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What you will study in your first year

The first-year course is intended to provide preliminary training in the linguistic and literary skills you will need later on in your studies at Oxford. It is designed as a bridge between the work you have done for A-Level (or equivalent) and what you will be doing in the second part of your course, the Final Honours School.

If you have not studied Russian before, your first year will be an intensive course in Russian language only, with a strong focus on grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. The course will be directly followed by the year abroad, where you will continue to learn the language on a compulsory 7-month course in a Russian-speaking country, where you will also start working on Russian literary texts.

If you have Russian A-level or equivalent you will be studying both language and literature in your first year. The language teaching consists of grammar, conversation and translation. In the literature part of the course you will read a varied selection of Russian prose and poetry by Derzhavin, Pushkin, Lermontov, Chekhov, Blok, Akhmatova and Dovlatov, and work on literary analysis and commentary in college-taught tutorial groups. You can expect to write an essay or a commentary every week in term time.

If you study Russian sole, you will take additional classes in elementary Polish, Church Slavonic and Slavonic philology, and Russian and Soviet cinema.

What you will study in your second to fourth year – the Final Honours School

The Final Honours School is a two-year course that will give you the opportunity to choose from a wide range of literary, linguistic and philological options. You will continue to take compulsory Russian language classes which will enable you to develop and improve your full range of linguistic skills.

The course is the same for all students: students on the Beginners’ Russian course start the Final Honours School in their third year, after the compulsory year abroad. Students on the post-A-level course start the Final Honours School in their second year, go abroad in the third year, and complete the Final Honours School in the final year.

This page does not give a full account of the rules relating to options for the Final Honours School. When you arrive in Oxford, you can familiarise yourself with the course handbook which outlines the full range of possibilities. What follows is a brief introduction to the course content, so that you can see what will be on offer. Depending on your course combination, you will choose 2–5 of the option papers, in addition to the compulsory language papers.



The Honour course in Russian aims to develop a good active and passive command of correct spoken and written Russian of different stylistic registers. This is done by means of regular obligatory classes in translation to and from Russian, instruction in writing essays in Russian, and conversation classes.

In your Final exams you will take the following two language papers:

Paper I. Translation from English into Russian of a passage of modern English prose and an essay in Russian; and

Paper II. Translation from Russian into English of two passages of modern Russian prose.

Students studying Russian on its own will also take Paper III: Translation from pre-modern Russian into English.

There is also an oral examination, for which teaching is provided on a regular basis.



The study of literature in the original is an intrinsic and essential part of the language-learning process, of no less importance than language classes or the year abroad. Accordingly, familiarity with the Russian original will be tested through the medium of textual commentary in some examinations on literature. There are five main literature option papers available on the Russian Honours course They fall into two categories: periods of literature and prescribed authors/texts. The former will allow you to follow the development of literary genres and movements as well as to study the work of a wide variety of individual authors in their cultural context. The latter will allow you to specialise; you will have the opportunity to examine specific literary texts in greater depth than in the period papers.

The periods of literature papers are:

Paper VII. Medieval and early modern literature, 1200–1700

Paper VIII. Modern literature 1820 to present

The prescribed authors/texts papers are:

Paper IX. Enlightenment texts: A selection of Russian literature of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which reflects the momentous changes in cultural and social life brought about by the increasing exposure of Russia to Western cultural models.

Paper X. Two authors to be chosen from: Pushkin, Gogol’, Mandel′shtam, Tsvetaeva, Bulgakov.

Paper XI. Two authors to be chosen from: Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Solzhenitsyn, Petrushevskaya.

For each of Papers VII to XI you will be taught in a combination of lectures, tutorials, and (in some cases) seminars. The core of the teaching for each paper will be a series of tutorials, typically eight. Subjects are tested by written examination at the end of your final year.

There are also several special subjects (Paper XII) in literature and culture that are examined by coursework, including Gender and Representation in Russian Culture. You may also choose to write a dissertation (Paper XIV) on a topic of your choice.


Linguistics and philology

Linguistics —the academic study of language as a system — offers you the opportunity to branch out from the two areas of study that undergraduates encounter during the first-year course: literature and the practical study of the language. The study of Linguistics teaches you to be conscious of how languages are complex systems with shared principles and tendencies. Philology deals with linguistic change, historical stages of languages and comparison across language families. On the Russian Final Honours course three main linguistic and philological option papers are offered. In addition, there are a number of linguistic and philological special subjects on offer, including the opportunity to study another Slavonic language. Subjects are tested by written examination at the end of your final year.

Main option papers:

  • Paper IV History of the Russian Language, where you learn about the origins and development of Russian and its place among the Slavonic languages, and also learn to read Old East Slavonic and Middle Russian.
  • Paper V.1 Development of Church Slavonic, where you learn to read Church Slavonic in its earliest form and in later variants, and study its development as a linguistic system and as a literary language.
  • Paper V.2 Descriptive analysis of present-day Russian, where you can study the linguistic system of Russian from a number of angles.

Special subjects (Paper XII):

  • Comparative Slavonic philology, where you learn about the shared origins of all Slavonic languages and do comparative study of East, West and South Slavonic languages.
  • History and Structure of Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Bulgarian/Macedonian, Serbian/Croatian, where you study a second Slavonic language from a linguistic and philological point of view.
  • Slavonic Corpus linguistics, where you develop your own research project.


Options for studying Russian at Oxford:

Russian for beginners

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 Tallinn, Estonia during your second year, when you will also start to read literary texts. You will use the summer vacations on either side of the year abroad to immerse yourself in the study of your other language. You then return to Oxford to join post A-level students in their second year, before proceeding to final year (which is the same for all students of Russian).


Russian post-A-level (or equivalent)

For students with A-level or equivalent knowledge of the language, Russian can be studied on its own as a single language, or in combination with certain other subjects.

Russian on its own

Students studying Russian as a single subject take core classes in Russian language and literature, plus first-year options in Cinema, Comparative Slavonic Philology and Russian Linguistics, and Polish from scratch.

Russian and another subject

If you are studying for a 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. Oxford offers the following subjects in combination with Russian:

  • English
  • Classics
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • 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 another language taken from scratch. Polish can also be taken from the second year of the degree course.
  • A Middle Eastern language offered by the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies: Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish. These languages are all available from scratch. The year abroad is taken in the second year.

Not all colleges accept students for all the subjects listed here. Go to the Coursefinder page to discover which colleges accept which languages and language combinations.



Check out subject combinations and UCAS codes here.

Find out about the admissions test and interview process here.

If you’re thinking about a gap year, contact the Admissions Tutor at your chosen college to make sure they allow deferred entry.

If you’re doing an A-level (or equivalent) in Russian, apply for our post A-level course (Course A). You can choose to take Russian on its own, or in combination with another subject. You’ll need to sit the Modern Languages Admissions Tests (MLAT), submit schoolwork, and attend interviews in Oxford.

Prospective undergraduates with little or no knowledge of Russian may also apply for the post A-level course. You would normally be expected to spend a gap year learning the language, for instance by attending a course in Russia. A small but significant number of applicants have taken up the language in this way, and many have gone on to do very well. If you’re thinking about this, contact the Admissions Tutor at your chosen college as early as possible (well before the UCAS deadline of 15th October) to discuss your plans.

If you haven’t studied Russian before and want to go straight from school to university without a gap year, you should apply for the Russian for beginners course (Course B). You’ll need to sit the specially designed Language Aptitude Test (LAT) plus the Modern Languages Admissions Tests (MLAT) for your other language, submit schoolwork, and attend interviews in Oxford.