Skip to main content

Academic Program

Russian Academic Program

Russian may be offered as a major or minor in the Course Program or as a major or minor in the Honors Program.

Russian is the primary or sole language of instruction in all courses except courses cross-listed with the Literature program.  The major itself emphasizes literature and culture, supported by proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking.  Both the major and the minor can be supported by work in allied disciplines (History, Anthropology, other literatures), and Russian can be a supporting subject to numerous other majors or a component of Comparative Literature. 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 and the Linguistics Program at Swarthmore College.

Majoring or Minoring in Russian

Prerequisites for both course students and honors candidates are RUSS 004, 011, and 013, or equivalent work. Study abroad in Russia is strongly recommended.

Major in Course

A minimum of 8 credits, which must include:

  1. RUSS 004 (unless placed higher)
  2. RUSS 010 and/or RUSS 011, RUSS 012, RUSS 018, RUSS 019 (or equivalent course taken 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 may be earned through: two half-credit attachments to these in-translation courses; the attachments include 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.

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 Union.

The comprehensive examination is based on work completed in courses and seminars numbered 011 and above.

Minor in Course

Five or 5.5 credits, which must include:

1. RUSS 004 (or placement above 004)
2. Either RUSS 011, RUSS 013 or RUSS 014; or an equivalent course taken in Russia
3. One of the following: RUSS 013 or RUSS 014 (if not used to fulfill #2 above); another literature/culture course in translation, or a comparable literature course in Russia or at Bryn Mawr College or the University of Pennsylvania
4. One seminar in Russian.

Only one of these courses may overlap with a second minor or the student's major. Study abroad in Russia is strongly encouraged.


Requirements for Honors

The minimum grade for acceptance into the Honors Program in Russian is B-level work in courses taken at Swarthmore in language, literature, and culture.


  1. RUSS 004, or equivalent study;
  2. RUSS 011 and either RUSS 013 or RUSS 014, or equivalent courses taken elsewhere;
  3. One more course in Russian literature in translation, OR one advanced literature course in another language (e.g., ENGL 071K, CHIN 066, CLAS 104, FREN 044, GMST 091, SPAN 060), OR a course like ARTH 094;
  4. At least three seminars.


  1. RUSS 004, or equivalent study;
  2. RUSS 011 and either RUSS 013 or RUSS 014, or equivalent courses taken elsewhere;
  3. One more course taken in Russian literature in translation, OR one advanced literature course in another language (see examples above);
  4. One seminar.

Senior Honors Study

At the beginning of the final semester, seniors will consult with the Russian section head about the following:

  1. Majors will prepare a bibliography of additional readings related to the content of their three honors preparations. Majors will write three 3,000- to 3,500-word papers in Russian, one for each honors preparation, or one 6,000-word paper integrating the three preparations. This material will be presented to the external examiners along with the syllabi of the three seminars and any other relevant material.
  2. Minors will prepare a bibliography of additional readings related to their 2-credit honors preparation. Minors will write one 3,000- to 3,500-word paper that expands on their honors preparation and, wherever possible, integrates it with their honors major. The paper will be sent to the external examiner along with the syllabus of the honors seminar and any other relevant material.
  3. Examination: Majors will take three 3-hours written examinations prepared by the external examiners as well as a half-hour oral examination for each, based on the materials submitted to the examiner. Minors will take one 3-hour written examination prepared by the external examiner as well as a half-hour oral examination.

Alumni Stories - Kristin Vitalich '98

"My nicest, most memorable academic experiences at Swarthmore were absolutely in my foreign language classes in Spanish and Russian, which were about so much more than conjugating and declining. My courses were well taught and my professors were always more than generous with their time and their interest. I chose to enter graduate school in Russian literature after I graduated, in no small part due the example I saw in the personal integrity and enthusiasm of my professors over my four years at Swarthmore."

Russian Map

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!

Choose a Language Program