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Regular version of the site

US-Russia Relations: Past and Present

The course has been cancelled

Russian-American relations are not just about politics and diplomacy but also about mutual interest, influence, and life-changing adventures!

Course Description

The current state of Russia-U.S. relations is hardly possible to understand without looking over the history. The course emphasises the socio-cultural dimension of foreign policies and covers different issues of Russian-American affairs on which the two countries cooperated and conflicted over decades.

The course is taught by Sergei I. Zhuk, Professor of History at Ball State University, Indiana, USA, a former Soviet expert in US history (doctor istoricheskikh nauk), he moved in 1997 to the United States, defended his American Ph.D. dissertation about imperial Russian history at Johns Hopkins University in 2002. Since 1997 he taught American colonial history, Russian/Soviet and Ukrainian History at the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University. His research interests are international relations, knowledge production, cultural consumption, religion, popular culture and identity in a history of imperial Russia, Ukraine and the Soviet Union. His recent publications include Soviet Americana: The Cultural History of Russian and Ukrainian Americanists (2018), Nikolai Bolkhovitinov and American Studies in the USSR: People’s Diplomacy in the Cold War (2017), and Rock and Roll in the Rocket City: The West, Identity, and Ideology in Soviet Dniepropetrovsk, 1960-1985 (2010).

Concentrating on the cultural/academic Cold War, this course will cover a history of the major developments in the relations between Russia/Soviet Union and the United States of America through cultural-academic dialogue, knowledge production and confrontation from Harry S. Truman to Donald J. Trump

Sergei I. Zhuk
Course Lecturer; Professor of History at Ball State University, Indiana, USA.

Why Choose This Course?

Uniqueness and competitive advantage of this course is in its offering the social-cultural history of US-Russia relations through the lenses of knowledge production, demonstrating a significant role of the experts in academia on both sides of dialogue, instead of the traditional emphasis on purely political aspects of diplomacy.


The topics which are covered by the course are: 

  • A Concept of “People’s Diplomacy”: American Republic and Imperial Russia
  • “The Red Threat”: From the Great War to WWII
  • The United States in Soviet Imagination under Stalin
  • America and Russia in Cultural Consumption and Knowledge Production: From the Thaw to Détente
  • Soviet Americanists and American Sovietologists: Road to Perestroika and Collapse of Communism
  • Failures of Unipolar World, and Decline of American Domination
  • “The New Cold War?”: From Obama to Trump
  • Russia, Ukraine and the Future of US-Russia Relations

Skills and Competences

Introducing the basic facts of traditional diplomacy in US-Russia history since the creation of early American republic in the 18th century, this course will address the role of cultural consumption, intellectual elites and identity formation in so-called people’s diplomacy, when various media and individuals, such as diplomat George Kennan, or historians Nikolai Bolkhovitinov and Aleksandr Fursenko, shaped American-Russian relations.   

Teaching Methods

This course will be a combination of short lectures and in-class discussions. Students are expected to take active part in class discussions and to give one individual final presentation of a research paper on the topic of their choice, related to a history of US-Russia relations.

Final Assessment

Each student will write a 8-10 page final research paper (12-point, Times New Roman, double-spaced) on a topic of his/her choosing, related to a history of US-Russia relations. This paper will be presented during two last meetings of the class, followed by a class discussion of the presentation.

Final Grade Background

The final grade consists of 40% (individual final presentation of a research paper) + 60% (participation in-class discussions). Students are expected to attend each class and participate in discussions.

Recommended Reading List

Walter LaFeber, America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-2006 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006).

Martin McCauley, The Cold War 1949-2016 (London: Routledge, 2017).

Sergei Zhuk, Nikolai Bolkhovitinov and American Studies in the USSR: People’s Diplomacy in the Cold War (Lanham, MD and Boulder, CO: Rowman and Littlefield’s Lexington Press, 2017).

Sergei Zhuk, Soviet Americana: The Cultural History of Russian and Ukrainian Americanists (London and New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019).

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