Why Study Russian?
First, you may find this article interesting from Russian Life (a PDF file)
Russia has always represented a rich repository of culture, where aesthetic and intellectual wealth compensated for economic and political poverty. We are at a truly decisive point in history, when Russia has set aside 73 years of the communist experiment to set out in new and varied directions, both constrained and enriched by its cultural heritage. The humanistic, economic, political, and strategic consequences of this development will be immense, not only for the countries themselves, but for the rest of the world as well.
The Russian Federation bridges Europe with the Far East, the Near East (via the Balkans and the Caucasus), and Central Asia. With the increase in regional autonomy, the wealth in natural resources of Russian Asia (Siberia) places the largest of the Slavic nations squarely among the countries of the Pacific Rim, separated from our own country at the Bering Strait by 2.5 miles of shallow seawater.
Russian is a language spoken by almost 280 million people whose fate is intricately bound with ours for the foreseeable future. This figure includes about 167 million native speakers of Russian and another 110 million people in former Soviet republics of the Baltic, Caucasus, and Central Asian areas speaking Russian as a second language. Over 28% of the world's scientific literature is produced in Russian. Research is essential to economic progress in a business and a nation, and Russian is the vehicle of some of the most vital technological information in the modern world. In order for the United States to get its share of trade with the former Soviet Union, we must learn the language of the client.
Russia continues to play a major role in international affairs and presents a challenge to other countries. American businessmen must be able to speak to Russian trade representatives, American scientists must not wait a year for Russian scientific reports to be translated into English, American journalists must be able to evaluate information immediately available to them on live Russian TV, in the pages of the major newspapers, and on the internet. American diplomats must be able to negotiate intricate political and economic treaties in the language of their counterparts. Russian is the major means for communicating with the many peoples who occupy one-ninth of the world's land mass.
Studying Russian is important in itself as an enriching cultural experience. The great Russian literary works provide vital insights into the culture and the reality of Russia and better enable Russian students to understand Russian society and the Russian people. Students have other reasons for studying Russian, too, and many want to acquire the language as a tool to be applied to other professions and a skill to enhance opportunities in other career areas.
Why study Russian?, a web site developed by two leading organizations of the Slavic educational profession (AATSEEL and ACTR), is an introduction to the world of Russian and what it offers you.