Assessing Russia’s Place as a Global Study Course

By, Haley K. ’20

Geographically, linguistically, culturally – Russia is a global study in every sense. However, its major differences from the Western world were not enough to curtail the criticism of the Winsor student body. Last year, Panel released an Opinion article written by Sindhu K. ’19 that explained both sides of the debate to remove Russian history as an elective and add Russian History and Literature to the Global Studies courses. Mr. D. explained before the course began that the goal for a Global Studies course has always been “exploring cultures that are substantially different [from America],” and I believe that Russia certainly does not fail to meet that expectation. Nonetheless, the topic was hotly contested with input from both departments as well as the senior class, including a petition signed by over 70 Winsor students. A year later, the students of the first new Russian global study course share their thoughts.

The most common belief among these students was that the course should definitely continue to be available without its new ‘Global Studies’ label. One junior who took the class stated, “It was a wonderful course, and I definitely learned a lot. Was it different enough from the Western world to justify its placement in the Global Studies course? I do not think so. Russia has been in near constant conflict, either combatively or culturally, with the Western world, but a significant characteristic is that Russia has never ceased looking to the West, and I therefore believe that Russia should be a non-Global Studies courseperhaps even a year-long course.”

There was certainly enough material in the Russian History and Literature courses to have stretched longer than a semester, and, while I personally enjoyed being able to delve into a specific subject in my Global Studies Paper, I wish that that time could also have been used for exploring a wider range of topics. I understand why the Global Studies paper is necessary in developing helpful research, organization, and writing skills, but the time dedicated to the paper detracted from the full potential of the course to fulfill an in-depth and complete study of the nation. Although one semester is not nearly enough to fully learn the history of a global nation, I would have appreciated the course as a regular elective.

Several others thought that the class fit well into the Global Studies curriculum. I, similar to many other students, did not initially understand how Russia, with its predominantly white population, could be considered a Global Studies course. “Prior to taking the course, I had never considered Russia that foreign. On the surface, the pictures of their politicians and major cities looked pretty similar to what we see in the United States or in some parts of Europe. The culture and people just did not seem all that distant from our lives, so I was not initially in support of the course being offered instead of a South American option. Now, I realize that Russia and the US are near opposites in parts of history, culture, politics, and literature,” remarked another junior. I firmly believe that the debate over the legitimacy of Russia as a Global Study is no longer valid. Russia is so vastly different from the United States in history and modern culture that there is no longer a question as to whether Russia qualifies as a non-Western, Global Study.

Another student shared that “regarding Russian History, I feel like I can better understand the global political climate, especially with Trump’s recent actions to repeal Russian sanctions, and I believe that if I can understand the US’s actions and attitudes toward Russia better, the class was successful as a Global Study.” I do not believe that one’s knowledge of global policy is complete without a deep understanding of Russian regulations and legislation. The Soviet Union, one of the largest world leaders in recent history, contributed greatly to universal tensions and relations, and I can imagine that the knowledge of the USSR that I now possess, albeit only scratching the surface, will only benefit me in my future studies of the Eastern world.

Overall, no student that I asked regretted taking the Russian Global Study; all felt as though they exited the course with a greater understanding of a foreign culture, and many would also like to continue to see an expansion in the inclusivity of the Global Studies program. The consensus from the students who took Russia was that it should remain in the Winsor History and English curriculums without the specific requirements and form of the Global Studies courses. I was disappointed to see time become a limiting factor in the course, and I hope that Russia is considered as an elective in the future. I believe that Russia is justifiable as a Global Studies course, but is a Global Studies curriculum suitable for Russia?