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Language Contact and Email Address:

Alla Smyslova


Добро пожаловать! Welcome to the Russian Language Program at Columbia University!

First established as the Department of Slavonic Languages in 1915 and redesigned as the Department of East European Languages in 1935, the Department of Slavic Languages embarked on its present trajectory in 1946, when a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation permitted the establishment of the Russian (now Harriman) Institute. Consequently, it was necessary for the Department to expand its language offerings.  At present, the Department offers five Slavic languages–Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, Czech, Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian.

Russian is an eastern Slavic language native to Russia. The Russian language dates from the early 10th century AD, the time of its earliest known writings. Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet as its writing system. Today, the Russian language is Europe’s largest native language and the world’s seventh largest language by number of speakers. Approximately 260 million people speak Russian, and out of these, about 150 million are native speakers. It is one of the official languages for Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.  Russian is one of the official languages of international and regional organizations such as the United Nations, World Health Organization, World Bank, International Olympic Committee, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The Russian language program offers four levels of Russian and a variety of content courses in Russian focusing on different areas of interest: literature, history, and Russian society today. During the summer months, we offer the Russian Practicum, where students can study Russian intensively and complete the equivalent of two semesters of instruction in eight weeks’ time.

We are particularly proud of the course dedicated to meet the unique needs of Russian Heritage Learners. In 2017, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in its report Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century, identified the course Russian for Heritage Speakers at Columbia University as a pedagogical model that can be adopted elsewhere in the US and applied to the teaching of other heritage languages.

The Russian language program is committed to meeting the needs of all learners and to helping them reach their individual goals in language proficiency. To this end, the program relies on the expertise of its instructors, their engagement with pedagogical research, and their knowledge of innovations in second language acquisition theory.

Our undergraduate program of study is nationally renowned. Since 2003, many students in our program participate in the ACTR National Post-Secondary Russian Essay contest, and without fail they receive numerous awards, including gold, silver and bronze medals (lists of awardees). Additionally, every year the outstanding senior who best embodies an enthusiasm for and love of things Russian is awarded national recognition and becomes the ACTR Post-Secondary Russian Scholar Laureate.

We are always happy for and proud of the success of our students!

Taking courses in Russian will allow you to fulfill the language requirement at Columbia.

Please check the Columbia Directory of Classes for up-to-date information on class times and locations.