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Education

5 unconventional educational initiatives in Russia

Focusing on the future of our world and planet

In recent years, various tendencies in unconventional education have been developing throughout Russia. These educational and research initiatives don’t necessarily fit into the academic mainstream: they deal with urgent and underrepresented themes, some of which come out of left field, and approach them in new ingenious ways.

The Terraforming at Strelka Institute

The term “terraforming” is frequently used in science fiction and signifies the transformation of other planets in order to make them more suitable for human life. The Strelka Institute’s postgraduate research programme uses the term to refer to our planet and the maintenance of conditions which will ensure the continuation of our life on Earth. The initiative is split into three five-month cycles. The first emphasised the remaking of the planet itself, while the second one will focus on remaking ourselves, addressing human evolution, population distributions, various formal ways of zoning Earth and more.

City 
Moscow

Cost
Free

Scholarship
Yes

website
theterraforming.strelka.com

Terra Incognita at the University of Tyumen

City
Tyumen

Cost
60 free places

Scholarship
Yes

website
sas.utmn.ru/en

Terra Incognita is a programme in environmental humanities offered to the students of the School of Advanced Studies at the University of Tyumen. Every spring semester, it offers a selection of courses from multiple disciplines which focus on the relationship dynamics between environment, culture, economics, narrative and policy. To satisfy the minor, students take three mandatory courses (anthropocene theory, critical animal studies and history of energy) and choose one elective (ranging from indigenous ecologies to a course named “Insects and Society: Sex, Bugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll”).

Baikal School at the Centre for Independent Social Research

The Centre for Independent Social Research prides itself as being one of Russia’s few research organisations operating outside of major institutions. Its Baikal School focuses on individual memory and documenting human life. The ‘school’ is held annually as a week-long series of master classes, roundtables and laboratories. The headline topics for recent editions were the working languages of individual memory, the optics of memory research, interpretation traps and more.

City
Irkutsk

Cost
Free

Scholarships
Travel grants

website
cnsio.ru

The Free University

City
Moscow / online

Cost
Free

Scholarships
No

website
freemoscow.university

The Free University is a bottom-up initiative by professors and teachers from different universities joining forces to work with students in a new way: firstly, by rethinking online education for contemporary conditions and secondly, by keeping education accessible by avoiding institutional pressure and censorship. The courses offered boast great topical variety, from myth semiotics and game theory to constitutional law and global finance. The project started online, but with hopes of introducing in-person events and summer schools later on.

STS Center at the European University in St. Petersburg

The Center for Science and Technology Studies was launched by the European University with support from the Skolkovo Foundation. The Center has developed close academic ties with institutions like MIT, Cornell University and UC Davis, and since its conception in 2011 it has hosted researchers dealing with the sociology of science, the anthropology of technology, technology history and many other locally underrepresented topics in the fields of computational social sciences and urban technologies.

City
Saint Petersburg

Cost
Free

Scholarships
No

website
eusp.org/en

Text: Vlad Ilkevich

Sources: All of this information was gathered form the universities main websites and latest annual reports.

Photos: 1,4 – SAS Tyumen, 2 – Ekaterina Bykova/shutterstock, 3 – theterraforming.strelka/Facebook, 5,6 – Centre for Independent Social Research/Facebook, 7 – Annie Spratt, unsplash/Free Moscow. University, 8,9 – European University in St. Petersburg/Facebook