Slavic Languages and Literatures

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures gives students the opportunity to learn Russian and other Slavic languages and to study Slavic literatures. It offers a sequence of Russian language courses as well as courses on Russian literature, culture, film, and drama, some conducted in Russian, others in English. Russian majors may tailor their studies to their other interests, such as history, comparative literature, or area studies. Students interested in Slavic linguistics or in a Slavic language or literature other than Russian can design their own programs under faculty supervision.

The Slavic department offers literature courses in translation that introduce students to masterpieces of Russian literature and to major issues and figures in Russian culture. All first-year students are eligible to take the survey courses described below, which count toward the major in either Russian or Russian and East European Studies. Seminars on specific topics or authors in translation are open to students in any field.

  • RUSS 250, introduces major texts of the nineteenth-century Russian literary tradition, including works by Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov.
  • RUSS 253, introduces major texts of the twentieth-century Russian literary tradition, including works by Chekhov, Bely, Babel, Akhmatova, Bulgakov, Pasternak, and Pelevin.
  • RUSS 254, is a lecture course with close textual analysis of major novels by two of Russia’s greatest authors.

Prospective Majors

Students considering a Russian major should begin language study as soon as possible, preferably in the first year. Beginners take RUSS 110 and RUSS 120, or RUSS 125 and RUSS 145.  Sophomores with no previous Russian language experience must take RUSS 125 and RUSS 145 or a summer intensive course in order to complete the requirements for the major by the end of their senior year.

The department encourages students to study abroad, ideally in their junior year, in order to achieve fluency in the language and familiarity with the culture of a foreign country.

Placement examination

Students who have previously studied Russian formally or informally are required to take the Russian placement exam. This exam will help determine which Russian course best fits each student’s background. Contact the language coordinator, Irina Dolgova, for information about placement and preregistration. She may be reached via e-mail at or by telephone at 203-432-1307. Entering first-years who have some knowledge of Czech or Polish should contact Krystyna Illakowicz at (Polish) or Karen von Kunes at (Czech) to arrange to take a placement examination. An orientation meeting will be held at the Academic Fair on Tuesday, August 29.