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Imagining the Russian Provinces in Literature and Film (1820 - 2020)


Admission requirements

The ability to read (academic) articles and other material in the Russian language.


Among all the myths and “accursed questions” of Russian culture the provinces (provintsiia) occupy a special position. Traditionally derided for their assumed imitativeness and unsightliness (the town of N in Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls, for example), the provinces can also take on a more positive coloring engendering idealized conceptualizations of national identity. Particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian heartland is often imagined as the “locale of true Russianness” (Lyudmila Parts) that successfully resists the corrupting inroads of Western culture.
Where do these notions come from? And how do we define the term “provinces”? Does it simply signify “non-capital” space (anything but Moscow and St. Petersburg), or is it altogether different from the countryside and the idyllic world of the estate that we find in the novels of Goncharov and Turgenev? Why was the term provintsiia banned from official Soviet print and did it suddenly make a come-back in the “rowdy” 1990s? What is the status of its synonyms: glubinka and regiony? By asking these and similar questions we engage with the provinces as part of Russia’s symbolic geography. Rather than studying the local history and lore of a particular region (the preferred approach of the discipline of kraevedenie), we focus on the provinces as an object of ideological reflection that articulates deeply felt concerns about the relationship between Russia’s “center” and its “periphery,” but also about Russia as periphery vis-à-vis the Western world.
Using the insights of postcolonial theory, reception theory and cultural semiotics we will discuss a few classical texts of nineteenth-century literature (Gogol’s comedy The Government Inspector), some lesser known works from Russia’s fin de siècle and the Soviet period, as well as a number of post-Soviet novels and films. For this course a fairly well-developed reading knowledge of Russian is required.

Course objectives

  • Learning to apply the basic tenits of postcolonial theory, reception theory and cultural semiotics;

  • Acquiring specialized knowledge about Russian literature and film;

  • Gaining a deeper insight into the (dis-)continuities in Russian culture;

  • Learning to conduct reception research, amongst others by mining discussion lists for data;

  • Becoming better readers and viewers;


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

  • Individual presentation of academic article (10%)

  • Group (or individual) presentation of film or literary text (10%)

  • Class perfomance (10%)

  • Three short papers of ca. 1000 words each (30%)

  • Final paper of ca. 4000 words (40%)


Students who fail their final paper (5,0 or lower), will have to resubmit an improved version and this will count as a resit for the assignment. No resit is possible for the oral presentations. A fail grade for the smaller papers can only be compensated by the total average of the other grades.
No written exam, but don’t forget to register (Usis).

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Nikolai Gogol’- Revizor/ The Government Inspector (translated by Roger Cockrell (Alma Books, 2019). Note that Revizor is sometimes translated as The Inspector General.
A complete reading list will be provided at the first meeting.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Reuvensplaats.