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Frequently Asked Questions


Почему русский? (Why Russian?)

The Cold War is over...and Russia is no longer the "Evil Empire."  The Russian Federation is now the largest country in the world, and the changes since the breakup of the Soviet Union have made it one of the most exciting places in which to live and work.  Russian is the lingua franca not only in Russia proper, but throughout the former Soviet Union and much of eastern Europe.  There are more Russian speakers in the world than there are French and German speakers combined.

Things aren't what they used to be... Russia has changed.  Even in the days when Russia was forbidding and forbidden, students who traveled to the Soviet Union found the Russian people warm and hospitable.  While the American press now reports stories of crime and mafia activities, Moscow is in fact safer than US cities of comparable size, and in Russia, Middlebury students live and study in safe neighborhoods.

How Hard is Russian?

While not as easy for English speakers to learn as the Western European languages, Russian is still easier than Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic. The alphabet, which may initially seem intimidating, can be learned in under a week. Russian is in fact distantly related to the other Western languages, and part of the fun of learning it can be finding familiar words. The Russian Department prides itself on shepherding students through the intricacies of grammar, and  generations of Middlebury students  have mastered Russian and can use it in their lives and work.

What do Russian Majors Do after Graduation?

They go on to careers in government, education, and law as well as health and medicine, international banking, journalism, broadcasting, business and trade and more. And they work all over Russia, the former Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Bosnia. Middlebury Russian graduates have issued visas in Estonia, established the first private hard-currency stores in St. Petersburg, made oil deals in Baku, established environmental law programs, helped AIDS sufferers in St. Petersburg, set up phone systems in the Russian Far East, created Russian websites, privatized agriculture in Nizhni Novgorod and Donetsk, worked for the democratic opposition in Kazakhstan, and the list goes on and on.

Supply and Demand?

Twenty years ago there was a boom in Russian study, yet it was then still very difficult to travel or work in Russia.  The only job possibilities during the Cold War era were in academica, espionage, or diplomacy.  Travel beyond Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg) was virtually impossible for Americans.  Now, though the number of Americans studying Russian has decreased dramatically, the opportunity to use Russian after graduation has increased ten-to twenty-fold.  There has never been a greater need for good Russian speakers in such a wide range of professions.

Department of Russian

Freeman International Center
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Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753