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Part IA Option B

Post A-Level Course in the first year

The Post-A-Level course is an intensive course: it develops students' language skills in the use of Russian, translation and oral practice through a series of three weekly classes. It also offers students a challenging interdisciplinary introduction to Russian and East European cultures from the ninth century through the present.

All students in Part 1A, Option B must take the Diagnostic Test that will be offered via Moodle in September before the Michaelmas teaching term begins. All students must also attend the briefing meetings for SL1 and SLB1 usually on the Wednesday before the start of Michaelmas term. The meeting dates, times and locations etc. will be sent to students. Students should check their emails regularly as they will receive details for attending from their Directors of Studies or alternatively they can contact the Slavonic Studies Secretary. [Please note that timings of meetings are subject to change. Students and Directors of Studies are asked to refer to the start of term arrangements as listed in the Faculty's information packs or contact the Slavonic Studies Office]

Language Work

Language work aims to train students to use all elements of Russian grammar and syntax correctly and to acquire a sound knowledge of modern standard Russian. Because Russian is a highly inflected language, grammatical accuracy is essential both to understanding and to communication. Every area of grammar has therefore to be mastered. The course is designed to provide a comprehensive training system, covering grammar rules, exceptions and subtleties, syntax, idioms and set phrases, equivalents and non-equivalents in English and Russian, register, style, formulation of ideas, and argument.

You will be attending three weekly classes organized by the Slavonic Studies Section:

Assignments to language classes for "Use of Russian" and "Translation" will be announced on the Wednesday afternoon before classes begin. Your supervisors for the oral practice sessions will also be contacting you that Wednesday to arrange weekly supervision times. It is essential that you check your email and bring your diary to the briefing meetings for papers SLB1 and SL1 on Wednesday.

Literature, History, Culture

In addition to your language classes, you will also take paper SL1: Introduction to Russian culture. Teaching for this paper will be through:

  • a series of 24 lectures organised by the Section
  • fortnightly supervisions arranged by the Section on behalf of the Colleges


Students will take the Russian oral B examination just before the Easter term begins. At the end of the Easter term they will also sit three written exams:

  • SLB1: Use of Russian
  • SLB2: Translation from Russian into English (Oral B counts as one third of the SLB2 mark)
  • SL1: Introduction to Russian culture

Previous years' examination papers are available from the MML Library.

Before you start: Essential 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.

Essential 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.

For grammar revision use

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

· Terence Wade, A Comprehensive Russian Grammar (Blackwell)

Essential Preparatory Reading

In order to be ready for the rapid pace of SL1: Introduction to Russian culture, please read the following before the start of the Michaelmas term:

  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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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’

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.

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.

Keep in touch


Slavonic News

Translating Russia's Greatest Forgotten Novelist: Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaya (1821-1889), hosted by Pushkin House

24 March 2023

An event celebrating the 200th jubilee of one of Russia's greatest nineteenth-century novelists, Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaya (1821–1889). Organised in part by Slavonic Studies' Dr Anna Berman and hosted by Pushkin House.

'Narratives of the Nineteenth Century: New Directions', a cross-faculty book launch & research workshop

24 March 2023

We are happy to share the upcoming book launch event featuring Dr Anna Berman on Thursday 27 April, 12:45-4 pm, at Gonville & Caius College, Senior Parlour.