Director of undergraduate studies: Jinyi Chu; language coordinator: Irina Dolgova, HQ 538, 320 York Street, 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, East European, and Eurasian Studies, an interdisciplinary program administered by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

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


Prerequisite to the major is second year Russian, RUSS 140, 142, 145, or S140. The department offers three sequences of language courses to fulfill the prerequisite: either (1) RUSS 110120130140, or (2) RUSS 125145 or (3) courses for heritage speakers, RUSS 122, 142. Prospective majors should complete the prerequisites 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.

Requirements of the Major

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

  1. Third-year Russian: RUSS 150 and 151.
  2. Fourth-year Russian: RUSS 160 and 161.
  3. Two terms of Russian literature in translation, one in 19th-century or earlier Russian literature and one in 20th-century or later Russian literature. Russian First-Year Seminars and courses numbered 200 or higher may fulfill this requirement.
  4. One content course in which Russian is the language of instruction (RUSS 170–190).
  5. One course in Russian, East European, or Eurasian history or social sciences.
  6. RUSS 490 or 491. 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.

If the language proficiency is met without coursework, these course requirements must be fulfilled through additional term courses to bring the overall total to 11 term courses. A Yale summer program in Russian culture may be used to fulfill the requirements, with DUS approval.

Credit/D/Fail Courses taken Credit/D/Fail may not be counted toward the requirements of the major.

Senior Requirement

All majors write a senior essay (RUSS 490 or 491), an independent project carried out under the guidance of a faculty member. By the end of the junior year, students should declare their general topic and arrange for a faculty adviser, in consultation with the DUS. Students planning to conduct summer research for the senior essay, especially if abroad, should contact the DUS early in the spring semester of the junior year and apply for fellowships. By the first day of the reading period of the term prior to the term of the senior essay (RUSS 490 or 491), majors submit a proposal to the adviser (up to two pages double spaced). 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 midterm of RUSS 490 or 491. The senior essay takes the form of a substantial article, no longer than 13,000 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography. The final essay is due on the first day of the reading period of the term the student is enrolled in RUSS 490 or 491. A member of the faculty other than the adviser grades the essay.

Students pursuing two majors need to fulfill the senior requirement of both majors. If the second major allows, students may enroll in both RUSS 490 and 491 and write an essay longer than a single-term essay. In this case, students count the second term of the Russian senior essay as their twelfth course in the Russian major.


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, as well as RUSS S241, S242, and S243, 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 studying abroad should consult the DUS well before their junior year. Students can apply for FLAS and Fox fellowships to support their travel.


Prerequisite RUSS 140, 142, 145S140, or placement exam

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

Specific courses required RUSS 150, 151, 160, 161

Distribution of courses 1 course in 19th-century or earlier Russian literature in translation, as specified; 1 course in 20th-century or later Russian literature in translation, as specified; 1 content course taught in original language, as specified; 1 course in Russian, East European, or Eurasian history or social sciences, as specified 

Substitution permitted Yale summer program in Russian culture (RUSS S241, S242, or S243) for electives

Senior requirement Senior essay (RUSS 490 or 491)

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 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, East European, and Eurasian 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 is a lecture course on Vladimir Nabkov’s writing in transnational contexts.
  • RUSS 337 The Invention of Tradition in Post-Soviet Nation States is 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. 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

Certificate Director: Jinyi Chu

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 the student transcript. 


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 taught in English to count toward the certification requirements provided the course includes at minimum a weekly discussion section conducted entirely in the target language. The discussion section must enroll a minimum of three students and the course must be designated as LxC in the course description.

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.

Those students considering fulfilling the requirements to earn a Certificate should submit a Declaration of Candidacy for a Certificate form, found on the University Registrar’s Office website. The form should be submitted early, but at the latest, before the start of the student’s last semester at Yale. Once submitted, the form goes to both the Certificate Director and the Registrar's Office. Submission of the form, and approval from the Certificate Director, is necessary to ensure that the earned Certificates appears on student transcripts.


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

Associate Professor Marijeta Bozovic (Slavic Languages and Literatures), Molly Brunson (Slavic Languages and Literatures)

Assistant Professors Jinyi Chu (Slavic Languages and Literatures), Claire Roosien (Slavic Languages and Literatures), Nari Shelekpayev (Slavic Languages and Literatures)

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

Senior Lectors I Krystyna Illakowicz (Slavic Languages and Literatures), Anastasia Selemeneva (Slavic Languages and Literatures), Olha Tytarenko (Slavic Languages and Literatures)

See visual roadmap of the requirements.