HAILI KONG, Professor and Chair
ELEONORE BAGINSKI, Administrative Coordinator
BETHANNE SEUFERT, Administrative Assistant


BRIAN JOHNSON, Assistant Professor
JASMINA LUKIC, Cornell Visiting Professor

Language Resource Center

MICHAEL JONES, Language Resource Center Director
ALEXANDER SAVOTH, Language Resource Center Technologist

The Academic Program

The major in Russian language and literature covers the rise and development of Russian literature and culture up to the present. Students will encounter critical theory and develop skill in critical analysis, approaching Russian and Soviet literature and culture in relationship to historical and social forces. The emphasis in our courses is on culture as well as literature: indeed, understanding Russian literature and other arts is impossible without some background in the history and culture. Because Russian is a small program, we are very responsive to student demand and can develop courses almost to order, if there is sufficient interest. Students interested in a combined Russian language and linguistics major may develop a program with advanced courses and seminars in the language offered at Bryn Mawr or the University of Pennsylvania and the Linguistics Department at Swarthmore College.

Russian in Combination with Other Programs

In the Course Program, Russian can contribute toward majors in comparative literature, film and media studies, and linguistics and to the concentrations in interpretation studies and gender and sexuality studies. Thematic courses in Russian culture can support majors or minors in history, music, philosophy, and political science and concentrations in Asian studies, environmental studies, and Islamic studies. A Russian honors minor fits well into an honors major in the humanities or social sciences, and nicely rounds out majors in engineering or the natural sciences. In the Honors Program, Russian contributes toward the major or minor in comparative literature. By including coursework in second language acquisition at Bryn Mawr College, Russian can be part of a special major in educational studies for teacher certification.

There is no distinction between qualification for the Russian Course Program and for the Honors Program. We recommend a minimum of one semester or summer of study in Russia. Majors and minors are urged to build and maintain fluency by taking Russian Conversation (RUSS 006A), and to support their work in the field with courses in anthropology, art, cognitive science, film and media studies, history, music, philosophy, political science, religion, sociology, theater, and other literatures.

RUSS 091, the seminar attachment, may be added to any course numbered 020 or above to convert it to a seminar, for a total of two credits. The additional work is done in the original language and supported by regular meetings with the professor, readings, discussions, and significant writing assignments in Russian. We anticipate that most seminar work will be done in this format. If there is sufficient student demand, we can offer advanced seminars in any of the following areas:

Seminar Topics:

RUSS 101. Tolstoy

RUSS 102. Russian Short Story

RUSS 103. Pushkin and Lermontov

RUSS 104. Dostoevsky

RUSS 105. Literature of the Soviet Period

RUSS 106. Russian Drama

RUSS 107. Russian Lyrical Poetry

RUSS 108. Russian Modernism

RUSS 109. Chekhov

RUSS 110. Bulgakov

RUSS 111. Tsvetaeva and Mayakovsky

RUSS 112. Akhmatova and Mandelshtam

RUSS 113. Russian and Soviet Cinema

RUSS 114. Folklore in Russian Literature

RUSS 115. The Many Faces of the Russian Literary Anecdote

RUSS 116. The Petersburg Myth in Russian Literature

RUSS 117. Post-Soviet Russian Literature

RUSS 118. Russian Jewish Writers

RUSS 119. Russian Women Writers

RUSS 120. Russian Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Russian section webpage includes descriptions of the possible seminar topics listed above.

The Russian Program offers a course major or minor and an honors major and minor. Courses in Russian literature and culture (and courses in allied subjects, such as East European Prose or the Translation Workshop) may also be part of a special major.

Course Major


A minimum of eight credits, which must include:

  1. RUSS 004 (unless placed higher)
  2. RUSS 010 or RUSS 011 (or equivalent course in Russia)
  3. One survey course: RUSS 013 or RUSS 014
  4. Four content credits: RUSS 013–RUSS 086. At least one full content credit must be earned through: two half-credit attachments to these in-translations courses, RUSS 091 (Seminar Attachment), RUSS 093 (Directed Reading), or RUSS 094 (Independent Study). Credit from study abroad may be used toward 3 of these credits.
  5. One two-credit seminar: RUSS 100 and above.

For students who choose not to emphasize literature, one Russian history course may be used to fulfill one content credit. Possible courses include HIST 001Q, HIST 038, and HIST 039. Students should consult Russian Section Faculty regarding attachments to these courses.

Acceptance Criteria

To be accepted as a major or minor, you must have earned a minimum grade of “B” in Russian language and literature courses taken at Swarthmore and present linguistic ability and clear potential for sophisticated study in the original literature, criticism, and cultural history of imperial Russia, the Soviet Union, and Post-Soviet Russia.

Thesis / Culminating Exercise

The culminating exercise for a course major in Russian is one three-hour written examination (answering two questions in Russian, one in English), scheduled after the end of regular exams in the spring semester of senior year.

Course Minor

Requirements for a minor in course in Russian

A minimum of five credits, which must include:

  1. RUSS 004 (unless placed higher)
  2. RUSS 010 or RUSS 011 (or equivalent course in Russia)
  3. One survey course: RUSS 013 or RUSS 014
    1. Two content credits: RUSS 013–RUSS 086 or
    2. One content credit (RUSS 013–RUSS 086) plus an attachment.
      Credit from study abroad may be used toward all content credits.
  4. One two-credit seminar: RUSS 100 and above.

Honors Major

Prerequisites for Majors:

A minimum of eight credits, which must include:

  1. RUSS 004 (unless placed higher)
  2. RUSS 010 or RUSS 011 (or equivalent course in Russia)
  3. One survey course: RUSS 013 or RUSS 014
  4. Four content credits: RUSS 013–RUSS 086. At least one full content credit must be earned through: two half-credit attachments to these in-translations courses, RUSS 091 (Seminar Attachment), RUSS 093 (Directed Reading), or RUSS 094 (Independent Study). Credit from study abroad may be used toward 3 of these credits.
  5. One two-credit seminar: RUSS 100 and above.
    For students who choose not to emphasize literature, one Russian history course may be used to fulfill one content credit. Possible courses include HIST 001Q, HIST 038, and HIST 039. Students should consult Russian Section Faculty regarding attachments to these courses.
  6. The minimum grade for acceptance into the Honors Program is “B” level work in Russian language courses taken at Swarthmore and in RUSS 011 or its equivalent.

At least one semester of study in Russia is strongly encouraged.

Senior Honors Study

Please see the information on seminars and seminar attachments, above.
At the beginning of final semester, seniors will meet with the Russian section head.

  • Honors majors write three 3,000–3,500 word papers in Russian, one for each honors preparation, or else one 6,000-word paper which integrates the three honors preparations. These three papers (or one long paper) become part of the portfolio presented to the external examiners, along with the syllabi of the three (2-credit) honors preparations and any other relevant material.
  • Minors will be expected to write one 3,000–3,500-word paper in Russian. This paper will become part of the portfolio presented to the examiner along with the syllabus of the one (2-credit) honors preparation and any other relevant material.
  • Majors will take three three-hour written examinations prepared by external examiners, plus one half-hour oral exam for each, based on the contents of the written examination and materials submitted in the portfolio. Minors will take one three-hour written examination prepared by an external examiner and one half-hour oral examination based on the written examination and materials submitted in the portfolio.

Honors Minor

Prerequisites for Minors:

A minimum of five credits, which must include:

  1. RUSS 004 (unless placed higher)
  2. RUSS 010 or RUSS 011 (or equivalent course in Russia)
  3. One survey course: RUSS 013 or RUSS 014
    1. Two content credits: RUSS 013–RUSS 086 or
    2. One content credit (RUSS 013–RUSS 086) plus an attachment.
      Credit from study abroad may be used toward all content credits.
  4. One two-credit seminar: RUSS 100 and above.
  5. The minimum grade for acceptance into the Honors Program is “B” level work in language courses taken at Swarthmore and in RUSS 011 or its equivalent.

At least one semester of study in Russia is strongly encouraged. See item 2 above for Senior Honors Study Paper.

Special Major

Courses in Russian language, literature, and culture may be integrated into special majors of a variety of kinds, for example: Russian area studies, Russian cinema in history, or Russian and East European literature and/or culture.

Off-Campus Study

Study abroad is strongly encouraged for students of Russian. We recommend four programs (ACTR, CIEE, Middlebury, and the Smolny Institute) for semester and academic-year study in Russia. Credit may also be available for study through other programs, with appropriate documentation. Consult your professor for more information on programs and sources of funding support.

Research and Service-Learning Opportunities

Russian participates in the Service-Teaching Pedagogy course and can offer support in various ways to students teaching Russian in the elementary school.

Summer Opportunities

Besides summer abroad study or internships, and the possibility of arranging for summer humanities research under the supervision of Russian program faculty, students interested in summer language study in Russia or in summer programs in the U.S. may apply for financial support from the Olga Lamkert Fund.

Russian is certified as a critical language by U.S. government agencies, meaning that for both summer study and study abroad there is funding available to support students working in Russian, especially if they are working to reach a high level of proficiency. Ask us for information on this financial assistance and support in applying.

Life After Swarthmore

A major or minor in Russian can enhance a variety of career choices: strong language skills enhance any other program of work, research or study, while knowledge of literature and culture offers subtle or obvious advantages in business, politics, science and medicine. Like other less commonly taught languages, Russian on your college transcript suggests to potential employers or graduate school admissions committees that you are smart and adventurous, willing to try a challenging new subject of study—and able to master it by completing a major or a minor.

Graduate School and Other Study

Several recent Russian majors and minors have completed area studies M.A. degrees at Harvard University; others have entered the Flagship Program, which aims to bring students to the highest levels of language fluency for subsequent work in politics, scholarship, or NGOs. Students with majors in Russian Literature have gone on to doctoral work in Political Science. Others have done graduate study in Linguistics, English Literature, and Comparative Literature. The systematic nature of Russian grammar makes it no surprise that some of our majors and minors have gone on to medical school or to graduate work in Physics and Astronomy. One graduate received a Fulbright fellowship to study Russian authors who covered the Spanish Civil War as journalists, and how their writing influenced the later development of Soviet literature as well; another received a Fulbright to study plant genetics in southern Russia and Kazakhstan. One of our former students left the Swarthmore area to dance with the Boston Ballet.

Career Options/Opportunities

As the paths of study above suggest, Russian can be combined with almost any field to enhance the possibilities available. Whether immediately after graduation or later, our alumni have found work as editors or English teachers in Russia. Some have gone into the State Department or have become medical doctors. Graduate study may lead to careers as college and university professors or directors of university Title VI centers.
Whatever your career choice, chances are we can put you in touch with alumni of Swarthmore’s Russian program who will be able to offer you advice, support, and connections in the field.


Not all advanced courses or seminars are offered every year. Students wishing to major or minor in Russian should plan their program in consultation with the department faculty.
Seminars in Russian are only offered when there is sufficient demand. Otherwise students who wish to take a literature course in translation for seminar credit must register for a Seminar Attachment (1 additional credit), adding an A to the course number: 21A, 33A, 41A, etc. Courses numbered under 20 cannot be taken as seminars.

RUSS 001–002, 003. Intensive Russian

Students who start in the 001–002 sequence must complete and pass 002 in order to receive credit for 001.
For students who wish to begin Russian in college or who did not move beyond an introduction in high school. Designed to impart an active command of the language. Combines the study of grammar with intensive oral practice, work on phonetics, writing, web materials, and readings in literary and expository prose. Conducted primarily in Russian; normally followed by RUSS 004, RUSS 011 and ideally by RUSS 010, and RUSS 008A.
See the explanatory note on language courses in the first section of modern languages and literatures.
1.5 credits.

RUSS 001.

Fall 2014. Johnson, Yordanova.

RUSS 002.

Spring 2015. Johnson, Yordanova.

RUSS 003.

Fall 2014. Brian Johnson

RUSS 004. Intermediate Intensive Russian

For majors and those interested in reaching advanced levels of proficiency in the language. Advanced conversation, composition, translation, and stylistics. Considerable attention to writing skills, phonetics, and spontaneous speaking. Readings include short stories, poetry, newspapers, and the Russian web.
1.5 credits.
Spring 2015. Forrester, Yordanova.

RUSS 006A. Russian Conversation

This course meets once a week for 1.5 hours. Students will read newspapers, explore the Internet, and watch videos to prepare for conversation and discussion. Each student will design and complete an individual project based on his or her own interests and goals. This course may be repeated once for credit.
Prerequisite: 004 in the current or a previous semester or by permission of the instructor.
0.5 credit.
Spring 2015. Yordanova.

RUSS 009. Cross-Cultural Pragmatics

Students in this course will explore how American and Russian speakers perceive politeness, and how sociocultural values underlying both cultures affect the performance and perception of speech acts, such as greetings, requests, apologies, compliments, complaints, and gratitude. This course will focus on language and culture-specific features of speech acts. This class will help American learners of Russian to improve their pragmatic competence so that they can successfully interact with Russian native speakers in everyday-life situtations. Students will read primarilty in English and analyze Russian and English examples in various sociocultural contexts. Russian 001 required.
0.5 credit.
Not offered 2014–2015.

RUSS 010. Advanced Russian

The course includes practice in speaking, understanding, reading and writing Russian through the use of authentic Russian language materials, including film. Students will consolidate previous knowledge of Russian grammar, and will significantly increase their vocabulary and improve their level of coherent language and writing. Students will acquire conscious knowledge of the meanings of the grammatical forms applied to discourse, i.e. to specific verbal situations, based not only on the underlying linguistic phenomena, but also on the content of lingua-cultural situations.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Yordanova.

RUSS 011. Introduction to Russian Culture

This advanced intensive writing course will reinforce previous stages of work in Russian and will focus on composition rather than translation from English. Students will develop advanced skills in comprehension and active use of the written language through the use of authentic Russian language materials. The course will concentrate on contemporary Russian culture and also on changes in the Russian language—with a wide variety of materials from fiction, newspapers, journals and other media sources.
Conducted in Russian.
Prerequisite: RUSS 004 or permission from the instructor.
Writing course.
1 credit.
Spring 2015. Yordanova.

RUSS 012A. Foreign Language Teaching and Pedagogy

(Cross-listed as EDUC 072)
This course has two elements that are developed together throughout the course of the semester. Students can serve the Swarthmore community by teaching a foreign language to local elementary school students in an after-school program that meets two times/week. Students must teach for the entire 6-week session, two days per week. During the evening pedagogy sessions held on campus, we will discuss writing weekly lesson plans, foreign language acquisition in children, teaching methodologies and approaches. We use a common goal-oriented curriculum among all the languages. Students must register for the language or educational studies course that they will be teaching and for a service time (A) M/W or (B) T/Th.
0.5 credit.
Spring 2015. Staff.

RUSS 013. The Russian Novel: The Classic Tradition

(Cross-listed as LITR 013R)
This course surveys the rise of the Russian novel during the nineteenth century. We will read works by Lemontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Our examination of the literary and rhetorical strategies of these authors will be grounded in an understanding of their cultural context. We will probe issues of Russia’s national identity, class system, and tendency toward authoritarianism during this paradoxical century of inertia and upheaval. As a writing course, polished academic writing and the process of revision is given particular emphasis.
Writing course
1 credit
Fall 2014. Johnson.

RUSS 014. The Russian Novel: Revolution, Terror and Resistance

(Cross-listed as LITR 014R)
This course surveys the Russian novel during the twentieth century, from the years leading up to the Bolshevik Revolution, through the Soviet era, and into the post-Cold War period. Works include Andrei Bely’s modernist novel Petersburg, Yuri Zamiatin’s sci-fi dystopia We, and Mikhail Bulgakov’s Faustian masterpiece Master and Margarita. In addition to exploring ideas of genre and artistic strategy, particular focus will be paid to the ways in which these and other authors resist the terror and repression of their respective eras.
1 credit.
Fall 2015. Staff.

RUSS 015. First-Year Seminar: East European Prose in Translation

(Cross-listed as LITR 015R)
Novels and stories by the most prominent 20th-century writers of this multifaceted and turbulent region. Analysis of individual works and writers to appreciate the religious, linguistic, and historical diversity of Eastern Europe in an era of war, revolution, political dissent, and outstanding cultural and intellectual achievement. Readings, lectures, writing, and discussion in English; students who are able may do some readings in the original languages.
Writing course.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Lukic.

RUSS 017. First-Year Seminar: Love and Sex in Russian Literature

(Cross-listed as LITR 017R)
Best known for political priorities and philosophical depth, Russian literature has also devoted many works to the eternal concern of love and sex. We will read significant and provocative works from traditional folk tales through the 20th century to discuss their construction of these most “natural” impulses —and how they imagine the relationship of human attraction to art, politics and philosophy.
Writing course.
Eligible for INTP credit.
1 credit.
Not offered 2014–2015.

RUSS 021. Dostoevsky (in Translation)

(Cross-listed as LITR 021R)
Writer, gambler, publicist, and visionary Fedor Dostoevsky is one of the great writers of the modern age. His work influenced Nietzsche, Freud, Woolf, and others and continues to exert a profound influence on thought in our own society to the present. Dostoevsky confronts the “accursed questions” of truth, justice, and free will set against the darkest examples of human suffering: murder, suicide, poverty, addiction, and obsession. Students will consider artistic, philosophical, and social questions through texts from throughout Dostoevsky’s career. Students with knowledge of Russian may read some or all of the works in the original.
1 credit.
Spring 2016. Staff.

RUSS 023. The Muslim in Russia

(Cross-listed as LITR 023R)
The long and strong relationship of Russia and Islam has been neglected in scholarship until recently. This course will examine texts (and films) spanning more than a thousand years, to introduce actual interactions of Russians and Muslims, images of Muslims in Russian literature (and a few Muslim images of Russia), the place of Muslim writers in Soviet literature, and the current position of Muslims in Russia and in Russian discourse.
1 credit.
Not offered 2014–2015.

RUSS 026. Russian and East European Science Fiction

(Cross-listed as LITR 026R)
Science fiction enjoyed surprisingly high status in Russia and Eastern Europe, attracting such prominent mainstream writers as Karel Čapek, Mikhail Bulgakov, and Evgenii Zamiatin. In the post-Stalinist years of stagnation, science fiction provided a refuge from stultifying official Socialist Realism for authors like Stanisław Lem and the Strugatsky brothers. This course will concentrate on 20th-century science fiction (translated from Czech, Polish, Russian and Serbian) with a glance at earlier influences and attention to more recent works, as well as to Western parallels and contrasts.
1 credit.
Spring 2015. Forrester.

RUSS 042. Revolutionary Theater

(Cross-listed as LITR 042R)
We start with Konstantin Stanislavsky’s founding of the Moscow Art Theatre, whose revolutionary approach to acting, directing and set design exerts a profound effect on Western theater to this day. Concurrently we will examine Anton Chekhov’s four major plays and their integral part in the success of the Moscow Art Theatre. We then examine the effect of the Soviet revolution on Russian theater from two viewpoints. On the one hand, we will follow the arc of directors and playwrights such as Vsevelod Meyerhold who embraced the Soviet revolution and reflected this embrace in their radically innovative and futuristic productions and set designs. On the other hand, we will follow the tragic arc of playwright Mikhail Bulgakov and his stormy relationship with the Moscow Art Theater and the Soviet regime by reading his plays and his bitingly funny satire Black Snow.
1 credit.
Spring 2015. Johnson.

RUSS 047. Russian Fairy Tales

(Cross-listed as LITR 047R)
Folk beliefs are a colorful and enduring part of Russian culture. This course introduces a wide selection of Russian fairy tales in their aesthetic, historical, social, and psychological context. We will trace the continuing influence of fairy tales and folk beliefs in literature, music, visual arts, and film. The course also provides a general introduction to study and interpretation of folklore and fairy tales, approaching Russian tales against the background of the Western fairy-tale tradition (the Grimms, Perrault, Disney, etc.). No fluency in Russian is required, though students with adequate language preparation may do some reading, or a course attachment, in the original.
Eligible for INTP credit.
1 credit.
Spring 2016. Forrester.

RUSS 070. Translation Workshop

(Cross-listed as LING 070 and LITR 070R)
This workshop in literary translation will concentrate on both theory and practice, working in poetry, prose, and drama as well as editing. Students will participate in an associated series of bilingual readings and will produce a substantial portfolio of work. Students taking the course for linguistics credit will write a final paper supported by a smaller portfolio of translations. No prerequisites exist, but excellent knowledge of a language other than English (equivalent to a 004 course at Swarthmore or higher) is highly recommended or, failing that, access to at least one very patient speaker of a foreign language.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Forrester.

RUSS 086. Nature and Industry in Russian Literature and Culture

(Cross-listed as LITR 086R)
From pre-Christian religion and folklore based in forest, steppe and tundra and the enduring role of peasant culture to today’s Neo-Pagans, Russian culture has been closely bound to nature, developing sustainable agricultural practices, honoring “Moist Mother Earth” and (even sophisticated city dwellers) heading out to gather berries and mushrooms. But the Soviet era pursued science-fictional plans to redesign whole landscapes, make rivers flow backwards and even revolutionize plant genetics (Trofim Lysenko). In practice, such projects led to a shrinking Aral Sea, massive pollution of industrial and agricultural sites, and the worst nuclear disaster in human history (Chernobyl) – at great human cost. Writers have both supported industrial transformation and resisted industrialization. This course will trace the evolution of these elements of Russian culture, focusing on expressions of ideology in literature. No knowledge of Russian is necessary, but students with the language may do some reading in the original.
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Forrester.

RUSS 091. Special Topics

For senior course majors. Study of individual authors, selected themes, or critical problems.
1 credit.
Offered on demand.

RUSS 093. Directed Reading
RUSS 094. Independent Study
RUSS 108 A/B Humor & Satire

In the West, Russian literature has famously been considered somewhat depressing, as it frequently wrestles with the deepest questions of morality and human destiny. This seminar, in contrast, will concentrate on the wonderful tradition of humorous literature in Russia, in works that no less engaged with the Eternal Questions but were great fun to read (and often quite a bit shorter). We'll explore texts of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, from Pushkin and Gogol through Zoshchenko and Teffi, through Abram Tertz, to Iskander, Voinovich and other living masters of gentle or raucous humor. All primary readings as well as writing and discussion will be in Russian.
1 credit. Forrester


Seminars in Russian are offered when there is sufficient demand. See the summary of the academic program for a list of seminar topics. The Russian section webpage includes descriptions of possible seminar topics.

Russian Courses Not Currently Offered

RUSS 016. History of the Russian Language
RUSS 024. Russian and East European Cinema
RUSS 025. The Poet and Power
RUSS 028. Tolstoy
RUSS 033. Terror in Russia: Method, Madness, and Murder
RUSS 041. War and Peace in Russian Literature and Culture
RUSS 045. Poetry in Translation/Translating Poetry
RUSS 067. Jews in Russia: Culture, Film, Literature
RUSS 075. Comedy, Satire, Humor