During a visit to Russia this summer Don Kelley, far left, and Vincent Cornell, second from right, discussed a new summer program they are planning with faculty from Smolny College in St. Petersburg.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The pace of change in today’s Russia today is dizzying and fascinating. Russians now have their own version of Jerry Springer on television, while members of the nouveau riche are building enormous new dachas north of St. Petersburg worth millions of dollars. The former Soviet Palace of Culture for workers is now a gay bar.

Change in Russia also includes an increasing awareness of diversity. The face of contemporary Russia includes not only many varieties of Europeans and Asians, but also the largest Muslim minority in Europe. The St. Petersburg mosque and Islamic Center, dating to the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, is the oldest mosque built in a European capital.

The rapidly changing reality of Russia is why Russian Studies Director Donald Kelley and Middle East Studies Director Vincent Cornell, both of Fulbright College, applied for and won a U.S. Office of Education grant of over $60,000 to develop a summer program at St. Petersburg State University, a new partner university of the University of Arkansas.

In July 2003, Kelly and Cornell led a team of faculty members from Fulbright College to St. Petersburg to plan a summer program in conjunction with the Smolny College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at St. Petersburg University and Bard College of Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. The result: in summer 2004, the University of Arkansas and Smolny College will jointly offer a program in Russian Studies that will be open to students from across the U.S.

"St. Petersburg is a microcosm of the czarist era, the Soviet era, and the post-Soviet era, allowing us to examine history, politics, and economics across these three spans of time. Although it was not the capital for most of the Soviet period, it remained a major city," Kelley said.

The UA partnership with St. Petersburg University has already proven productive. In summer 2002, UA faculty in Middle East Studies and their Russian colleagues held a workshop comparing Middle East Studies programs in Russia and the U.S. In spring 2003, Associate Professor Sergei Grigoriev from St. Petersburg’s Oriental Studies program taught a course at the U of A on contemporary Afghanistan. This fall, Tom Senor is teaching a course on analytical philosophy at Smolny.

During this summer’s trip, Jura Margulis from music forged an exchange with teachers at the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music, one of the world’s premier centers of music education where Margulis’ father once served as a professor before immigrating to Germany.

"In St. Petersburg, you find the side-by-side existence of enormous wealth and continuing poverty," said Kelley. "At the intellectual level, you have the complete openness of a system once closed to anything but official ideology. And at the personal level, you find people once deeply suspicious of foreigners are now much more open as well."


Donald Kelley, director of the Fulbright Institute of International Relations and the Russian Studies Program, J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, 479-575-3358,

Lynn Fisher, director of communication, Fulbright College, 479-575-7272,

EDITORS: Click on the photo for a Print-Quality JPEG.


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