The History of Russian Instruction in
North America after WWII
|It was only with the outbreak of World War II that Russian began to
be taught fairly widely in American colleges. In 1939, only nineteen American
universities offered Russian, less than half a dozen had formal Russian
or Slavic departments, and only three offered doctoral programs. Closer
contacts between the United States and the Soviet Union increased interest
in Russian. In 1946, 190 academic institutions taught Russian. Rapid growth
occurred again in 1957 after the launching of Sputnik shocked Americans
into an awareness that Soviet science was not as backward as they had believed.
Click here to hear sounds from some of the first satellites, including Sputnik
|During the decade from 1958 to 1969 Russian enrollment in college courses
doubled, doctoral programs were expanded to seventeen institutions, and
by 1968 Russian was taught in all the states of the union. Enrollments
stagnated somewhat in the 1970s but began to rise dramatically in the 1980s.
In 1980 some 24, 000 students were studying Russian at the college level
and by 1990 that number had increased to over 44, 000. Through the first
half of the 1990s, however, enrollments fell off considerably, the popularity
of the language having waned together with the perceived geo-political
importance of the country. In the late 1990s, however, enrollments again
began to grow, perhaps in recognition of the fact that Russian will indeed
remain a major language of world politics, culture, and business.