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1 posts from May 2015


Spring 2015, Issue III

Header (newsletter)

As the spring 2015 semester draws to a close, students are busy preparing for their final exams, taking their Oral Proficiency Interview exams, and saying goodbye to the city and people they have called home these past four to eight months. Each student has put their heart and soul into this experience, and inevitably, will take home with them a part of the enigmatic Russian soul, which they have felt and experienced this semester.


Pictures from the final month of the semester, hung in the corridor of the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center.

Exceptional Professors, Exceptional Russian Language

Mastering the Russian language – its long, dauntingly difficult-to-pronounce words, its complex case system, verbal aspect – it is by far not an easy task that our students have boldly undertaken. Our students have various individual academic goals they have endeavored to achieve by studying in Russia, however, one uniting goal pervades all others; the desire to improve their Russian language skills. Students have made huge strides in their Russian language acquisition thanks to the rigorous curriculum that trains them in phonetics, grammar, translation, and conversation multiple hours a day. Our students are able to make such dramatic strides in their language acquisition, thanks to a core set of St. Petersburg State University instructors, who boast multiple years of experience to both their Russian and foreign students.

Nina Petrovna Koloyartseva is one of these anchor professors that adds depth, and an impressive amount of experience and knowledge to the CIEE program. Her prolific half-century career as a teacher of the Russian Studies Department of one of Russia’s most prestigious universities has been highlighted by multiple guest teaching positions in Japan, Prague, Czechoslovakia, France, as well as in various U.S. universities in Tennessee, Arizona, and New York. Over her 53 years teaching Russian language and Russian studies, she has published more than 50 works, including textbooks, curricula, and various articles. Her multiple years contributing as a Russian language instructor to the CIEE program, together with her experience as a professor at St. Petersburg State University, have made Nina Petrovna an invaluable wealth of knowledge, challenge, and inspiration to her students.

Reflecting on her class, Steavi Swinson (University of New Haven ’16):

1. Koloyartseva, Nina Petrovna

“Nina Petrovna was such a great teacher! Because of her experiences as a teacher in America and Russia, she was able to understand our cultural differences and apply it in class. She gave us challenging topics in order to persuade us to speak more and about difficult things to help improve our language skills. Her classes were always entertaining; we never had a boring day with her!"

Marie Putnam (Ursinus College '16) reminisces:

“She is always as intense as that first day of class, and is always very energetic. We covered many subjects in her class and I don't think I will forget her saying at the beginning of every class "Kto znaet" (who knows) or "Kto pomnit nashi samoe lyubimoe sportivnoe slovo?" To which the answer was razminka (warm-up). And as she said this word, she would not just say it; she would put her whole body into the one word, almost jumping off the ground with it. She was always excited to teach. It helped me remember a lot of words and subjects because she would put so much energy into them. Even now when I see her in the hallway she is always smiling and full of energy. She always stops to say hello and ask me how life is and gives me a kiss on the cheek and tells me she misses me. She is a great teacher and a great person and it always puts a smile on my face when she stops to say hello.”



CIEE St. Petersburg cherishes the academic strength of its instructors and the courses they teach here in Smolny.  One of the greatest features of our courses is providing a perfect combination of learning in and outside the classroom. Dr. Irina Gennadievna Guliakova, an esteemed professor who has taught for nearly 3 decades in the Russian Studies Faculty of the St. Petersburg State University, has garnered over 30 guest teaching positions in Germany and Austria, as well as with Duke University in the U.S. This semester, Irina Gennadievna has been teaching a course on Analytical Readings of 20th Century Russian Literature.

3. Brodsky Reading

CIEE staff and students with Dr. Ellendea Proffer Teasley (center).

One of the outstanding poets whose works have been studied and discussed throughout this course is Joseph Brodsky, a writer who represents a vivid connection between Soviet and American cultures, values, and mentalities.

 When the opportunity to attend Ellendea Proffer Teasley’s book reading, Brodsky Among Us presented itself, Professor Guliakova went the extra mile and put additional efforts into equipping her students with a deeper understanding of Brodsky’s life and creative works to prepare them to attend this event at the U.S. Consulate. CIEE students had a chance to listen to Dr. Proffer Teasley, not only a well-known author, but also a prolific publisher and translator of Russian literature. CIEE students had a truly unique opportunity to learn more about 20th century Russian literature, and to meet in person some of the authors, whose prose and poetry they had enjoyed reading in class throughout this semester.



“The Politics of the Image and the Image of Politics in Russian Art of the 20th and 21st Centuries” is a popular summer course offered to Russian Area Studies students. Students gain invaluable insight into the political and social history of Russia as it has influenced and is influenced by the art of the period under the instruction of Dr. Olesya Turkina, a professor of the history of modern art at St. Petersburg State University, as well as curator and leading researcher in the Department of Contemporary Art of the State Russian Museum.

Dr. Turkina has been recently occupied with a new endeavor; an exploration of the ideology of the soviet space dogs. These canines played a crucial part in the Soviet Space program, and played a discernable role in the Soviet image. This fascinating and prevalent topic made for a very interesting guest lecture to CIEE students by Dr. Turkina on her newly released book.

4. Soviet Space Dogs

Dr. Olesya Turkina presenting her new book Soviet Space Dogs.



This spring, CIEE St. Petersburg undertook a new academic endeavor in its attempts to continually challenge its students in and outside the classroom, and to strengthen the academic ties between the School of Political Science of St. Petersburg State University and CIEE, while co-organizing the Student Research Conference.

This year’s topic, “Ethnic Contentions: Russia’s Perspective and Lessons from the West” provided much food for thought as our students, their Russian peers, and international participants  presented their research on these topics, resulting in lively discussions spanning a wide spectrum of historic and current political issues. Discussions of this caliber and the international collaboration of young political scientists and historians across the globe are fundamental in light of today’s globalization.

Jack Margolin (Tufts University ’16):

“The plenary session was a unique opportunity to hear the opinions and policy prescriptions of young Russians in regards to one of the greatest threats to pan-European stability and cooperation in the past two decades – the proliferation of the radical right. In debating their views, we heard a diverse range of opinions.”


CIEE Center Director, Dr. Irina Efimovna Makoveeva presenting the opening remarks of the Student Research Conference [left]. CIEE students during opening remarks [left to right] Benjamin Lourie (University of Colorado Boulder), Max Stanley (Washington and Lee University), and Jack Margolin (Tufts University).

Another student participant, Max Stanley (Washington and Lee University '16), shares his impressions on the conference:

“Thanks to CIEE, as a university junior, I was able to submit a paper to and participate in my first academic conference. While Jack (Margolin) talked about the peaceful coexistence of the dozens of ethnic groups in Dagestan, I looked into the treatment of the Romani peoples in Russia, other post-soviet countries, Western Europe, andthe Americas. Over the course of the day, we listened to dozens of talks, both in English and in Russian, but the highlight was most definitely when we presented our research to an audience comprised of our fellow CIEE colleagues, Russian students of SPbGU, and other guests from across the world. It was altogether unlike anything I've ever done before, and it makes me excited to think about continuing to participate in such international research conferences in the future.”



“No one is forgotten, nothing is forgotten”


Students attending the parades commemorating Victory Day (left). CIEE Center Director, Irina Efimovna Makoveeva and CIEE Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova during the Memory Eternal Procession.

The beginning of May 2015 marked the sequence of celebrations around the Eurasia commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Russian victory in the Russian-German front of World War II. To this day, May 9th or Den Pobedy (Russian for Victory Day) is deeply cherished in Russia and mass celebrations including military parades, veterans parades, fireworks, and numerous shows and performances. Our Students were able to attend the Victory Day Parade and pay tribute to the memory of all those who fought in the War. There is no doubt, that this holiday, one held close to the hearts of all Russians will forever echo in the hearts of all CIEE students, who had a chance to become a part of it during their study abroad journey in Russia.

Olga Lefebvre, Howard University student ’16 and a heritage speaker of Russian:

“This was my first Victory Day and it was everything I wanted it to be. I woke up early, stood outside for a couple hours and watched the parade, which of course in Russian style was grand, theatrical and just jaw dropping. Then I went outside the city to my family’s home to celebrate. It was one of the most memorable days of my life. Growing up in America, I knew next to nothing about my family and while eating my shashlik I found out that most of my family survived the Siege of Leningrad. This made me even prouder to have Russian roots and to be able to celebrate such a wonderful day in Russia.”



9. Ball (group)

Every spring, CIEE St. Petersburg rekindles the spirit of imperial Russia by holding the enchanting Spring Ball, the grandeur of which is in many ways similar to that of the Lev Tolstoy’s depiction of the 19th century Russian ballroom enigma. Throughout the semester, students learned about the ballroom culture, which is a whole sophisticated world of its own. In addition to memorizing the basics of non-verbal ballroom communication with the use of elegant fans, our students learned Russian ballroom etiquette and dances. CIEE staff and students’ dedication and creativity was definitely felt in the various performances and choreographed dances that took place throughout the evening. The Spring Ball indeed turned out to be incredible and exhilarating! 

10. Ball performance

Dylan Ogden (Kenyon College) and Maddie Steup (Indiana University-Bloomington) showcased their talents on the bayan and violin (respectively) during the ball.

This year’s Spring Ball was particularly special, as it was the first time when CIEE rented an authentic imperial mansion in downtown Petersburg, adding charm and delight to this magical evening. Our special guests, Russell Philips and Julia Pons of the CIEE Portland office and a group of faculty members and advisors from the U.S., joined the Spring Ball during their visit to the CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center, diving head first into Russian culture and the of CIEE St. Petersburg Study Center’s traditions. Last but not least, CIEE St. Petersburg students and staff were extremely excited to host the students from CIEE Study Center in Moscow, who were very glad to get outfitted for the special occasion and become a part of this signature event!

Savanna Moen, University of Minnesota ’15 student, reflects on her CIEE Spring Ball experience:

"The CIEE Spring Ball was definitely a high point of the semester. From choosing our dresses to learning the dances, the months leading up to the ball were filled with excitement. When the night finally arrived it was filled with dancing and duels. The ball is great memory of our time in St. Petersburg."

12. Musical Chairs

CIEE students during a game of musical chairs [left to right] Matt Orr (George Washington University), Townshend Cooper (The Ohio State University), Greg Opengeym (University of Michigan), Michelle Pea (Purdue University)



Studying abroad in a bustling Russian metropolis, boasting a population of more than 5 million is exhilarating, unforgettable, and far from slow paced. The simple things, like bike riding on a country road, or looking at the stars at night become distant memories. On the first of May, the national May holidays in Russia, CIEE packed its bags and ventured nearly 200 miles southwest of St. Petersburg to the Pskov Region where we spent the weekend touring some of Russia’s oldest cities and fortresses, and enjoyed the Russian countryside in Pushkinskiye Gory, an urban locality in the Pskov region boasting a population of a little over 5 thousand. Beautiful hardly even begins to describe this area of Russia, where infamous Russian poet and writer, Alexander Pushkin spent two years of his exile, harnessing the beauty and peacefulness of his surroundings, to delve into his creativity. 

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Named after Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin’s nanny, Arina Rodionovna, the literary hotel Arina R. (pictured left) in Pushkinskiye Gory made for an ideal weekend in the Russian countryside, within walking distance of Pushkin’s estate, Mikhailovskoe (pictured right).

Enjoying the breath of fresh air of a weekend in the countryside, students rented bicycles, traipsed through the country roads exploring the surrounding nature and delving into the countryside which inspired national poet and write, Alexander Pushkin.

13. Bikes Pskov

Josh Forrey (University of Oregon), Vita Khachaturyan (University of California,  Los Angeles), and Adam Marjai (Kenyon College).

Students were able to walk through the rooms of the very estate, Mikhailovskoe, in which Pushkin lived and wrote during his exile, and experience the respect towards and magnitude of Russia’s national poet, when we visited his grave at the Svyatogorsk monastery.

Besides following Pushkin’s footsteps, and exploring Pskov, one of Russia’s oldest cities, we visited Izborsk, whose ancient fortress stands tall to this day (pictured below). 

Anthony Cellini (University of California, Berkley '17)

“I’m a history buff, so it was especially interesting to see the fortress in Izborsk. It was impressive how well reserved it was. That and the people living right next to it really left an impression on me, it really gives you a feel for how real the history is. As the tour guide said, a lot of the houses in the area are built on the same foundations they’ve built on since the middle ages. Medieval warfare is an interesting period of time, and looking at the fortress walls, it’s incredible to know that these giant walls were built by hand so many centuries ago.”

In addition to exploring a local watermill, Bugrovo (a village modeled after a 19th century Russian village), and the local fortress, students enjoyed a traditional Russian evening of banya (Russian steam bath) and sashliki (kebabs served outside).


15. Shashlik

Vita Khachaturyan (University of California, Los Angeles '16)

“Our journey to Pushkinskiye Gory began with a bus ride. A very long bus ride. But despite our brief encounter with insanity, the long hours on the bus forced us all into fits of laughter and a bonding experience I’ll never forget. Anyway, I could see that it was all worth it when I saw the beautiful landscapes where Pushkin was exiled to. It was clear that spring was already here. I never once imagined that I would be riding a bicycle through the Russian countryside, and without a coat on! The nature left me breathless. And when the sun went down, we spent our time in a very special and Russian way – at the banya (the Russian steam house)! We laughed and chatted as we sat dripping with sweat and beating each other with soaked birch branches. It was undoubtedly one of the most memorable weekends of the program.”




  17. Sport Day

Warmer and sunnier days brighten our students’ final weeks in St. Petersburg. To celebrate the warmer weather, and shake off the winter slumber, students, staff, teachers and their families, and our Russian friends competed in a friendly day of sports and competition. The “Purple Cobras,” composed of year-long students, the “Red Pigeon Army” of semester-long students, and the CIEE staff and teachers composing the “Ladies and Anton” spent the afternoon competing in ultimate Frisbee and fun relay races. Despite a slow start during the ultimate Frisbee games, the staff and teacher team managed to throw a few points on the board, however, the “Red Pigeon Army” proved too strong, and won the day with a whopping total of 23 points.

Townshend Cooper, the Ohio State University ‘16

“It was a lot of fun! It was a great way to bring an end to the semester, and it was especially fun to see our teachers playing as well.” 



Year-long students Guinevere Vanden Noort (Indiana University-Bloomington) and Steavi Swinson (University of New Haven) during the wheelbarrow races (pictured left). Russian language teachers, Yaroslavna Zemtsovskaya and Anna Fedotova during the three-legged race.


Closing Ceremony

The last days of the semester, brought with it a bitter sweet end; students, excited to return home and at long last embrace their loved ones, walk once again along the familiar paths they’ve grown up on, and eat their favorite foods, were also flooded with the heartache of saying goodbye to a city they have grown to love, and have called their home for the past four to nine months.

The official portion of the Closing Ceremony commenced with St. Petersburg State University, Academic Coordinator, Elena Predtechenskaya (pictured below) presenting each student with their hard-earned and well-deserved certification of completion.


Once formalities were completed, the celebration of the end of a successful semester ensued! Our students never cease to amaze us with their vast array of talents and curiosity: The CIEE Choir demonstrated their range of talent singing a touching war song, Russian folk songs, and a romance from the beginning of the 20th century.  Vita Khachaturyan (University of California, Los Angeles) and Dylan Ogden (Kenyon College) performed “Goluboy Vagon” on the accordion and bayan (respectively), with the vocal accompaniment of Student Services Assistant, Anton Stepanov and Tonia De Lucia  (University of Alaska Anchorage). And last but not least, six students, who have been taking traditional Russian folk dance lessons together with Student Services Assistant, Liz McBean, highlighted the event with their energetic performance.

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The celebrations were continued with a final hurrah along the Neva River and the lovely canals of this enchanting “Venice of the North.” Students, together with fellow classmates, teachers, Russian student helpers, and CIEE staff bid their final farewells to St. Petersburg



Wishing you all a wonderful end to the spring 2015 semester, the CIEE Staff!


CIEE Staff [L to R]: Housing Coordinator, Svetlana Mantsvetova; Student Services Assistant, Anton Stepanov; Program Coordinator, Katya Rubtsova; Student Services Coordinator, Ira Vasilyeva; Center Director, Irina Makoveeva; Administrative Assistant, Nika Afanasyeva; Student Services Coordinator of the Moscow center, Pasha Sergeev; Excursions Coordinator, Julia Semibratova’ Student Services Assistant, Liz McBean.


(Iskrenne Vashi) Sincerely yours,

 The CIEE Spring Newsletter editors, Liz & Ira


Liz McBean, Student Services Assistant

Anton Stepanov, Student Services Assistant

Nika Afanasyeva, Administrative Assistant

Ira Vasilyeva, Student Services Coordinator

Katya Rubtsova, Program Coordinator

Svetlana Mantsvetova, Housing Coordinator

Julia Semibratova, Excursions Coordinator

Irina Makoveeva, Center Director