Newsletter 2006

Why Study Russian?

National Interests!

When I tell people that I am a Russian Studies major, the first question they ask is always, why? What can you do with Russian? Well, for starters Russian is the most widely spoken language of Eurasia and the most widespread Slavic language. It serves as the primary language for some 145 million people, and the secondary language for about 110 million. Russian language holds great political importance in the 20th century as it is one of the official languages of the United Nations. It is also the official language of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. 

Recently, the United States declared Russian a critical foreign language vital to our interests. Russian and other critical languages are vital to our national interests, extremely beneficial in cultural, financial, and political arenas. Knowledge of Russian can help the United States be more competitive in overseas business markets, promote cultural understanding, and have a positive effect on diplomacy. The National Security Language Initiative, recently enacted to reverse current deficiencies in foreign language education, includes $114 million designated to promote and support the further education of critical languages. The Department of State maintains that a deficit in foreign language “prevents us from effectively communicating in foreign media environments, hurts counter-terrorism efforts, and hamstrings our capacity to work with people and governments.” With our Russian Studies major we’re working to reduce this deficit!
--Erin Grande, ’08 and Claire Young, ‘08

Improved Communication !

I went on the Hillel spring break trip to Prague and used my Russian to help me get through. There were many times where cab drivers did not speak English. But when I asked the question: “Vi govoreetye po rooskee?” they would usually say yes. People in most eastern European countries that were under the iron curtain during the cold war spoke Russian because of the Soviet influence. In the Czech Republic there were times when schools were taught in Russian. The Soviet influence was so strong in the Czech Republic that there was even a giant statue of Stalin over looking Prague (which was eventually torn down). Another reason knowing some Russian helped get me around Prague was because Czech and Russian are very similar because they are both in the Slavic family of languages. They both have similar vocabularies and a similar grammar structure. Knowing Russian can be helpful for getting around in many countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and more.
--James Rohn, '09

Interdisciplinary Skills!

As I approach graduation from Muhlenberg as a Biochemistry and Russian Studies double major and move on to biochemistry graduate work at Harvard University, putting together this electronic portfolio of my work in Russian Studies was not a challenge due to the numerous and varied projects, essays, and multimedia presentations that I have completed during my tenure as a student here. To the right, I have provided a rubric listing the components of the major and a sample of the work that I completed in each area. This portfolio is valuable keepsake, not only for me, but also as a resource for potential employers and graduate school committees as science-related and pharmaceutical companies expand into Eastern Europe.
--Matthew Jakubik, ‘06