PIIRS Global Seminar - Moscow: Culture, History, Politics

Written by
Slavic Department
Nov. 1, 2016

About the Seminar:

Moscow, Russia: June 10 - July 22, 2017

This seminar explores the history, culture and politics of Moscow, a metropolis of 12 million that is at once the capital of the Russian Federation and a state of its own, distinct from the rest of the country and the world. Moscow is Russia, even as it stands apart. Its distance from St. Petersburg and Europe has always proved a benefit rather than a hindrance in the construction of Russianness. The ancient but newly rebuilt center includes Baroque churches, cottages, and mansions from the imperial era mixed in with the monuments of the seven decades of Soviet rule. Yet the city has never been isolated from world events: It bore the brunt of Napoleon and repelled the Nazis. Its inhabitants suffered the bubonic plague as well as the horrors of the Stalinist purges. Now it is controlled by oligarchs under the thumb of Vladimir Putin and a political class seemingly intent on restoring Moscow — and thus Russia — to international predominance.

This seminar begins, fittingly, with the construction of the Kremlin, the citadel at the heart of Moscow along a brackish bend in the river. We then proceed chronologically from the 17th-century to the present, exploring the city’s outsized contribution to religious and philosophical thought, literature and music while tracing the physical and political history of the capital. Our primary sources are the streets themselves, the essential texts for the course. But we will also make excursions to famous museums and theaters, the estates of the novelist Leo Tolstoy and composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, the imposing Russian State Archive of Literature and Art, Stalin’s wartime bunker, the Kremlin, and, for contrast, visit the palaces of the former imperial capital of St. Petersburg.

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