|Symbol of University and|
"International Law Faculty"
Uni: Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO)
Faculty: International Law
Program: Masters in International Law (3yrs)
First semester classes (Sept-Dec): Roman Law (3hrs per week), History of Russian State and Law (3hrs per week), History of State and Law of Foreign Countries (3hrs per week), Theory of State and Law (3hrs per week)
First, a bit about the University. I originally looked in to going to Moscow State University (MGU), the biggest, most well-known university in the country, whose campus occupies the Stalinist skyscraper sitting atop Sparrow Hills overlooking Moscow, but an acquaintance of mine directed me toward MGIMO upon hearing my plans. MGIMO is smaller and more focused than MGU, from which it broke off in the years leading up to the end of WWII to train specialists in foreign affairs. To this effect, it was used as a kind of feeder program to the KGB. Today, it's prestige has wained -- more a result, I suppose, of the general decline of the educational system in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, than anything else. Nevertheless, despite it's lack of international recognition (it's ranked in the 400s) -- and which, to its defense, is mainly due to the fact a big majority of the university's publications are in Russian, not English -- there are many in the country, who regard it "the best" in Russia, at least as far as international studies are concerned.
|Main entrance to MGIMO campus on Prospekt Vernadskogo|
I'll spare the reader a detailed description of the application process, which was done within a 3-month period last summer. Shortly speaking, it was relatively easy and involved submission of my transcripts and an english test, which was obviously waived in my case. The only hurdle I met was getting my American diploma confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Education, involving a lot of paperwork and translating. Suffice to say, the program accepted about 20 students, 17 of which were young women.
|Me in class|
Unfortunately, the class structure was poorly organized compared to American universities, where the syllabus and in most cases lecture notes are posted online by the professor. Professors were also relatively inaccessible outside of lectures -- office hours and in most cases even contact info were not made known to the students. Indeed, we were only told our schedule and exactly which courses we were taking a week or so before the start of the course! However, while the university lacks organization compared to American universities, the general quality and professionalism of the professors was very high, especially my professors for Roman Law, Alexander Kopylov, and History of Russian State and Law, Konstantin Karpenko. It's also worth noting that the staff of the faculty are also very helpful.
The classes were also generally quite interesting. Roman Law was extremely interesting, as well as History of State and Law of Russa, covering the whole of Russian history from Kievan Rus' to the Soviet Union -- learning old Russian legal terms was fun in a bookish sort of way. I also got a lot out of my term paper -- a 30-pager in Russian -- on Russian Federalism, which is a fascinating, truly complex and challenging topic. I hope to rewrite it in English, as the Russian version is of admittedly of poor quality, given the time constraint and language barrier, and subsequently submit it to a few academic journals.
Lastly, a bit about the exams, a very nerve-wracking experience for me, as the format was entirely new to me. Exams in Russia involve a list of questions, in our case anywhere from 50-80, distributed to students a month or so before the exam. On exam day, which Russians call "session", students gather nervously around the auditorium and enter five or so at a time. Students subsequently draw "tickets", on which are written two questions. Students have about 30min to prepare answers, after which they are dictated ORALLY to the professor. After this, the professor asks additional questions, in many cases, questions completely unrelated to those written on the ticket. The oral part of the exam lasts about 5-10 minutes.
|A test, not an exam; "don't copy" written on the board|
Second Semester Classes (Feb-May): Philosophy of Law, History of the Methodology of Legal Sciences, History of Political Studies, Civil Law, Administrative Law, Constitutional Law of Russia