College of Arts and Sciences professors Eric Lohr and Anton Fedyashin hope to eliminate existing stereotypes of U.S.-Russian relations in today’s world with the Initiative for Russian Culture.
Philanthropist Susan Lehrman created the initiative with the help of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Starr.
The IRC program includes new course offerings in CAS, as well as film screenings, expert speakers, art exhibits and musical performances throughout the school year.
“[IRC] is designed to introduce American students to the rich array of Russian culture and to foster significant cross-cultural exchanges with their Russian counterparts,” College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Starr said in an email.
Lohr, the founding director of the program, said the IRC is open to all AU students, not just Russian studies majors.
“Some familiarity with these traditions is important for every undergraduate’s general liberal and cultural education,” he said.
Starr said the IRC program will allow students to increase their understanding of Russian culture and politics.
“Here in the College [of Arts and Sciences], our strength in the global arts and humanities is significant and growing,” he said. “I firmly believe that you cannot understand the politics of a given corner of the world without a deep understanding of the culture or cultures that subtend them.”
Fedyashin, the executive director, and Lohr introduced a series of new courses to CAS’s history program in August to explore the socio-cultural exchanges between the United States, Russia and the former Soviet Union.
Fedyashin teaches the literature-based course, “Dostoevsky’s Russia” (HIST-296), which examines Dostoevsky’s novels and the historical period in which they took place. Over 36 students are currently enrolled in the course.
“This is proof that there is a genuine thirst for Russian literature among U.S. students,” Fedyashin said.
He said he hopes to take students to St. Petersburg this summer as part of the IRC program to, “walk what Dostoevsky was writing about.” This trip will only be offered to students in the “Dostoevksy’s Russia” class, not through AU Abroad.
Lohr is teaching the CAS course “Russian Film and Politics” (HIST-296). It will include four film screenings at the Russian Embassy in D.C. and the opportunity to meet with the world’s leading experts in these films.
In the coming years, Lohr and Fedyashin plan to offer more Russian studies courses, including “Tolstoy’s Russia” and “Russian Intellectual Controversies.” These course offerings will be open to all AU students, according to Lohr.
AU students can get a taste of IRC at the screening of the Russian film “Jazzmen” on Sept. 30.
The event will include a free dinner and the chance to meet with distinguished Russian guests at the Library of Congress.
For a complete list of courses offered through the IRC visit their website.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Lohr and Fedyashin founded the Initiative for Russian Culture. Lehrman founded the IRC with help from Kisylak and Starr, Lohr is the founding director and Fedyashin is the executive director.