Walter Denz founded Liden & Denz in St. Petersburg in 1992. He then expanded his language schools to Moscow, Irkutsk, and, most recently, Riga, Latvia. SRAS has, as of summer 2023, partnered with Liden & Denz in Riga to offer our students a unique new location for studying Russian.
In the half-hour conversation below, Walter and SRAS Director Renee Stillings discuss their shared histories establishing study abroad locations in Russia in the 1990s. They also discuss the tumultuous last three years in study abroad and how their mutual pivots to locations outside of Russia are now taking shape.
They discuss everything from setting up a new school in Riga to the complexities of studying Russian in a location outside of Russia, where the language is still widely spoken but also has a specific cultural and political meaning. And, of course, they discuss the many advantages to studying in Riga itself!
Studying Russian Abroad in Riga, Latvia
SRAS and Liden & Denz have partnered to bring more students to Riga, Latvia. Having just completed their first summer of partnership, founders Renee Stillings (SRAS) and Walter Denz (Liden & Denz), sat down to chat about study abroad in general and study in Riga in particular.
Riga offers certain challenges for study abroad. Although most people in the city speak or at least understand Russian, and although Russians account for about 25% of Latvia’s population, Russian has no official status in Latvia. Thus, although the language can be commonly heard on the streets, signage and advertisements tend to be in Latvian, the country’s only official language.
Riga also offers many advantages for those studying Russian abroad. Formerly part of the Russian empire and USSR, Riga offers many ways to study the history of both those former countries – from a Baltic perspective. You will find in Riga Russian architecture and even weather that is very similar to St. Petersburg. It also, like St. Petersburg, has a very well-developed European tourist infrastructure and, while Russian is commonly spoken here, Riga is still very easy to navigate for those who need to rely on English.
Lastly, Riga is a well developed transport hub with inexpensive and convenient bus connections to other Baltic capitals, each unique in their own right, and low-cost flights to many other destinations. There are many options for either short weekend trips or longer post-program travel.
Hear everything that Walter and Renee have to say about their histories, running businesses abroad, and about the current state of study abroad by listening to the podcast above!