Department of Slavonic Studies

Modern & Medieval Languages

Department of Slavonic Studies

Part IA Option B

Post A-level course in the first year

Post A-Level Course in the first year

The Post-A-Level course is an intensive course: it develops students' language skills in the use of Russian, translation and oral practice through a series of three weekly classes and a weekly lecture on grammar and syntax. It also offers students a challenging interdisciplinary introduction to Russian and East European cultures from the ninth century through the present.

All students in Part 1A, Option B must take the Diagnostic Test that will be offered on the Tuesday before the Michaelmas teaching term begins, which is (usually) held at 10am. All students must also attend the briefing meetings for SL1 and SLB1 at 2:30 and 4pm on the Wednesday before the start of Michaelmas term. Location of these meetings may be obtained from Directors of Studies or the Departmental Secretary. [Please note that timings of tests and meetings are subject to change. Students and Directors of Studies are asked to refer the the start of term arrangements as listed in the Faculty's information packs or contact the Departmental Office]

Language Work

Language work aims to train students to use all elements of Russian grammar and syntax correctly and to acquire a sound knowledge of modern standard Russian. Because Russian is a highly inflected language, grammatical accuracy is essential both to understanding and to communication. Every area of grammar has therefore to be mastered. The course is designed to provide a comprehensive training system, covering grammar rules, exceptions and subtleties, syntax, idioms and set phrases, equivalents and non-equivalents in English and Russian, register, style, formulation of ideas, and argument.

You will be attending three weekly classes organized by the Department:

In addition, you will attend a weekly lecture on Russian Grammar and Syntax

Assignments to language classes for "Use of Russian" and "Translation" will be announced on the Wednesday afternoon before classes begin. Your supervisors for the oral practice sessions will also be contacting you that Wednesday to arrange weekly supervision times. It is essential that you check your email and bring your diary to the briefing meetings for papers SLB1 and SL1 on Wednesday.

Literature, History, Culture

In addition to your language classes, you will also take paper SL1: Introduction to Russian culture. Teaching for this paper will be through:

  • a series of 24 lectures organized by the Department
  • fortnightly supervisions arranged by the Department on behalf of the Colleges


Students will take the Russian oral B examination just before the Easter term begins. At the end of the Easter term they will also sit three written exams:

  • SLB1: Use of Russian
  • SLB2: Translation from Russian into English (Oral B counts as one third of the SLB2 mark)
  • SL1: Introduction to Russian culture

Previous years' examination papers are available from the MML Library.

Before you start: Essential Summer Preparation

Your summer preparation must focus on both aspects of your future course in Russian: the study of language and the study of literature, culture and history.

Essential Language Preparation

It is vital that you work actively on your language skills over the summer. You may choose to take a summer language course or to spend time living or working in Russia. Or you may simply make a commitment to watch Russian television, listen to Russian radio, and read Russian newspapers throughout the summer, ideally every day for at least 30 minutes. You should also review Russian grammar, especially if you have taken a gap year since your Russian A levels and have not worked much with Russian in that time. Ideally, you will obtain a copy of the required textbook and begin working through it, but even working through your school texts will benefit you. Your goal is to enlarge your vocabulary, improve your listening skills, and increase the grammatical accuracy and syntactic complexity of both your written and spoken Russian.

Essential Preparatory Reading

In order to be ready for the rapid pace of SL1: Introduction to Russian culture, please read the following before the start of the Michaelmas term:

1. An overview of Russian history from the 9th through at least the 19th centuries in EITHER

  • Gregory Freeze, ed., Russia: A History, 3rd ed. (Oxford), OR
  • Catherine Evtuhov et al., A History of Russia: Peoples, Legends, Events, Forces (Houghton Mifflin), OR
  • Nicholas Riasanovsky and Mark Steinberg, A History of Russia (Oxford, 7th or 8th edition only).

2. At least the first half of Robin Milner-Gulland, The Russians (Oxford, 1998).

3. Please also read as much as you can in Russian from the longer required texts, namely:

  • Mikhail Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time (Bristol Classical edition recommended: it is marked for stress, annotated, and contains a very useful glossary).
  • Alexander Pushkin, The Bronze Horseman (Bristol Classical Press).
  • Ivan Turgenev, "The Encounter"/"Svidanie" and "Kasian from the Beautiful Lands"/"Kas'ian s krasivoi mechi" from the collection Zapiski okhotnika / A Huntsman's Sketches. Any edition.
  • Nikolai Gogol, The Overcoat/ Shinel' . (Bristol Classical Press).
  • Anna Akhmatova, "Requiem"

Additional Resources for Russian Students

Newspapers and magazines:

The following websites offer good coverage of events in Russia, both in English and in Russian:


Online Television


Youtube is an excellent source of authentic Russian language material. You can find Russian films and cartoons, Russian television, Russian music and many other entertaining Russian materials there with just a little creative searching. This site, for example, has Russian films with English subtitles by the leading Russian film studio Mosfilm:

Read as widely as you can on topics in Russian history, culture, and literature before starting your course. You will find specific reading suggestions in the online bibliography for Ru 1, but you may also just want to read Russian fiction, poetry, or journalism on your own. The more Russian literature and history you read (whether in the original or in translation) the better. Translations of the major novels of Dostoevskii, Tolstoi, Turgenev, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn, Petrushevskaia, and Pelevin are widely available. Bristol Classics (Duckworth) publish a range of short annotated texts in Russian.

The best-stocked bookstores for Russian books in the UK are: Grant & Cutler Ltd., 55-57 Great Marlborough Street, London W1V 2AY (tel: 0207-734 2012); Russkiy Mir, 3 Goodge Street, London, W1T 2PL; and Thornton's Bookshop. Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge will have copies of some set texts by the beginning of the Michaelmas Term. You may also order books online from,, and Many Russian books are available to read free on the web. A quick Google search will turn up electronic copies of all the set texts listed above.

Non-Standard Russian Classes

In addition to the compulsory classes, students have the option of attending an extra class run by Mrs N. Franklin.

The language that real Russians actually speak is much richer, more varied, and more subtly charged with emotional nuances than the “neutral”, “correct” language that we start by learning. This course of lectures will introduce some of the common but technically non-standard ways in which Russian achieves its expressiveness and flexibility.

Among the themes covered will be: diminutives and ways of indicating degrees of affection; interjections and exclamations; particles and the unique expressive and aesthetic diversity of Russian obscenities.

The lectures take place once a fortnight on Monday at 1 pm, through the Michaelmas and Lent Terms. Please contact Mrs N. Franklin ( to register your interest.