Mother Russia Calling! Summer Study Trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg

May 13 - June 1, 2019 | No Russian necessary | Pre-departure orientation sessions required | All majors welcome

3 credit course: RU 34101; cross-listed with History; HIST 34004 - fulfills University History Requirement

Course Description


Mother Russia Calling! introduces students to the major themes of Russian civilization (language, history, literature, politics) from the founding of the Kievan State in the late ninth century to the present. The course consists of both a classroom and experiential (study-abroad) component. In spring 2019, students will meet for approximately six seventy-five-minute periods on the Notre Dame campus for lectures and discussions led by a group of Russia specialists from the Notre Dame faculty. From May 13 – June 1, students will take part in a study tour to the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, which will also be led by Notre Dame faculty. (ACIE, the US-based study-abroad provider with the longest standing in Russia, is organizing the tour and will provide, among other things, a staff person to accompany the trip, logistical support, and twenty-four-hour emergency assistance.) Student assessment will be based on attendance at all campus and study-abroad events as well as written assignments (a more detailed description of assignments and requirements follows below). This course will count for three credits toward the major and minor in Russian, the major and minor in History, and the University History Requirement.

To learn more and apply, visit the NDI Program Brochure.

If you have any questions about the study trip, please contact Professor Alex Martin, Professor in the Department of History and Leader of the Russia Study Abroad Trip. 

Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of the course, students will have command of

  • the current political situation and the major forces that have shaped it.
  • the central issues of Russian cultural history as they developed through the major periods of Kievan Rus, the Tatar Yoke, Muscovite Russia, Imperial Russia, and the Soviet period.
  • an essential vocabulary of “survival Russian” as well as the Cyrillic alphabet.
  • the broad outlines of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian literature.

Course Structure
For the classroom portion of the course, students will read and discuss a cultural history of Russia, Geoffrey Hosking’s  Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. Discussions of the textbook and other brief readings (literary works, scholarly articles) as well as supplementary lectures will be led by Notre Dame faculty.

Assessment will be based on 1) attendance at all class sessions and participation in discussions, and 2) oral presentations on selected topics/sites relevant to the study tour.

The study tour in Moscow and St. Petersburg includes over fifty hours of on-site visits to many of the cultural landmarks discussed in the classroom portion of the course. Presentations at sites such as the Kremlin, Red Square, the Tretyakov Gallery, and Novodevichy Monastery (Moscow) and the Hermitage (the former Winter Palace), St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Peterhof, and Peter and Paul Fortress (St. Petersburg) will be led by Notre Dame faculty (Martin) and experienced local guides provided by ACIE. In addition, there will be eight hours of classroom instruction directed by English-speaking faculty from our two host institutions, Moscow International University and the Russian State Pedagogical University (St. Petersburg), which will be specifically tailored to the sites we visit. Finally, the cultural/academic aspect of the trip will be reinforced by attendance at several performances (for example, at the Moscow Conservatory or the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg) and opportunities for participants to meet with Russian students from our host universities.

Assessment will be based on 1) the completion of daily travel notes that reflect on each of the cultural sites we visit as well as impressions of the local community, and 2) a final paper based on the travel notes.

Students will be housed in the dormitories of the Moscow International University and the Russian State Pedagogical University (St. Petersburg).

Syllabus for the Study Tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg

(N.B.: The sample syllabus below will be updated in early 2019 for the summer 2019 program.)

In the following, still provisional, itinerary, the approximate number of hours dedicated to each site/event/activity is noted in parentheses.

MMU = Moscow International University (

RSPU = Russian State Pedagogical (Herzen) University (

SAMPLE ITINERARY (Will be updated in spring of 2019)


I. Moscow

Day One

  • Arrival
  • City Bus tour or walking tour of MMU neighborhood  (2)
  • Opening banquet with Russian guests (MMU students and faculty)  (2)

Day Two

  • Class at MMU (1)
  • Red Square, GUM, Kremlin (armory included) with English speaking tour guide (3)
  • History Museum (depending on time, group’s energy) with English speaking guide (1.5)
  • Gorky Park (2.5)
  • Meeting with MMU students (2)

Day Three

  • Class at MMU (1)
  • Tretyakov Museum, with English speaking tour guide (3)
  • Moscow Boat Ride/Tour (2)
  • Visit remodeled Detsky Mir (panoramic view of Moscow) (1) (OR)
  • Tolerance Museum (if time allows:
  • Evening concert/performance (at Moscow Conservatory or equivalent venue) (2)


Day Four

  • Class at MMU (1)
  • Novodevichy Monastery/ Graveyard (3)
  • Bunker 42 (Cold War Museum) with English speaking tour guide (3)
  • Visit Muzeon ( (2)
  • Discussion club with MMU students (2)

Day Five 

  • Zagorsk/Sergeev Posad (by elektrichka – all day excursion) (6)
  • Dinner at Georgian restaurant (2)

Day Six 

  • Red October Chocolate Factory (3)
  • Walk in Neskuchny sad or visit Ostankino Tower (2)

Day Seven 

  • Class at MMU  (1)
  • Visit Cathedral of Christ Our Savior (2)
  • Kolomonskoye (2)
  • Night Train to St. Petersburg


II. St. Petersburg

Day Eight 

  • Class at RSPU  (1)
  • Hermitage with English Speaking Guide (4)
  • Summer Gardens (1)
  • Walking tour along Nevsky Prospekt (1)
  • Evening meeting with RSPU students (2)

Day Nine

  • Class at RSPU (1)
  • Peterhoff (via bus or hydrofoil) with English speaking guide (5)
  • Discussion club with RSPU students (2)

Day Ten

  • Class at RSPU (1)
  • St. Isaac’s Cathedral (2)
  • Canal tour (2)
  • Evening Concert at Philharmonia or similar venue (2)

Day Eleven

  • Class at RSPU (1)
  • Peter and Paul Fortress with English speaking guide (3)
  • Spas Na Krovi, Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra (3)
  • Russian Banya (2)


Day Twelve

  • Pushkin, Catherine’s Palace, Litsey (5)
  • Pavlovsk (2)

Day Thirteen

  • Piskaryovskoe Cemetery, Museum with English speaking guide (3)
  • Dostoevsky Museum/ Walking Tour (3)

Day Fourteen 

  • Russian Museum (4)
  • Gostiny Dvor or other market for souvenirs

Day Fifteen

  • Departure to U.S.