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.



To earn an 18-credit Russian, East European, and Central Asian studies minor, students must complete six three-credit courses. Three of these courses, from a range of seven disciplines, must be exclusively or substantially concerned with Russia and/or Eastern Europe. Two may have a component concerned with Russia, Eastern Europe, or Central Asia. At least three different disciplines must be represented. The final course, RECAS 310 "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

See Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies course descriptions from our catalog‌ for more information

Russian Language

  • RU 110: Elementary Russian I
  • RU 111: Elementary Russian II
  • RU 210: Intermediate Russian I
  • RU 211: Intermediate Russian II

Visual and Performing Arts

  • AH 191: Art and Mythologies of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Bolshevik Russia: Comparative Systems/Outcomes
  • AH 122: Byzantine Art


  • 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


  • EC 230: Comparative Economic Systems


  • PO 140: Islam and Muslim Politics

English (Comparative Literature)

  • EN 112: 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.


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.

Student & Alumni Profiles

Sarah Swanson

Class of '18

Get to Know Sarah

Name: Sarah Swanson '18
Undergrad Degree: History and Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies
Hometown: Shrewsbury, MA
Extracurricular Activities: History Club, Redefining Leadership Program, RECAS Programs, Russian Club Head


How and why did you select your majors and minors?

I initially entered Fairfield with the intent of taking Russian as my required language, seeing it listed as one of three critical languages advertised by the University. My best friend growing up was from Saint Petersburg and therefore 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 over the summer and I met Professor David McFadden, the head of the Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies Program and a faculty member of the history department, he handed me a flyer for the RECAS minor. I had heard about the recent conflicts in Ukraine, 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 with Professor Elena Syssoeva, cultural discussion and political debates through frequent Russian Hours, and historical perspective through classes such as Professor Lenka Pichlíková-Burke's "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.

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

The Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies Program (RECAS) is blessed to have such an amazing group of professors. I have had the pleasure of working with Professor Marcie Patton and Professor Lenka Pichlíková-Burke in different courses and with Professor Elena Syssoeva and Professor David McFadden both in and outside of the classroom. 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, as well as lent support to resurrect the Russian Club here 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 on the program not just related to a job after college, but its significance in the broader sense, related 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 that I have taken so far that are 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 have 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. These 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.

Kristin Alexy

Class of '13

Get to Know Kristin

Name: Kristin Alexy '13
Undergrad Degree: German and International Studies. Minors in Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies
Study Abroad: Russia (pictured, lower left in purple)


Why did you want to study abroad?

In today’s global world, it is important to understand other cultures, especially those of the rising world powers. Equally vital is to speak foreign languages, because contrary to the popular American belief, everyone in the world does not speak perfect English. Communication is our most valuable tool to develop, but in order to grasp a firm understanding of a different culture and language I knew I had to study abroad.

Why did you choose Russia?

I have always been fascinated with Russian history and Russia is an important country for an International Studies major and Politics minor. I took two Russian and Eastern European Studies (RES) courses at Fairfield, “Intro to Russian History and Culture” and “The History and Culture of Central and Eastern Europe since 1945,” which inspired me to become a Russian and Eastern European Studies minor and to begin the exciting adventure to learn the language. Russian courses at Fairfield have Oral Practice Sessions (OPS) and Russian Hour cultural presentations on a weekly basis, which helped me greatly in my studies outside of class. After one year of Russian, I realized quickly that to learn the language, I needed to be in an environment where I was constantly using it outside the classroom such as at the Russian Hour sessions. My one year of Russian classes at Fairfield prepared me both linguistically and culturally to become integrated into Russian society and to succeed in the intensive three hours of Russian per day in the classroom.

What was a stand out experience of your time in Russia?

St. Petersburg was an imperial city, so I was constantly discovering new and beautiful palaces along my way, so it is hard to pinpoint one thing. One of my dreams as a child studying ballet though was to see the theater that so many of my heroes danced upon. It was a magical moment seeing "The Nutcracker" at the Mariinsky Theater. St. Petersburg also houses a National Circus that lets you take pictures with some of the animals that perform including kangaroos, snakes, and bears!

One of the most amazing experiences was being invited to my host family’s dacha (summer cottage), which is a very important aspect of Russian culture. I felt welcomed into their culture, but more importantly I began to understand unique aspects of Russian culture I once overlooked or did not appreciate, such as the naming system. Every Russian name has a set nickname, but also an endearing form of the name. At Fairfield I decided to be called by my middle name, Maria, so I was Masha. One day my host mother called me Mashenka, which is like saying sweetie. I became so excited, because it meant that she saw me as part of her family and trusted me, something that is rather special in Russian culture. Also I realized that Russians place deep value in traditions passed over generations like serving tea in a samovar and learning to pick mushrooms. I even got to go mushroom picking with my host parents in a forest of birch trees. I felt like I was in a Russian fairytale and would find Baba Yaga’s house!

How did you language skills improve?

What would have taken me a year to accomplish in a classroom, I was able to do in less than one semester. Personally reading in Cyrillic was very difficult for me, but it became a natural process abroad. I became very excited when I realized that I was no longer constantly translating in my head what people were saying to me or thinking first in English before I would respond; it became a natural process to understand and speak Russian. My greatest accomplishment was giving a native Russian directions to the nearest metro station and that she understood me perfectly!

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.

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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