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Part IB Option A

Beginners' course in the second year

The ex-ab initio 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. The language papers you have to take, and the teaching arrangements, are identical to those for post A-level students in their first year.

During this year, you also have the chance to take options from the Slavonic Department's full range of scheduled papers at Part 1B. You can choose to study subjects as diverse as Kievan and Muscovite Rus; 19th and 20th literature and culture; the language, literature and culture of Ukraine; the language, literature and culture of Poland; and Slavonic linguistics.

All students in Part 1B, Option A must take the Diagnostic Test that will be offered via Moodle in September before the Michaelmas teaching term begins. You must also attend the briefing meeting for SLB1 at 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.

Essential Summer Work

Your summer preparation must address both aspects of the Part IB, Option A course: the study of language and the study of literature, culture and history.

Essential Language preparation

Students in both Part 1A, Option B and Part1B, Option A are strongly advised to work on their Russian language skills consistently over the summer. Vocabulary-building and grammar review are essential to success in this and your other Slavonic papers. Please try to listen to Russian radio or watch Russian videos online over the summer, ideally for at least 20 minutes daily; read Russian newspapers, magazines, or fiction; get started reading the set texts for Ru 1; and review grammar. Some suggestions: purchase Terence Wade's Grammar and Workbook and start working through the exercises; review the root lists in Browning's Leveraging Your Russian or (if you can't obtain Browning easily) George Patrick's Roots of the Russian Language ; work through the verb exercises in A. Andrews, G. Averyanova, G. Pyadusova, The Russian Verb: Form and Function; work through exercises on cases from Marianna Bogojavlensky; work  again through exercises  from Colloquial Russian (making sure to include Translations, available on Camtools) and Zdravstvuyte!. Download old exams for SLA1 and work through them


Required textbook for SLB1:

  • Gary Browning et al., Leveraging Your Russian With Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes (Slavica Publishers, 2001).

You may order this book directly from the publisher,, and they will give you a 20% discount. Copies of both are also available from Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge as of 12 August 2010.

Essential Reference Works:

  • Terence Wade, A Comprehensive Russian Grammar (Blackwell)
  • S. I. Ozhegov, "Russian-Russian" dictionary, Slovar' russkogo iazyka

Additional Useful Textbooks and Reference Works (the first two books are highly recommended, and they can be used for independent study):

  • Marianna Bogojavlensky, Russian Review Grammar (Slavica Publishers, 1981). This book can be ordered directly from publisher or purchased from Heffers in Cambridge (see G.Browning, Leveraging your Russian, above)
  • Э. Эндрюс, Г. Аверьянова, Г Пядусова Русский глагол: Формы и их функции/ A. Andrews, G. Averyanova, G. Pyadusova, The Russian Verb: Form and Function (Москва: Русский язык. Курсы 2008 г.) This book contains everything you will ever need to know about Russian verbal forms. The explanations are in English, and there are many exercises, most of them with keys. It can be purchased online from Ruslania,
  • Patricia Anne Davis et al., Making Progress in Russian: A Second Year Course. (John Wiley and Sons, 1997). This title is particularly recommended as a summer review text for students who lack confidence in their command of foundational grammar and vocabulary.
  • Derek Offord, Modern Russian (Bristol Classical Press)
  • George Z. Patrick, Roots of the Russian Language (McGraw-Hill, 1989). [An acceptable, although not an ideal alternative to the Browning text listed in "Essential References" above.]
  • Terence Wade, A Russian Grammar Workbook (Blackwell)
  • The Oxford Russian Dictionary (Russian-English, English-Russian) (revised edition, OUP) (now available in one volume)

Online, read Russian newspapers, watch Russian television, Russian films and listen to Russian radio.

Russian Films

Newspapers and magazines:


Online Television

Essential Preparatory Reading

It is essential that you make your selection of scheduled paper well in advance, so that you can spend the summer preparing the necessary reading. The list of scheduled papers currently available can be found here; reading lists will clearly signal the key primary sources that you should read over the summer. Please make sure that you contact the course convenor of the relevant paper for further advice.

Language Work

Language classes and teaching arrangements are identical to those for post A-level students in their first year (Part IA, Option B).

Examination Papers

Students must take at the end of their second year five examination papers in total, including at least three examination papers in Slavonic. Two of these are language papers, the third one is a scheduled paper:

  • SLB1: Use of Russian
  • SLB2: Translation from Russian and Oral B
  • one scheduled paper relating to the ex-ab initio language, i.e. Russian; please refer to the Scheduled Papers list

The remaining two papers you have to choose from MML Part IB Schedule. One of these may, if you wish, be a further Russian or Slavonic scheduled paper.

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; the unique expressive and aesthetic diversity of Russian obscenities; interjections and exclamations; street slang.

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.

Keep in touch


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4 May 2018

Lecturer in Polish Studies Dr Stanley Bill has won the 2018 award for Outstanding Lecturer in the Annual Student-Led Teaching Awards organised by the Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU), which is the representative body for all students in the University.

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18 April 2018

The Slavonic Studies community at the University of Cambridge is very pleased to announce the publication of Rebecca Reich’s new book, State of Madness: Psychiatry, Literature, and Dissent After Stalin (Northern Illinois University Press, 2018).