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 freshmen 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, Masterpieces of Russian Literature I, introduces major texts of the nineteenth-century Russian literary tradition, including works by Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov.
  • RUSS 253, Masterpieces of Russian Literature II, introduces major texts of the twentieth-century Russian literary tradition, including works by Chekhov, Bely, Babel, Akhmatova, Bulgakov, Pasternak, and Pelevin.
  • RUSS 254, Novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, 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 freshman year. Beginners take RUSS 110, First-Year Russian I, and RUSS 120, First-Year Russian II, or RUSS 125, Intensive Elementary Russian, and RUSS 145, Intensive Intermediate Russian. 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.


Students who have studied Russian elsewhere must take the online departmental placement examination in the fall before they enroll in a Russian course. Information about placement in more advanced Russian courses will be available from the language coordinator. Details about the placement test will be listed in the Calendar for the Opening Days, on the departmental Web site, and on the Center for Language Study Web site.

The department also offers courses in both Czech and Polish language and culture and in Romanian, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, and Ukrainian language.