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Beginners Course

Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Summer Preparation: Slavonic Studies

In order to be ready for the rapid pace of the course, you should complete the following minimal preparatory work by the start of the Michaelmas term:

Literature and Culture: Preparatory Reading

A. General introductory and background material

  1. An overview of Russian history from the 9th to at least the 19th centuries (and preferably into the 20th century). Two good, basic (short) introductions are:
    • Geoffrey Hosking, Russian History: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2012)
    • Stephen Lovell, The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2008)
  2. Some background on Russian literature:
    • Caryl Emerson, The Cambridge Introduction to Russian Literature (Cambridge, 2008): this book may be overwhelming as a whole before you have begun the course, but you would do well to look at Chapters 3 and 4 before you arrive, as these will provide useful background for the material we will be covering in the first term.

B. Set texts for the first-year course ‘Introduction to Russian Culture’ (SLA3)

These are works that you will study during your first year. It will help you feel more prepared if you are able to read them in English in advance of beginning the course.

  1. ALL of Mikhail Lermontov, Geroi nashego vremeni [A Hero of Our Time] IN ENGLISH.
  2. As much as possible of the following (in English):
    • Alexander Pushkin, ‘Медный всадник’ [The Bronze Horseman]

Language work

You will be attending five weekly classes:

Textbook: Svetlana le Fleming, Susan E. Kay, Colloquial Russian, 4th edition (Routledge)

Recommended reference works

  • The Oxford Russian Dictionary (Russian-English, English-Russian OUP)

  • Terence Wade, A Comprehensive Russian Grammar (Blackwell)

  • James S. Levine, Schaum’s Outline of Russian Grammar. (McGraw-Hill Education)

  • Russian online dictionary

  • The Russian Dictionary Tree (a learner grammatical dictionary)

Introduction to Russian Culture: Paper SLA3

Teaching provision for paper SLA3 consists of 8 weekly lectures and 2 supervisions in Michaelmas; 8 weekly lectures and 8 weekly supervisions in Lent; and 4 revision supervisions in Easter. Supervisions for paper SLA3 in Lent and Easter will integrate language work with literary and cultural analysis of short Russian texts. Supervisions for paper SLA3 are organised centrally through the Section on behalf of your college. For details of this paper, see Introduction to Russian Culture (SLA3) .

Additional resources

In addition to working through the first 6 chapters of Colloquial Russian before starting your course, you may find it helpful to explore the aspects of the Russian language on some of the available websites:

Read newspapers, watch films and documentaries! The following English-language online newspapers offer good coverage of events in Russia:

Obtaining Russian books

The best-stocked bookstores for Russian books in the UK are: Grant & Cutler at Foyles, 107 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0DT; Russkiy Mir, 3 Goodge Street, London, W1T 2PL; and The Russian Bookshop in Waterstones, 203-206 Piccadilly, London, W1V 9LE. 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 for downloading free on the web. The Colloquial Russian course book can be purchased from the Waterstone's or Blackwell's online shops or from