Curriculum Overview 

The Russian program is designed to provide students with linguistic and intellectual tools for a deep understanding of the country’s literature, language and culture. It offers minors in Russian language and literature and in Russian studies.

The mission of the Russian program is to expose a broad spectrum of the F&M student body to the language, literature, and culture of Russia; to facilitate the further exploration of these subjects as complements to many other aspects of the F&M curriculum; and to work actively to foster groups of students with a sustained interest in Russia; all in direct contribution to the liberal education of all F&M students and the intellectual development of our college community.

Minors in the Department of Russian are strongly encouraged to study abroad, particularly with F&M’s biannual summer travel course to St. Petersburg and Moscow.  In recent years, students have also participated in the following programs: University of Arizona programs in Moscow and St. Petersburg; Middlebury College programs in Moscow and Yaroslavl; School of Russian and Asian Studies; Smolny-Bard program in St. Petersburg.

The department offers two minor programs.

A minor in Russian Language and Literature consists of six courses: Three Russian language courses from the following: RUS 102, RUS 201, RUS 202, RUS 301, RUS 302; and three Russian literature courses from the following: RUS 214, RUS 217, RUS 219, RUS 401, or topics courses approved by the department chair.

A minor in Russian Studies consists of six courses: three Russian language courses from the following: RUS 102, RUS 201, RUS 202, RUS 301, RUS 302; one Russian literature course from the following: RUS 214,  RUS 217, RUS 219, RUS 401, or topics courses approved by the department chair; one Russian history course from the following: HIS 125, HIS 126, HIS 319, or topics courses approved by the department chair; and one Russian culture course from the following: RUS 179 (summer travel course), RUS 216, or topics courses approved by the department chair.

Courses Taught in English


A list of regularly offered courses follows. Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement.

All readings, lectures and discussions in these courses are in English (except for those who wish to read in Russian). There are no prerequisites.

140. Violence, Mayhem and Dissent: Post-Soviet Pop Culture. (H)
This course will explore the relationship between violence and Russian culture’s deeply rooted belief in brotherhood. A number of today’s Russian works depict violence as the only way to help one’s own when corruption abounds and institutions fail. We will discuss how far people are willing to go (and not go) for their communities by examining depictions of violence as both a vice and a virtue in a wide range of materials, including novels, films, YouTube videos, short stories, and documentaries.    

214. The Russian Novel from Pushkin to Tolstoy. (H)
Study of the emergence of a national literary tradition in 19th-century Russia as it was fashioned by writers and their reading publics. Emphasis on the Russian reaction to traditional Western European forms of narrative and the special status of the Russian writer as a social “moral barometer.” Readings will include works by Karamzin, Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. All readings will be in translation, with special assignments for those able to read in Russian. Staff

216. Business in Today’s Russia: Culture, Society, and Capitalism. (H)
This course will focus on the chaotic rise of capitalist business practices in the 1990s and the consequences of Russia’s ensuing prosperity in the Putin era. We will come to understand the place of business in Russian political and social life as well as its popular perception in the media and art. Topics to be covered include privatization; Soviet legacies; Russia’s natural resources; oligarchs and organized crime; pro and anti-Western sentiment; everyday life in Russia under Yeltsin and Putin. Same as BOS 216.    

217. Russia: 20th Century in Print and Film. (H)
The 20th century was a time of unprecedented upheavals and profound changes in Russian society, politics and culture. Russia and its successor state, the Soviet Union, suffered revolutions, wars, bloody civil strife, collectivization and purges. During those unstable and dangerous times and despite official suppression, Russian writers, artists and filmmakers produced outstanding works. In this course we will study the 20th-century Russian experience through its literature and other art forms. All readings will be in English, with special assignments for those able to read in Russian.    

219. Russia's Literary Titans: Major Works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. (H)
Literature of the nineteenth century is dominated by the titanic figures of the great Russian novelists Lev Tolstoy and Fedor Dostoevsky. This course will offer a sustained examination of their careers through reading numerous major works including their masterpiece novels. We will better understand the development of novelistic style and the significance of these authors’ philosophical, psychological, and narrative innovations which would become central to all future novelists. Same as LIT219.

Courses Taught in Russian 

101. Elementary Russian I.
For students with no knowledge of Russian. Introduction to the contemporary Russian language. The course presents the fundamentals of Russian grammar and syntax with equal emphasis on speaking, writing, reading, aural comprehension, and cultural awareness. Audio and video exercises, simple readings, short compositions, conversational drills. Offered every Fall.     

102. Elementary Russian II.
Continuation of Russian 101. Three 80-minute meetings per week. Prerequisite: Russian 101 or placement. Offered every Spring.    

201. Intermediate Russian I. (LS)
Vocabulary building, continued development of speaking and listening skills and active command of Russian grammar. Readings from authentic fiction and poetry. Short composition assignments. Three 65-minute meetings per week. Prerequisite: Russian 102 or placement. Offered every Fall.   

202. Intermediate Russian II. (H)
Continuation of Russian 201. Increased mastery of Russian grammatical structures through reading and discussion of authentic literary and cultural texts. Continued emphasis on speaking, reading and writing Russian. Three 65-minute meetings per week. Prerequisite: Russian 201 or placement. Offered every Spring.    

301. Advanced Russian I. (H)
Building upon the foundation developed in Intermediate Russian, this course provides a more detailed and nuanced engagement with Russian language and grammar with particular emphasis on developing advanced reading and writing skills and adding breadth and depth to speaking skills. We will utilize many more examples of “real” Russian texts and materials to become comfortable with Russian as it is used by Russians. Prerequisite: RUS 202 or placement.    

302. Advanced Russian II. (H)
Continuing the trajectory of RUS 301, this course reinforces advanced reading and writing skills and continues to develop sophisticated speaking skills. This course develops cultural fluency by incorporating complex discussions of Russian life, history, literature, politics, and popular culture into our exposure to the Russian language. Prerequisite: RUS 301 or placement.    

401. Readings in Russian Literature and Culture. (H)
The primary purpose of this course is to provide students with an opportunity to read literary, cultural, political, and historical texts in the original Russian while improving their active command of the written and spoken language. Prerequisite: RUS 302 or placement.    

390. Independent Study.

490. Independent Study.

Summer Travel Course 

RUS 179. From Tsars to Commissars: An Introduction to Russian Culture. (H)
Through an exploration of the literary, artistic, social, and political context, this course will introduce the major aspects of Russian life and culture.  By becoming acquainted with the stories of such typically Russian characters and their worlds, we will better understand Russian culture and identity. This course begins with an intensive overview of themes and works seminal in the development of Russian literature, art, history, and politics.  The final three weeks of the course will be spent in Russia (primarily St. Petersburg and Moscow) where these themes will be investigated more extensively through a variety of classes, activities, and excursions.