Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Graduate Initiative in Russian Studies

The Graduate Initiative in Russian Studies, funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, exposes MIIS students to a wealth of data and analyses about Russia generated by contemporary Russian scholars and practitioners, and facilitates students’ active engagement with current and future leaders of the Russian policy and intellectual communities.

GIRS Website

Program History

Despite the officially recognized end of the Cold War in 1991, US-Russian relations over the last two decades have continued to suffer from mutual acrimony and mistrust. A significant share of these tensions can be attributed to policy makers, academics, and practitioners on both sides who have failed to adequately recognize and adapt to dramatic new developments in their counterparts’ domestic environments.

Both among the general public and, more, importantly, among the political and policy elite, the predominant discourse on bilateral relations is prone to stale, outdated generalizations. As educators directly involved in fostering the next generation of Russian specialists, we believe this state of affairs signals that a new model of graduate education in Russian studies is needed. The Graduate Initiative in Russian Studies funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York is now in its second year. With its establishment in 2013, we have already begun to introduce key elements of this new model.



Our primary goal is to equip graduates with a more nuanced, accurate, and clear-eyed understanding of contemporary Russia, which they will continue to apply as they embark on careers in US policymaking circles, NGOs, and the international business community. 


We seek to expose US graduate students to a wealth of data and analyses about Russia generated by contemporary Russian scholars and practitioners, and to facilitate students’ active engagement with current and future leaders of the Russian policy and intellectual communities. We also want to engage the broader Russian-speaking educational community in Monterey, CA, including Defense Threat Reduction Agency officers and Foreign Area Officers at the Defense Language Institute, as well as students studying Russian/Eurasian security issues at the Naval Postgraduate School. The program aims to foster a network of current and future Russian and Eurasian experts through joint participation in learning activities. Finally, we want to reach a broader audience beyond the Monterey community, and we plan to do so through a program website that contains videos of lectures and sessions with the visiting experts.

About the Program


Professor Anna Vassilieva represents MIIS in signing a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on academic 
cooperation with MGIMO and the PIR Center
in Moscow. Also pictured are PIR Center Director
Vladimir Orlov & MGIMO Rector Anatoly Torkunov.

The Graduate Initiative in Russian Studies fits naturally into this mission. First, it provides opportunities for immersive and collaborative learning, as students apply their language skills to high-level work with visiting Russian experts. Second, program activities, including content-based language practice, provide students with training in valuable professional skills. Third, we believe that exposing students to a wide spectrum of Russian scholarship will better prepare them to bridge divides between US and Russian policymakers and to seek collaborative solutions to critical foreign policy challenges in their future careers. At the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), we prepare students to make a meaningful impact through immersive and collaborative learning programs and opportunities to acquire and apply practical professional skills. Our students are emerging leaders capable of bridging cultural, organizational, and language divides to produce sustainable, equitable solutions to a variety of global challenges.

The Institute is renowned for its unique, content-based language instruction approach. For over two decades, the MIIS faculty has been developing modules that combine the study of politics, economics, security, and other crucial topics with development of target language skills. This content-based language training has prepared students to communicate at a high level with experts who do not use English professionally. Visiting experts were able to deliver lectures and lead seminars and workshops in Russian, ensuring that they have the tools to convey clearly the full depth and breadth of their insights. At the same time, students benefited from the opportunity to practice their advanced language skills in a context directly related to their future work. MIIS’s superb Translation and Interpretation Graduate Program also provided the means for visiting Russian scholars to be interpreted into English for a broader audience.

The Institute has an established track record of attracting top Russian experts in the field of nuclear nonproliferation (through the activities of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, funded by a number of US foundations and the US government) and in the fields of foreign policy, migration, and regionalism (through activities of the Center for East Asian Studies, previously funded by the Freeman Foundation). The seminars and lectures offered by visiting experts attract large audiences.

Program Activities

Spring-Fall 2013 

GIRS Group Photo

In total, the visiting experts program brought seven scholars and policymakers to campus in 2013:

Dr. Dmitry Trenin, Director, Carnegie Center, Moscow; General Vladimir Dvorkin, senior scientist, Center for International Security at the Institute of Economic and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences; Dr. Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, Chief of the Laboratory of Migration, Institute for Economic Forecasting, Russian Academy of Sciences; Dr. Andranik Migranyan, Director, Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, New York; Dr. Roza Otunbayeva, former President of the Kyrgyz Republic; Dr. Pavel Minakir, Director, Economic Research Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Khabarovsk, and Dr. Alexei Malashenko, Senior Researcher, Carnegie Center, Moscow.

These experts discussed a wide range of topics pertaining to Russia, including foreign and domestic migration, demographics, Russia’s security concerns, domestic factors affecting Russian foreign policy, Islam and Islamism in Russia, US-Russian relations, and Putin’s presidency.

Fall 2014-Spring/Fall 2015 Visiting Experts

Among the visiting experts for the 2014-2015 academic year are:

Prof. Oxana Gaman-Golutvina
Chair, Department of Comparative Politics
President, Russian Political Science Association
Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia

Vladimir Orlov, Ph.D.
, PIR Center
(The Russian Center for Policy Studies)

Mikhail Remizov, Ph.D.
President, National Strategy Institute
Member, Military-Industrial Commission of the Russian Federation
Member, Expert Council under the Government of the Russian Federation

Andrei P. Tsygankov, Ph.D.
Professor, Departments of Political Science and International Relations
San Francisco State University

Feodor Voitolovsky, Ph.D.
Head of Section, Senior Research Fellow
Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences
EASI-Hurford Next Generation Fellow

Fedor Lukyanov
Editor-in-Chief, Russia in Global Affairs
Chairman of Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy

Alexei Arbatov, Academician
Scholar in Residence, Nonproliferation Program
Carnegie Moscow Center

Pavel Minakir, Ph.D.
Director, Economic Research Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences

Michael Kimmage, Ph.D.
Frankin Fellow, US State Department Policy Planning Staff

Matthew Rojansky
Director, Kennan Institute

Pavel Gudev, Ph.D.
Senior Research Fellow, Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Center for North American Studies