Slavic Languages

Administrative Information

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Prof. Alan Timberlake, 714 Hamilton; 854-5697;

Language Coordinator:
Fall 2013: Prof. Frank J. Miller, 701 Hamilton; 854-8155;
Spring 2014: Prof. Alan Timberlake, 714 Hamilton; 854-5697;

Departmental Office: 708 Hamilton; 854-3941

Robert L. Belknap (emeritus)
Boris Gasparov
Frank J. Miller
Catharine Nepomnyashchy (Barnard)
Cathy Popkin
Irina Reyfman
Alan Timberlake

Associate Professors
Valentina Izmirlieva
Liza Knapp (chair)
Tatiana Smoliarova

Assistant Professors
Rebecca Stanton (Barnard)

Senior Lecturers
Anna Frajlich-Zajac
Alla Smyslova

Aleksandar Boskovic
Christopher Harwood
Natalija Kun
Yuri Shevchuk

Senior Associate
Mara Kashper (Barnard)

On Leave
Prof. Smoliarova (2013-2014)
Prof. Miller (Spring 2014)

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures is devoted to the study of the cultures, literatures, and languages of Russia and other Slavic peoples and lands. We approach our study and teaching of these cultures with an eye to their specificity and attention to their interaction with other cultures, in history and in the contemporary global context. We focus not only on the rich literary tradition, but also on the film, theater, politics, art, music, media, religious thought, critical theory, and intellectual history of Russians and other Slavs. Our approach is interdisciplinary.

Students who take our courses have different interests. Many of our courses are taught in English with readings in English and have no prerequisites. As a consequence, our majors and concentrators are joined by students from other literature departments, by students of history and political science who have a particular interest in the Slavic region, and by others who are drawn to the subject matter for a variety of intellectual and practical reasons.

We provide instruction in Russian at all levels (beginning through very advanced), with a special course for heritage speakers. To improve the proficiency of Russian learners and speakers, we offer a number of literature and culture courses in which texts are read in the original and discussion is conducted in Russian. We offer three levels of other Slavic languages: Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, Czech, Polish, and Ukrainian (with additional courses in culture in English). All language courses in the Slavic Department develop the four basic language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) and cultural understanding.

Our department prides itself on the intellectual vitality of its program and on the sense of community among students and faculty. As they explore Russian and Slavic languages, literatures, and cultures, students develop not only their specific knowledge and cultural understanding, but also the capacity for critical thought, skills in analyzing literary and other texts, and the ability to express their ideas orally and in writing. Our graduates have used their knowledge and skills in different ways: graduate school, Fulbright and other fellowships, journalism, publishing, law school, NGO work, public health, government work, politics. Our faculty is proud of its students and graduates.

Majors and Concentrations

Guided by the director of undergraduate studies and other faculty members, students majoring in Slavic create a program that suits their intellectual interests and academic goals. They choose from three tracks: Russian Language and Culture (for those with a strong interest in mastering the language), Russian Literature and Culture (for those who want to focus on literary and cultural studies), and Slavic Studies (a flexible regional studies major for those interested in one or more Slavic cultures). In each major, students may count related courses in other departments among their electives.

In addition to its majors, the department offers five concentrations. Three are analogous to the major tracks (Russian Language and Culture, Russian Literature and Culture, and Slavic Studies). There is also a concentration in Russian Literature that does not require language study and another concentration in Slavic Cultures that allows students to focus on a Slavic language and culture other than Russian.

Motivated seniors are encouraged but not required to write a senior thesis. Those who write a thesis enroll in the Senior Seminar in the fall term and work individually with a thesis adviser. Students have written on a wide range of topics in literature, culture, media, and politics.

Slavic Culture at Columbia Outside of the Classroom

All interested students are welcome to take part in departmental activities, such as conversation hours, Slavic student organizations, the department's various film series (Russian, East Central European, Central Asian, and Ukrainian), and the country's first undergraduate journal of Eastern European and Eurasian Culture, The Birch. The Slavic Department has close ties to the Harriman Institute and the East Central European Center, which sponsor lectures, symposia, performances, and conferences.

Study and Research Abroad

The department encourages its students to enrich their cultural knowledge and develop their language skills by spending a semester or summer studying in Russia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, or the countries of the former Yugoslavia. The department helps students find the program that suits their needs and interests. Undergraduates may apply to the Harriman Institute for modest scholarships for research during winter/spring breaks or the summer.