Skip Navigation

Professor deciphers the key aspects of Russian identity

December 14, 2011

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at or 608-363-2849 

Understanding the culture of everyday life in Russia is important to understanding Russian identity, says Associate Professor of Russian Olga Ogurtsova.

Ogurtsova is scheduled to give a presentation in January called “Teaching Intercultural Competence Beyond Language at the Advanced Level” at the annual American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages conference in Seattle. Her presentation will be about a course she plans to offer in the fall 2012 semester, titled “Working in Russia, Dealing with Russians.”

While Ogurtsova has taught this course in the past, most recently in 2008, it is different each time. The 2001 novella Pervaya Popytka (First Try) by contemporary Russian feminist writer Viktoria Tokareva is the main text for the course. Ogurtsova uses this text because of the allusions that Tokareva makes to Russian culture, history, and behavior. Each time she teaches the course, she says she deciphers more of these allusions.

Since there are no textbooks on this topic, Ogurtsova will instead use material on Moodle to provide students with background and context on the novella. For example, students will learn about evacuation, World War II, and living in communal apartments. Through providing these materials, Ogurtsova aims to impart her knowledge and background on these subjects to help her students better understand the novella. She also posts links on Moodle to movies/documentaries, songs, fairy tales, and other things that may be enlightening for students.

Through this course, Ogurtsova aims to make clear the differences between Russian and American culture. 

“I love teaching culture. Because I lived in Russia and follow the news from Russia daily, I want my students to know as much about Russia as possible,” Ogurtsova said. “Friendships for Russians are sacred. A friend is more important than a family member. In Russia, we say you will give your last shirt to your friend. In order to deal with Russians, Americans should understand that they will only trust you when you become friends.”

Source: Olga Ogurtsova is an associate professor of Russian, faculty director of Beloit College’s Center for Language Studies (CLS), and coordinator of the Russian CLS program. A native of Krasnodar, Russia, she teaches Russian conversation and composition, Russian civilization, and topical courses on Russian literature. A story on Ogurtsova in Beloit College Magazine can be read at can serve as a media contact on topics relating to her research and teaching.