Russian and East European Studies

Director of undergraduate studies: Edyta Bojanowska, 341 RKZ, 432-1301; language coordinator: Irina Dolgova, Arnold Hall A36, 432-1307;

The major in Russian and East European Studies, administered by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of a broad region: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Caucasus, and central Asia; Poland, Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and other areas in east central Europe; and the Balkans. The program is appropriate for students considering careers in international public policy, diplomacy, or business, and is also suited to students wishing to continue academic work.

Requirements of the Major

Thirteen term courses taken for a letter grade are required for the major. Students must take one course in Russian or East European history selected in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies (DUS). If Russian is presented as the primary language to satisfy the requirements of the major, then all East European language courses and third- and fourth-year Russian courses count toward the major. If an East European language other than Russian is presented as the primary language, then all courses in that language designated L3 or higher count toward the major. Electives are chosen in consultation with the DUS from an annual list of offerings. Electives must include at least one course in a social science. Other undergraduate courses relevant to Russian and East European Studies, including residential college seminars, may also count toward the major if approved by the DUS. 

Languages A full understanding of the area demands knowledge of its languages. Students must demonstrate either proficiency in Russian or intermediate-level ability in an East European language. Students may demonstrate proficiency in Russian by (1) completing fourth-year Russian (RUSS 160161); (2) passing a written examination to demonstrate equivalent ability; or (3) completing a literature course taught in Russian and approved by the DUS. Students may demonstrate intermediate-level ability in an East European language by (1) completing a two-year sequence in an East European language (currently Czech, Polish, Romanian, or Ukrainian; students interested in studying other East European languages should contact the DUS); or (2) by passing a language examination demonstrating equivalent ability. Students are encouraged to learn more than one language.

Senior Requirement

Every major must write a senior essay in RSEE 490, 491. At the beginning of the senior year, students enroll in RSEE 490 and arrange for a faculty member to serve as senior adviser. By the third Friday of October, majors submit a detailed prospectus of the essay, with bibliography, to the adviser. A draft of at least ten pages of the text of the essay, or a detailed outline of the entire essay, is due to the adviser by the last day of reading period of the fall semester. The student provides the adviser with a form that the adviser signs to notify the DUS that the first-term requirements for the senior essay have been met. Failure to meet these requirements results in loss of credit for RSEE 490. The senior essay takes the form of a substantial article, no longer than 13,000 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography. Three copies of the essay are due in the Slavic departmental office by April 10, 2020. A member of the faculty other than the adviser grades the essay.


Qualified students may elect pertinent courses in the Graduate School with the permission of the instructor, the director of graduate studies, and the DUS.

Graduate work The European and Russian Studies program does not offer the simultaneous award of the B.A. and M.A. However, students in Yale College are eligible to complete the M.A. in European and Russian Studies (with concentration in Russia and eastern Europe) in one year of graduate work. Students interested in this option must complete eight graduate courses in the area by the time they complete the bachelor's degree. Only two courses may be counted toward both the graduate degree and the undergraduate major. Successful completion of graduate courses while still an undergraduate does not guarantee admission into the M.A. program. Students must submit the standard application for admission to the M.A. program.

Study Abroad

Students should be aware of opportunities for study and travel in Russia and eastern Europe. The DUS can provide information on these programs and facilitate enrollment. Students who spend all or part of the academic year in the region participating in established academic programs usually receive Yale College credit, and are strongly encouraged to take advantage of study abroad opportunities during summers or through the Year or Term Abroad program. Students wishing to travel abroad as part of the major should consult the DUS.


Prerequisite None 

Number of courses 13 term courses (incl senior essay and specified lang courses)

Distribution of courses  Demonstrated proficiency in Russian or intermediate-level ability in an East European lang; 1 course in Russian or East European hist approved by DUS; at least 1 course in social science

Senior requirement Senior essay (RSEE 490, 491)

Russian and East European Studies encompasses the history, literature, politics, economics, social organization, and culture of Russia, the non-Russian portions of the former Soviet Union, and eastern Europe. Majors design individual courses of study that reflect the interdisciplinary nature of Russian and East European Studies.

Courses taught in English and suitable for first-year students include:

Students who plan to focus on Russia and the former Soviet Union should take RUSS 110 and RUSS 120, or RUSS 125 as first-year students and RUSS 145 as sophomores. Those specializing in eastern Europe should take introductory Czech, Polish, Romanian, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, or Ukrainian as early as possible. Students interested in taking another East European language should contact the director of undergraduate studies (DUS) regarding availability.

Every major takes at least one course in Russian or East European history and at least one in a social science. Majors are encouraged to study in Russia and eastern Europe, and they should consult the DUS in the fall about programs for study abroad. See the Center for Language Study website for information about placement examinations.


Professors Sergei Antonov (History), Edyta Bojanowska (Slavic Languages & Literatures), Paul Bushkovitch (History), Katerina Clark (Comparative Literature, Slavic Languages & Literatures), John Gaddis (History), Harvey Goldblatt (Slavic Languages & Literatures), John MacKay (Slavic Languages & Literatures, Film & Media Studies), Timothy Snyder (History)

Associate Professors Molly Brunson (Slavic Languages & Literatures), Jason Lyall (Political Science), Douglas Rogers (Anthropology), Marci Shore (History)

Assistant Professors Marijeta Bozovic (Slavic Languages & Literatures, Film and Media Studies, Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies), Marta Figlerowicz (Comparative Literature, English)

Senior Lectors II Irina Dolgova, Constantine Muravnik

Senior Lectors Krystyna Illakowicz, Julia Titus, Karen von Kunes


* RSEE 222b / HIST 222Jb, Russia and the Eurasian SteppePaul Bushkovitch

A study of Russia's interaction with the nomads of the Eurasian steppe. Topics include the Mongol invasion, the Mongol Empire in Asia and the Golden Horde, Islam, nomadic society, and the Russian state. Focus on conquest and settlement. May count toward either European or Asian distributional credit within the History major, upon application to the director of undergraduate studies.  WR, HU
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

RSEE 225a / HIST 290a, Russia from the Ninth Century to 1801Paul Bushkovitch

The mainstream of Russian history from the Kievan state to 1801. Political, social, and economic institutions and the transition from Eastern Orthodoxy to the Enlightenment.  HU
MW 11:35am-12:50pm

RSEE 254a / LITR 245a / RUSS 254a, Tolstoy and DostoevskyMolly Brunson

Close reading of major novels by two of Russia's greatest authors. Focus on the interrelations of theme, form, and literary-cultural context. Readings and discussion in English.  HU
TTh 1:30pm-2:20pm

RSEE 268b / ER&M 263b / HIST 264b, Eastern Europe since 1914Timothy Snyder

Eastern Europe from the collapse of the old imperial order to the enlargement of the European Union. Main themes include world war, nationalism, fascism, and communism. Special attention to the structural weaknesses of interwar nation-states and postwar communist regimes. Nazi and Soviet occupation as an age of extremes. The collapse of communism. Communism after 1989 and the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s as parallel European trajectories.  HU
TTh 2:30pm-3:20pm

RSEE 271a / HIST 271a / HUMS 339a, European Intellectual History since NietzscheMarci Shore

Major currents in European intellectual history from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth. Topics include Marxism-Leninism, psychoanalysis, expressionism, structuralism, phenomenology, existentialism, antipolitics, and deconstruction.  HU
MW 11:35am-12:25pm

* RSEE 300b / CZEC 301b / LITR 220b, Milan Kundera: The Czech Novelist and French ThinkerKaren von Kunes

Close reading of Kundera's novels, with analysis of his aesthetics and artistic development. Relationships to French, German, and Spanish literatures and to history, philosophy, music, and art. Topics include paradoxes of public and private life, the irrational in erotic behavior, the duality of body and soul, the interplay of imagination and reality, the function of literary metaphor, and the art of composition. Readings and discussion in English.  HUTr
W 1:30pm-3:20pm

RSEE 312b / HIST 260b / HUMS 255b / LITR 253b / RUSS 312b, Tolstoy's War and Peace TREdyta Bojanowska

The course is a semester-long study of one big Russian novel–Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece War and Peace (1865-1869), about Napoleon’s failed 1812 campaign against Russia. War and Peace is a sweeping panorama of nineteenth-century Russian society, a novel of profound philosophical questions, and an unforgettable gallery of artfully drawn characters. Reading the novel closely, we pose the following questions: In what ways is it a national and an imperial novel? What myths does it destroy and construct?  What is the relation of fiction to history? And what forces drive history, as it unfolds in the present? To what extent do individuals control their own lives and, if they’re emperors and generals, the lives of nations? Finally, how does one live a meaningful life as a private person and as a member of a society? We explore these questions while refining our tools of literary analysis and situating the novel in its historical context. Secondary materials include Tolstoy’s letters, contemporary reviews, maps, historical sources, political theory, and literary criticism. All readings and class discussions in English.  No prerequisites.  WR, HUTr
MW 9:25am-10:15am

* RSEE 327a / FILM 409a / LITR 306a / RUSS 327a, The Danube in Literature and FilmMarijeta Bozovic

The Danube River in the film, art, and literature of various Danubian cultural traditions, from the late nineteenth century to the present. Geography and history of the region that includes the river's shores and watershed; physical, historical, and metaphoric uses of the Danube; the region as a contested multilingual, multicultural, and multinational space, and as a quintessential site of cross-cultural engagement. Readings and discussion in English.  WR, HUTr
TTh 2:30pm-3:45pm

* RSEE 329a / HIST 398Ja / MMES 300a / RUSS 329a, Introduction to Modern Central AsiaClaire Roosien

An overview of the history of modern Central Asia—modern-day Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. This course shows Central Asia to be a pivotal participant in some of the major global issues of the 20th and 21st centuries, from environmental degradation and Cold War, to women’s emancipation and postcolonial nation-building, to religion and the rise of mass society. It also includes an overview of the region’s longer history, of the conquests by the Russian and Chinese empires, the rise of Islamic modernist reform movements, the Bolshevik victory, World War II, the perestroika, and the projects of post-Soviet nation-building. Readings in history are supplemented by such primary sources as novels and poetry, films and songs, government decrees, travelogues, courtly chronicles, and the periodical press. All readings and discussions in English.  HU
MW 2:30pm-3:45pm

* RSEE 336b / ANTH 338b / ANTH 738 / WGSS 738b, Gender and Politics After SocialismDominic Martin

Gender is an intensely politicized fault-line that runs through post-Soviet society. In Russia, both political protest and political reaction are played out in overtly gendered terms (from Pussy Riot's punk prayer to Putin's bare-chested machismo). This upper-level seminar considers, from an ethnographic perspective, how gender has become a site of explicit politicization and contestation in post-Soviet societies. The first half of the course examines the changing circumstances of women and men in the post-Soviet economy following the Soviet collapse; the post-Soviet crises and reformulations of femininity and masculinity, and the social effects provoked thereby, such as violence, homophobia and new activism. The second half of the course examines the various 'intersections' of gender with other domains of social difference including class, age, race, religion, nationality. How gender is problematized in certain sites, workplaces, the home, and family is a topic of discussion, as is how certain ways of inhabiting gendered norms might give rise to forms of self and person, to modes of agency and freedom. Each post-Soviet case study is juxtaposed with comparative ethnographic examples in order to discern whether the post-Soviet region has its own gender dynamic, or instead partakes in broader global trends. These ethnographic cases are read alongside texts in feminist, gender, queer, and post-colonial theory to think across empirical examples in creative ways.  SO
T 9:25am-11:15am

* RSEE 379b / PLSC 379b, Party Politics and the Media in RussiaAndrei Semenov

The course covers critical junctures in party and media systems development in Russia, discusses the choices made by elites and their consequences for shaping the party and media systems, and unpacks the strategic considerations behind these choices. It also tackles the issues of party and media system regulation, restructuring, alongside the electoral performance of the ruling and opposition parties. Proficiency in Russian language is not required.  SO
Th 3:30pm-5:20pm

* RSEE 382a / E&RS 630a / THST 326a, Artists Under State Surveillance in Eastern European: Politics, History, and PerformanceAniko Szucs

This course focuses on the last two decades of the cold war and analyzes the ways in which Central Eastern European performance and theater artists from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, and East Germany navigated the permanent surveillance of the state security networks. After the introduction of foundational texts on the theory and history of surveillance, including Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, and Gilles Deleuze, our readings and discussions focus on the specificities of Soviet-type surveillance within the art world. We analyze both the strategies with which the repressive state apparatus aimed to discipline and control artistic expression, and the tactics with which artists subverted the policing gaze. Then, we turn our focus to the present and study recent artworks that—through the recontextualization of the files excavated in the historical archives of the state security—either reconstruct the often invisible operations of the state security network or commemorate the enduring experience of living under such violently devious state control. Lastly, we conclude by considering contemporary artists’ works that expose and critique the neoliberal, postcapitalist surveillance practices that threaten privacy rights globally. Even though the main focus of this course is Central and Eastern Europe, we discuss the tactics of surveillance and the subversive artistic practices in a transnational, comparative context, studying artworks and surveillance files that originated in either the post-dictatorial Latin American states or the US Civil Rights Movement.  HU
MW 11:35am-12:50pm

* RSEE 385b / PLSC 385b / SOCY 349b, Contentious Politics and Political Mobilization in Post-Soviet RussiaAndrei Semenov

This course aims at exploring and discussing the patterns and trends in collective actions in post-Soviet Russia; it also aims at unraveling the interplay between contention and regime dynamics. Students examine the ebbs and flows of mobilization, its cross-temporal and cross-regional specifics, and its impact on the political processes. Russian language proficiency not required.  SO
F 3:30pm-5:20pm

RSEE 400a / EP&E 340a / PLSC 400a, Legacies of Communism and Conflict in EuropeAndrea Aldrich

This course examines the challenges of democratic transition and consolidation in Europe in an exciting way using contemporary and historical political research, documentary and dramatic film, a non-fiction graphic novel, and in class debates. Together we explore political themes like authoritarianism, state collapse, nationalism, ethnic conflict, transitional justice, and democratic development through the turbulent political history of Southeastern Europe, which provides a solid theoretical foundation for the understanding of past and current events around the world.  SO
MW 11:35am-12:50pm

* RSEE 490a and RSEE 491b, The Senior EssayEdyta Bojanowska

Preparation of the senior essay under faculty supervision. The essay grade becomes the grade for both terms of the course. Required of all seniors majoring in Russian and East European Studies. Credit for RSEE 490 only on completion of RSEE 491.

Related Courses That Count toward the Major

Students are encouraged to examine the offerings in Slavic Languages and Literatures and other departments, as well as residential college seminars, for additional related courses that may count toward the major.

HIST 263a, Eastern Europe to 1914Timothy Snyder

Eastern Europe from the medieval state to the rise of modern nationalism. The Ottoman Empire, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Hapsburg monarchy, and various native currents. Themes include religious diversity, the constitution of empire, and the emergence of secular political ideologies.  HU
TTh 2:30pm-3:20pm

HIST 264b / ER&M 263b / RSEE 268b, Eastern Europe since 1914Timothy Snyder

Eastern Europe from the collapse of the old imperial order to the enlargement of the European Union. Main themes include world war, nationalism, fascism, and communism. Special attention to the structural weaknesses of interwar nation-states and postwar communist regimes. Nazi and Soviet occupation as an age of extremes. The collapse of communism. Communism after 1989 and the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s as parallel European trajectories.  HU
TTh 2:30pm-3:20pm