Russian Studies first year modules

Compulsory modules

Russian Core Advanced or Beginners I and II (20 credits + 20 credits)

Our core modules, offering increased contact hours, will provide you with an introduction to the knowledge and skills you need to become a Birmingham Languages Graduate. You will have the opportunity to explore the key ideas that have shaped the Russian-speaking world: the key cultural movements, the social, political, and historical phenomena, and the linguistic issues. You will do all this through the medium of Russian, and using the latest technology, to develop your understanding and expertise within the language, so that you increase your ability to express complex ideas and conduct challenging conversations. We will also work to develop your critical thinking and study methods skills, so that you can engage with the breadth and depth of Russian studies in future years.

Optional modules

(20 credits each)

Contemporary Russian and East European Politics

The module focuses on contemporary Russia and Ukraine as the two biggest Soviet successor states. Consideration is given to the progress or otherwise for democracy, institutional design, notions of nationhood and "national ideas", spatial politics in Russia and Ukraine as well as tensions between state-building and democratisation in Ukraine. The course also analyses the international dimension: both relations between Ukraine and Russia within the CIS and their respective relations with the West in general, and NATO and the EU in particular. The aim is also to develop an in-depth understanding of the contemporary developments in the two key countries of the former Soviet Union.

Cultural Politics of Russia & East Europe

These linked modules are structured thematically and draw on comparative materials from a range of experiences across Russia, the Soviet successor states and Eastern Europe. The themes covered include: ethnicity, national identity, diaspora and the politics of inclusion/exclusion; popular culture and the media; representation of the East in western Europe, geopolitical identities and the impact of 'westernisation' on post-communist countries. These themes will be prefaced with historical background and discussed in their empirical, discursive and theoretical dimensions. 

19th Century Russian Literature

In the first Semester students study Russian novels written in the period 1825-1862. They learn about the contexts in which the novels were written and study the specific literary characteristics of each work and its contribution to development of the genre. Students give presentations on specific aspects of the novels. In the second Semester, students study Russian novels written in the period 1863-1900. Individual works are considered in the context of key themes including the superfluous man, the Westerniser/Slavophile debate, social reform, the "woman question". Works in other genres are considered where appropriate. 

International Politics and Security in Russia and Eurasia

This module will examine a range of key issues in the international politics and security of Russia and Eurasia. The course comprises of six thematic blocks, beginning with a survey of the region since the collapse of the Soviet bloc and Cold War and post-Cold War theoretical approaches and current themes in international politics. Other topics covered include: regional security organisations; Russia's relations with Europe, US and China; US and EU policy in Central Asia and the Caucasus; energy politics; state-building and political regimes; conflicts, new wars and non-traditional security issues. Each theme will be explored in relation to specific cases and events in Russia and Eurasia. The course concludes by returning to the theoretical approaches discussed at the start of the course to examine their utility in understanding and explaining political and security dynamics in the region.

Russia Unwrapped: Cultures, Contexts, Identities 

This module is aimed at 1st-year students with no prior knowledge of Russian culture or language. It aims to provide students with a good general knowledge of important cultural texts and their interpretation from throughout Russian history. Texts (all accompanied with English translations) are taken from historical sources, literature, film, media, popular culture. The course is structured in a broadly chronological way: the first semester covering the period up to 1917, and the second seminar from the Revolution to the present day. However, the focus in not on presenting a historicized portrait of Russian culture compartmentalised into periods. Instead, cultural production around inflection points in history – Revolution, Peter the Great, Perestroika, Putin, are examined to give students a broad understanding of how cultural texts dramatise or explicitly interpret the Russian experience. So for example, towards the end of the course, popular cultural texts from the media are used to discuss Russia’s transition to a form of marketised relations, but that their manifestation and understanding by Russians may be culturally quite specific: nationalistic/state-orientated, oppositional discourses, etc.