Meet and Greet: Angela Brintlinger

Professor (and Interim Department Chair): Angela Brintlinger

My feet in St. Petersburg, in June. I was attending the 80th birthday celebration of my mentor Sergei Fomichev at the Pushkin House (Institute of Russian Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

After twenty three years at Ohio State, you would think that I might be bored … or that I might have been to at least one sporting event. But neither is true. And even though I can’t tell you the names of any of Ohio State’s star athletes, I can say with confidence that I am still thrilled to be employed by the OSU Slavic Department. The Thompson Library is my favorite place on campus, though my office is a close second – surrounded by my books and papers and with access to the internet, and always a chance that a student will stop by, I am happier than I should be. Over the years I have taught over thirty different courses on all levels, from introductory classes to graduate seminars, mostly Russian literature and culture, but focused on topics from war to madness, poetry to prose, and even Polish drama. There is nothing so exciting as creating a new syllabus, unless it’s watching a student fall in love with Russia, with its literature, culture, and language. Usually I try to entice a few students from my Gen Ed courses to enroll in Russian language, and I feel quietly proud when they decide to major or minor in Russian.


I often say that I have the perfect job: I get paid to read books and talk about them. I also love to write, and I pride myself not just on my scholarship itself, but also on my style. The best compliments are when people tell me that they enjoyed reading something I wrote because they noticed that I have crafted my text with care. Writing articles and books, but also letters of recommendation, syllabi, proposals, conference programs, manuscript and book reviews, and even blog posts – this is what I do, and what I love. I can’t imagine how many words I have already produced, and I hope I have another two decades of work ahead of me.

Me in Vyborg in June — at the Hermitage Vyborg Center (it’s an external branch of the Saint Petersburg based Hermitage Museum in the Russian town of Vyborg. The museum was opened in 2010. Hermitage-Vyborg Center is located in the 1930 completed Vyborg Art Museum and Drawing School building, which was designed by the Finnish architect Uno Ullberg)

My curiosity is what keeps me going, and I find that I come back to old topics as often as I discover new ones. My first book, Writing a Usable Past: Russian Literary Culture, 1917-1927, pubished in 2000, was about literary biography, but what it did was to open all kinds of worlds for me: each of the biographers I examined (and the other scholars who had studied them) introduced me to new subjects, new eras, new theories, new genres. My authors led me from So

viet Russia of the 1920s to the Russian diaspora across Europe and even China and the United States; from the Soviet theatre back to 17th century France and Molière; from cinematically inspired novels back to the Russo-Persian diplomatic conflicts of the 1820s. I continue to write about genre – including poetry, documentary prose, the cookbook, culinary dictionary, or food essay, and of course biography. That first book circled around Alexander Pushkin as well, and he – along with Derzhavin, Griboedov, and Chekhov – has been my ticket to international travel over the years.

Smolensk in October — a view from above while I was on a run.
















I love to speak in Russia and to publish alongside my Russian colleagues, and visiting museums and historical sights across the world is my ideal vacation. I also treasure opportunities to share ideas with colleagues – in the U.S., but also in Italy, England, Norway, Finland, Canada, Poland, Ukraine. My goal is to someday interact with colleagues in Recife, Salvador, Bahia, or Belo Horizonte to present my work and learn about how readers in Brazil view Russian literature. My teaching also keeps my scholarship fresh, and I’ve had ideas while discussing with students that have led to some of my best articles.


In recent years I have taken up running again, and I was pleased during my sabbatical last year to be able to run in St. Petersburg and Pskov, Smolensk and Khmelita, Genoa and Vyborg and Helsinki. This year I’m back on campus most days, but I have run in Columbus, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Toronto – and the year is still young. I have more time to exercise and to write than I used to because my children are almost grown – my daughter is in her freshman year of college and my son is finishing high school this year. I find that I can solve certain problems while running, and I often think up a blog post I want to write and then have to rush home to get to the computer. Keeping track of former students is also a kind of hobby, one that is really rewarding. If there are any reading this, I hope they will get in touch!

The churches and estate house at Khmelita — the estate of Russian playwright Alexander Griboedov’s uncle and currently the home of the Griboedov Museum (I attended its opening in January of 1995 and returned there in October 2016 as part of my sabbatical journey)

My Experience with the Czech Language

By Victoria Bartos

When I scheduled for classes the summer before my freshman year, I wasn’t signed up to take a language. To be honest, I didn’t even think about fulfilling the foreign language requirement that I would eventually need for my degree.

A Czech man and woman (in a traditional kroje), depicted on a postcard I have from the 1920s.

I had just graduated after taking Latin for four years at my high school and the experience I had while studying that language was enough to “turn me off” to language learning entirely. Over the summer, I had a change of heart after looking through the courses Ohio State had to offer. While looking, I noticed that the university offered an introduction to the Czech language. My familial roots are predominantly Slavic and three out of four of my grandparents are entirely ethnically Slovak (my great-grandparents immigrated here from Spišská Nová Ves in Eastern Slovakia around the 1920s). Once I noticed that Czech was offered, I wanted to take it in order to grow closer to them. I figured the Czech and Slovak languages would be mutually intelligible and that I’d be able to have conversations with my grandmothers in Czechoslovak.


Learning Czech was different from learning and studying Latin in so many ways. The first few weeks of class I became so anxious when I would see a word with a hachek in it I think I would become anxious just by the sight of one. Czech was an entirely more relevant language than Latin and the new challenge of speaking weighed on my tongue. Now, I love being able to read and speak Czech even on the most basic level. My professor is an amazing and dynamic teacher that makes each day a treat to learn, and the class is exciting yet challenging. It is a language that doesn’t necessarily seem relevant but is part of one of the countries with the fastest growing markets in the European Union. Czech is also a gateway language to Russian, Slovak, and Polish, making the world seem the tiniest bit more navigable.


The Czech Republic is a beautiful and diverse country that I unfortunately did not know much about before studying the language. I found learning about it more fascinating than I could have hoped for – I hadn’t realized how my interests in art and literature reflected so brightly in Czech culture and how many of the Czech foods I was learning about I had already tried in my Slovak household.


Being awarded the Uprka-Laga-Schweitzer Award in Czech studies was definitely a turning point in my language learning experience. It served as a validation for my hard work and being rewarded like that has propelled me forward in new, unexpected ways. With the award, I plan on using it to fund part of my study abroad trip next summer to the Czech Republic where I hope my language learning will continue. After all, there is no better way to learn a language than to fully submerse yourself in it. I mainly look forward to traveling to Prague, Moravia, and Bratislava where I will not only get to apply the Czech I have learned, but learn about the wonderful history of the country and cities I’ll be in. After studying Czech and discovering a passion for it, I hope to live and work in the Czech Republic sometime after graduation. This award is acting as a stepping stone for my future career path and I could not be more grateful for not only what it represents, but how it moves me forward.


To anyone reading this that has doubts about taking a foreign language or taking Czech, I strongly encourage you to begin learning. The great thing about going to a university such as ours is the resources and the variety of choice we have. There are so many languages we have the opportunity to learn and broaden our horizons with. It is unfortunate if we do not take advantage of them.


A picture of me in a forest wishing it was the Šumava National Park in the Czech Republic.

A photo of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother on my mother’s side and two of my great-grandmothers next to my father at my parent’s wedding in 1985.

Summer Studies in Russian Culture with Andrea Stanic

This past spring, I had the honor of being awarded the Dr. Miriam G. Schwartz Slavic Award. This is an academic merit-based scholarship given to students that demonstrate active participation in the classroom and a strong commitment to learning and understanding the Russian language and culture. Due to this scholarship, I was able to dedicate time this summer to studying Russian language, literature, film, and culture. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to expand my Russian knowledge outside the classroom. My studies this summer will lead to a more comprehensive understanding of Russian both in the classroom and out. The knowledge I gained this summer has also already helped me examine issues critically outside in the classroom, specifically in my other areas of study: Geography and International Studies.

Up to this point, I have studied two years of Russian and have a solid base of the fundamentals of the language. This summer, I built upon this foundation by exploring additional vocabulary and intricacies of Russian grammar by reading valuable texts and online resources. I actually had the opportunity to use new words I learned this summer in my work setting. I work in the Special Collections department in the Thompson Library on Ohio State’s campus. Ohio State has an extensive collection of archival material, including some from Russia. We received a new acquisition with material from the 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt, which is also known as the 1991 August Putsch or August Coup. This coup attempted was enacted by Communist Party hard-liner members who opposed Gorbachev’s reform program and the decentralization of power to republics. Most of the collection materials we received were newspaper articles and copies of decrees by hardliner party members. I assisted the project by translating dates on these newspapers and decrees so that they could be archived correctly for easy access for researchers in the future. I also used my language skills to help differentiate government documents from those of party hardliners. One word that I learned in my summer studies turned out to be particularly useful was the noun “указ,” which means “decree.” This scholarship allowed me to hone my language skills and, in turn, I discovered ways that I can apply the use of Russian in the real world. Before this summer, I thought that the only ways of using my Russian knowledge job-wise was either through government or business. However, my experience this summer opened my eyes to the possibility of using what I learned in the classroom in archival work. Now I know that I can use Russian to understand items of the past to make better sense of Russia and the world today through a career in archiving.

Along with studying the Russian language this summer, I also explored more aspects of Russian culture like film and literature that aid in giving me a more comprehensive understanding of Russia as a whole. I find film to be a particularly exciting way to get to know another culture because film is an intersection of art, language, and culture. Film is also a way to understand history, as films are created in a particular place and time. And so, different material was permitted to be filmed at different times in Russian history so that what one can see in a film and what is noticeably absent is a big clue to portray values of the people and government. My knowledge of Russian film is rather limited at the moment, as I have only seen a handful of films in a course called Russian Culture, through film screenings Ohio State’s Slavic Department hosts, and my own viewings outside of class. I am fortunate to be able to study Russian film this semester with the help of the scholarship money I received.

Meet and Greet: Derek Peterson

Over the  next few months we will be hosting guest bloggers from the Slavic Department.

Faculty, staff, and lecturers from DSEELC will write a short post and share a little bit of themselves with you, behind the scenes, outside the classroom, sneak peeks. 

They choose the topic and the format.

Follow along!

Academic Program Coordinator Derek Peterson


Derek with Brutus

How did you get interested in Russian and Slavic Studies?


I began my study of Russian when I was a sophomore at the University of Georgia. Starting college, I knew I would major in history, and honestly, didn’t give much thought to what language I would take to fulfill the university foreign language requirement. I had no previous experience with Russian, and when I saw it, I thought “don’t know anything about Russia aside from what I’d watched in bad 80s action movies, why not?” It didn’t take long for me to realize that I stumbled onto something that wouldn’t just satisfy a degree requirement. I found myself reading Russian history and literature in my extra time, and began to consider that I would focus on Russia when I went to graduate school.


Have you ever studied abroad?


Yes, I was fortunate enough to study abroad in St. Petersburg and Moscow as an undergrad, and in Dushanbe, Tajikistan as a graduate student. My trip to Russia was my first trip outside of the United States, and it was an excellent experience. The chance to see Red Square, Peterhof, and all of the other iconic locations that I’d read about in class. I routinely went for long walks around the city with my host dad, who was a great photographer. A personalized tour of the most scenic parts of the city is hard to beat. The fact that Russia advanced to the semi-final round of the European Soccer Championship while I was there also made for an interesting cultural experience.


My trip to Dushanbe was amazing as well. I went there to study Uzbek, which meant that most of the time I had to rely on my Russian to get around town since I didn’t know any Tajik. At first, getting around town often meant sprinkling Uzbek words into my Russian by mistake and receiving quizzical looks, but eventually I got used to it. While we did travel outside Dushanbe a little bit, my best memories involved going to the markets with tutor or host family and haggling for any and everything. While I can confidently say that I paid an appropriate price about 40% of the time, these were some of experiences that I remember clearly (not the easiest after multiple concussions) and fondly. Cooking sloppy joes on the 4th of July with my host family and then joining them out for a night at a new carnival was also a memory that won’t fade anytime soon. The only downside to the trip is that the different kind of melons in Central Asia are so good, they have ruined honeydew and cantaloupe for me back in the States (even four years later).


Can you give us a brief description of your current position?

I am responsible for the general functionality of the department. I support graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff through course scheduling, event management, record keeping. Basically dotting all the I’s and crossing all the t’s.


What are your favorite parts of your job?


I really love working on our events, especially our talent show, kapustnik. Watching our students have fun with the language skills and cultural knowledge they gain in class is a highlight of every semester. It may sound odd, but I also enjoy putting our class schedule together each term. Getting our all of our classes in a good position at such a large university is a challenge, but a fun one. It’s like one big game of Tetris.


What are your hobbies outside of work?


I train for powerlifting most days, and on my off days, I enjoy playing guitar and reading.


If you were stuck on a desert island with only three albums, what would they be?


Pink Floyd Animals

Iron Maiden Somewhere in Time

Stevie Ray Vaughan Texas Flood


Who is your favorite Russian author?


Dostoevsky. One of my favorite undergrad courses focused on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and our major assigned readings were War and Peace and The Idiot. I finished The Idiot well ahead of time because I just kept reading it. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Crime and Punishment.


What advice would you give to an incoming Russian language student?


If you like Russian and really want to improve, take every opportunity you can to practice your language skills. You can listen to music or podcasts on your way to class, try to read news articles in Russian, and find people to practice with over Skype. There are so many little things you can do that will make a difference.


I would recommend that every student try to study abroad at some point during their time at OSU. While the price of some programs can be daunting, there are a lot of options for funding all over the university. Getting to immerse oneself in another culture is not only beneficial for a degree like Russian, but also for growing as a person and gaining insight into different perspectives.


And what career advice would you give to a student?


Whatever you are doing, make sure to discuss your future plans with your advisor and professors. Start the dialogue about your future plans and start thinking about things you enjoy doing and may want to pursue as a career path. It doesn’t mean you can’t change it later, but the sooner you start engaging with your faculty and staff, the sooner you can get on the right track and make connections. There are so many career resources at Ohio State for students to take advantage of, and the earlier you start this conversation, the sooner you can use these to get you on a good career path.



Behind the scenes: Candidacy Exams

By Hope Wilson (PhD candidate)

I am currently standing at the cusp of both the best and worst time of my academic career. When I received the Talvi Award this past May, I was beginning to study for my candidacy exams. My studies have now officially paid off: in October, I passed my exams. This means now that the only thing left between me and my doctoral degree is my dissertation. This is wonderful, thrilling – and also quite terrifying.

I’m certainly excited for my research. My dissertation will look into how students learn about culture during study abroad in Russia, how they learn about politeness forms while abroad, and how these two learning processes interact with one another. I’m also looking into questions of how personal experience shape learning while abroad. All of these are questions that are both important and quite complex, and so to do due diligence I’m going to have to collect multiple forms of data – quantitative and qualitative both. Some of this data will also be taken from firsthand observations: I’m planning to travel to Russia to observe students and how they interact with locals while abroad. This will, ideally, happen this coming summer.

All of this means that conducting my dissertation will not be an inexpensive proposition! Consequently, I’ve put away half of my award into my personal research fund; I’ll use it partly to compensate my research participants for their participation in my project (which, given the amount of time they’ll be spending helping me, will have to be considerable compensation). Additionally, I’m using the money partly to fund travel for myself to Russia. I’m still in the midst of applying for further grants to fund my travel and research, but this award got me a little bit closer to the amount I’ll need to go out to Russia next summer.

The other half of the award, I actually spent this year. Preparing for your candidacy exams is, as I found out, a stressful and nervewracking process. Travel has always proved an excellent way to fight stress. So I used the money to explore new places and have new experiences this summer. I bought a ticket to the East Coast and traveled to Newark, then took a train up to New Haven. I spent some time studying in the Yale libraries, connecting with some old friends and professional contacts…and I also spent some time on the beach, connecting with the ocean. All in the name of diligently studying for my exams, of course.

Progressing through a PhD program certainly isn’t simple or straightforward; as I’ve discovered, you need considerable resources, both material and emotional. This award has helped build up both of those considerably.

Examining Russian Prison Literature with Dr. Greg Ormiston

photo of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Since receiving the Talvi award in the spring, I have continued my research in the sphere of Russian prison literature. I am especially interested in the way Russian writers have portrayed the space and time of prisons, which, I believe, provides insight into the conception and construction of literary worlds of all kinds. My current project focuses on the contrasting depictions of prison in two landmark works of Russian literature: Fedor Dostoevskii’s Notes from the Dead House (1862) and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962).

On the surface, the two novels share much in common. Both are fictionalized accounts of prison camps based on the authors’ firsthand experiences as inmates. At the same time, both are seemingly less concerned with telling personal stories than they are with exposing a dark fragment of Russian and Soviet life that would otherwise remain hidden. Though the journalistic aspects of Notes from the Dead House and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich are similar, their fundamental conceptions of prison are surprisingly divergent, from the very beginning of each text.

For example, as Gorianchikov (Dostoevskii’s narrator) opens his prison notes, he introduces himself as a captive of space:

Our prison stood at the edge of the fortress, right next to the ramparts. You would sometimes take a look at God’s world through the cracks in the fence: surely there must be something to be seen? – and all you would see would be a corner of sky and the high earthe

photo of Fedor Dostoevskii

Fedor Dostoevskii

n ramparts, overgrown with weeds, and on the ramparts the sentries pacing up and down, day and night; and then you would think that whole years would go by, and you would still come to look through the cracks in the fence and would see the same ramparts, the same sentries and the same little corner of sky, not the sky that stood above the prison, but another, distant and free. (27)

The stasis of Gorianchikov’s world is enforced by physical, spatial boundaries (the ramparts, the fence, the weeds, the paths of the sentries) while time seems only to pass outside in the free world.

In contrast, the opening of Ivan Denisovich creates a temporal prison:

At five o’clock that morning reveille was sounded, as usual, by the blows of a hammer on a length of rail hanging up near the staff quarters. The intermittent sounds barely penetrated the windowpanes on which the frost lay two fingers thick, and they ended almost as soon as they’d begun. It was cold outside, and the camp guard was reluctant to go on beating out the reveille for long. The clanging ceased, but everything outside still looked like the middle of the night when Ivan Denisovich Shukhov got up to go to the bucket. (3)

Ivan Denisovich’s prison is framed by an essentially unchanging, regimented schedule, which also strictly orders the events of the novel (e.g. reveille, daily chores and work, meals, and so on).

While critic Mikhail Bakhtin reminds us that literary space and time are always intertwined, the contrast between the dominance of space in Dostoevskii’s “house” and the oppressive timetable of Solzhenitsyn’s “day” will, I hope, make for an interesting study. I plan to present this project at the annual AATSEEL conference in February, 2018.


Gulag Prisoners

Visiting “A Far Away Place” with Kassi Graziani

A once foreign and far away place became a passion of my mind two summers ago. It was one thing to read about the country in history books, but it was an entirely different experience to see the city, the dachas, and the daily life of the bustling cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow for myself.

The university where we lived in St. Petersburg
during the Russian Culture and Society Trip


The Summer of 2016 was an amazing adventure and rewarding experience. I was able to travel to Russia twice: first on the Russian Culture & Society Trip (which I can not say enough about!) and then through a language intensive Russian program at the University of Pittsburg (5 weeks in Pittsburgh + 5 weeks in Moscow). I visited Rostov, Yaraslavl, and Tver. I spent time with Russian students, exchanging life experiences. I was led around the cities to important historical

locations and given an in-depth tour of the museums. The days were long and exhausting, but they passed way to fast.


When I finally made it back to America, I had a renewed sense of what I wanted to do. I no longer wanted to be Russian minor. Rather, I decided to make Russian another undergraduate-study major. This was in the Autumn of 2016.


Now, it is the Autumn of 2017 and I just finished enrolling in my last semester of courses at Ohio State. I will be graduating with two majors: Security and Intelligence and Russian. I have so many supportive family, friends, and mentors to thank. I also must thank the Slavic Department and its financial contributors for helping me to achieve my goal. I would not be graduating in four years and with two majors if it was not for them. The Slavic award I received allowed me to take two

This was taken after I received my diploma of completion of the Moscow portion of my Pittsburgh program from my professor in Moscow.

May-mester courses, keeping me on track to earning my Bachelor’s of Arts degree in four years.


The Slavic award is also allowing me to look for other opportunities to grow in my knowledge of the Russian language and culture. I am applying to spend a year abroad. I want to continue my Russian language and culture education after graduation. Then, I believe I will be prepared to begin my career in the Intelligence Community. I want to make the Ohio State University, the Slavic Department, my family, and myself proud.  I want others to understand Russia, its people, and its culture, the way I have come to understand them.


Russian is an intriguing, challenging, yet rewarding language to pursue. I encourage other undergraduate students to make the most of the opportunities they have now. Travel to Russia. Spend a summer in a language intensive program. You will learn a LOT and you will improve your language ability.


Sofia, Vika, and me. I met Sofia and Vika during the OSU Russian Culture & Society Trip. Sofia was fluent in English, but Vika could hardly speak any. It gave me the opportunity to really practice what I learned in the classroom and also allowed me to learn some colloquial speech. When I returned to St. Petersburg for the second time, we reconnected and met up for an evening



Summer Study in Saint Petersburg, Russia

By David Szolosi

I visited a former Soviet governmental building with a statue of Lenin.

This summer I was blessed with the opportunity to study in Saint Petersburg, Russia for two months.  I sought this opportunity to complement my studies for the Russian and International Studies majors at Ohio State.  I participated in the Russian as a Second Language program offered by the School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS).  The program was held at the Saint Petersburg State University of Economics in the heart of Saint Petersburg.  I lived in the international student dormitory with the other American students in my program, as well as some students from other countries finishing their spring semester.

The main purpose of my stay in Russia was to study the Russian language, but I also developed a much deeper understanding of Russian culture and politics.  In class I learned a variety of nuances in the Russian grammatical structure and greatly increased my vocabulary.    Living in Saint Petersburg, the location of the Communist Revolution, during the 100th year anniversary of the Communist Revolution, I learned much about this pivotal time in Russian history.  The highlight of this aspect of my study this summer was a seminar on the Communist Revolution toward the end of my program.  We took a bus tour around the city in which we visited the key sites of the revolution, including the Aurora cruiser, Vladimir Lenin’s apartment, and the Winter Palace.  In addition to this seminar on the revolution, I visited many other cultural destinations in Saint Petersburg.  For example, I took a walking tour of a variety of places where stories of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s are set.  Another academic highlight of my program was the interview I conducted with a native of Saint Petersburg for my capstone project.  I interviewed a retired woman who makes additional money by sweeping outside on the university’s campus.  I found her story very interesting and I greatly appreciated having the opportunity to see a glimpse into the life of a retired person in Russia.  She told me about her life in the Soviet Union and how things changed over the years with a changing government her children growing up.  She now lives off of the money she makes sweeping and gives her daughter her entire pension from the government so she can support her child.

Making friends with locals was an integral part of my language learning experience.  Outside of class and trips to the grocery store, I had very few opportunities to use Russian, despite living in Russia.  I would argue that I progressed in my language profi

A cooking class with fellow SRAS students. We learned how to make blini and pelmeni, two traditional Russian foods.

ciency more through frequent interaction with the friends I made than I did in class.  The day after I arrived in St. Petersburg, I went to Mass because it was Sunday and I am Catholic.  After Mass I found a group of other young adults who were either students or recent college graduates.  They quickly welcomed me and we started to get to know each other.  I learned that this group meets twice a week, so I started going to all their gatherings.  On some days when the group did not meet, I would meet one of the guys in the group for dinner.  We took turns helping each other practice our English and Russian.  I quickly grew close to several of the people in this group and spent much of my free time with them.  I was fascinated by the diversity in the group.  There were people in the group from different parts of Russia and even different countries around the world.  I enjoyed hearing these people’s perspectives about life in Saint Petersburg after having grown up in countries, such as Poland, Ukraine, and Norway.  I was also fortunate enough to meet a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church.  He invited our group to come to a service at the main Orthodox Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, the Savior on Spilled Blood, to see a youth choir from Kiev, Ukraine sing.  The choir was beautiful and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to witness an Orthodox service in one of the most beautiful churches in Saint Petersburg.  Outside of our meetings and shared meals, my friends and I loved going on walks around the city center.  We developed a frequent route that took us past the Savior on Spilled Blood cathedral to the Neva river, along the river to the Winter Palace, then back to our starting point.  I am extremely grateful for the friends I made and I am eager to stay in touch with them.

My experience in Saint Petersburg shaped my future in a variety of ways.  I now have several new friends from all over the world, I progressed in my proficiency in the Russian language, and I grew in my understanding of Russian history and culture.  I plan to move forward from this experience and continue my study of the Russian language and culture here in Columbus.  I look forward to employing the knowledge I gained this summer in my future career.

A walk through the Summer Garden with some of my friends who live in Saint Petersburg.

Reflections on Kyrgyzstan

By Kathryn Ryan


My home away from home was organized by this woman, Irgul; my host mother.

I picked Kyrgyzstan for the oddest of reasons. I could have studied Russian in a more predictable country, like Russia. I could have picked a bigger country like Ukraine or Kazakhstan. Or I could have picked a more familiar country, like the United States. In each of these counties there are immersion programs for Russian, but Kyrgyzstan had one unique caveat that the others didn’t: a mountain horse trek. And this trek was not simply the kind where one pays a few dollars and spends an hour following the paths worn bare by the tourists before them. This trek was more real, more wild than that. It was seven days in the wilderness with nothing and no one but the saddlebags bouncing behind the saddle and the company of traveling companions. As it turned out, these expectations proved to be insufficient, and in the end, they were entirely eclipsed by the reality of my adventures in Kyrgyzstan. And I am not simply referring to the horse trek. Let me explain.

Before I even got on the plane to leave for Kyrgyzstan, my mind was already in the mountains, despite the fact that I had weeks of language study beforehand. I was already counting down the days until I would be traversing the rugged terrain on my faithful steed.  As I got off the plane in Bishkek and met my host family, reality hit me and forced me to withdraw my gaze from the future into the present.  I was standing in Kyrgyzstan! I continued to marvel at this new revelation throughout the entire trip. There were moments when I knew, for certain, that I was not in the United States any longer. As fermented mare’s milk and sheep lung sausage appeared on the table in front of me, I felt as though my past American life was very far behind me. But there were moments too when I almost forgot that the small post-soviet country was not my home. I quickly found that I had a new family in Kyrgyzstan, a new circle of Russian speaking friends, with whom conversations of life, faith and experience flowed easily.  The hospitality and warmth of the Kyrgyz people encouraged me to soak up, like a sponge, all that was new, both language and culture. I cherish the many moments of humor and laughter that made up much of my time in Bishkek, moments after which I was able to appreciate just how quickly my language was improving. The patience of my Russian instructors and their willingness to become my friends constantly reminded me of the wonder of language learning. As my friendships grew, entirely in Russian, I marveled, and still marvel, at the beauty of connecting with people in their own languag

On a trip with other students, I had a spontaneous lunch in a yurt and tried to take in the wild beauty of the plains and the mountains behind.


It was in one of these moments of profound appreciation for language and my opportunity to study in Bishkek that I remembered, in a sort of off-handed way, that the horse trek was coming up. Six weeks had passed in the blink of an eye. My intensive one-on-one language instruction was almost complete.  I had only two weeks remaining in Kyrgyzstan; the horse trek and one more week of classes.  I was slightly confused because I knew that the upcoming horse trek should bring me the same mind-boggling excitement as it did before, but I couldn’t muster anything beyond a slight anticipation. I felt that my time in Bishkek was too short; all too soon I would leave Kyrgyzstan. I went to speak with the director of the trek and we arranged for me to return to Bishkek a few days early from the trek so I could have a few extra language classes and therefore extra time to spend time with the people I had come to love.

Eight hours outside of Bishkek, I found myself, along with three other students and three Kyrgyz guides, mounting my dapple-grey horse and heading toward the mountains. We spent only a few hours on established roads, all of which were little more than ruts ground into the earth by shepherds and their livestock. The trek was situated in the mountains whose ridges were constantly rimmed in snow. The terrain was mostly grassland and low bushes, kept trimmed by the many farmers and their herds who use it communally. No fences barred our passage of the mountains. Often, we would pass herds of semi-wild horses who would stare down at us from high above as they grazed the steep slopes. The people who live in this beautiful wilderness are semi-nomadic yurt-dwellers who generally move back into the towns or villages for the winter. As a consequence of their summer living habits, we would occasionally encounter a lone shepherd tending his flocks or pass by a working yurt. Twice, we were invited into such a yurt for tea and fermented mare’s milk. We quickly abandoned any assumptions we had about these rough-living individuals as we discovered that some worked as lawyers or businessmen when they were not living in a yurt raising cattle or sheep.

My expectations for the horse trek were completely outshone by the reality. The rugged beauty of the mountains combined with the seasonal rhythms of the Kyrgyz lifestyle to produce a sense of quite peacefulness and reflection. After a brief taste of mountain life, I was excited to return to my friends in Bishkek. With a week and a half left in Kyrgyzstan, I found that I had enough time to say lengthy goodbyes and to communicate to my instructors just how influential they were to my language learning and to my overall experience in Kyrgyzstan. I learned, among many things, that I should have more three-dimensional expectations when I travel. After all, I chose to study in Kyrgyzstan because of a horse trek that, though amazing, turned out to not be my favorite part of Kyrgyzstan. The connections I made in Bishkek will forever ensure that I remember the country as one of adventures, beauty, and, most importantly, friends.

High in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, where the air is thinner and the sky brighter, I stand with my horse and admire how far we climbed.

Introducing Lecturer: Helen Myers


I joined the OSU Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures in 2009 to pursue a doctorate in Russian linguistics, literature and film. In my dissertation entitled “Semiotic analysis of Russian prose fiction in modern Russian film adaptations”, I analyzed signs and signifiers that constitute structural composition of Alexander Pushkin’s historical works Boris Godunov and The Captain’s Daughter and compared them with their Soviet and post-Soviet screen adaptations. I argued that the popularity of these literary works with filmmakers is based on their inexhaustible topicality for Russian society of the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, and therefore reassessment of their film adaptations guides us towards developing a better understanding of the sociopolitical complexities in contemporary Russia.

My research interests lie in the areas of Russian literature and culture of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, Russian film and media, gender studies, and Russian linguistics. Currently, I have been investigating the development of the Gulag theme in Russian prose, especially in recently published Gulag survivors’ memoirs and newly written novels by contemporary Russian authors such as Oleg Volkov, Anatoly Rybakov, Zakhar Prilepin and others.


My Russian class- Russ 5101.

I have extensive experience of teaching in different schools in the USA and Russia. Prior to the OSU, I taught a variety of courses in world literature and international studies at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado. Before immigrating to USA, I taught Russian language, literature, and economics in one of the oldest and largest Russian cities, Tver, that in medieval times competed with Moscow state for the title of the capital of Russia.


After completion of my PhD studies, I continue teaching at the OSU courses in Russian language, Russian Film, Sci-Fi literature and film, Russian Culture, and others. My favorite way to teach language is the communicative method when the context of the lesson is closely modeled after real life situations.  When teaching content courses, I work to stimulate students’ engagement with in-depth discussions and small groups that prompt them to inspect each topic more carefully.  Technology also makes a big part of my teaching style in the forms of multi-media presentations, smart boards, video clips, TV and radio shows, creating Wiki sites and utilizing discussion forums.

Cheburashka and Carlson!


As a teacher of Russian language and culture, I strive to prepare my students to be able to collaborate beyond interpersonal, ethnic and political boundaries. To accomplish this, I treat my time as a teacher as opportunity to engender critical thinkers and leaders guided by responsibility for global processes; ones acutely aware of the interconnectedness of social and political decisions.


I believe myself to be a facilitator of learning, not simply a deliverer of knowledge, and therefore I place a special focus on creating the environment of

mutual respect in the classroom, where students feel safe and stimulated to contribute their ideas and achievements.

Me during classtime.