Majoring in Russian

The Russian Studies major prepares students for meaningful personal and professional interactions with Russian-speakers all over the globe. Russian majors achieve advanced fluency in Russian, one of the world’s most widely spoken languages; they learn about Russia’s tumultuous relationship with her many neighbors, in the past and in the present day; and they gain a profound understanding of Russian culture as well as the historical and political contexts in which it has developed, using an interdisciplinary methodology that embraces the study of history, society, politics, and culture.

The Russian Studies program is the campus hub for the study of Russia as well as the spheres of its historical influence: Eastern and Central Europe and Central Asia. Our aim is to allow students to learn about the rich and complex historical, political, and cultural connections that these world regions share, and the Russian Studies major is structured with this interdisciplinary, transnational dimension in mind.

One major, many options

The major is flexible to accommodate the complexity of the subject and our students’ diverse interests. Students take a combination of courses in language, literature, culture, and the social sciences. Macalester faculty members in departments including History, Economics, International Studies, Political Science, Music, and Sociology offer courses in support of a Russian major. In the past, students have successfully combined a Russian Studies major with concentrations such as Community and Global Health and majors in fields including International Studies, Economics, English, Geography, Music, Mathematics, and Political Science.

After Macalester

Our students graduate with practical skills (e.g., writing, public speaking, research) and valuable critical, analytical, and creative thinking skills. And as our alums’ successful track record shows, proficiency in Russian is a proven resume-builder. Because the language is known to be challenging, a command of Russian will impress employers and professional programs in any field that majors decide to pursue after graduation. Students typically major in Russian in preparation for a wide range of careers, including law, journalism, business, foreign service, marketing, public health, scientific research, ecology, translation, teaching, and graduate work in the humanities or social sciences.

Russian Major Requirements

All our majors complete the equivalent of three years of Russian language through a combination of courses of taken on campus and during study abroad in Russia or one of the other countries of the former Soviet Union. In addition, majors will take:

  • Four courses in Russian literature and culture
  • Two area-relevant courses in such departments as International Studies, History, Music, Economics, Political Science, or Sociology, as approved by the department

Upon completing the language requirement, Russian majors are required to take the Russian Senior Seminar, an integrated capstone experience.

Russian Minor

Students can also minor in Russian, as the program’s coursework is a strong complement to studies in other fields, from linguistics and history to the natural sciences. The minor concentration consists of any five courses offered by the department beyond Elementary Russian II (Russian 102), and must include Intermediate Russian I and II (Russian 203 and 204).

Study Abroad

As there is no better way to understand Russia’s culture and society than to study abroad, the program requires that students spend a semester in Russia, typically in the junior year. Most Russian majors are prepared to go abroad following the completion of Russian 204; after completing Russian 102, some students choose to take an intensive summer language course to fast-track their language study so that they are prepared to travel to Russia in the fall. A few study abroad programs accept students who have not yet begun to study Russian, in which case language training is provided on-site. Macalester will give academic credit for the successful completion of courses taken abroad, as long as the program has been approved by the department and by the Macalester International Center.
A listing of intensive summer language programs

Departmental honors

To qualify for honors in Russian, a student must write a senior thesis to be submitted for evaluation to a committee consisting of the advisor, a second reader with expertise in Russian literature or history, and one additional faculty reader. This committee makes the final decision on departmental honors.

Building Leaders

Russian majors play an important leadership role in the Russian program’s mission of advancing Russian studies. Majors help organize an annual conference, network with academics and prominent thinkers in the field, develop and promote cultural events, take initiative with outreach activities, and participate in internships.
Annual Conference

Learn more

The best way to learn if the Russian Studies major is right for you is to stop by the second floor of the Humanities building and talk to one of the Russian faculty members, who can also put you in touch with our current majors. Prospective students are also welcome to contact us with any questions about the specifics of our program. Email or