This August concludes the first summer which has implemented the worldwide CIEE reconfiguration of multiple CIEE summer programs, such as St. Petersburg’s Russian Area Studies program. The previous 6-week program has evolved into three four-week long sessions, which has enabled students to enroll in consecutive sessions, or to pair sessions with multiple CIEE sites in other countries!
Many of the Session III students outside Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin (Tsarskoe Selo). [Left to Right] Metsi Asfaw (University of California, Berkeley), Joie Tanaka (Luther College), Elsa Schieffelin (University of Virginia), Kate Panian (University of California, San Diego), Cassie Loveland (University of Wyoming), Kelsey Wolf (Rhodes College), Dogancan Sonmez (Pennsylvania State University), Alyssa Spence (University of California, Berkeley), Sean Finck (University of California, Santa Barbara), CIEE Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova, Brittany Dobos (University of Oregon), and Cheyenne Warren (University of California, Berkeley).
Interesting Academic Courses
While in the first two summer sessions, students were offered specialized courses in Russian cinema and political science, art and culture, the third summer session offered students an intellectually stimulating course in Russian civilization, “Russian Civilization: Popular Stereotypes and Social Behavior.”
This course, specially designed for our Russian Area Studies program by Dr. Leonid Loshenkov, a St. Petersburg native and expert on the cultural history of Russia, adds a unique dimension to students’ understanding and knowledge of St. Petersburg and Russia as a whole. Over the four week session, students examined the popular concepts of Soviet and Russian civilization and society, critically examining the constructs of Russian traditionalism and social behavior, the application of privileges versus rights, and how the Russian system contradicts as well as sustains popular stereotypes.
The course began by exploring topics such as Russian conformism and dissent through the subtopics of westernizing dissidents and their critique of Soviet communism to neo-Slavophil ambivalence towards communism. From there, the course further developed, exploring the “East and West Attitude,” and the “Quest for the Russian Idea.” Apocalyptic Russia, as seen in Russian classics such as Dostoevsky’s “The Legend of the Great Inquisitor” in The Karamazov Brothers, was investigated, as well as alcoholic consciousness, and the particular significance of music and song as a constant of national character. These topics, as well as additional topics such as Soviet Russian Patriotism and the idea “World War II Was Only Yesterday” all work to add depth and well-roundedness to students’ understanding of Russian civilization and the its people.
Exploring Russia and St. Petersburg through Excursions
Four weeks may not sound like it is enough time to submerge oneself deeply into their surroundings, however, these past four weeks have been full of classes, field trips, museums, local engagement activities, and exploration, helping students to successfully finish this third session with a much deeper understanding of Russia.
Students toured the point upon which St. Petersburg was founded, the Peter and Paul Fortress; investigated and felt the weight World War II and the Siege of Leningrad had on the city that was once called Leningrad when visiting the Rumyantsev Mansion which houses an extensive museum of the history of St. Petersburg which focuses on the Siege of Leningrad; toured the Museum of Political History; and of course, spent the afternoon delving into Russian and European art at the infamous State Hermitage Museum.
Pushkin is probably one of the most picturesque and historically significant suburbs of Saint Petersburg. Pushkin, former Tsarskoe Selo, “Tsar’s Village”, houses the former imperial summer residence. Students enjoyed comparing the similar architectural style of the exterior of Catherine’s Palace (as pictured below) with Smolny Cathedral: Italian architect, Francisco Bartolomeo Rastrelli designed both of these notable sites in St. Petersburg.
Take a look at the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center’s Official Facebook page to see more of the activities our students have been involved in this four week session.
Intercultural Comparative Experience Weekend in Moscow
Moscow, the political, economic, and social epicenter of the largest country in the world was our destination for this summer session’s ICE weekend. Departing from St. Petersburg’s Moscovsky Railway Terminal, students experienced Russia’s well-developed rail infrastructure while traveling by overnight train to Moscow.
Students and staff along the Moskva River with the Kremlin in the background.
Despite friendly rivalry between Russia’s two largest metropolitans, Moscow managed to captivate and find a way into the hearts of our students, who have already found a second home in St. Petersburg. The weekend was highlighted by a visit to the Kremlin complex, which houses the official office of the president of the Russian Federation. While exploring the Kremlin, our tour coincided with the Presidential Regiment’s ceremonial procession on Cathedral Square; this included the cavalcade of the military orchestra, cavalry, and footmen. In addition to touring the grounds of the Kremlin, students visited the 16th century Cathedral of the Archangel, which contains the tombs of all the rulers of Muscovy and Russia from the 14th Century until Peter the Great moved the capital to St. Petersburg in 1703, including the tombs of the Romanovs and Ivan the Terrible. As usual, the Armoury Chamber, one of Moscow’s oldest museums located within the Kremlin, housing treasures of Russia, including relics of ancient Russian state regalia, ceremonial vestments, and precious gifts from other states was a favorite of students.
Saturday evening was inspirited by the Russian National Dance Show, Kostroma. This completely uniquely Russian performance by the Russian National Ballet “Kostroma,” uses elements of Russian folklore and traditional folk dance to trace the vastly deep and rich history of Russia, from the times of Rus through tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. With the help of 600 beautifully designed national costumes, 8 sets, and over 300 intricate props, Russia’s enigmatic soul, with its multiethnic people and multifaceted culture is illustrated, and a window into the life of its various people, from those living in the Far Arctic North, to those in the southern steppes, the mountains of the Caucasus, or Central Russia is revealed.
Following the “Kostroma” show, students explored the grounds of the VDNKh, vystavka dostizheniy narodnogo khozyaystva, (Exhibition of Achievements of the People’s Economy). 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. The ‘Friendship of People’ Fountain (pictured above), features the union of the different republics of the Soviet Union, and has become a symbol of the VDNKh.
CIEE staff and students, together with local Russian students studying in Moscow, spent Sunday afternoon enjoying the sunny summer day that reached the 90s (!) in Moscow’s central park, Gorky Park. Gorky Park has become a fountain of life, attracting more than 40,000 visitors daily and 250,000 visitors on weekends! This eco-friendly park (one of the few places in Russia to have water fountains!) is a beloved place for recreation, sport, dance, outdoor games, and relaxing with friends and family; strolling around the parks grounds, visitors can play ping-pong, beach volleyball, enjoy free dance classes, rent a bike or rollerblades, relax on a paddleboat, take an open-air dance class, relax on one of its many giant bean bag chairs, or listen to a free lecture in English or Russian (to name a few). Students enjoyed exploring this unique park with their Russian peers.
It has been a productive and transformative summer at the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center! We wish you all a relaxing end to the summer, and a successful start to the 2015-16 academic school year!
(Iskrenne Vashi) Sincerely yours,
The RASP summer newsletter editor, Liz McBean & 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