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Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Undergraduate Advisor : Prof. George Gasyna

Although Russia is no longer the enemy of the Cold War, the demand for Russian speakers is great. Russian is the native language of some 150 million citizens of the Russian Federal Republic. It is one of the five official languages of the UN, and ranks with English, Chinese, Hindi, Urdu, and Spanish as a strategic language. What is more, Russian remains the unofficial lingua franca of the former Soviet republics, an indispensable communications tool across all of the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Frequently Asked Questions

What programs does the department offer?

The Slavic Department at Illinois offers instruction in Russian, Czech, Polish, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS), and Ukrainian languages, as well as courses in literature, culture, folklore, and cinema. Our classes are of a size that provides opportunities for student discussion and individual attention from professors. The Slavic Studies major targets students interested in pursuing a career in politics, government, science, business and law, as well as graduate study in literature and culture. With the revision of our undergraduate, effective fall 2013,students can concentrate in Russian Language, Literature, and Culture; Polish Studies; South Slavic Studies; Czech Studies; or Ukrainian Studies. There is a great deal of flexibility within each concentration. We encourage our students to study abroad in places such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladimir, Prague, and Krakow, to broaden their perspective on the world and experience educational opportunities not available within the borders of the United States.

What courses should I try first?

If you are considering a major or a minor in Slavic studies, your first step is a language class: Russian 101-102, Polish 101-102, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian 101-102, and Ukrainian 101-102, are currentlyoffered every year; Czech 101-102 every other year. If you already know some of the language or if you are a heritage or native speaker, you should begin by taking a placement exam to determine which level is right for you. Three semesters of language study satisfies the college of LAS foreign language requirement.

Your second step is to enroll in a literature and culture course. At the introductory level (100-), the Slavic Department offers courses in culture, folklore, and science fiction. All the introductory courses satisfy the General Education Criteria for a Literature and the Arts course. At the 200-level, we have survey courses in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature (e.g., Russ 220, Russ 225), Polish culture (Pol 245), East European Literature (Slav 277), and Russian & Soviet cinema (Russ 219). There are also topics courses, such as Russian Literature and Medicine (Russ 260). At the 300-level, we offer courses on single authors: Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Tolstoy, and others. All the classes are taught in English, no knowledge of a foreign language is required.

Whom should I see for more information?

For information about the Russian major and minor, and courses offered, please contact the Undergraduate Advisor, Professor David Cooper

For questions about the Russian Language program and placement, please contact the Russian Language Coordinator, Dr. Roman Ivashkiv

For questions about the Polish language program and placement please contact the Polish Advisor, Professor George Gasyna

For general information about the department, its programs, and courses, please contact the Department Head, Professor Valeria Sobol

For information about graduate studies, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Harriet Murav

For information on languages other than Russian or Polish, please contact the following instructors:

Bulgarian: Professor Richard Tempest
Czech/Slovak: Professor David Cooper
Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS): Dr. Judith Pintar
Ukrainian: Dr. Roman Ivashkiv

When should I declare my major?

A Major Plan of Study Form must be completed and submitted to the LAS Student Affairs Office before the end of the fifth semester (60 - 75 hours). Study abroad courses may be substituted for major and minor requirements with approval of adviser.

How does one receive departmental honors?

Departmental distinction: Graduation with distinction may be earned by completion of any one of the following three options:

What departmental prizes are there?

Students who have excelled (a GPA of 3.5 or better) in Russian or Slavic studies are elected to the Slavic honor society, Dobro Slovo (“The Laudable Discourse”).


Additionally, every year, the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center invites submissions for the Yaro Skalnik Prize for the best undergraduate and graduate essays in Russian, East European, or Eurasian studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign. The essay can be in any discipline as long as it deals with a relevant region.

Submission Guidelines

Length: minimum of 10 pages for undergraduates; 15 for graduates.
Written during calendar year (i.e., spring, summer, or fall semesters).
Dissertation and thesis chapters are not eligible.
Papers can be nominated by a faculty member or submitted directly by a student.
Cover page with: name, UIN, degree program and major, course, and instructor.


Graduate Student $200 prize and certificate
Undergraduate $100 prize and certificate

For submission and deadline information, please see:


The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures is pleased to be home to the Vekich Scholarship, an award for students of South Slavic languages. Both graduate and undergraduate students are eligible, but preference shall be given to undergraduate students.  One need not be currently enrolled in a language course to win this award, which involves a short essay competition during the spring semester. The scholarship will provide language-course materials for Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS 101-102, 201-202, or 301-302) the following academic year. In addition Vekich Scholars will be eligible to apply for fellowship support (up to two awards, $500 each) toward subsequent summer language study in the U.S., Bosnia, Croatia, or Serbia (details will be announced toward the end of the fall 2012 semester).

Congratulations to the Winners for the 2012-13 academic year: Kristina Biljan and Glenn Stojanovic!


What student clubs/activities are available?

Every semester, the Slavic department organizes conversation hours, film screenings, lectures, conferences, performances and other events on the Illinois campus. Please see the calendar for the current schedule of Slavic events.

Moreover, undergraduates with an interest in all things Slavic are welcome to join the many student-run clubs and societies on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Relevant student organizations at Illinois include:

Balkan Student Organization
Bulgarian Association
Hellenic Student Association
Polish Student Club “Zagloba”
Romanian Student Club
Russian Society
Russian Student Club
Uzbek Club

What are the career opportunities like?

Russian is spoken by some 250 million people and is used by many more in Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe. Russian is the language of one of the world’s great literatures. Training in Russian can lead to careers in teaching, the creative arts, community work, governmental service, journalism, and research in many areas. Many students majoring in other fields find it useful to learn Russian as a valuable tool of communication and research. Over the past ten years, our students have gone on to M.A. programs in Russian and East European studies, Ph.D. programs in literature and linguistics, and to careers in government, NGOs, business, the media, international law, private foundations, and cultural exchanges. Have a look at what some of our former majors are saying about the careers Russian has opened to them. 

Where can I find out about graduate study?

For information about graduate studies in Slavic literature at the University of Illinois (M.A. and Ph.D.), please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Valeria Sobol . For information about a Master of Arts in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, please contact the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center. For information about graduate studies in the history of Russia or the history of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, please contact the Department of History at the University of Illinois.

The American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) maintains a useful list of graduate programs in Slavic Studies, both within the U.S. and abroad. You can access it here: