I spent high school in the 70s at an international / American school in France. The school was strong in history and literature, but we had no specific class on Russian history that I can recall. But of course Russia came up all the time as we studied European history – the Napoleonic Wars, partitions of Poland, Europe between the World Wars, WWII, etc... I ate it up, particularly anything about Russia.
For some reason I cannot explain, I have always been interested in Russia – from about the time I was 12 and brought home a book on Karl Marx from the library. My parents flipped – they thought they had a budding commie on their hands (this was the 70s – the terrorists du jour in Eurioe were the Red Brigades and Bader Meinhof gang). I was hardly a communist but one of my later history teachers was an ardent socialist and she made a deep impression on me. Under her tutelage, my first research paper in high school was on the covert American and British invasion of Russia during the Russian Civil War – something that of course still interests me.
All this culminated in a trip to the Soviet Union that my high school organized (I posted about this on another thread). I loved Russia even more, although the Soviet tour organizers kept leaving us all kinds of silly propaganda pamphlets published by the Novostoy Press (anyone know this publisher?). It was the usual sort of stuff about bourgeois bosses and starving workers in the capitalist west, racism in America, etc... Like all propaganda, these missives were not entirely untrue, just myopic, one-sided and offensive. But when I got home, I could not help feeling everything I read (including our daily paper – the august International Herald Tribune) seemed just as biased against the other side. So that was my big high school history lesson – skepticism about anything I read or hear by anyone, anywhere – a gift from the Novostoy Press that has kept giving ever since.
Not until college was I able to take specific classes on Russian history – early, imperial and soviet. One professor was a native Russian, who of course encouraged my interest in Russia. All the same, not being an academic, most of what I have learned of Russian history and culture has been through reading outside of a school or college. But that’s where most learning takes place anyway – school is just the spark to get you going (no disrespect to the academics out there).