Russian Studies

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has made the study of Russian language and culture both more difficult and more urgent than ever before. More difficult, because Russia has once again descended into a dangerous totalitarianism that threatens the peace and well-being of not only its own citizens but also the entire global order. More urgent, because there is no more important time to study Russian language and culture than now, when the need for experts on Russian politics, history, and culture is at an all-time high.

Russian studies, an interdisciplinary program of the School of Arts & Sciences, incorporates the perspective of several departments and the linguistic, historical, and cultural background needed to understand Russia's past, analyze its present, and make responsible predictions about its future. Its dynamic curriculum from three core departments includes courses on Russian history from Kievan Rus to the war in Ukraine; international relations and political science; and Russian literature, cinema and culture. Proficiency in Russian is required (coursework through intermediate Russian).

The University of Rochester offers degrees in both Russian and Russian studies. The Russian major, minor, and clusters are in the humanities division. The Russian studies major and minor can count in either the humanities or the social sciences, and there are Russian Studies clusters in both these divisions as well.

The three departments providing the core faculty for this program are Modern Languages and Cultures, History, and Political Science, but a Russian studies major or minor concentration includes courses in or cross-listed with:

  • Religion and classics
  • Judaic studies
  • Polish and Central European studies
  • Film studies
  • Gender, sexuality and women's studies
  • Comparative literature
  • Art and art history
  • Economics

An interdisciplinary approach comes naturally to our students, many of whom are doing a second major in history, political science or another area.

Below is information on:

Russian Studies Major

The Russian studies major has a total of ten required courses and may be counted as either humanities or social sciences, depending on the number of courses in each division.

Foundation Courses (two-three courses):

  • Proficiency in Russian: Coursework through RUSS 152 (or approved equivalent coursework)
  • Senior Thesis

Core Courses (six courses):

  • Two courses in Russian literature
  • Two courses in Russian history
  • Two courses in Political science

Elective Course(s) (one or more courses):

  • One (or more) elective in literature, language, history or political science

See a complete list of Russian courses (pdf)

Top ↑

Russian Studies Minor Requirements

  • One Russian language course at the 151-level or higher
  • One survey course in Russian literature
  • One survey course in Russian history
  • One course in a more specialized area of Russian history or literature
  • One political science course with a Russian or international relations focus

The Russian studies major and minor can be counted in either humanities or social sciences, depending on your choice of courses (to count as social science, the majority of courses must be taken in history, international relations and political science).

See a complete list of Russian courses (pdf)

Top ↑

Russian Studies Clusters

There are two Russian studies clusters, one in the humanities academic division and one in the social science academic division.

Russian Studies (H1RST005)
The study of Russia from the vantage points of history, national identity, and everyday life.

Russia: History, Politics, Culture (S1RST002)
This cluster explores the process and politics of change in Russia and the surrounding region from cultural, historical, and political vantage points.

Top ↑

Education Abroad

Students can study Russian abroad in the summer in our new program in Tallinn, Estonia, where they will live with Russian host families and study Russian from native speakers. More information can be found on the Tallinn study abroad page. Students can also study Russian abroad through programs coordinated by the Center for Education Abroad. Attend an information session or speak to a study abroad advisor to learn more.

Top ↑

Language Placement

Advanced Placement (AP) scores or International Baccalaureate (IB) rankings assist departmental advisors in finding the right course level for you. Information on how you learned the language or languages you know will also help us advise you on the most appropriate courses for you in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures.

The first step is to take the online placement exam in Russian. You will receive a score that will be used along with the survey information you provide and with any AP or IB scores you have submitted. Together, the information will help determine your placement in a specific language course.

For students with previous experience with the Russian language, the first step is to take the online placement exam. For instructions for how to login, see our online placement exam instructions page.

After you take the test, you will receive a score that will be used along with the other information you provide to help determine your placement. A language placement advisor will email you with your official placement sometime after you take the exam. Students who have not studied Russian previously and who are not heritage speakers of Russian may register for RUSS 101 without taking a placement exam. The placement you receive with your online numerical test scores is not necessarily how you will be placed by MLC.

Top ↑

Contact Information

For all Russian and Russian studies questions, please contact Professor John Givens at


John Givens, Professor of Russian, Head of the Russian Program

Matthew Lenoe, Associate Professor of History

Nikita Maslennikov, Senior Lecturer in Russian

Anna Maslennikova, Professor of Instruction in Russian

Rita Safariants, Assistant Professor of Russian

Randall Stone, Professor of Political Science, Director for the Skalny Center for Polish and Central European Studies

Top ↑