Modern Languages: Russian

With its magnificent literature, richly expressive language and fascinating history, Russia and the Russophone world appeals to a wide variety of interests.

The range and flexibility of the Oxford course provide many subjects for rewarding study. These subjects might include, for example, the novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Pushkin's poetry, women's writing, or contemporary literature in Russian from the Caucasus and Central Asia.

You might study the history of the Russian language and its development from its origins up to the present day, examine the representation of history and politics in literature from the medieval era to the 21st century, and related topics in film, the visual arts and music.

If you do not have an A-level or equivalent knowledge of Russian, it is possible to study Russian from scratch.

Options for studying Russian at Oxford

Russian can be studied on its own as a single language, or in combination with one of the following languages/subjects:  

  • A modern European language: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Modern Greek, or Czech (with Slovak). Students who do not have an A level or equivalent in the relevant language may (in all cases, except French or Spanish) combine Russian with a beginners’ version of the language. 
  • A Middle Eastern Language offered by the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies: Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish. These languages are all available to beginners with no prior knowledge of the language. The year abroad is taken in the second year.
  • English
  • Classics
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy

The study of European languages at Oxford will teach you to write and speak the language(s) fluently.

You will also be able to choose from a broad range of options including literature, intellectual history, linguistics, film studies and advanced translation. You can study the literature of a language by looking at authors or genres in depth, or focus on the medieval, the eighteenth century, or the modern era.

A degree in Russian, or Russian combined with another language/subject, is normally four years in length. Modern Languages students usually spend the third year of their course abroad (except if they are taking beginners’ Russian, in which case they spend the second year abroad). You may work abroad or study at a Russian-speaking university or language course.

Russian on its own

If you study Russian as a single language, in addition to studying Russian language and literature, you will also be required to take first-year options in:

  • Cinema
  • Comparative Slavonic Philology and Russian Church Slavonic texts
  • Polish from scratch.

Beginners' Russian

If you choose to study Russian from scratch, it has to be taken in combination with another European language which you have already studied to A-level or equivalent.

The first year is spent on intensive study of the language, consolidated during a compulsory seven-month course spent in an area with a large Russian-speaking community (currently Tallinn, Estonia) during your year abroad (taken in the second year rather than the more usual third year), when you will also start to read literary texts.

You will use the summer vacations on either side of the compulsory course to immerse yourself in the study of your other language. The last two years of the degree course are the same as for the post A-level students.

Russian with another European language

If you are studying for a joint degree combining Russian with another language, you will spend around half your time studying Russian language and literature, and half your time studying the other language and related literature.

Russian with a Middle Eastern language (BA in European and Middle Eastern Languages)

You will spend around half your time studying Russian language and literature, and half your time studying the Middle Eastern Languages and related literature.

In the first year, there is less literature in Russian to allow for intensive focus on the Middle Eastern language. You will normally spend your second academic year at an approved course of study in the Middle East. You are strongly advised to spend the adjacent summers somewhere where Russian is spoken.

Russian and another subject (English, Classics, History, Linguistics, Philosophy)

If you are studying for a joint degree combining Russian with another subject, around half of the degree programme will consist of Russian language and literature, and around half will be made up of courses related to the other subject.

Visit Russian on the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages website for more information.