Welcome Class of 2023

The Russian Department offers the opportunity for comprehensive study of Russian language, literature, culture, and history. Our faculty have a wide variety of interests and areas of expertise – from folklore to the history of human rights in Russia – that they bring to the classroom in small, intensive seminars and large introductory courses for non-majors. Our summer study abroad program is built around homestays but also includes travel to Russia’s medieval cities and thriving centers. After graduation, our students successfully pursue careers in government, international business, journalism, teaching, and medicine.

Since Russian 1 is offered only in the fall term, interested students should start taking the language in the fall of their first year. Three one-term courses (Russian 1, 2, 3) give students basic fluency in the elements of the Russian language. Russian 3 satisfies the College language requirement and gives the student access to the LSA+ programa in St. Petersburg. It also qualifies students for Russian 27, which serves as gateway courses for many of the department’s more advanced language courses.

Three years of the language are offered, as are many courses in literature, culture, and history. Those students who wish to major have two options: a major in language and literature, with an emphasis on one or the other; or a major in area studies, with courses about Russia taken in both the Russian Department and other Dartmouth departments, such as History, Government, Music, Geography, and Economics. Most of the literature courses are taught in English, with some offering Russian majors extra work that draws upon their knowledge of the language. Most majors participate in the department’s summer LSA+ at the University of St. Petersburg, but the program is open to all Dartmouth students with one year of Russian.

The following courses are recommended for first-year students (RUSS):

1, 2, 3. Introductory Russian (F, W, S)

7. First Year Seminar (W)

13. Slavic Folklore: Vampires, Witches and Firebirds (F, S)

31. The World as Word: 19th Century Russian Fiction (W)

36. The Seer of the Flesh: Tolstoy’s Art and Thought (F)

50.01 Russia and the West (S)

50.02 The Russian Revolution (F)


Graduation credit is not granted for secondary school courses in Russian, but students with secondary school Russian should take the Russian Department’s local placement exam (*). Students who demonstrate sufficient knowledge will thereby satisfy the language requirement and be eligible for Russian 27; students whose knowledge is substantially greater will receive credit on entrance for Russian 27 and be eligible for Russian 28 or higher-level courses.


Students who wish to receive credit for college Russian courses taken prior to matriculation at Dartmouth should see the Chair of the Department of Russian early in the fall term.


1. First-Year Course in Russian

An introduction to Russian as a spoken and written language.

7. First Year Seminar: Poetry without Borders

What is poetry and what can it do? How do poems come to be—how are they made? Without borders (the white space around the poem—the finitude of a line—the border dividing poetry from prose, music and other art forms—the national languages that poetry inhabits) can poetry exist? And how are we supposed to read poetry?

This course examines the cultural practice of poetry, with an emphasis on four different kinds of borders that both define poetry and are frequently overcome by poetry: formal features (repetition, rhythm, rhyme), language (what happens when poems cross languages—get translated?), other art forms (poetry and music, poetry and dance, poetry and visual arts, poetry and film) and finally, public life (when and how does poetry come off the page and begin to do things in public? can a poem be a force for good or evil?).

In addition to writing formal analyses of individual poems, students will write and translate poetry of their own, and conceive (through consultation with the professor) a final project that engages with one of the four “border” themes.

Dist: LIT; WCult: W.

13. Slavic Folklore: Vampires, Witches and Firebirds.

In this course, we will discuss a variety of genres from Russian folklore. As we move from the familiar genre of the riddle to the often mystifying beliefs and rituals of the ancient Slavs and then to the fairy tale, comfortingly familiar from childhood, we will learn to not only recognize the richness and density of texts that may initially seem uncomplicated but also to discern the patterns and meanings behind the apparently exotic narratives and behaviors. By thoroughly studying one of the world’s richest oral traditions, Slavic folk life and folklore, we will acquire the tools and techniques necessary for collecting, documenting, and interpreting folklore — which is perhaps the most truly international of all arts. The course is based on materials in Russian and East European cultures, but also draws from other traditions. Open to all classes. Dist: INT or LIT; WCult: W.

36. Seer of the Flesh: Leo Tolstoy’s Art and Thought

Leo Tolstoy – novelist, religious thinker, pacifist, international celebrity – was also a great seer. This course will ask: what is the relationship of seeing to literary art? What distinguishes Tolstoy’s seeing from our own mundane vision? What do we see with his help that would otherwise remain hidden?

How is the way we see forever changed by reading Tolstoy? We will trace Tolstoy’s artistic and intellectual development from his earliest work, the luminous and semi-autobiographical Childhood, to the most incendiary of his post-conversion stories, the Kreutzer Sonata. The centerpiece of our course, however, will be War and Peace, one of the greatest novels of all time – if it is a novel at all.

Dist: LIT; WCult: W.

50.02 The Russian Revolution
The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Bolshevik seizure of power proved to be among the most important events of the 20th century, and they had profound implications for the course of world history that continue to reverberate today. In this course, students will examine the causes and consequences of these momentous occurrences and grapple with a set of complex and intricate questions that still divide historians, from the fall of the Romanov dynasty to the origins of the Soviet experiment, the attempt under Lenin and then Stalin to establish a Communist “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Dist: SOC; WCult: W.