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The 20th anniversary of the American Studies Academic Department

Saint-Petersburg State University held a round table devoted to the 20th anniversary of the American Studies Academic Department collective. Professors, lecturers, students and graduates of the American Studies Academic Department attended this event.

The St. Petersburg State University American Studies Academic Department was founded in 1996. In 1995 the educational program “Regional studies” was started in SPBU, which became an impulse for academic development in the University. In 1996 this program was transformed and two new departments were created for students enrolled in bachelor and specialist programs: the European Studies Academic Department and the North-American Studies Academic Department.

The first phase of the Department collective work was characterized by enrollment of lecturers and creation of curriculum. During preparation of programs lecturers used the Russian science experience, as well as traditions of American universities, which made it possible to create the first academic department of American studies in Russia. The North-American Studies Academic Department engaged in scientific research of national political systems, economic and cultural processes in the USA and Canada.

At the beginning of the 2000s there was the peak of the collective work: the North-American Studies Academic Department had a full autonomy in formation of curriculum and courses. The first Ph.D., a graduate of the Department is Philippe G. Hanin, the first doctoral dissertations were defended by Yana V. Leksyutina and Natalia A. Tsvetkova.

Nowadays the subject of SPBU American studies is not only the USA and Canada, but also countries of Latin America and the Asian-Pacific region. The American studies program was launched at the School of International Relations of St. Petersburg State University in 2010 succeeding the North-American Studies. “We made a decision to “follow the road of expansion” - to research a whole space of the Western hemisphere”, - said professor, the head of St. Petersburg State University American Studies Academic Department Boris A. Shiryaev.

The first Master program, concerning American studies, was started in 1998. Nowadays there are three Master programs: “American Studies”, “Pacific Region Studies” and “International Relations” (in English).

One of the Department “brands” is a Russian-American seminar, which is regularly organized in the University for more than 20 years and unite Russian and foreign researchers and diplomatic representatives of the states. The next “brand” is the Ibero-American Studies Center, whose members organized the Forum “Russia and Ibero-America in a globalizing world” in 2013 and 2015. Professor Lazar S. Heifets drew attention to the problems and prospects of Latin American studies at the St. Petersburg State University, noting the fact that in Russia there are about 300 specialists, researching Ibero-America. Moreover, professor Lazar S. Heifets appealed students to not consider knowledge of Spanish language as the most important condition for a full study of Latin America.

The other topic of discussion was the Canadian studies. Canadian studies were started in SPBU almost from scratch. In the XX century almost no one in Russia was researching Canada and there were not special schools of Canadian studies in St. Petersburg. Professor Yuriy G. Akimov focused on the current state of Canadian studies. Although Canada authorities have been reducing support for these studies since 2006, there is student exchange program between SPBU and University of Montreal. Canadian studies include the Arctic ones, studies of federalism and foreign policy of federal subjects which are the relevant issues for Canada and Russia. After presentation lecturers proposed to create a new “brand” of the St. Petersburg State University American Studies Academic Department based on research of Canada.

Apart from the mentioned areas, the Department collective conducts research of China, Korea and other East Asian countries. Assistant professor Nikolay V. Fedorov told about the research in the Pacific region. Among the achievements in this area Nicolay V. Fedorov mentioned a collective monograph of 2012 “The US policy in the Asian-Pacific region during Obama’s administration”. In world politics the Asian-Pacific region is inherently linked to North and South Americas. Despite the fact that the Asian-Pacific states are different, SPBU Americanists use a special approach to study these countries: they consider the region as unique system, cooperating with other regions in the world. Compared with other higher educational establishments of the Russian Federation, St. Petersburg State University has a formed scientific school due to a variety of research areas in the American Studies Academic Department.

According to professor Alexander I. Kubyshkin, today academic American studies in Russia are in crisis and are replaced by propaganda against the USA, originating in deterioration of Russian-American relations. Professor Ivan A. Tsvetkov described modern American studies in Russia as “protective” which serve Russian foreign policy and present the United States as an enemy. This situation provides a strong incentive for American studies development in another vein: SPBU Americanists continue to employ “progressivist” approach, i.e. they have unbiased attitude to the US policy, which always was main feature of American studies in St. Petersburg State University.

Finally, the dean of the School of International Relations of St. Petersburg State University Irina N. Novikova congratulated the Department collective and said that the property of SPBU Americanists is academic freedom, which “should be protected”, Besides Irina N. Novikova offered to prepare a report about the Department collective achievements for 20 years with photos and a list of publications for authoritative academic journal. Also the head of the International Humanitarian Ties Academic Department of St. Petersburg State University, professor Vladimir I. Fokin congratulated his colleagues for the 20 years old scientific experience.

Material was prepared by Zherebtsova Viktoriia, 1st year student of the SPBU master program “Public Relations in the field of international relations” and the staff of the PR Department of St. Petersburg State University.

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