Understanding Russians: Contexts of Intercultural Communication

Mira Bergelson

НИУ Высшая школа экономики

The main focus of this course is to look at the interrelations between different types of contexts (cultural, institutional, professional, social, interpersonal and others) within the intercultural communication process using Russian – Western communication as an example.

The purpose of the course is to provide the students with a broad overview of the basic principles governing past, present and future interactions between Russia and the West focused on the culture and national psychology of Russians and Western Europeans.

This course looks at the cases when Russian basic cultural values show up through linguistic choices shaping language production which is consequently misattributed by Western partners. No matter what the language of intercultural communication is - Russian, or English - the meaning of many linguistic expressions may be reconstructed wrongly by the representatives of another culture.

We will tackle some basic questions:

What are concepts of culture that have most influence on communication?
What are Russian basic cultural values and how they shape modern Russian consciousness?
What are specific communication patterns of modern Russian, including that of public and electronic discourse?
What is important to know about communication with Russians in organizational contexts?

This course is NOT just a list of instructions of what to do and not to do while dealing with Russians


Course Syllabus
Module 1. Introduction to the course.

Week 1. Overview of the concepts “culture” and “communication”. Why “Russianness?” Importance of linguistic approaches. The role of ICC contexts. Structure of the course.

Module 2. Culture in Intercultural Communication.

Week 2. Metaphors of culture. Beliefs, values and stereotypes. Cultural homogeneity. How much culture can be learned? How culturally relative one can be? Basic values of Russian culture placed within the cultural dimensions, history and geography. Generalized knowledge vs. stereotypes of “enigmatic Russian soul.”

Module 3. Communication as Interaction.

Week 3. Language as a primary source of communication and miscommunication in ICC. Shared knowledge as a prerequisite for communication. Cooperation and Politeness principles in Russian communication

Week 4. Context and contexts of human interaction. ”Contextual clues’ in Russian communication. Russian cultural models. Interpersonal aspect of ICC with Russians.

Module 4. Communication with Russians in various discourse systems

Week 5. Communication with Russians in corporate discourse systems. Introduction of the market economy and post-soviet management. Old fears and new anxieties. Technocrats and managers. Language of management in Russia.

Week 6. Communication with Russians in professional contexts. Occupational cultures. Social stratification and new elites. Russia’s middle-classes, professional associations and civil society. Case study of an international educational program.

Week 7. Communication with Russians in gender and generational discourse systems. Gender roles in modern Russian society. Cross-gender communication in social and business environments. Family relations.

Week 8. Stories of Russian culture and everyday communication within an in-group. Types of stories that characterize cultures. Official, stories, cultural stories, conversational stories. Humor and jokes, obscene language.
Week 9. Course wrap up. Reflections on intercultural communication within the course

key words, tags

Russians, communications, culture, patterns

Course properties

Form of education
Recommended age for informal learning
19-25, 25-45, 45-65, 65+
Learning language
Humanities (except languages)
Course authors
Mira Bergelson
НИУ Высшая школа экономики
IP transfer allowed
Knowledge level entrance requirements
Intercultural sensitivity is a pre-requisite for taking this course and enhancing it is its goal.
Output knowledge, abilities, skills
learn how to deal with Russians
Entrance test
Groups formation by readiness level
Teachers presence
Tutors presence
Facilitators presence
Training materials forms
texts, video lecture, presentation, quiz questions, case
Interactivity in training materials
Collaborative learning presence
Discussions, forums presence
Webinars, video conferences presence
meetup presence
LMS integration
Learning Analytics
Certification presence
Certification types
Подтверждённый сертификат Свидетельство об окончании
Certificate name
Course time limits
9 (weeks)
Opportunity to enter after start
Learning types (sync/async)
Assessment types
test, creative work, essay
Personal learning path possibility, course individualization
Operating System
Coursera Mobile App for iOS 8.0+ , Android 4.0+.
Supported browsers
Google Chrome Firefox Safari Internet Explorer
Learner’s devices
a modern computer with a reliable Internet connection. We recommend at least 1 GB of memory/RAM. Coursera Mobile App for iPhone and iPad and Android devices.
Special needs support