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Campus inSaint Petersburg

‘Global and Regional History’ Master’s Programme Welcomes not only Historians and Anthropologists

The new graduate programme ‘Global and Regional History’ to be open in the new academic year replacing the preceding programme ‘Applied and Interdisciplinary History’. HSE University - Saint Petersburg editorial office interviewed Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov, the Programme Head and an anthropologist, about a global approach to studying history and international cooperation which the programme has built.

‘Global and Regional History’ Master’s Programme Welcomes not only Historians and Anthropologists

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  • What is the difference between the renewed programme and its predecessor 'Applied and Interdisciplinary History'?
  • 'Applied and Interdisciplinary History' programme focuses on the practical orientation of students. In 'Global and Regional History', we emphasize academical activity. Students will be preliminary involved in academic projects and have the opportunity to continue their studies at PhD level. We prepare students for post-graduate studies in Russia and foreign countries, for example, on HSE University and the University of Turin joint programme. The new master programme is a part of the strong academic track in History, which also includes undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in History. 
At the same time, we also understand that different students have different visions of their further careers.  Not all of them pursue science. Students will obtain skills that allow them to work in museums, publishing houses, archives, centres for arts and culture. They will learn to work with archive materials, proceed and systematize information from digital and other media, compound exhibitions and expositions. 
Despite the career chosen by students, research-oriented education will be useful for them. It broadens one's horizons, develops analytical skills, encourages language learning. By combining these elements, the programme enables one to work for historical and cultural projects not only in Russia but also abroad Bringing together these elements.
  • What applicants does ‘Global and Regional History’ expect to see?
  • There are two major groups of prospective students. The first group is historians and anthropologists who pursue in-depth learning within their fields. The second group we welcome no less are those who want to discover the world of history even though they have nothing whatsoever to do with it. 
Candidates with an undergraduate degree in History and related fields (Political Science, Sociology, Philology, Archeology), as well as with other backgrounds (Ecology, Biology, Management, etc.) are welcome to apply to the programme. 

 Needs, abilities, capabilities, and interests of each student are in the focus of our programme. If you have already gained knowledge in history and pursue an academic career, you are welcome to apply to get a master's degree. At the same time, the programme may introduce history to you and become an opportunity to change your field of studies.

Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov
Programme Head

  • Why is the programme called 'Global and Regional History'?
  • Nowadays, Global history and anthropology are the main components of the Humanities. It is difficult to understand the reasons for ongoing processes in a particular territory without the understanding of global interconnections. That is why global history is the basic framework of the programme.
At the same time, scholars study the world locally focusing on particular areas: cities and towns, districts, streets, or even a particular object. Specific regional research forms the global frame. For example, if we start to study what an iPhone is, we will find out that it is not just a smartphone, but a global product. People interactions over the world, from Silicon Valley to China, focus on this object. We can consider Siberian furs in the same way. Although it was produced in Russia, it used to be a world trade commodity.
One more example is Fernand Braudel's famous book The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. Braudel considers the sea intersection point of trade, diplomacy, migrations, communication lines, which extend far beyond the borders of the Mediterranean. To put it in other words, one can conduct local area analysis given that one has a world understanding and knows global scientific theories. The frame is global but the focus is local.
  • As it is said in the programme description, 'Global and Regional History' departs from the traditional approach widely used in Russia when they divide history into local history and world history. Why?
  • Usually, Russian History and World History are taught independently at Russian universities. Researches and literature on these areas hardly interconnect. This division affects postgraduate school and further academic career. Even Russian Academy of Science has the Institute of Russian History and the Institute of World History.
The management and academic council of the programme are convinced that such an approach must be abandoned. This will lead students becoming more competent and professional historians. They will learn about modern discussions on the topic of the history of empires, Cold War, medicine, or gender. They will learn about the various intersections of history with social anthropology, history with arts. We aim to teach our students to talk about their research topics and relevance to a wider audience: not only to their peers with a similar specialization but also with other field researchers.
The global frame reinforces a scientific component of education and provides other career opportunities for students. Theoretical knowledge, broad-mindedness, strong analytical capabilities are beneficial qualities for both a scholar and an art gallery or editorial office employee.
  • Would you give some examples of courses taught on the programme?
  • Professor Anisimov, Chief Research Fellow of St. Petersburg Institute of History, RAS (Russian Academy of Science), will teach a course 'History of Saint Petersburg'. This course is an illustrative example of what one can learn on the programme. History of Saint Petersburg is regional and global at the same time. To explore Saint Petersburg, it is important to understand who created this city and lived here. City's architects, poets, researchers and artists, bakers, and coachmen were of various origin. One should immerse in the global perspective to explore a city. Other courses on the programme follow the same logic. They all are based on studying global by studying local, regardless of the division into national history or global history.
Students will also study the 'Anthropocene' course. The term is relatively new and means the latest geological era with human presence considered the main reason for environmental changes. The course studies the anthropogenic impact on the planet and environmental history of modern human and human civilization. Climate change and environmental challenges have no national borders. Teaching this course also brings students out of frames of national history.
'Digital Humanities' course will enable students to learn what new technologies and tools for studying history, e.g. special computer software and digitalization of archives. This discipline will also tell about a modern society life alongside digital data.  Students will study what digital society is and how we live and exist in the big data era.
  • What are the core courses of the programme? Will students have any elective courses?
  • The core courses focus on methodology, e.g. courses on 'Global Imperial History', 'Anthropology of Religion', 'History of Sciences'. They teach the theoretical frame and analytical tools. 
On elective courses, students will learn regional features. We can say that these courses provide empirical material for further research and work with global theories. It will be possible to choose various disciplines to learn more about particular areas or historical phenomena such as personality cult, 'Anthropological Documentation and 'Visual Anthropology' courses are also among the variety of the programme's courses.
  • Why is the programme taught in the English language?
  • Our goal is to help a student integrate into international academic society. A modern international researcher can debate, read the newest researches of foreign peers, express his or her ideas in research articles for international magazines, in English. This level is achieved gradually. Students will have the opportunity to write their theses and assignments in Russian if a course is taught in Russian, e.g. as 'History of Saint Petersburg'. However, the main goal of the programme is to teach students to work in English. 
On the programme 'Applied and Interdisciplinary History' half of the students are international students. We would like to keep and pass on this tradition to the new programme. Students come from different countries from the United Kingdom to Brazil. They also can write their theses in Russian if they have achieved proficiency in Russian. Moreover, foreign students have an opportunity to take 'Russian as a Foreign Language' course.

 Working closely with international students is beneficial for Russian students. People from different countries act in another way at the seminars as well as they share alternative opinions. So students develop their understanding of people of other social and educational backgrounds. The programme creates an environment where one can witness different communication styles and various approaches to studying. This environment changes a student.

Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov
Programme Head

We also invite international faculty. This autumn, American historians Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper will visit the programme to give lectures and master classes. We also do our best to ensure that students' theses are reviewed by foreign colleagues.
  • What international partners does the programme have?
  • The programme has developed a partnership with the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, the University of York, University of Munich, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Free University of Amsterdam), the University of Turin.  Students go to partner universities on an exchange or to have their internships.
    • How will students be engaged in a scientific activity?
  • It is arranged in the form of mandatory research projects. Students can carry out their research activities whether in groups or independently. Research projects will last two years, starting from the first semester.  
Each student will have a topic for his or her master thesis. Project researches on the topic will help students extend their knowledge. We welcome any initiative: providing that a student has time and enthusiasm, he or she can participate in a project on a topic not related to their master thesis or even propose new research. In frames of the projects, a student will meet their thesis supervisor, visit archives to work with relevant materials such as geographical maps, museum items or diaries.
The programme also includes research seminars where students will form research aims for their theses and projects and learn how to apply the research methods. The seminar creates an environment encouraging scientific dialogue between students and lecturers.
The Department of History has research centres where students can also do science. First and foremost, it is the Centre for Historical Research. It has the Laboratory for Environmental and Technological History and the 'Post-Imperial Diversities' project, where researchers from Finland and Germany work.
  • What internships does the programme offer to students?
  • We arrange internships in archives, museums, cultural centres. It may be related to the project activity, but it is not necessarily. Students work for these organizations for a while.
It is an applied activity which is important not only for students who are willing to work in creative and cultural industries. When you are doing research, you often need to visit archives and funds. So you can learn more about their organisation and learn how to find materials relevant to your research.
As a part of their internships, students can also help to organize exhibitions and excursions in museums. HSE University - Saint Petersburg has the Joint Department with Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstkamera) of RAS. We work closely with the museum and its director Andrey Golovnev. The Kunstkamera always welcomes student’s assistance.
Peterhof State Museum-Reserve is also available for an internship. We plan to cooperate with Lenfilm studio and cultural centres, such as New Holland, to allow our students to get an internship there. Anyway, students can suggest other organizations for the training as the programme is in readiness to enter into cooperation with various cultural organizations.