professor
Ilya Arturovich Kun

Jan 2015

Unfortunately, I'm 1.5 years too late in writing this review, but no matter. As long as someone sees it, I'm happy. First, I cannot emphasize enough how lucky Columbia University is to have Ilya (hopefully they still do??!)-- although he may be only lecturing at the Harriman Institute now, according to the bulletins I found. Ilya is one of the few lecturers whose courses focus on contemporary Russian culture and politics, both of which are woefully underrated and not very respected within the Slavic Languages department here at the undergraduate level. (Do keep that in mind, if for some reason you're still deciding between schools or majors. If you are into this kind of thing, definitely look at the Political Science department's course offerings.) Even so, on a human level, Ilya is one of the only ones here who can comment intelligently on what the mindset in Russia is like nowadays. I think he was still living and working in Moscow in the 2000's (not completely sure), so that contributes a lot to his expertise. This course was perfect for students who wanted to learn more about the "classics" of Russian song (emphasis on the bards, but rock groups do come in), and had at least 3-4 years of Russian under their belt. I guarantee you that after this class, you will be incredibly familiar with the late 19th-20th century artists who hold influence among the Russian people. As far as I could tell, emphasis is placed on artists revered by more liberal, educated Muscovites and Petersburg residents (read: creative class, of which Ilya is definitely a part). As a result, you will impress the friends you meet in study abroad, so take this during or before junior year if possible! Another strength of this course is that your spoken and written Russian will improve. In fact, I would advise higher level heritage students to take the course (or try, since he will boot you if you're anywhere near native speaker level), because he will give you feedback on stylistics, not just grammar. For me, this was immensely helpful. Before this class, I only knew about Russian pop singers and some classic rock bands, but knew close to nothing about the so-called "bards." I had not even listened to Vladimir Vysotsky, despite having quite a few native speaker friends. Quite shameful indeed. But now I do know of him, and many more important bards/bands. The music remains on my computer to this day, because it is very good. Ilya is a chill, funny and kind guy, and he has great insight into the songs and the artists. But you have to work for an A, because although he is chill, he still has standards and expects you to contribute in class and improve your language skills over time. No, the workload is not high, but that said, don't expect to skate by on b.s. either. In short, if you can, TAKE ILYA'S CLASSES! ANY OF THEM! He's awesome!