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Flight of the Firebird: What Ignites Russia's Imagination in Literature and Culture

Spring 2020
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 25
16 Credits per quarter
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Russia today continues to experience an upsurge in nationalism and national pride--pride in its tumultuous Imperial and Super Power history, and its rich culture and role on the world stage today. How has President Putin inspired Russia to embrace this nationalistic fervor and how he has linked it to Russian patriotism, justifying military action based on historical precedent?

We explore these central questions and others through readings in Russian history and literature, and we seek the sources of the new nationalism in literary, musical, artistic, and religious culture of the pre-1917-Revolution Russian Empire from the mid-19 th  century into the early 20 th century. We read and discuss relevant literature of Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov—writers who in various ways defined Russian-ness. We listen to the great music of world-class Russian composers who intentionally captured a national Russian folk sound in their compositions, among them Glinka, Mussorgsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, and into the 20 th  century, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. We study the magnificent realistic art of the Wanderers ( Peredvizhniki ), the avant-garde art into the 20 th century which also drew on folk imagery, and even some nationalistic heavy and folk metal groups. In our exploration, we examine both the socially-conscious aspects of these creative works, as well as how they celebrate Russian identity, Russian nature, and the Russian soul.

As we continue to monitor the contemporary Russian political scene, we will view relevant films and documentaries to help us get under the surface of the culture. We will also take a field trip to St. Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral in Seattle, founded in the mid-1890s and serves Orthodox residents in the Seattle area, including Russians. We will attend a service and meet for a discussion with the Rector who will relate the history of Russians in our region. Through this experience we will learn more about the historical significance of the Orthodox Church, both in Russian history and especially in Putin’s Russia today. Students will write short seminar response papers and a research paper on a topic of their choice, as well as producing professional-grade digital posters which we will print out and share with each other in a poster exhibit at the end of the term during our great Russian feast.


Spring 2020 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 30169

Academic details

Preparatory For

History, International Studies, Russian and Slavic Studies, Literary Studies, Nationalism Studies

Maximum Enrollment
Online Learning
Complete Online Learning - This offering delivers all of its instruction online.
Class Standing


Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

SEM 2 A3109 - Seminar
DateRevision 2020-03-27 Student fee removed 2020-02-10 Student fee reduced to $10 (was $55)