Conversely, with few graduating with Russian degrees, and with a bustling market of 120 m native speakers and millions more in the satellites, a degree in Russian could make you stand out from the crowd /and/ improve your job prospects. Though Russian is not the most every-day language in Western Europe, with Russia and Eastern Europe opening markets, you could find yourself head of Eastern European liaisons with little hassle... think of all the people with whom you would compete for translating French; think of all the few people with whom you'd compete for translating Russian... your chances are better.
Hmmmm ... that sounds very optimistic to me, drom ...
One thing is true, I must admit. With these region specialisms, like Eastern Europe Studies, the focus was on history, politics, etc, and in Utrecht for example, the language skills you were taught were basic. That was misguided. You stand a much better chance on the job market knowing the Russian language well and Russian history etc only elementarily, than vice versa. The language at least is a practical skill that few people have, whereas everybody knows something about history, politics etc - harder to have that set you apart.
Nevertheless, I think drom is being optimistic. You mention "opening markets", drom, but the thing is, you don't need Russian anymore for your business relations in former "satellites" like Poland, Czech, Hungary and so on, where most of the (relatively little) current investment that does
go east goes. There's really relatively little investment and trade going on with Russia and the other former Soviet republics, where Russian would
be a great asset. And with Putin's clampdown on the business magnates and shaky prospects for democracy, there is not much reason to believe it will soon be more, apart from some specific areas (e.g. oil & gas, shipping).
Mind you, I'm not at my best when it comes to economic data - it's not my forte. But take - found googling - these data on Belgian import and export in 1999
(bottom of the page). The Russian Federation was good for 0,7% of Belgian imports - and less than 0,7% of Belgian exports. Much smaller Poland alone already took more of Belgian exports (0,9%). Israel and India are at least three times as important than Russia for Belgium's exports, while Israel, China and Japan are some three times as important as Russia for Belgium's import.
Mind you, totally random economic stat, that, thats what Google does for you. In the same way I found this overview of Foreign Direct Investment inflows
to the different countries of the world. Thats on a global level, mind you, not specifically from a Dutch, Belgian or EU perspective. It shows FDI to, say, China, increasing from 36 billion to 47 billion US $ between 1995 and 2001. Singapore received between 6 and 12 billion $ in those years, Poland between 4 and 10 billion, and FDI to the Czech Republic went up from 1 billion in 1997 to 5 billion in 2001 and 9 billion in 2002
. In comparison, the Russian Federation has steadily received a mere 2 to 4 billion throughout these years - half of what Poland gets. None of the other former Soviet Union states ever got more than 1 billion.
Anyway - all thats just to say that, if you wanna get a job in trade or finance, Hebrew or Chinese might be at least as feasible choices. But who wants to work in trade or finance? ;-)