This previous summer I had the unique opportunity to study abroad through a joint program between the OU Political Science department and the OU Center for Intelligence and National Security (CINS) to gain a greater understanding of late soviet and post-cold war Russia. I traveled alongside Dr. Keith Gaddie (Head of the Dept. of Political Science), Dr. Larry Regens (OU Regent Professor and founding director of the CINS), and 5 other students from OU. The majority of our classwork and study preparation happened before the trip began. The experience was to be a little over a week long, so our professors wanted us to be able to more fully experience our time abroad, rather than spending most of our time reading.
We met as a group in Helsinki, Finland, spent one night, and the next morning boarded a train bound for St. Petersburg. Over the next week, we visited many historical sites as well as observing the modern day-to-day scenes of the city. We saw the (recreated) gilded splendor of the Tsarist era in the Hermitage, the Summer Palace and the Gardens of Catherine the Great, which juxtaposed the more subdued Stalinist era constructions and buildings that still showed the bombshell scarring from the battle of Leningrad.
Through this experience, I gained some insights into Russian foreign policy and what those policies might implicate for the United States. I will share what I’ve learned in a subsequent three-part series: 1. Russia and the United States, 2. Russia and the European Union, and 3. Russia and Its Near Abroad. For now, here is a quick video of some of the pics I took while in St. Petersburg!