Panorama of St. Petersburg by Siobhán Seigne
Photo credit: Siobhán Seigne

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.

The Russian curriculum at Rochester offers students courses in beginning through advanced Russian language study, Russian current events and politics, Russian literature of the last two centuries, Russian civilization, art, architecture, and film, as well as classes focusing on Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Nabokov.

In addition, for nearly 30 years from 1992-2019, The Department of Modern Langauges and Cultures (MLC) ran its own summer program in St. Petersburg that brought scores of Rochester students to study Russian and live with Russian host families. Because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have now begun a Russian language summer program in Tallinn, Estonia, which commenced in 2022 and will run every other year. Students live with Russian host families and study Russian from native speakers. Rochester students are eligible for Mildred R. Burton Travelling Fellowships, which for over three decades have allowed hundreds of students to study abroad in the summer.

Our classes boast small faculty/student ratios and our students often pair their Russian major with other majors in the College. Our graduates are highly competitive and have gone on to work in academic positions, in international businesses, in language exchange programs, as teachers of English in Russia, with various NGOs, and as lawyers and professionals in the US.

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, minor, and clusters can count in either the humanities or the social sciences.

Below is information on:

Russian Major Requirements

The Russian major has a total of 10 required courses:

Foundation Courses (fulfill upper level writing)

  • CLTR 200 Topics in Critical Thinking (or approved equivalent course)
  • CLTR 389 MLC Research Seminar (or approved equivalent course)

Core Courses

  • RUSS 202 Advanced Readings in Russian I
  • RUSS 205 Advanced Readings in Russian II or RUSS 209 Advanced Russian through Film
  • Two content courses in literature, culture, or film

Elective Courses

Four or more courses in literature, culture, film or language beyond RUSS 102.

See a complete list of Russian courses (pdf)

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Russian Minor Requirements

Five courses in Russian language, literature, and culture, to be selected in consultation with the Russian advisor.

See a complete list of Russian courses (pdf)

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Russian Clusters

There are three Russian clusters, all in the humanities academic division.

Russian Language (H1RUS007)
This cluster introduces students to basic language skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening comprehension).

Russian Language and Culture (H1RUS008)
This cluster introduces students to basic language skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) as well as the cultural context for Russian, courses that explore Russian literature, art, and film.

Russian Literature and Culture (H1RUS009)
An introduction to Russian culture and identity, beginning with a survey course on civilization, literature of the golden age, or art, followed by courses from the nineteenth and twentieth century literary traditions.

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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.

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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.

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.

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Contact Information

For more information about Russian, contact Professor John Givens at


Dmitrii Bykov, Visiting Assistant Professor in Russian

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

Laura Givens, Professor of Instruction in Russian, Placement Advisor

Nikita Maslennikov, Adjunct Instructor of Russian

Anna Maslennikova, Professor of Instruction in Russian, Associate Director of Russian Studies

Rita Safariants, Assistant Professor of Russian

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