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‘Global and Regional History’ Master’s Programme Seeks Future Historians, Anthropologists, and More

In 2020, HSE - St. Petersburg is launching a new master's programme in ‘Global and Regional History’, which will replace the ‘Applied and Interdisciplinary History’ Programme. The HSE University - Saint Petersburg editorial office interviewed Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov, Programme Head and anthropologist, about the programme's a global approach to studying history and its international partnerships.

‘Global and Regional History’ Master’s Programme Seeks Future Historians, Anthropologists, and More

  • How is the programme different than the previous master's programme in 'Applied and Interdisciplinary History'?
  • The 'Applied and Interdisciplinary History' programme focuses on the practical application of history. In 'Global and Regional History', we emphasize research and scholarship. Students will be involved in academic projects and have the opportunity to continue their studies at PhD level. We prepare students for post-graduate programmes in Russia and abroad, such as the HSE University and the University of Turin joint programme. The new master's programme is an exciting addition to HSE's strong programmes in history, which also include undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. 
At the same time, we also understand that different students have different career interests. Not all of them pursue careers in academia. Students will obtain skills that allow them to work in museums, publishing houses, archives, and centres for arts and culture. They will learn to work with archival materials, process and systematize information from digital and other media, and put together exhibitions and expositions. 

Regardless of students career aspirations, the programme's research-oriented education will be useful to them. It broadens one's horizons, develops analytical skills, and 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.
  • Who is eligible to apply to the ‘Global and Regional History’ Programme?
  • The programme welcomes applications from students with or without experience in the fields of history and athropology. Students with a strong background in these subjects and students who are newcomers to the fields should have a strong commitment to research and learning.
We especially encourage 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.) to apply to the programme. 

 The needs, skills, and interests of each student are the focus of our programme. If you already have a strong background in history and want to 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 an 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's 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 points of trade, diplomacy, migrations, and 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 the programme description says, '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. Research and literature on these areas hardly interconnect. This division affects postgraduate school and further academic career. Even the 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 to become more competent and professional historians. They will learn about modern discussions on the topic of the history of empires, the Cold War, medicine, or gender. They will learn about the various intersections of history with social anthropology, and history with the arts. We aim to teach our students to talk about their research topics and their 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, and strong analytical capabilities are beneficial qualities for both a scholar and an art gallery or editorial office employee.
  • What are some examples of courses taught on the programme?
  • Professor Anisimov, Chief Research Fellow of the St. Petersburg Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), will teach a course 'History of Saint Petersburg'. This course is an illustrative example of what one can learn in the programme. The 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. The city's architects, poets, researchers, artists, bakers, and coachmen were of various origins. In order to explore a city, one should contextualize it within a global framework. Other courses in the programme take the same approach. They all are based on studying the global through the local, regardless of the division into national history or global history.
Students will also take the 'Anthropocene' course. The term is relatively new and refers to how the latest geological era with human presence is 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.

The 'Digital Humanities' course will enable students to learn new technologies and tools for studying history, e.g. special computer software and tools for the digitalization of archives. This course will also consider 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', and 'History of Sciences'. They focus on theoretical frameworks and analytical tools. 
In elective courses, students will examine 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 English?
  • Our goal is to help students integrate into international academic society. A modern international researcher can debate, read the newest research of foreign peers, express his or her ideas in research articles for international journals, 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, such as in 'History of Saint Petersburg'. However, the main goal of the programme is to teach students to work in English. 
In the programme 'Applied and Interdisciplinary History' half of the students are international students. We would like to keep this tradition alive in 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 language courses.

 Working closely with international students is beneficial for Russian students. People from different countries conduct themselves differently in seminars and 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), and the University of Turin.  Students go to partner universities on exchange programmes or to complete internships.
    • How will students be engaged in research?
  • It is arranged in the form of mandatory research projects. Students can carry out their research activities 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. Research projects connected with this 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. For their projects, students will meet with their thesis supervisors, and 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 that encourages constructive dialogue between students and lecturers.

The Department of History has research centres where students can also do research. 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 students?
  • We arrange internships in archives, museums, and cultural centres. It may be related to the project activity, but it is not required. 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 part of their internships, students can also help 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 a place students can intern. We plan to work with Lenfilm studio and cultural centres, such as New Holland, to allow our students to intern there as well. In addition, students can make their own suggestions about organizations at which they would like to intern. We are happy to work all kinds of cultural organizations.