Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

  • Chair

    Michael A. Wachtel

  • Departmental Representative

    Katherine M. Hill Reischl

  • Director of Graduate Studies

    Ilya Vinitsky

  • Professor

    Ellen B. Chances

    Olga Peters Hasty

    Serguei A. Oushakine, also Anthropology

    Ilya Vinitsky

    Michael A. Wachtel


  • Assistant Professor

    Elena Fratto

    Katherine M. Hill Reischl

  • Senior Lecturer

    Ksana Blank

  • Lecturer

    Margaret H. Beissinger

    Svetlana Korshunova

    Mark Pettus

  • Associated Faculty

    Devin A. Fore, German

    Michael Gordin, History

    Simon A. Morrison, Music

Information and Departmental Plan of Study

Advanced Placement

The department gives its own placement test to all incoming students who have studied Russian. On the basis of this test students are placed in an appropriate course. Successful completion of RUS 107, RUS 108 (Russian for Heritage Speakers),  or immediate assignment to a higher course satisfies the A.B. foreign language requirement.

Program of Study

A minimum of eight departmental courses is required. Four upper-level courses must be within the department; two of which must be from the core survey courses (SLA 219, 220, 221); the other four courses may be from cognate areas depending on the student's particular interests. For example, if the major field of concentration is 19th-century prose, the program might include courses from French or German literature. Students with a strong interest in Russian and Soviet studies might take area courses in the Program in Russian and Eurasian Studies such as Russian history, politics, anthropology, or sociology. These are only sample suggestions. The program is flexible and strives to satisfy as wide a range of interests as possible.

Concentrators are required to complete RUS 207 and one or more advanced language courses (RUS 208, 405, 406, 407, or 408; or one of the upper-level literature courses taught in Russian (SLA 308, 312, 413).  Students who place beyond RUS 207, or who complete the Russian Heritage Speakers courses (RUS 103-108), will work with the Departmental Representative to design an appropriate course of study.

Independent Work

Junior Independent Work. Slavic majors write two junior papers. The first, 5,000-6,000 words in English (20-25 pages), can be on any topic related to Russian literature, culture, linguistics, language, history, or society. Russian sources must be used, although the extent of Russian will be determined largely by the individual student's linguistic background. Students who wish to write about other Slavic traditions (e.g., Czech or Polish), assuming they have the linguistic competence, are encouraged to do so. The second paper is a choice of either a paper in Russian (2,000 words), or a paper in English (3,000 words), completed as part of a non-credit-bearing junior seminar in the spring semester.  The Russian paper is normally devoted to the analysis of a Russian short story or poem chosen by the student (in consultation with the adviser).

Senior Independent Work. In the senior year, the student's independent work, written under departmental supervision, consists of a thesis of about 20,000 words to be submitted two weeks before the first day of the spring term reading period. After the thesis is submitted, students do a brief (5-minute) presentation in Russian (or relevant Slavic language), and then in English for the Slavic Department Faculty and fellow students. Total presentation time will run roughly 15 minutes per student. This presentation does not receive a grade.

Senior Departmental Examination

Graduating seniors are required to take a comprehension examination on Russian literature. Together with the thesis and departmental grades, this examination is one of three components that determine departmental honors. The take-home exam is based on a core list of works taught in the three survey courses offered by the department. Students may substitute a limited number of works based on their individual interests for the comprehensive exam. The finalized list must be submitted to the Departmental Representative one month before the exam.

Study Abroad

For students who begin Russian at Princeton, the department has organized a second-year course (RUS 105R-107R) for credit in St. Petersburg that may be taken the summer immediately following the completion of RUS 102. This course is taught by Princeton faculty as well as the instructors of the Derzhavin Institute. The Dean of the College office is generally able to provide financial assistance to students enrolling in the summer course. More advanced students are urged to spend either a summer or semester in Russia.

Certificate in Language and Culture

The Slavic Department also offers a certificate in Russian Language and Culture.

Course Work. Students must complete RUS 207 in addition to three upper level language or literature courses conducted in Russian.  While course offerings might change from year to year, a selection of courses that satisfy the requirements of the certificate are as follows:

Language courses: RUS 208, RUS 405, RUS 406, RUS 407, RUS 408

Literature courses: SLA 308 (Short Story), SLA 312 (Russian Drama), SLA 413 (Pushkin and His Time), most topics courses (e.g., Lermontov, Russian poetry), most graduate literature courses. Should the student take a course on Russian literature which offers a Russian precept, that course may also count towards the certificate if additional work is completed for the course in Russian. This work must be approved by the departmental representative in consultation with the course instructor at the start of the term. Credit will not be granted retroactively.  Students who place beyond RUS 207/208 must consult with the departmental representative to design an alternative course of study of the certificate no later than the end of fall semester, Junior year.

Independent Work. Students must complete a paper in Russian of approximately 1,000 words. The paper ordinarily will be devoted to a close analysis of a literary text of about 10 to 20 pages. However, a student with strong related interests could write on questions of linguistics or a topic of broader cultural significance (e.g., Russian art, Russian film, politics). In any case, readings in Russian will be a mandatory component of the paper.  This paper may be an expanded and significantly revised version of a paper written for one of the courses taken to fulfill the certificate. In this case, at least one-third of the content (by word count) should be new material.  Alternatively, a student may write a summary of his/her thesis (1,000 words) in Russian.    All topics must be cleared in advance with the departmental representative, who will decide on their appropriateness in consultation with other department members.

Note: Students may obtain the certificate in Russian language and culture in addition to the certificate in Russian and Eurasian studies. However, they may not apply the same courses toward both certificates (with the necessary exception of RUS 207).

Preparation for Graduate Study

Departmental concentrators who are considering pursuing graduate studies in Slavic are reminded that most graduate schools require a reading knowledge of a second modern foreign language. French and German are important for Russian literature. Graduate programs in Russian literature often require another Slavic language. Students should think about preparing themselves while still undergraduates to meet these requirements.