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Description and Objectives

The following is a self-paced language enhancement course. Its objective is to offer an introduction to "Russian Cultural Literacy," defined as "the common cultural data bank used by educated (and not-so-educated) native speakers in their everyday communications."

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Cultural literacy is an important feature of language that oftentimes distinguishes advanced Level 3 and Level 4 texts (as defined by the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) from basically factual Level 2 texts. The course is intended primarily for intermediate, Level 2/2+ Russian learners who have had limited exposure to the topic, but it should also be of help to senior language and intelligence analysts, Area Studies specialists, individuals traveling to Russia, or anyone else who requires either an introduction to, or a review of, the basics of Russian geography, history, literature, philosophy, religion, etc.

The course, which consists of 100 questions with Mentor Essay answers, is meant to be informative, interesting, and an "easy read." It should be stressed that the question-answer format is not intended to "test" the student, but rather to generate interest and keep course materials moving forward - a sort of expanded game show format where, whether you're right or wrong, the correct answer reinforced by an explanation/essay somehow becomes "burned in your brain forever," to quote one user.

The 100 questions are divided into six broad cultural categories, as follows:

Questions 01-10 - Geography
Questions 11-20 - The People
Questions 21-50 - History
Questions 51-80 - Literature and Intellectual History
Questions 81-90 - The Arts
Questions 91-100 - Science and Technology

In the 2009 Edition of Developing Russian Cultural Literacy many of the Mentor Essays have been supplemented by materials from both the English and Russian versions of Wikipedia.

It is highly recommended that you read each Mentor Essay to its conclusion before linking to other sites. Also, take care not to venture too far from the course when exploring the links. It's easy to get lost in cyberspace! (Note: All links were checked and functioning in March 2009; however, the Internet being what it is, some links may be "dead" when you try them.)

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It will require approximately six to eight hours to complete all of these materials (not counting Internet links). IMPORTANT: due to the amount of information included, it is highly recommended that these hours be spread out over several sittings. The Mentor will instruct you when to take a break. If you wish to review before continuing, jot down basic information as you go through the questions and then use the Interactive Research Index.

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The bulk of the materials for Developing Russian Cultural Literacy comes from lecture notes from courses I taught at Duke University, Goucher College, and the Johns Hopkins University. I am solely responsible for the questions, the final Mentor essays, and for any and all historical or factual mistakes. Corrections and comments should be addressed to me; email: "russment@hotmail.com", or use the "FEEDBACK" function.

Dr. Bogdan Sagatov

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