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Learning Objectives

An overview of the Russian and East European (REES) world area and how the countries of this region fit into the wider world of global affairs. Perfect for students interested in international studies or a career in international affairs, this course will delve into the geography, economics, history, cultures, religions and current politics of a region that spans from Europe to Asia. This course is intended for Freshmen and Sophomores who know little about Russia or Eastern Europe, but who would like to add an international component to their current studies. The course satisfies KU Core Goal 4, Outcome 2, by expanding cultural understanding and global awareness.

What sparked the revolutions in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989? What was it like to live in Russia in the “Wild” 1990s”? How did Vladimir Putin become such a popular figure in modern Russia? Why is Ukraine no longer called “the Ukraine”? And why do we now refer to an unconventional person, especially one involved in the arts, as “Bohemian”? These are just a few of the topics and questions we will tackle in this interdisciplinary international studies course that surveys more than a dozen countries.

What do students learn

Students will become familiar with the geography of Russia and Eastern Europe, and be able to identify countries and major geographical landmarks. They will gain familiarity with the different ethnic groups and cultures of the region, and have background knowledge of their histories and political structures. They will be able to discuss major political, social, and cultural events (both current and historical) and how these events relate to the politics of the United States and Europe. In addition, students will enhance their critical thinking and communication skills through various active learning assignments and projects.

What to students do in class? 

They attend lectures, participate in discussions, work in study groups, and improve their critical thinking and writing skills by completing a variety of online assignments. The two major class projects are:

  • Kapitalizm: an educational and interactive activity that illustrates the economic and social challenges of an economy in transition from communist to capitalist. In this simulation, students will make their own choices as they try to survive the turbulent Russia of the 1990s.
  • Collaborative Research Project: semester-long research project related to an important topic for the REES region. The project allows students, working as a team, to develop expertise on a particular subject as well as improve research and writing skills. Students enrolled in this course will have access to a librarian with expertise in the Russian and East European world area, who will assist them in developing a comprehensive research methodology for the research project.

What will students read? 

Students make use of a basic textbook on Russian history, as well as a first-person account of the 1989 Revolutions in Eastern Europe. To better understand events in the region, students spend several class periods discussing articles they have found which are related to topics under discussion. Aside from this, additional articles, monographs, and literary works are assigned that relate to special topics.

What have other students said about REES 110?

“Great Class!”

“All students should take this course instead of the same-old, same-old GenEd requirements.”

“Bart is one of those unsung heroes of KU in my opinion. I had a terrible second semester freshman year and without his class I would have lost all interest in college. My first test I got a D and he motivated me to keep trying. Every test after that was an A, and Bart definitely helped me out. Great guy, take this class if you want a good teacher.”

Who teaches the course?

The course instructor is Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES) Assistant Director Justyna Beinek, Ph.D. (jbeinek@ku.edu).  Before coming to KU, she taught at Harvard University, New York University, the University of Toronto, Indiana University, where she also directed the Polish Language, Literature, and Culture Program in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures (2005-13), and most recently at Sewanee: The University of the South, where she served as Visiting Associate Professor of International and Global Studies and Russian, as well as directed the Mellon Globalization Forum (2014-17) .


When is REES 110 offered?  

The course is offered in either regular or online version every year; the online version is also offered during most summers. It is open to any KU student; the online version is open to non-KU students as well.


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