Criminal System in Russia – An Interview with Paul Kaplan – Study Abroad Faculty Advisor

Paul Kaplan

Paul Kaplan Professor of Criminal Justice

Why and who developed the Study Abroad program – Criminal Justice in Russia?
John Cleary, a retired attorney, established the SDSU Russia Study Abroad program 14 years ago because he had a strong interest in Russia and in teaching American students about Russian culture and law. In addition to his extremely successful career as a defense attorney (arguing several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court), Cleary earned a Ph.D. in Russian language. His vision for the program was to expose American students to the fascinating  culture of Russia.

Why should students study the Russia criminal justice system?
Because the Russian system is new, and draws from both European and Common Law (Anglo-American) principles. It is also an interesting case study of ‘law on the books verses law in action’ because although the Russian system includes many progressive ideas, the society suffers from considerable corruption.

What are the highlights of the program?

Highlights include:

● Exploring Red Square and the Kremlin and other cultural sites around Moscow

● A three-day train excursion to St. Petersburg

● A visit to the Hermitage in St. Pet ersburg

● A tour of the Peterhof (Peter the Great’s amazing palace)

● Exploring cultural sites around St. Petersburg

● High-quality Russian language and Russian law classes

What kind of activities/homework are part of the program?Homework includes reading a short book on Russian history, the Russian constitution, and the Russian codes of law. There are also some minimal Russian language assignments. Students take one final exam, and turn in a journal (which is returned to them).

What do you see students taking away from their two weeks in Russia?
Students will gain a wealth of knowledge about Russian culture and society, as well as learn a lot about themselves and their identity as Americans.

Do students stay on a university campus and are they fed?
Students stay in a hostel in downtown Moscow, which is walking distance from Red Square, there are many cultural destinations, and endless shopping and eating opportunities. Students are on their own for food, but the options are similar to what one would find in world cities such as New York or London, including quite affordable options. The ruble trades at about 30-1 against the dollar, and the prices of simple daily food choices in Moscow (e.g., coffee, a slice of pizza) are a little cheaper than in the U.S. Of course, there are extremely expensive restaurants in Moscow, but students will find a huge range of options.

What makes this program unique from other study abroad programs?
It’s Russia! Russia is utterly unique – not quite European; not Asian. Not in between. Russian culture dates to the 9th century, and Russia  has been a world leader for 300 years. Russia has nine time zones. The list goes on and on. Moreover, Moscow is one of the most exciting, lively, and dynamic cities in the world.