Major & Certificate


The Russian major offers students an interdisciplinary approach to the intellectual and cultural history of Russia and the former Soviet republics. Students complete the major by combining courses in Russian language and literature with courses in history, political science, music, economics, and art. The major requires a minimum of ten courses of which at least six must be conducted in Russian, at least two must be at the 300-level, and one at the 400-level. In addition, students may take up to four related courses offered by other departments and taught in English.

Examples of appropriate courses in other departments are:

  • History 140 Fin-de Siècle Russia: Cultural Splendor, Imperial Decay
  • History 240 Muscovy and the Russian Empire
  • History 241 The Rise of the Soviet Union
  • History 440 Reform, Revolution, Terror: Russia, 1900-1939
  • Sociology 332 Communism and its Aftermath

Students selecting the major must typically complete Russian 152 or the equivalent by the end of the junior year. Majors will normally be expected to take the 400-level seminar offered in their senior year, even if they have previously taken another version of it. Russian majors may receive major credit for summer language study (in consultation with the department) and for as many as four courses taken during study abroad.


To enhance a student’s educational and professional profiles, the Certificate in Russian offers a useful tool for using the language in a wide variety of disciplines. The sequence of language and culture courses is designed to supplement a student’s major at Williams by enabling the student to expand his or her knowledge in a related field.

Students who enter Williams with previous training in Russian may substitute more advanced courses for all the 100-level courses; they can also be exempted from up to two of the required courses. Thus, in order to earn a certificate a student must take no fewer than five courses (including three courses in Russian) after enrolling at Williams. Students must receive a minimum grade of B in each course taken in the sequence. In addition, they must receive a score of at least 85% on a standardized language proficiency test administered by the department.

Required Courses

  • 101
  • 102
  • 151
  • 152
  • one additional course conducted in Russian


  • at least one course on Russian cultural history
  • at least one course on Russian intellectual, political, or social history, or post-Soviet economics