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Learning Objectives

An overview of the Russian, East European & Eurasian (REES) world area and how the countries of this region fit into the wider world of global affairs. REES 220 focuses on Russia, Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and the countries of the South Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan). Tailored 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 this diverse and historically significant region. The course is intended for Freshmen and Sophomores who know little about this world area, but who would like to add an international component to their current studies. REES 220 satisfies KU Core Goal 4, Outcome 2, by expanding cultural understanding and global awareness.

What was it like to live through the turbulent 1990s in this region, witnessing the breakup of the USSR and the transition to a free-market economy? How did Vladimir Putin become such a popular figure in modern Russia? Why do the names of all the countries in Central Asia end in “stan”? And who really wrote the novel Ali and Nino, the captivating story of an Azerbaijani boy who falls in love with a Georgian girl. These are just a few of the topics and questions we will tackle in this interdisciplinary international studies course.

What do students learn

Students will become familiar with the geography of Russia, Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus, 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 State. In addition, students will enhance their critical thinking and communication skills through various active learning assignments and projects.

What do students do? 

They attend lectures, many given by guest speakers, 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 Eurasian world area, who will assist them in developing a comprehensive research methodology for the research project.

What do students read? 

We make use of an anthology focusing on life in Central Asia, as well as a textbook on the South Caucasus region. We also read the novel Ali and Nino, set in pre-World War I Azerbaijan and often called the Romeo and Juliet of the Caucasus. 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 220?

“The guest speakers were fantastic!”

“Guest lectures were very informative, current event assignments gave me a chance to relate what we learned in class to relevant events in the areas. The required textbooks all gave different perspectives and were all very beneficial.”

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 220 offered?  

This course is offered every spring semester. It is open to any KU student.


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