American Enterprise Institute: Russian Studies

NB: A Russian text version of this post should be available shortly on the Brandeis GRALL website.

My name is Micah Pickus and I am a rising senior at Brandeis University majoring in Russian Studies with a double minor in Politics and Islamic/Middle Eastern Studies. Next semester, I will begin working on my senior thesis, which will focus on arms control and

nuclear weapons (more specifically) in the late Soviet era, as well as the modern era. This summer I am interning under Dr. Leon Aron at AEI in Russian Studies. AEI is located in DuPont Circle, and is just a few blocks from where I am living this summer. AEI is a very busy, bustling place with a wide variety of disciplines studied. Every so often, AEI brings in some notable speakers. Most notably, IMF Director Christine Lagrande came to give a talk a few weeks ago.

My primary task each day is to compile a Daily News Packet for Dr. Aron. This consists of identifying different analytical prose in both Russian and English regarding the current situation in Russia (especially with regard to Putin), as well as analytical pieces discussing the international or Eurasian political climates. From time to time I also help Dr. Aron with his travel logistics, as he is about to depart on a 3 week business trip to the Baltics.

Work station with two computer screens
My workspace at AEI.

Even with Dr. Aron leaving for three weeks, I am confident I can make a lot of progress in continuing to improve my Russian throughout the course of the internship. Luckily, the place where I am staying this summer happens to have one Russian-speaking resident, and that has enabled me to practice conversation away from work, which is really wonderful and beneficial to maintaining and improving my Russian language skills.

Conducting open source research in English and Russian is a great way for me to broaden my horizons and gain greater control over the subject material. The most exciting part of the internship by far is that it is entirely possible that in Dr. Aron’s next publication, he will cite a news article or op-ed in English or Russian that I was responsible for finding in the first place. Dr. Aron is a well-respected member of the scholarly community on all things Russia related, so the chance to assist him with his research is a great honor and I am certain that by working with him, I will only learn more about the field.

By itself, my work is hardly impressive, but it has significantly reinforced my Russian-English translation, reading, writing and speaking skills in just the first few days. Considering the fact that improving my Russian skills across the board is a primary goal of mine for the summer, I think as long as I can continue to speak with Dr. Aron and the one Russian resident at my summer living residence on occasion, I think I will meet my goal for the summer.

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