David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye has become the first non-Russian to teach a spetskurs (short course) at Federal Siberian State University.
The History professor was one of five historians invited through the Mikhail Prokhorov Fund, a Russian charitable foundation, to teach at the university in Krasnoiarsk. Normally, invited scholars are native Russians. Schimmelpenninck is the first foreign professor to be asked.
“It’s good practice for my Russian,” he said of the course, which is traditionally given in that language. He presented 12 lectures about Russian Orientalism, or how Russians look at Asia.
“Russia is a country that mostly lies in Asia,” he said. “People have often discussed how European it is, but we haven’t really looked at the flip side of the coin, namely Russia’s Asian identity. To give a course about this in the heart of Asian Russia was a fascinating experience.”
Schimmelpenninck has spent this year on sabbatical in Paris and Russia. At Brock, he teaches courses in Russian and Inner Asian history. He is writing a book about the Great Game, or the 19th century rivalry between Russia and Britain over who would rule Asia.
In addition to Schimmelpenninck’s personal relationship with the Federal Siberian State University, Brock has a joint academic agreement with Moscow State University in Russia, regularly ranked in the top 100 universities in the world. In January 2006, the two institutions signed a memorandum of understanding to foster academic exchange and co-operation. The agreement has already brought two Visiting International Professors to Brock. Plans are under way for a third next year.