Russian at Bowdoin
The Russian major at Bowdoin helps students develop high-level proficiency in the Russian language while also cultivating robust expertise and critical insights in Russian literature, culture, and other relevant content areas. Two major options are available: a Russian language, literature, and culture track, and an interdisciplinary Russian area studies track.
Whether our students come to the department thanks to an interest in literature, music, film, history, international relations, politics, Arctic studies, economics, international business, or some other area, they will find a wealth of fascinating material waiting to be discovered. Many of our students choose to combine a Russian major or minor with a major in another complementary discipline.
The Russian department is a small, close-knit and supportive community. In addition to our academic offerings, we sponsor a wide array of lectures, cultural events, celebrations, and other extra-curricular opportunities. We are also currently engaged in a multi-year collaboration with Yale University's Slavic Department that promises many exciting enhancements to our offerings in the classroom and beyond.
Why Study Russian?
Russia is the largest country on the planet, spanning two continents and eleven time zones. With 160 million native speakers, Russian is the largest native language in Europe and the third most widely spoken European language. Not only is the Russian language increasingly important to U.S. national security interests and international diplomacy, but it is also the key to unlocking one of the greatest literary and artistic traditions in the world.
The famous Russian writers Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Akhmatova and Pushkin join the ranks of Russian artists such as Kandinsky and Chagall; Russian filmmakers Eisenstein and Tarkovsky; Russian theater directors Meyerhold and Stanislavsky; Russian dancer-choreographers Nijinsky and Baryshnikov; and Russian composers Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky as among the most brilliant practitioners of their respective arts.
Russian and Soviet scientists have received the Nobel prize ten times, and Russian-language writers have received the Nobel six times, including Svetlana Alexievich's 2015 win. Russian history is replete with larger-than-life figures such as Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Rasputin, Lenin, and Stalin, even as Russia and its current leader Vladimir Putin continue to dominate the world stage today.
Given Russia's fascinating past, its rich cultural legacy, its vibrant artistic and literary traditions, and its current centrality in the global political arena, studying Russian is both an intellectually enriching experience and a smart career choice.
Students are strongly encouraged to spend at least one semester studying abroad in Russia or in another Russian-language immersion setting. Bowdoin's Off-Campus Study Office currently offers two options for semester- or year-long Russian language study in various cities across Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladimir, Irkutsk, Yaroslavl) that are open to all students who have taken the equivalent of two years of Russian (other programs may be approved on a case-by-case basis).