Search Slavic Website:

Major Tracks in the Slavic Department

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures offers two undergraduate major tracks. Below, we offer brief descriptions of these two options. Students in both tracks are strongly encouraged to spend a semester of study abroad, normally during the junior year (click here to see note at the bottom of this page on study abroad). You may follow the links below or simply scroll down on this page to see full descriptions of the requirements for each major track:

I) The Major in Russian Language, Literature and Culture

The Major in Russian Language, Literature and Culture provides a thorough foundation in the humanistic study of Russia and a high degree of competence in Russian language. In distinction from the Major in Russian Culture and History, which is interdisciplinary (i.e. combining the methods and modes of analysis of history, literature, etc.), the major in Russian Language, Literature and Culture corresponds to the single and integral discipline of literary and cultural studies. This major is best suited for students contemplating graduate study in the humanities, careers in education, foreign service and journalism, esp. where a high level of linguistic competence in Russian is required. The major offers an optional honors option. Click here to see the detailed explanation of requirements for this major.

II) The Major in Russian Culture and History

The major in Russian Culture and History is a course of study of the culture, history and language of Russia. The major provides a broad introduction to the study of the history and the cultural life of Russia, from Medieval to Modern times. In distinction from the Major in Russian Language, Literature and Culture, which is structured by the single discipline of literary and cultural studies, the major in Russian Culture and History is interdisciplinary, combining the methods and modes of analysis of history and literature, and potentially politics, communications and anthropology. Relying primarily on courses offered in the Slavic Department and the History Department, the major also allows incorporation of a broad range of courses from other disciplines, encompassing the expanded geographical area around Russia (i.e. Eastern Europe, Middle East, etc.) and topics and methods relevant to the study of Russia (post-socialism, war in Europe, etc.). Students electing the honors option may work with any of the Slavic Department faculty or the affiliated faculty from other departments. The major in Russian Culture and History is well suited to students enrolled in pre-law or pre-med, and students contemplating careers in international business, teaching and journalism. Click here to see the detailed explanation of requirements for this major.

Application for a Major Form

Requirements for the Major in Russian Language, Literature and Culture

Students pursuing the Major in Russian Language, Literature and Culture are required to articulate a plan of study in consultation with the undergraduate chair, normally by the conclusion of the sophomore year. Sample study plans and detailed instructions on their preparation are available upon request. The purpose of the study plan is to ensure an adequate level of coherence in the student's work towards the major.

The major requires a total of twelve courses (12 c.u.), beyond the completion of the introductory through intermediate language program (001-004), or the demonstration of equivalent proficiency. These twelve courses must include:

1. Survey Courses (2 c.u.)

* One survey of nineteenth- and pre-nineteenth-century literature and culture (100-149)

* One survey of twentieth and post-twentieth-century literature and culture (150-189)

* One of these two courses may be replaced by a survey course that covers material from both periods (190-199)

2. Seminars (3 c.u.)

* One seminar in medieval literature and culture (234)

* One seminar in nineteenth literature and culture (200-249)

* One seminar in twentieth- and post-twentieth-century literature and culture (250-289)

* One of these courses may be replaced by a seminar course that covers material from two or more of these three periods (290-299).

** For students with advanced Russian competence, these courses may be replaced by courses in corresponding topics at the 400 level taught in Russian with the approval of Undergraduate Chair.

3. Advanced Language Courses (2 c.u.)

* Russian 311 and 312 (or Russian 360 and 361).

* Students studying abroad during the junior year will normally receive credit for at least one of these courses.

** Students with advanced language proficiency may substitute these by courses taught in Russian on 400 and 500 levels.

4. Advanced Seminars Taught in Russian (2 c.u.)

* At least two advanced courses at the 400 level taught in Russian in the study of literature, language, culture, or politics (400-450).

5. Electives (3 c.u.)

* Electives may be additional courses from the Russian curriculum proper or courses cross-listed with Russian. With the approval of the Undergraduate Chair or the student's Academic Advisor, expressed either at the acceptance of the student's study plan or before the conclusion of the add/drop period of the semester in question, electives may also include courses of other departments which are not cross-listed with Russian, yet which concern Russia or the former Soviet Union in significant portion of their content. Subject to this same approval requirement, electives may also be courses related to the student's specific focus of study within the major, which expose the student to relevant methodology or substance.

6. Honors Thesis (optional)

* Students with a minimum 3.3 overall GPA and a minimum 3.5 in major coursework are eligible for honors in the Russian major. Those who seek to receive such honors must complete a thesis of 35-40 pages with bibliography and notes, having enrolled in RUSS 399, which will be counted as one of the electives (point 5 above). The Slavic Department will not consider research projects completed for other programs or majors as honors theses for the Major in Russian Language and Culture. The honors thesis may be written during either semester of the senior year, under the guidance of a Slavic Department faculty member whose area of expertise coincides with the subject of the project. Within the first week of the semester in which the project is to be completed, students should provide to the Undergraduate Chair a two-page research proposal endorsed by the faculty member who will supervise the project. One copy of the paper must be submitted to the Undergraduate Chair before the major certification is approved for graduation. Only students who receive a final grade of “A” on their research project will be recognized with honors in the Major in Russian Language and Culture. All theses are kept on file by the Department.

Requirements for The Major in Russian Culture and History

Students pursuing the major in Russian Culture and History are required to articulate a plan of study in consultation with the undergraduate chair, normally by the conclusion of the sophomore year. Sample study plans and detailed instructions on their preparation are available upon request. The purpose of the study plan is to ensure an adequate level of coherence in the student's work towards the major.

The major requires a total of twelve courses (12 c.u.), as outlined below, beyond the completion of the language requirement (see point 1):

1. Language

Completion of the introductory through intermediate language program (RUSS 001-004), or the demonstration of equivalent proficiency.

2. Russian History (2 c.u.)

HIST048 The Rise and Fall of the Russian Empire
HIST049 The Soviet Century: 1917-1991

3. Russian Culture (2 c.u.)

RUSS136 Portraits of Russian Society: Art, Fiction, Drama
RUSS187 Portraits of Soviet Society: Literature, Film, Drama

4. Core Courses (4 c.u.)

Any combination of courses from the following list. Normally, students are encouraged to take courses at both the introductory and the more advanced levels.

RUSS100 Once Upon a Fairy Tale: Introduction to Russian Culture (Verkholantsev)
RUSS190 Terrorism: Russian Origins and 21st Century Methods (Todorov)
RUSS193/Hist149 War and its Representation in Russia, Europe and the US (Platt)
RUSS197 Madness and Madmen in Russian Culture (Vinitsky)
RUSS213 Saints and Devils in Russian Literature and Tradition (Verkholantsev)
RUSS203/HIST202 The World of Anna Karenina (Holquist)
RUSS220/HIST220 From the Other Shore: Russia and the West (Vinitsky)
RUSS234/HIST219 Medieval Russia: Origins of Russian Cultural Identity (Verkholantsev)
RUSS260/HIST413 Socialism & its Discontents: The USSR after Stalin (Nathans/Platt)
RUSS275 Russian History in Film (Todorov)
HIST425 World War I (Holquist)

5. Electives (4 c.u.)

Electives may be advanced language courses (RUSS 311-312, 400 level), or any course focusing on Russia or on a broader region inclusive of Russia from any Penn department, including Russian literature and culture courses offered by the Slavic Department in English and Russian, broader regional surveys offered in the History Department (i.e., HIST126 Europe, 1789-1890—Steinberg), and occasional courses offered in Political Science, Anthropology, etc (i.e., PSCI 217 Russian Politics—Sil). Generally, majors should consult with the Undergraduate Chair to determine if a given course is eligible as an elective in the major.

6. Honors Thesis (optional)

* Students with a minimum 3.3 overall GPA and a minimum 3.5 in major coursework are eligible for honors in the Russian major. Those who seek to receive honors must complete a thesis of 35-40 pages with bibliography and notes, having enrolled in RUSS399, which will be counted as one of the core courses or the electives (points 4 or 5 above). The Slavic Department will not consider research projects completed for other programs or majors as honors theses for the Russian Culture and History major. The honors thesis may be written during either semester of the senior year, under the guidance of a Slavic Department faculty member or affiliated faculty member from another department whose area of expertise coincides with the subject of the project. Within the first week of the semester in which the project is to be completed, students should provide to the Undergraduate Chair a two-page research proposal endorsed by the faculty member who will supervise the project. One copy of the paper must be submitted to the Undergraduate Chair before the major certification is approved for graduation. Only students who receive a final grade of “A” on their research project will be recognized with honors in the major in Russian Culture and History. All theses are kept on file by the Department.

Note on Study Abroad:

Normally, students who study abroad or who attend summer programs in the USA will be eligible to count up to four credits from such programs to either of the major tracks offered in the Slavic Department. Under rare circumstances (additional summer study, more than a semester of study abroad) students may upon request be allowed to apply as many as six credits from such programs to the major. Advance permission for such a course of study is required.