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Post A-Level Course

Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Summer Preparation

Your summer preparation must focus on both aspects of your future course in Russian: the study of language and the study of literature, culture and history.

Language Preparation

It is vital that you work actively on your language skills over the summer. You may choose to take a summer language course or to spend time living or working in Russia. Or you may simply make a commitment to watch Russian television, listen to Russian radio, and read Russian newspapers throughout the summer, ideally every day for at least 30 minutes. You should also review Russian grammar, especially if you have taken a gap year since your Russian A levels and have not worked much with Russian in that time. Ideally, you will obtain a copy of the required textbook and begin working through it, but even working through your school texts will benefit you. Your goal is to enlarge your vocabulary, improve your listening skills, and increase the grammatical accuracy and syntactic complexity of both your written and spoken Russian.

Please note that you will be asked to take the Diagnostic test prior to coming to Cambridge. (Information will be sent out in late August). The aim of this exercise is to assess your level of Russian and allocate you to the right group.

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’ (SL1)

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

  1. ALL of Mikhail Lermontov, Geroi nashego vremeni [A Hero of Our Time] IN RUSSIAN. Please use the Bristol Classical Press edition, or a similar edition that is accented, glossed and annotated.
  2. As many as possible of the following (in English):
    • Alexander Pushkin, ‘Медный всадник’ [The Bronze Horseman, Bristol Classical Press edition recommended]
    • Ivan Turgenev, ‘Свидание’ [The Encounter] and ‘Касьян с красивой мечи’ [Kas’ian from the Beautiful Lands] from Записки охотника / A Huntsman's Sketches
    • Nikolai Gogol, ‘Шинель’ [The Overcoat, Bristol Classical Press edition recommended]
    • Anna Akhmatova, ‘Rekviem’ [‘Requiem’]

All of the above may be found in their entirety online. A quick Google in Cyrillic will lead you to the relevant links.

Additional Resources for Russian Students

Newspapers and magazines:

The following websites offer good coverage of events in Russia, both in English and in Russian:


Online Television


Youtube is an excellent source of authentic Russian language material. You can find Russian films and cartoons, Russian television, Russian music and many other entertaining Russian materials there with just a little creative searching. This site, for example, has Russian films with English subtitles by the leading Russian film studio Mosfilm:

Read as widely as you can on topics in Russian history, culture, and literature before starting your course. You will find specific reading suggestions in the online bibliography for SL1, but you may also just want to read Russian fiction, poetry, or journalism on your own. The more Russian literature and history you read (whether in the original or in translation) the better. Translations of the major novels of Dostoevskii, Tolstoi, Turgenev, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn, Petrushevskaia, and Pelevin are widely available. Bristol Classics (Duckworth) publish a range of short annotated texts in Russian.

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 to read free on the web. A quick Google search will turn up electronic copies of all the set texts listed above.