Slavic Languages and Literatures

Director of undergraduate studies: Jinyi Chu, Arnold Hall A33, 304 Elm St., 432-1302; language coordinator: Irina Dolgova, Arnold Hall A36, 432-1307;

The major in Russian offered by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures acquaints students with Russian literature and culture, develops students' appreciation of literary values and skill in literary analysis, and gives them a basic competence in Russian. For an area major in Russian studies, see Russian and East European Studies, an interdisciplinary program administered by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

Students majoring in Russian may concentrate exclusively on Russian language and literature (Program I), or they may elect to study Russian literature in the context of comparative studies of literature (Program II). For Program II, credit is given for work done in other departments. Specific courses in each program must be arranged with the director of undergraduate studies (DUS). Students interested in specializing in Russian or Slavic linguistics may arrange a special concentration in linguistics with the DUS.


Prerequisite to the major in both programs is RUSS 151. The department offers two sequences of language courses to fulfill the prerequisite: either (1) RUSS 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, and 151 or (2) RUSS 125, 145, 150, and 151. Prospective majors should complete RUSS 140 or 145 by the end of their sophomore year or accelerate their course of study by taking summer courses or studying abroad. While completing the prerequisite, students are encouraged to begin fulfilling requirements of the major that do not presuppose advanced knowledge of Russian by taking courses in Russian history and Russian literature in translation.

Placement Procedures

Students who have previously studied Russian formally or informally are required to take the Russian placement exam. This brief oral exam helps determine which Russian course best fits each student’s background. Contact the Russian language coordinator, Irina Dolgova, to schedule the oral placement exam or for information about preregistration. She may be reached via email or at 432-1307. Entering first-year students who have some knowledge of Czech or Polish should contact Krystyna Illakowicz (Polish) or Karen von Kunes (Czech) to arrange to take a brief placement examination.

Requirements of the Major

In addition to the prerequisite, the major in Russian requires at least eleven term courses, which must include the following (some courses may fulfill more than one requirement):

  1. Fourth-year Russian: RUSS 160 and 161.
  2. Two terms of Russian literature in translation: RUSS 250 and 253.
  3. Two terms of Russian literature read and discussed in the original language, typically selected from Group A courses numbered 170 or above.
  4. At least two term courses in Russian literature of the nineteenth century and two in Russian literature of the twentieth century. Students should select courses from Group A and from the 250 series with this requirement in mind.
  5. RUSS 490. The senior essay is the intellectual culmination of the student's work in the major. All primary sources used in the essay must be read in Russian.

In addition to the requirements above, each program requires the following:

Program I One term course in the history or culture of Russia, selected in consultation with the DUS; three additional term courses in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures above RUSS 151. These may include literature courses taught either in translation or in the original, advanced language training courses, or graduate courses.

Program II Four term courses outside the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures that are relevant to the major in the context of comparative studies of literature, selected in consultation with the DUS.

Senior Requirement

All majors write a senior essay (RUSS 490), an independent project carried out under the guidance of a faculty member. Three copies of the essay are due in the Slavic departmental office on April 9, 2021.


Courses in the Graduate School are open to qualified undergraduates with permission of the instructor and of the director of graduate studies. Course descriptions are available at the office of the DUS.

Study Abroad

Students majoring in Russian are strongly encouraged to spend a summer or a term studying in the Russian Federation under the auspices of programs approved by the DUS. Language courses taken during the summer or during a term in Russia in approved programs may substitute for certain advanced Russian courses at Yale. Students interested in study abroad should consult the DUS well before their junior year.


Prerequisite RUSS 151

Number of courses 11 term courses beyond prereq (incl senior essay)

Specific courses required Both programsRUSS 160, 161, 250, 253

Distribution of courses Both programs—2 terms of 19th-century Russian lit; 2 terms of 20th-century Russian lit; 2 Russian lit courses from Group A numbered 170 or above; Program I—1 course in hist or culture of Russia; 3 courses in dept of Slavic Langs and Lits above level of RUSS 151; Program II—4 courses relevant to major in other depts, with DUS approval

Senior requirement Senior essay (RUSS 490)

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 Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature  introduces major texts of the nineteenth-century Russian literary tradition, including works by Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov.
  • RUSS 252 Modernism and Revolution  introduces major texts of the twentieth-century Russian literary tradition, Bely, Sologub, Babel, Bulgakov, Platonov, Mandelstam.
  • RUSS 254 Tolstoy and Dostoevsky  is a lecture course with close textual analysis of major novels by two of Russia’s greatest authors.
  • RUSS 260 Nabokov and World Literature , a lecture course on Vladimir Nabkov’s writing in transnational contexts.
  • RUSS 337 The Invention of Tradition in Post-Soviet Nation States , a seminar on national building process in Central Asia, Russia, and Ukraine after 1991. 

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 helps 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 email or by telephone at 432-1307. Entering first-year students who have some knowledge of Czech or Polish should contact Krystyna Illakowicz (Polish) or Karen von Kunes (Czech) to arrange to take a placement examination. 

Certificate of Advanced Language Study

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures offers a Certificate of Advanced Language Study in Russian. A certificate adviser, typically the director of undergraduate studies (DUS), advises students on the certification process and certifies to the University Registrar's Office that students have completed the stated requirements before the end of eight terms of study. The Certificate of Advanced Language Study, once certified, is listed on student transcripts. 


Students seeking to earn the certificate are required to take four courses beyond the L4 level in their chosen language, at least two of which must be Yale courses designated as L5. Students should take L5 content courses only after they have completed RUSS 151, Third-Year Russian II. All courses must be taken for a letter grade, and students must achieve a grade of B or above. With the approval of the adviser, one advanced non-L5 course, conducted in the target language, such as an independent study course, a graduate seminar, or an advanced seminar may count toward certification requirements. 

The certificate adviser may allow one “language across the curriculum” (LxC) course, which ordinarily is an advanced seminar with an additional weekly discussion section in the target language, to count toward the certification requirements. The certificate adviser may also approve the substitution of up to two credits earned during study abroad and taught in the target language to count toward the certificate requirements. If the adviser approves courses taken outside of Yale for inclusion in the certificate requirements, students must take the necessary steps to ensure those courses appear on their transcript.

Credit/D/Fail No courses taken Credit/D/Fail may be counted toward the requirements of the certificate.


Professors Edyta Bojanowska (Slavic Languages and Literatures), Katerina Clark (Comparative Literature, Slavic Languages and Literatures), Harvey Goldblatt (Slavic Languages and Literatures), John MacKay (Film & Media Studies, Slavic Languages and Literatures)

Associate Professor Molly Brunson (Slavic Languages and Literatures)

Assistant Professors Marijeta Bozovic (Slavic Languages and Literatures), Jinyi Chu (Slavic Languages and Literatures)

Senior Lectors II Irina Dolgova (Slavic Languages and Literatures), Constantine Muravnik (Slavic Languages and Literatures)

Senior Lectors I Krystyna Illakowicz (Slavic Languages and Literatures), Julia Titus (Slavic Languages and Literatures), Karen von Kunes (Slavic Languages and Literatures)