Russian Department: Major Requirements

The major program in Russian is an individualized interdisciplinary course of study. It includes general requirements for all majors and a concentration of courses in one discipline: literature, film, cultural studies, history, or politics. Eight courses are required for the major, including RUSS 301 and one course beyond RUSS 301 taught in Russian. Language courses numbered 202 and above will count for the major. Normally, two courses taken during a semester abroad in Russia may be counted; 303H and 304H together will count as one course. Additionally, all majors must elect at least one course that addresses history or literature before 1850. Other courses will be chosen in consultation with the advisor from courses in Russian literature, film, culture, history and politics. Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in non-departmental courses in their chosen discipline.


The College-wide comprehensives requirement is satisfied by completing two projects. The Concentration Essay is required of all majors. Students entering the College in Fall 2018 and later are required to complete a Capstone Project, as described below; students who entered the College before that semester can elect, by the end of the add/drop period in the penultimate semester of study, to pursue a (year-long) Capstone Project or to take the Translation Exam (during that semester).

Concentration Essay and Senior Conversation

 By the last day of add-drop period classes in their final semester of study, all students majoring in Russian will complete a draft of an essay, around a thousand words in length, in which they describe the trajectory and primary focus of their studies in the major. Throughout this process, majors will have the help of their advisors. The final draft of the essay, due approximately four weeks later, will be the subject of the Senior Conversation between the student and a committee of departmental readers.

Capstone Project

The Russian major program aspires to prepare students for independent analysis of authentic Russian materials. The College has exceptional resources for such study: the rare book and archive collections of the Amherst Center for Russian Culture and the Russian art collection at the Mead, most of them donated by Thomas Whitney ’37. During their final two semesters in the program, Russian majors will complete a Capstone Project that involves selecting and studying an artifact from one of the collections: a work of verbal or visual art or a document of significance to Russian cultural history. Throughout the process they will be supported by their major advisors, the staff of the Center, and/or the Mead Museum’s Curator of Russian and European Art. During the penultimate semester of study, students will research and establish the contexts that they judge most crucial for understanding the chosen work’s significance. The goal is to prepare a fifteen-minute-long presentation to be shared with the department’s faculty and students at the Russian Department Capstone Symposium, to take place about halfway through the final semester of study. Students will confirm selection of the artifact with their advisors by the middle of the penultimate semester of study. By the last day of classes in that semester, they will submit to their advisors: (1) a draft of their presentation; (2) an English translation, from the original Russian, of an excerpt from the chosen material (for printed or handwritten documents) or from a Russian-language source consulted in the course of doing research on an object or work of visual art. The final version of the presentation draft and the translation, which respond to comments and notes from faculty, will be due by the first day of classes in the final semester of study.