Specifically oriented towards Russian culture, this study addresses the need in diplomacy for deeper cultural understanding. As research suggests a link between the inclusion of religious perspectives in second language acquisition (SLA) and student motivation and cultural empathy, this study examines how Russian language classrooms could leverage an understanding of Russian religious themes to foster cultural sensitivity. The study invited 24 second-year university students of Russian to complete a previously-validated assessment of cultural sensitivity: the Global Perspectives Inventory (GPI). Divided into a control and a treatment group, the participants also watched a short video depicting a story from Russian history on the interactive video platform, Ayamel. The control group viewed a set of 10 extra-textual annotations containing Russian cultural material highlighting secular themes from Russian culture, while the treatment group reviewed 10 that were more spiritually-themed. After viewing the respective annotations, participants completed a short, open-ended, Video Response Questionnaire (VRQ), and completed a GPI post-test. The findings from the VRQ suggested that the video intervention tended to challenge participants' previous perceptions of Russia, noted a general increase in positive, self-reported perspectives of Russian culture, and revealed a tendency in the treatment group to more often portray Russia as a multi-faceted, rather than monolithic, cultural entity. The comparison of the GPI pre-test and post-test scores revealed an inverse interaction between the collective scores of the control and treatment groups on two questions gauging affective responses to culture. For each of these questions on the post-test, the treatment group's collective score slightly increased and the control group's collective score slightly fell.The findings suggest that interaction with religious themes in SLA may promote feelings of commonality and empathy with a foreign culture. As the relative, religious homogeneity of the sample constitutes a threat to the external validity of this study, the researchers invite similar tests to be conducted in SLA among different population types.



College and Department

Humanities; Center for Language Studies



Date Submitted


Document Type





religion, diplomacy, cultural sensitivity, SLA, Russian, annotated reading