Books on display with titles in English and Russian

Students will take Russian language courses and Middlebury-organized electives designed for language learners at Nazarbayev University, with the chance to take mainstream courses alongside Kazakhstani students at KAZGUU University. All coursework will be in Russian under the Middlebury Language Pledge. 

In addition to Russian language, examples of courses organized for our students include:

  • International Relations of Eurasia
  • Social Problems and Issues of Eurasia
  • Orientalism and Soviet Culture
  • History and Culture of Kazakhstan
  • Russian Literature in the Context of Eurasia
  • History of Kazakh Music
  • Introduction to the Politics of Central Asia
  • Russian Intellectual History from the Enlightenment to Eurasianism

Below are course descriptions for the courses offered in the Spring 2024 semester:

International Relations of Eurasia
This course investigates the international politics of the wider Eurasia, characterized by great power pluralism, and foreign policy adaptation, in what is often described in terms of a New Great Game. The first half of the course will lay down a conceptual framework to understand the region, mixing regional and theoretical literatures. We begin by examining the efforts of the great powers to integrate the region into the emerging multipolar system according to their respective regional objectives and competitive governance structures. Subsequently, we examine how great power patronage facilitates the intersection between external behavior, state building, and regime survival. From this perspective, we relate the approaches developed to analyze the foreign policy of Eurasian states -from multivector diplomacy to “local rules”- to IR literature. The remainder of the course will assess in what ways specific issues shape Eurasian regional dynamics following an “issue” approach to stimulate students’ curiosity. Security issues like radical Islam, drug trafficking, organized crime, and the war in Afghanistan will be considered in their multiple facets, as their ramifications reverberate regionally and globally. Natural resources from hydrocarbons, to uranium and gold play a large role in the geopolitics of this region: particular attention will be dedicated to issues like the politics of Caspian oil and gas and pipeline routes.

The East in the Soviet Russian-Language Culture
In this survey course of Soviet literature and culture, the students will read texts and watch films to understand the features of Soviet Russian culture. You will make acquaintance with a wide variety of texts and films that became living classics and discover concepts and phrases that – without exaggeration – almost every person in the post-Soviet spacе knows and uses. The main theme of this course will be the clash of the East and the West in Soviet Russian culture. You will study a variety of texts and films to explore how Soviet culture created its own image of the Orient. You will learn a lot about the history of the Soviet Union and the specifics of the attitude of the USSR’s Center toward the Soviet East. We will discuss whether the (post-) colonial approach is applicable to the study of the phenomenon of Soviet literature and debate how Soviet culture influenced the relations between Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

History & Culture of Kazakhstan
Students will get themselves familiar with Kazakhstan as a country with a distinctive culture, rich history, unique traditions and national values. Students will learn about the intersection points of Russian and Kazakh history. The main content of the course is aimed at studying the formation and development of Kazakhstani identity, the revival of historical and cultural values, the transformation of national traditions, the modernization of political, economic and environmental life in modern Kazakhstani society. As part of the course, students will read stories by young Kazakhstani writers, perform Kazakh folk and modern songs, learn how to play folk musical instruments, visit cultural attractions - museums, theaters, exhibitions. There will be some speakers invited to class - Kazakhstani scientists and cultural figures. This course will help students quickly adapt to the surrounding society. Students will learn new terminology, improve their academic skills in writing, reading, listening and speaking in Russian. The content of the course is closely related to the courses on Kazakh and world history, cultural studies, Kazakh language, literature, Russian language, anthropology, art studies. Students must be present at every class as learning will take place through vigorous group conversation and interaction in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. In all classes, the basic concepts on the topic under study and key phrases in the Kazakh language for communication will be learned - “Good afternoon”, “thank you”, “please”, “be healthy”, “how are you”, etc.

History of Kazakh Music
This course surveys the progression and development of Kazakh music from its beginnings to the present. Emphasis will be on the comparison of different styles, forms, instrumentation and composers from the various periods of Kazakh history. Kazakh Music History course will give the students the vocabulary, knowledge and analytical skills to identify music from contrasting periods as well as introduce them to major masterworks.

The History of the Ethnographic Study of the Kazakh People
This course will cover the development of ethnography against the background of historical events during the period of Kazakhstan’s accession to the Russian Empire, the Soviet and modern period. 

Below are course descriptions for the courses offered in the Fall 2023 semester:

International Relations of Eurasia
This course investigates the international politics of the wider Eurasia, characterized by great power pluralism, and foreign policy adaptation, in what is often described in terms of a New Great Game. The first half of the course will lay down a conceptual framework to understand the region, mixing regional and theoretical literatures. We begin by examining the efforts of the great powers to integrate the region into the emerging multipolar system according to their respective regional objectives and competitive governance structures. Subsequently, we examine how great power patronage facilitates the intersection between external behavior, state building, and regime survival. From this perspective, we relate the approaches developed to analyze the foreign policy of Eurasian states -from multivector diplomacy to “local rules”- to IR literature. The remainder of the course will assess in what ways specific issues shape Eurasian regional dynamics following an “issue” approach to stimulate students’ curiosity. Security issues like radical Islam, drug trafficking, organized crime, and the war in Afghanistan will be considered in their multiple facets, as their ramifications reverberate regionally and globally. Natural resources from hydrocarbons, to uranium and gold play a large role in the geopolitics of this region: particular attention will be dedicated to issues like the politics of Caspian oil and gas and pipeline routes.
 
Social problems and Issues of Eurasia
This is a survey course which aims to look into contemporary social problems in Eurasia with a sociological lens (i.e., using social theory and social science research).  Over the past two decades, societies in post-Soviet Eurasia have been confronted with new and old social issues affecting well-being of diverse social groups. In addition, there have been shifts in public attitudes and perceptions of social problems and of how to address them. We will look into old and emerging issues and policy responses in the socioeconomic and political context of the region. Some of the issues of interest include rising inequality and polarization, changing demographics and family structure, health and gender issues, ethnic and race issues, migration, and environmental problems. We will also discuss how the post-Soviet transformation has affected the way social issues are perceived and addressed and how certain issues have come to be constructed as important social problems, while other social phenomena were moved to the periphery of the public discourse. This is a discussion course which relies on student participation and engagement with the subject matter. While textbooks on the subject matter are yet to be written, we will use the available, fledgling but growing body of social science literature that documents social processes in this region. Combining lectures, group discussions, and learning activities, the course is aimed to inform and equip students with tools enabling them to recognize, understand and engage with social issues in the region. By focusing on the variety of old and emerging social problems, the students will get an insight into the processes of social transformation in post-Soviet Eurasia.
 
Orientalism and Soviet Culture
In this survey course of Soviet literature and culture, the students will read texts and watch films to understand the features of Soviet Russian culture. You will make acquaintance with a wide variety of texts and films that became living classics and discover concepts and phrases that – without exaggeration – almost every person in the post-Soviet spacе knows and uses. The main theme of this course will be the clash of the East and the West in Soviet Russian culture. You will study a variety of texts and films to explore how Soviet culture created its own image of the Orient. You will learn a lot about the history of the Soviet Union and the specifics of the attitude of the USSR’s Center toward the Soviet East. We will discuss whether the (post-) colonial approach is applicable to the study of the phenomenon of Soviet literature and debate how Soviet culture influenced the relations between Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Russia.
 
History & Culture of Kazakhstan
Students will get themselves familiar with Kazakhstan as a country with a distinctive culture, rich history, unique traditions and national values. Students will learn about the intersection points of Russian and Kazakh history. The main content of the course is aimed at studying the formation and development of Kazakhstani identity, the revival of historical and cultural values, the transformation of national traditions, the modernization of political, economic and environmental life in modern Kazakhstani society. As part of the course, students will read stories by young Kazakhstani writers, perform Kazakh folk and modern songs, learn how to play folk musical instruments, visit cultural attractions - museums, theaters, exhibitions. There will be some speakers invited to class - Kazakhstani scientists and cultural figures. This course will help students quickly adapt to the surrounding society. Students will learn new terminology, improve their academic skills in writing, reading, listening and speaking in Russian. The content of the course is closely related to the courses on Kazakh and world history, cultural studies, Kazakh language, literature, Russian language, anthropology, art studies. Students must be present at every class as learning will take place through vigorous group conversation and interaction in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. In all classes, the basic concepts on the topic under study and key phrases in the Kazakh language for communication will be learned - “Good afternoon”, “thank you”, “please”, “be healthy”, “how are you”, etc.

Host Universities

Nazarbayev University (NU)

Our host institution is Nazarbayev University, an internationally renowned research university founded in 2010. NU has beautiful facilities, ample support for international students, and many opportunities for students to get involved on campus. NU is an English-speaking university, so while Kazakhstani students take their courses in English, Russian is the predominantly spoken language on campus. Students on the Middlebury program will be communicating exclusively in Russian (or perhaps some Kazakh!) with their host university peers. 

Learn more about NU in this video

Maqsut Narikbayev (KAZGUU) University

KAZGUU University is just a short commute from NU, and our students have the chance to learn alongside Kazakhstani students in classes from KAZGUU’s School of Liberal Arts. 

Get a 3D tour of the university here