In 2015, the Pushkin Summer Institute received a grant from the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) to begin the Pushkin Summer Institute-Abroad. NSLI-Y is funded by the United States Department of State Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by the American Councils for International Education.
The PSI-Abroad program will send students to study Russian in Daugavpils, Latvia. Daugavpils is the second largest city in Latvia and has one of the highest percentages of Russian-speakers of any city outside of the Russian Federation. Following the schism of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1666, many Old Believers (who had been forced to leave the Orthodox Church after being labeled heretics) settled in Daugavpils. The Russian Empire took over Daugavpils in 1772, which led to additional waves of Russian-speakers immigrating to the city. Following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Daugavpils was part of an independent Latvia. During World War II, Daugavpils rapidly changed hands between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany before being integrated into the Soviet Union following the conclusion of the war. Latvia gained its independence following the collapse of the USSR and joined the European Union in 2004.
These tumultuous changes and events have lended Daugavpils the rich and diverse ethnic and cultural heritage it boasts to this very day. Like many cities in the former Soviet Union, Daugavpils is home to a wide array of ethnic communities. In addition to a high concentration of Russian-speakers, Daugavpils has the largest number of Old Believer churches of any city in the world and celebrates the many cultures of its inhabitants; Russian, Latvian, Latgalian, Jewish, Polish, and several other cultures are represented. PSI-Abroad students will have the opportunity to witness and learn firsthand about the rich history and culture of Latvia and Daugavpils and its place in the major events that affected Russian, European, and world history.
The PSI-Abroad program is targeted at students who attended the Pushkin Summer Institute in Madison the previous summer or who have a strong background in Russian. Participants will attend classes for 4 days each week and will embark on cultural and historical excursions each weekend. In addition, students will live with host families for the duration of the 6-week program, which will facilitate immersion in the language and culture. Thanks to its large Russian-speaking population, Russian is the language of everyday life in Daugavpils, which will also encourage students to interact with all aspects of the world around them in Russian.
In combination with the curriculum of the Pushkin Summer Institute in Madison, students completing the PSI-Abroad program will be able to enter college-level Russian courses at an advanced level. In addition to the strong gains that can be made in fully-immersive language programs, students will gain an invaluable historical and cultural context during their time studying in Daugavpils. The language and cultural skills that participants will gain through the PSI-Abroad program will prepare students for college coursework and give them experiences that will be invaluable in an increasingly connected and globalized world.