Studying Russian at Wesleyan

Russian language and culture have been studied at Wesleyan for over fifty years. We regularly invite the foremost poets, writers and scholars from Russia and abroad to speak on a broad range of Russian and East European topics, in culture, politics, history, film, and more. All students are welcome in our courses on Russian literature, culture, and film in translation, in which all work is done in English. Consider one of these courses as an alternative to an English course. We also offer First-Year Seminars (small discussion courses with lots of writing). Start Russian in your first year and you can be ready to spend a semester in Russia the following year on one of our approved programs. Live (or hang out) at the Russian House, site of lectures, Russian co-op dinners, vocal concerts, and art exhibits. The REES major includes two tracks: Language, literature, and culture, and Social sciences. Our majors have gone on to careers in academia, business, law, the foreign service, and nongovernmental organizations.


    Praise Owoyemi transcript:

    I became interested in Russian because I liked how it sounds, and decided that University would be a good start for it. At the beginning, Russian classes were very difficult and when I understood anything I felt so happy.

    I’ve been formally studying Russian for three and a half years. After I studied Russian in Vladimir, I did not take Russian for one semester.

    Yes, I spent summer in Vladimir. It is three hours' drive from Moscow. It was a very good experience because I had a chance to practice my Russian.

    Because I understand Russian, I can speak to Russians who do not speak English, and it opens up my worldview and experience. And I would probably would not take other Russian classes, like history or literature, if I did not take the language class.

    Because I had an opportunity to live in Russia I feel now that I have material proof to argue with the stereotypes Americans have about Russia.

    This year I’m working as an intern for Education U.S.A. Russia. In this internship I teach English online to Russian students of all ages.

    We discuss cultural differences between Russia and the U.S. I like it because I love younger students and because I can learn a lot about youth culture in Russia.


    James Reston transcript:

    How did you get interested in Russian?

    My last year in high school I chose Russian literature as my independent study after I saw Doctor Zhivago,  which is a romantic and beautiful film, but not like the novel at all.

    I read Anna Karenina, The Master and Margarita, Doctor Zhivago, and One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich. Tolstoy, Bulgakov, Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn. I simply fell in love. I cannot explain my feelings; it was something else, it was much deeper than anything I’ve read before.

    How did you begin to study Russian?

    I began to study Russian at Wesleyan in my freshman year. My advisor advised me to study Russian. I was lucky to begin it with you, Professor Aleshkovsky. Of course, Russian is a very difficult language and I thought that I progressed slowly. But after two years I began to notice results! Grammar and reading became much easier.

    And then you went to Russia?

    Yes, after my second year, I decided to go to Russia for a semester. Before that I went to Ukraine and did some research for Professor Smolkin, who teaches Russian history at Wesleyan. We worked in the KGB archives on religious repression in Soviet Ukraine. It was so cool! Especially after just two years of Russian! I spent my fall semester at Smolny Institute in St. Petersburg. My Russian radically improved. I took courses in Russian there and I had an internship in a Russian LGBT web and human rights organization.

    What are you doing right now?

    I am writing my thesis on the KGB infiltration of the Catholic Church in Soviet Lithuania. Last year I received a research grant from Wesleyan and spent time in Lithuania and Stamford. I have thousands of documents now – all in Russian! Professor Smolkin is my thesis advisor. I’m so happy to work on this; nobody's done it before!

    Any plans after graduation?

    In the future I want to work somewhere where I can use my Russian. I want very much to go back to Ukraine and I applied for a Fulbright scholarship to continue my research on the KGB. I hope to work in international relations, human rights, or history. Don’t know yet now.