Any study of Russian history and culture is bound to be deep, dark and foreboding given the hundreds of years the Russian people have lived and made history. For a glimpse into this fascinating subject, Orlando Figes’ masterful book, Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia (Picador, 2003) will be our starting point. During the past centuries, and especially in the 18th century beginning with Peter the Great’s dream of creating a “window to the West” from the creation of St. Petersburg, Russian history has been illustrated by writers, artists and musicians. Their efforts are discussed in Fige’s work, which show us Russian customs, folklore, daily life of the peasant and the aristocrat, combined with spiritualism, all interwoven with the history that shaped the Russia we know today. Concentration will be on Russia from the 18th century until the Soviet period and artists’ works will be used to illustrate the discussions. Join us on this journey of cultural and historical exploration into the soul of modern Russia. Study group participants will be expected to read approximately 50 pages each week in preparation for class discussion as well as volunteering to lead a discussion once during the semester.