The state of new research and graduate-level instruction on Russia in American colleges and universities is depressingly sad because, in a nutshell, nobody thinks the country that makes up nearly 12 percent of the earth’s landmass is important enough to study.
A report by the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies reveals the extent of the problem, according to Inside Higher Ed.
The Carnegie Corporation-funded report was issued earlier this month and completed from January to April of 2015.
Researchers surveyed 36 American universities that offer specialized graduate-level coursework in Russian studies. They also contacted over 600 Russia-related experts to obtain insights.
The faculties at the three dozen schools include 50 tenured or tenure-track political science professors who have expertise in some Russia-related area. While 50 may seem like a big number, it’s actually just 1.39 professors per school.
Collectively, the 36 schools award an average of only seven — seven — Ph.D. degrees to newly-minted Russia experts each year in the field of political science.
Historically, America’s political science departments have produced more Russian specialists than other faculty departments.
“Eighty percent of the social scientists in our individual survey sample agree that interest in Russia among Ph.D. students in their field has fallen in recent years,” the 93-page report explains. “Even top programs with long-term reputations for excellence in Russia-related social science, such as Berkeley and Harvard, have seen the number of their Russian specialists in political science dwindle.”
Professors who are experts on Russia are retiring and will retire in droves, the report warns, and there are very few new experts to replace them. Thus, the field is in danger of dying off on U.S. campuses.
Beyond political science, in the disciplines of economics, geography, sociology and anthropology, the situation is even worse. In the last five years, just 26 Russia specialists have obtained Ph.D. degrees in those fields. And 15 of those doctoral degrees were awarded in anthropology — the most pathetic college major that doesn’t end in the words “studies.” (RELATED: Now America’s Most Pointless, Useless Professors Threaten Academic Boycott Of Israel)
The report notes that potential new Russia specialists are turning away from America’s once-great, now-annoying nemesis because they perceive fewer job opportunities and less in the way of possible graduate student funding.
The report also notes a decline in federal funding for research and graduate instruction focused on Russia and Russian language programs.