Middlebury’s rich combination of resources for Russian study makes us one of the best places to study Russian in the world.
Middlebury has one of the top Russian departments in the U.S., offering a wide variety of courses in Russian language, literature, and culture, with multiple tracks for majors and minors, as well as numerous options in English for the curious or those looking to fulfill distribution requirements at the College. Furthermore, alongside the Russian Department, the interdisciplinary Russian and East European Studies track of the International and Global Studies Program offers courses in the history, political science, and economics of Russia and Eastern Europe. While our three sites in Russia are on pause, the students have a chance to study in Astana, Kazakhstan for one or two semesters, and many also take advantage of the world-renowned intensive immersion program of the summer Kathryn Wasserman Davis School of Russian.
About the Department
The Middlebury Russian Department is recognized around the world for excellence in language instruction—all members of the department are dedicated to teaching Russian at every level, and our students reach the highest levels of proficiency. In addition to language teaching, we are also specialists in literature, gender studies, film, politics, and culture, and offer content courses taught both in English and in Russian, from introductory literature surveys in translation to advanced seminars on contemporary politics. Finally, beyond academics, we serve as a hub for a vibrant and fun community of students on campus interested in all things Russian.
There are over 250 million speakers of Russian worldwide, making it the eighth most-spoken language in the world.
It is the official language of the Russian Federation, home to 145.5 million people and the largest country on the planet, spanning 11 time zones between Europe and Asia. Learning Russian will give you access to its rich and varied culture—literature, music, theater, cinema, art—and more insight into its turbulent history.
Russian doesn’t just belong to Russia though. Like English, over centuries Russian spread as an instrument of empire, but as with English, former subject peoples have in turn made it their own. Russian is widely spoken in Ukraine and Belarus, in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and in EU nations like Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. Furthermore, Russian is a global diaspora language: the political convulsions of the 20th and 21st centuries have led to multiple waves of emigration, so that you will hear Russian spoken all over the world, from San Francisco and New York to Berlin, London, and Tel Aviv. Also, if you’re interested in learning other Slavic languages, Russian is a great place to start!
And last but not least: Russian will help you get a job. In particular, the U.S. government needs Russian language specialists! Many of our graduates go on to work for federal agencies in Washington and abroad.
How Hard Is Russian?
While not as easy for English speakers to learn as the Western European languages, Russian is still miles easier than Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic. The alphabet, which may initially seem intimidating, can in fact be learned in under a week! The further you go with Russian, the more you sense how it is related to other European languages in terms of structure, and part of the fun of learning it lies in coming across vocabulary you already know: Russian, like English, has been importing words for centuries, and in contemporary speech, Anglicisms abound. You’ll need to first master the fundamentals of Russian grammar to use them, but we pride ourselves on getting our students over the top—if generations of Middlebury students have done it, then so can you!
Our courses in Russian are designed for all language levels from beginner to advanced.
A range of courses in English include everything from Russian fairy tales to Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Pelevin, and from Ancient Rus’ to contemporary Russia.
Our graduates go on to careers in government, education, law, and the arts, as well as health and medicine, international banking, journalism, broadcasting, PR, business, trade, and more. Our alumni have worked all over Russia, the former Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe. They 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 people with AIDS 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, taught Russian literature in American universities, and even published novels based on Russian folklore! The list goes on and on.
Opportunities for Students
Students have numerous opportunities at Middlebury to practice their Russian language skills and immerse themselves in Russian culture and learning.
While the College’s three Schools Abroad in Russia programs (Moscow, Yaroslavl, and Irkutsk) are suspended, we have opened a new Schools Abroad program in Astana, Kazakhstan, where Russian is one of the official languages and still one of the primary means of everyday communication.
Live the Russian language and culture—from interpreting poetry and learning the balalaika to discussing post-Soviet politics and mastering etiquette—at the Kathryn Wasserman Davis School of Russian, one of Middlebury’s renowned summer Language Schools.
The Middlebury Russian Department condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia’s unprovoked military assault on Ukraine and President Putin’s use of historical distortions and cynical lies to justify Russia’s attack on Ukrainian sovereignty. We stand with Ukraine and with all the people of Ukraine, Russia, and worldwide who oppose this war.
As linguists well acquainted with Russian disinformation and double-speak, we insist on calling Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine by its proper name: an unprovoked war of aggression that is destroying the homes and lives of countless innocent people.