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Department Overview

The Russian program at Swarthmore College aims to give students the key to the nation that Winston Churchill in 1939 called “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”  Historically, the Russian people have made enormous contributions to world culture in music, literature, the arts, film, engineering and the sciences. With its sheer size and wealth of natural resources, today’s increasingly aggressive and powerful Russia is an important global player, for better or worse, making the study of Russia’s language and culture of continuing strategic importance.

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RUSS 013. The Meaning of Life and the Russian Novel

This course surveys the nineteenth-century Russian novel and considers its major themes: the meaning of life in the face of death; love, marriage, and adultery; women's fate in a patriarchal society; the individual, the collective, and the experience of modernity; the ideology of Empire; crime, punishment, and redemption; and the danger and promise of utopian thought.

RUSS 033/LITR 033R. LGBTQ Russia, Past and Present

Poster for RUSS 033

Roots of Feminism and Radicalism in Russia: RUSS 063/LITR 063R

From the earliest engagements with socialism in the Russian Empire to Russian Jewish émigré anarchism in the United States, radical visions for the transformation of society in Russian intellectual history were intertwined with the question of the social position of women. In this course we will trace interlocking questions of social transformation and gender equality through literary and philosophical works by authors including: Tolstoy, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Vera Figner, Rosa Luxemburg, Alexandra Kollontai, Emma Goldman, and many others.

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Why Study Russian?

1. Russian is the language of the largest country on the planet, spanning 11 time zones across Europe and Asia.
2. With over 270 million speakers worldwide, Russian is the 6th most widely spoken language on the planet.
3. Russian remains the lingua franca of central Asia, and is one of only six official languages at the UN.
4. Russian is designated a Critical Language by the State Department, which means more funding to study the language and more opportunities in the public sector.
5. Russian culture! It's the language of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich, Tarkovsky, Eisenstein, Maleevich, Kandinsky, Chagall...and so many others!

Russian Language Table

*Language Tables will be held virtually for Fall '21!*
Please contact for more info. 

Native speakers are welcome to attend!

Russian Table

Choose a Language Program