Russian, East European & Central Asian Studies

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Program Overview

The end of the Cold War, along with the collapse of the Soviet Union and communist regimes in Eastern Europe, offers students and scholars a unique opportunity to take fresh look at the longstanding field of Russian, East European, and Central Asian studies. Formerly caught within the framework of the Cold War, new societies are emerging from this tumultuous region of the world, and are struggling to come to grips with their pasts and forging their own distinct futures.

The Russian, East European, and Central Asian studies minor, an interdisciplinary program developed jointly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Charles F. Dolan School of Business, allows students to develop an in-depth knowledge of this culturally rich and politically important region of the world through the study of history, culture, politics, economics, literature, and language. The minor is designed to supplement students’ major discipline and is ideal for undergraduates considering a career in international public policy, politics, diplomacy, and business. Throughout their course of study, students will gain valuable insight into the region’s dramatic past, its vibrant and volatile present, and its strategically important future.

Russian, East European & Central Asian Studies at Fairfield University


To earn a 15-credit Russian, East European, and Central Asian studies minor, students must complete four three-credit courses and the RECAS Captstone. Three of these courses must be exclusively concerned with Russia, Eastern Europe or Central Asia. The final course, RECAS 4999 "Capstone Seminar: Current Topics in Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia," is required of all minors in their junior or senior year. This seminar is either team-taught by a rotating group of faculty from several disciplines, or is an independent project with a faculty advisor.

Independent study and internships are encouraged and can be substituted for any course with the approval of appropriate faculty and the program director. Students are also encouraged to apply for a junior semester or year abroad in Russia, Central or Eastern Europe, or Central Asia from a wide range of affiliated programs, including American Councils (St. Petersburg), the Consortium on International Educational Exchange (Prague, Budapest, St. . Petersburg, Yaroslavl, and Fairfield’s own programs at St. Petersburg’s Herzen University, the St. Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance, Pomor University (Arkangelsk), Cherepovets State University (Cherepovets), Immanuel Kant University (Kaliningrad), Kazakhstan, or Kyrgyzstan.

Course Offerings

Russian Language
RU 110 Elementary Russian I
RU 111 Elementary Russian II
RU 210 Intermediate Russian I
RU 211 Intermediate Russian II
HI 271 Introduction to Russian History, Culture and Civilization
HI 272 Russia, 700-1700: History and Myth
HI 273 History and Culture of East Central Europe Since 1945
HI 275 Russia’s Road to Revolution, 1689 to 1917
HI 276 St. Petersburg in Russian History
HI 284 20th-Century Russia
HI 356 History of the Cold War
HI 385 Comparative Russian Revolutions
PO 140 Islam and Muslim Politics
Visual and Performing Arts
AH 191 Art and Mythologies of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Bolshevik Russia: Comparative Systems/Outcomes
AH 122 Byzantine Art
EC 230 Comparative Economic Systems
English (Comparative Literature)
EN 11383726 19th-Century Russian Novel and World Literature
EN 132 20th-Century Russian Fiction
EN 274 Modernism in World Literature
RES 310 Capstone Seminar: Current Topics in Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia
This interdisciplinary seminar, team-taught by faculty members from different disciplines or available as an independent project, focuses on current and changing developments in Russia, Eastern Europe, or Central Asia and covers culture, politics, business, and economics, enabling students to integrate their different disciplines in a case-study format. The course includes oral and written assignments in addition to a special seminar project, designed by students in close consultation with instructors. Open to juniors or seniors only.

Clubs & Immersion Opportunities

Russian Club

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Russian Club

Fairfield University’s Russian Club was established in 2015 with the goal of exposing students and members of the Fairfield community to the culture, history, politics, economics, and languages of Russia and East Europe. The club is open to all students, regardless of their area of study, and no language experience is required.

Meetings are held on a regular basis and include fun, educational, and interactive events including Russian film nights, pelmeni and blini cooking events, matryoshka doll painting, field trips, cultural celebrations, and more. To learn more, contact faculty advisor Elena Syssoeva at or visit the Russian Club’s Life@Fairfield page.

Visit the Life@Fairfield Page

St. Petersburg Summer Program

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St. Petersburg Summer Program

Each summer, Fairfield University’s “HI 276: History of St. Petersburg” course offers rising sophomores, juniors, or seniors the opportunity to travel to Russia for a nine-day, faculty-led exploration of the history and cultures treasures of St. Petersburg.

Hosted by professor of history David McFadden, PhD, and Russian language professor Elena Syssoeva, the three-credit course includes nine days of engaging historical discussions, lectures, and excursions to famous landmarks including:

  • Peter and Paul Fortress
  • Hermitage and Russian Museum
  • Peterhof Palace
  • Memorial to the Siege of Leningrad

Students also have the opportunity to experience a variety of exciting cultural activities held in celebration of the city’s White Nights Festival, an annual summer celebration commemorating St. Petersburg’s near-midnight sun phenomena during which the sky stays light all evening long. “White Night” activities include:

  • The Mariinsky Opera and Ballet Theater
  • Evenings of jazz or classical music
  • Boat tour on the Neva River
  • Additional outings with English-speaking Herzen University students

To learn more, visit the study abroad website or read blog posts from students Ema Taglic ’22 and Abby Dovan ’20.

Visit the Study Abroad Website

Global Partnerships

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Global Partnerships

Fairfield University has a strong relationship with five universities in northwest Russia, including Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Pomor University in Arkhangelsk, Kant University in Kaliningrad, Cherepovets University in Cherepovets, and the St. Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance. The University is also linked to a variety of global programs that allow for an expansion of relations between Russia, Eastern Europe, and Fairfield University.

The International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) is an international nonprofit organization that specializes in education, independent media, internet development, and civil society programs in the United States, Europe, Eurasia, Middle East, N. Africa, and Asia. The Eurasian Undergraduate Exchange Program is part of IREX and sends first, second, and third-year undergraduates from countries throughout Eastern Europe to study in the U.S. for an academic year. Fairfield has proudly hosted students from this program for well over a decade.

Fairfield is also a partner of the Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP) which provides junior university faculty from Eurasia with the opportunity to attend classes, conduct research, and develop new curricular materials to be implemented in their home institutions. It also enables these scholars to enhance their teaching skills and to expand their fields of study. Fairfield has hosted scholars from Russia, the Newly Independent States, and Southeastern and Central Europe each year since 1999.

Fairfield University has also hosted the Russian-American Bankers' Forum and engaged in a series of training programs and internships for Russian bankers and businessmen.

Stag Spotlight

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Sarah Swanson

Class of '20

Get to Know Sarah

Undergrad Degree: Double major in History and Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies with a minor in Politics
Hometown: West Newbury, MA
Extracurricular Activities: President of Russian Club, congressional intern, library archives intern, and a member of Alpha Mu Gamma (Language Honors Society), Phi Alpha Theta (History Honors Society), and Phi Beta Kappa (College of Arts & Sciences Honors Society)

How and why did you select your majors and minors?

I initially entered Fairfield with the intent of taking Russian as my required language. My childhood best friend was from St. Petersburg, so I grew up with a cultural awareness and interest in Russia. Nevertheless, I was initially steadfast on my history major and saw no other program that I wanted to take on instead.

However, the minute that academic advising began at Orientation and I met Dr. David McFadden, he handed me a flyer for the Russian, East European, and Asian Studies (RECAS) minor. I had heard about the recent conflicts in Ukraine and the increasing anti-Russian sentiments, and realized I knew so little about something so significant. That is how I fell in love with the program and knew that I did not just want RECAS as my minor, but as my individually designed major (along with history). That is how important this subject is to me, and I feel blessed to have been exposed to it from the start. This program has introduced me to the Russian language, cultural discussion and political debates through frequent Russian Hours, and historical perspective through classes like "Eastern and Central European History after World War II." Suddenly the news reports and current events all began making sense, giving even more meaning to this wonderful program.

Working closely with the College of Arts and Sciences and with my advisors, I was able to develop the RECAS minor into an Individually Designed Major. This allowed me to take more classes in Russian Studies and have them often double count for the Core requirements, my politics minor, or my history major. This opportunity really allowed me to make the most out of my time at Fairfield and prepared me for a career in which RECAS students are in high demand.

What attributes regarding the faculty did you find particularly helpful and encouraging?

RECAS is blessed to have such an amazing group of professors. From the beginning, I have been nurtured and advised very closely. Due to the relatively small size of the program, the faculty has the ability to frequently meet one-on-one with students and provide specialized attention to each unique situation. They have also provided me with events such as attending dinner with Dr. Stephen Cohen (a specialist on Russia and the current Ukraine Crisis), given me opportunities to start discussing study abroad, and lent support to resurrect the Russian Club on campus. They have not only been wonderful mentors, leading me in the right direction, but have also given me the ability to be a leader, a particularly vital attribute in developing as a student and as a capable adult.

Each professor, in this program specifically, wants their students to succeed and stresses the significance of the program - not just related to employment after college - but its significance to our world today. They have taken the program beyond the classroom and beyond the pages of the textbook, exposing us to the bigger picture that surrounds us, making us not just Fairfield University students or Americans, but global citizens.

Describe a favorite course and how it helped your academic growth.

Although all of the courses I have taken related to the RECAS program are outstanding, I have a special place in my heart for my Russian Language classes with Professor Elena Syssoeva. I went into Fairfield knowing that this would be the language for me, but I was unaware that it would become a true passion of mine. During my middle school and high school years, I had taken countless French courses. However, in the two semesters of taking “Introductory Russian” with Professor Syssoeva, I learned more about the Russian language then I had ever learned in my eight years of French. This is a testament to not only the ability of Professor Syssoeva to teach and convey her knowledge, but also her patience and willingness to help her students. Never once did I feel intimidated by the language or intimidated of failing, all because of the wonderful environment created in this course.

Russian, however, requires a lot of practice, dedication, focus, and willingness to learn, making it seem quite daunting for perspective students. However, this course has not only helped in developing my knowledge of the language but also developing my ability as a student. The skills learned within this course have become applicable to other course areas and the diligence I have developed within Russian has aided in my stamina in keeping up with my homework, my confidence in asking questions, and increased my love of learning.

In May 2019, I was able to utilize what I had learned in my Russian language courses and converse with native speakers in St. Petersburg. I traveled with Dr. McFadden and Professor Syssoeva, along with nine other students for ten days in Russia, where we continued the study of the Russian language, history, and culture. It was a full circle moment for my academic career as a RECAS student.

More About Russian, East European & Central Asian Studies

Life After Fairfield

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Life After Fairfield

The language skills, analytical tools, and cultural awareness that students gain by pursuing a minor in Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies are well-suited for a broad range of careers in the public or private sectors. Program alumni have found employment in government, education, foreign policy, business, media, nonprofit work, and the arts.

Learn how Fairfield's Career Services can support your post-graduate goals, and how our tight-knit alumni network can build career and mentoring opportunities that last a lifetime.

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Diversity and Inclusive Excellence

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Diversity and Inclusive Excellence

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As a Jesuit, Catholic university, Fairfield is dedicated to diversity and inclusion; to radical hospitality in service of racial, social, and economic justice.

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The College of Arts and Sciences is home to a vibrant community of engaged faculty, dedicated staff, and industry experts devoted to the process of invention and discovery and excited by the prospect of producing knowledge in the service of others. Meet the members of Fairfield's Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies program.

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