition of Achievements of the People’s Economy.
The grounds of the VDNKh, including the Fountain of Friendship, signifying each of the former Soviet Republics.
During Soviet times, this general purpose exhibition center hosted more than 300 national and international exhibitions each year, attracting nearly 11 million visitors annually, and to this day, it has only grown in size, serving as a symbol of pride of Russian and Soviet achievement. Even the grounds’ architecture was designed to demonstrate the Soviet Union’s prosperity, such as the streetlights, which were sculpted in the shape of grain, demonstrating the prosperity of life during the Soviet Period.
In between excursions, and planned activities, students still managed to find time to explore the city on their own. Andrew Dunivan (University of Arkansas ‘17) reflects on his visit to Moscow:
“Moscow was just incredible! I had always dreamed of going there, and all the buildings and monuments seemed larger than life. I used my free time to visit the WWII Museum, which was among the greatest museums and monuments to war I have ever seen. Russia honors its fallen heroes there in a solemn yet beautiful way, matched only by our own memorials in Washington, DC. As luck would have it, I also got to meet one of my favorite writers in Moscow. The third book of Dmitry Glukhovsky's post-apocalyptic series called "Metro" was released that first day we were there, and the author was at a Moscow book stores signing copies! It was an awesome experience standing in line and talking to Russian fans who couldn't believe I had read the series as an American, and in the end I got to shake Glukhovsky's hand and received a signed copy of his fantastic new book.”
[L to R] (1) Andrew Dunivan (University of Arkansas ’17) shaking hands with author, Dmitry Glukovsky. (2) Moscow City sky scrapers. (3) World War II Museum as photographed by Andrew Dunivan.
The final day in Moscow was spent together with local Russian students exploring the Fallen Monument Park, Muzeon. Meandering through this outdoor arena displaying over 700 sculptures, while discussing interesting and relative topics with fellow Russian students in an informal environment, was a great way to conclude the semesterly trip to Moscow.
As Nico Pcholkin (University of Toronto ’17) reflects:
"I had a great time meeting Russian university students and sharing stories about our university experiences. We discussed how different the US, Canadian, and Russian university systems are, like how in the Russian system they have six days of classes, a set curriculum of required courses without electives, and they seem to have way more classes.”
Exploring the City through CIEE Excursions!
The four week session was full of interesting excursions!
Nico Pcholkin (University of Toronto ’17) in front of the grand cascade at Peter the Great’s summer palace, Peterhof.
Students after the ballet performance Sleeping Beauty at the renown Mikhailovksy Theater.
Left to right: Madeleine Traverse (Cornell University ‘17), Jiyeon Kim (Claremont McKenna College ‘17), CIEE Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova, Andrew Dunivan (University of Arkansas ’17), and Nico Pcholkin (University of Toronto ’17) in front of the Peter and Paul Cathedial, where the last of the Romanov’s are buried within the Peter and Paul Fortress.
(Iskrenne Vashi) Sincerely yours,
Liz & the rest of the CIEE Staff!
Liz McBean, RASP Student Services Assistant
Katya Rubtsova, Program Coordinator
Svetlana Matsvetova, Housing Coordinator
Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator
Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant
Irina Makoveeva, Center Director