Courses and Requirements

The Russian program offers a broad range of courses in language, literature (both in the original and in translation), and culture.

Academic requirements and course descriptions are available in the Vassar College Catalogue. The department offers both a major and a correlate sequence in Russian Studies.

Majoring in Russian

Students who are considering the option of majoring in Russian are urged to begin the study of the language in their first year, continuing with intermediate and advanced language courses in their sophomore and junior years.

  • For those who will be starting their language study here, this sequence is mandatory unless one of these levels is covered in an accredited summer program. Students with no previous knowledge of the Russian language may elect Elementary Russian (Russian 105–106) or the one-semester Intensive Russian (Russian 107) that covers the same amount of material in a more concentrated fashion.
  • Incoming students who have taken Russian in high school or have a knowledge of the language from home should sign up for a placement test during New Student Orientation that will indicate the appropriate level at which they should enroll.

Students may also enroll in one of the courses given entirely in English translation. In the first semester, we offer four such courses:

  • The Russian Classics (RUSS 135) focuses on the literary giants of 19th-century Russian literature
  • WWII in Russian Cinema (RUSS 155) surveys cinematic masterpieces exploring war as an existential experience that probes the limits of humanity
  • Vampires, Monks, and Holy Fools (RUSS 168) explores spiritual landscapes of Russia and Eastern Europe drawing parallels with British and American cultural phenomena
  • Russia and the Short Story (RUSS 171), a First Year Writing Seminar (limited to first-year students), examines classic short stories by recognized masters of the genre

In the second semester, we teach five courses in English:

  • Russian Modernists (RUSS 152) surveys outstanding works of major 20th-century writers, with emphasis on those who broke with the realist tradition of the 19th century
  • Russian Sci-Fi Cinema (RUSS 155) studies the rich genre of Russian cinematic science fiction, from mainstream entertainment to the philosophical masterpieces of Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Hipsters, Rebels and Rock Stars (RUSS 167) focuses on the non–conformist streak in Russian literature and culture
  • Eurasia: Ethnic Cinema of the Soviet Union and Russia (RUSS 172, cross-listed with INTL) deals with issues of national identity and national traditions in Soviet and post-Soviet film production
  • Beyond the Looking Glass: Nonsense and Absurd in Russian and European Literature and Visual Arts (RUSS 173) delves into the most paradoxical aspects of culture

Every semester the department offers a specialized course on a literary or cultural topic given entirely in Russian, open to students who have completed Advanced Russian or have the equivalent language competency. Additionally, most courses taught in English have a supplementary section with readings in Russian.

Study Away and Summer Programs

Junior Year Semester Abroad

Students may participate in Vassar’s Program in St. Petersburg* or in one of the other Vassar-approved programs.

*Program currently suspended. Please contact International Programs if you have any questions.

Summer Study

The department has established the Masha N. Vorobiov Memorial Prize, which is awarded each spring to a promising student of Russian who intends to pursue summer study of the language.

Summer Programs in the Russian Language