About the Major

With its innovative curriculum and close student-faculty interactions, Hamilton’s Russian Studies Program focuses on the complexities of this fascinating, and at times mystifying, country that has created some of humanity’s greatest artworks and perpetrated some of its bloodiest crimes. Students in many courses read and evaluate Russian sources in translation; majors are required to develop full proficiency in Russian through extensive language courses. The rigorous curriculum in thinking, speaking, and writing is suited to a variety of fields and interests.

A Sampling of Courses

Film Still from Strike

“The Most Important Art”: Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet Film

This course will begin by exploring early Soviet masters of montage along with the pioneers of “mass” film who enjoyed greater success with audiences. We will watch films that deal with the experience of World War II and the generational shift that came with Khrushchev’s thaw, as well as arthouse cinema that practiced a more meditative cinematic sensibility. We will consider films that spoke to the excitement and changing values that defined the era of Perestroika and Russia’s post-Soviet experiments with democracy and capitalism before concluding with films that shed light on the neo-authoritarian, neo-imperialist Russia of the present. We will devote attention to films from other countries in the Soviet and post-Soviet world.

Explore these select courses:

An introduction to the Russian language in a contemporary cultural context. Focus on development of speaking skills in real-life situations.

Examines political processes in Russia after the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union. Central focus on explaining the rise of multi-party democracy in the 1990s and the subsequent consolidation of authoritarian rule under Vladimir Putin. Topics include the creation of political parties, the state’s use of propaganda and the media, the problem of corruption, and the prospects for democracy in the future.

Readings of representative works with emphasis on major literary movements, cultural history, and basic literary devices. Primary texts by Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, as well as some critical materials.

The course will examine Russia’s relations with both its post-Soviet neighbors and the West from the Tsarist era to the present. Topics to be covered include: the formation of the Russian Empire, the Cold War, the evolution of Russian-Western relations since the collapse of communism, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the outbreak of a major war with Ukraine in 2022. A central theme of the course will be the evolution of Russian national identity, especially as it relates to Russia’s status as an empire and its relationship with the West.

The USSR claimed to be a revolutionary political form: a state based on the voluntary union of workers from over 100 different nationalities. The Bolsheviks intended to lead Russian peasants, Kyrgyz nomads and Chechen mountaineers together into the bright Communist future. What they actually achieved is another question. This research seminar explores the concepts of nation, empire and modernization in the Soviet context.

Meet Our Faculty

Sharon Werning Rivera

Sidney Wertimer Professor for Excellence in Advising and Mentoring, Professor of Government; Director of Russian Studies


Post-communist democratization, the composition of the Russian elite, elite survey research, and the diffusion of ideas

Jason Cieply

Assistant Professor of Russian Languages and Literatures


Soviet and post-Soviet society and culture; film, performance; popular music; contemporary poetry; affect; narrative theory; media; Russian political thought; post-socialism

Marianne Janack

John Stewart Kennedy Professor of Philosophy, Acting Chair of the Department of German, Russian, Italian, and Arabic


epistemology; philosophy of science; philosophy of mind; theories of identity; feminist theory; philosophy and literature; American pragmatism

Shoshana Keller

Chair and William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History


Russian and Soviet history, Central Eurasian history, and history of the modern Middle East

David Rivera

Associate Professor by Special Appointment


The international politics of Eurasia, post-communist democratization, and the composition of the Russian elite

Careers After Hamilton

Hamilton graduates who concentrated in Russian studies are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:

  • English Teaching Assistant (Cherepovets, Russian Federation), U.S. Fulbright Program
  • Research Specialist, Center for Naval Analysis
  • Pediatric Physician, Seattle Children's Hospital
  • Senior Attorney, NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct
  • Director of Marketing & Communications, World Union for Progressive Judaism
  • Occupational Therapist, Mid-Shore Special Education Consortium
  • Principal Investment Officer, International Finance Corp.
  • Global Health Program Manager, Catholic Medical Mission Board

Explore Hamilton Stories

Research Round-Up / Kudos - illustration of a microscope, a student presenting a poster, books, and a student painting.

Kudos! Recent Student Accomplishments

Michael Ko ’25, Mac Donovan ’26, Iris Izydorczak ’25, Tonwa Hauff ’23, and Kate Constan ’26 were recently recognized for representing Team Hamilton well in the Olympics of Spoken and Written Russian.

Wyn with a Ukrainian city in the background.

Because Hamiltonians Support Ukraine: Wyn Pennybacker ’19

When Wyn Pennybacker ’19 was evacuated from Ukraine to Poland by her Fulbright program because of the Russia-Ukraine war, she continued to engage the students she had been teaching and took every opportunity to volunteer locally to help Ukrainian refugees.

2023-2024 Top Fulbright Producer graphic

Hamilton Continues Streak as Top Fulbright Producer

In the 20 years since the Fulbright Program began announcing its top-producing colleges and universities, Hamilton has appeared on that list nearly every time.


Department Name

Russian Studies Program

Contact Name

Sharon Rivera, Program Director

Office Location
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

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