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SLB1: Use of Russian

This paper is available for the academic year 2023-24.


Russian is a highly inflected language, and grammatical accuracy is essential both to understanding and to communication. Every area of grammar has therefore to be mastered. You will be building upon your prior knowledge of the language, acquired in your A-Level (or equivalent) course or in the Cambridge ab initio course. You will consolidate and develop your reading and writing skills. You will be trained to use correctly all principal elements of Russian grammar and syntax, and thus acquire a sound knowledge of modern standard Russian. This Paper 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. 

Aims and objectives: 

This Paper aims to enable you to:

  • read and understand advanced-level Russian texts on topics of general nature without a dictionary;
  • engage closely with the content of the text and master the skill of nuanced understanding of reading materials;
  • write in Russian with a high level of grammatical accuracy;
  • manipulate both simple and complex structures, including ones without an exact equivalent in English;
  • construct and develop a convincing argument in Russian;
  • form an awareness of style and register in Russian.
Course materials: 

Most course materials are created specifically for this class, and they will be available online or as handouts. They are designed to foster your competence in the use of aspects of the Russian language which are absolutely necessary for an effective communication. Your homework, and the work in class are intended to expand your vocabulary, but there is a strong emphasis on grammatical accuracy as well. 

The following books are recommended for use in preparing your homework and independent study:

Essential reference books:

  • Terence Wade, A Comprehensive Russian Grammar (Blackwell)
  • С.И.Ожегов, Словарь русского языка (Russian-Russian dictionary)

Additional Useful Textbooks and Reference Works (the first three books are highly recommended):

  • James S. Levine, Schaum’s Outline of Russian Grammar. McGraw-Hill Education.
  • Gary Browning et al., Leveraging Your Russian With Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes (Slavica Publishers, 2001). You may order this book directly from the publisher, 
  • Andrews E., Русские глагольные приставки. Практикум. Продвинутый уровень. Russian verb prefixes. Practical course. Advanced level.
  • Terence Wade, A Russian Grammar Workbook (Blackwell)
  • The Oxford Russian Dictionary (Russian-English, English-Russian) (revised edition, OUP) (available in one volume)
  • Russian Online Dictionary
Teaching and learning: 

This paper is taught in a weekly class and you will be allocated to one of the groups on the basis of your results in the Diagnostic Test, which you will take online prior to the start of the academic year.

Your coursework will be based on three types of exercises:

  • critical analysis of text and response to it in the form of an essay
  • translation of sentences designed to practice your command of advanced grammatical structures
  • reading a text, answering questions about its content, and paraphrasing with the aim of improving your comprehension and your ability to manipulate vocabulary and grammar when writing in Russian

Each week, you will be set homework. Your homework for the first class in the Michaelmas Term will be given at the meeting on Tuesday before teaching starts. In addition, based on the results of the Diagnostic Test some students might be recommended to attend a weekly supervision on Russian Grammar.

For the SLB1 Moodle site, please see here.


This paper is assessed at the end of the academic year, in a three-hour examination which is designed to test your reading comprehension skills, vocabulary, grasp of the various points of morphology and syntax that you studied in Use of Russian classes during the year, and your ability to present an in-depth textual analysis and construct a cogent argument in Russian.

The exam consists of written exercises divided into three sections:

Section A (30%): a text of about 350 words, on which you will be required to give an argued response to one of three questions;

Section B (25%): a selection of sentences to test your command of vocabulary and advanced grammatical structures;

Section C (45%): questions about the content of a text of about 500 words in length, and an exercise in paraphrase to test your comprehension and flexibility of expression.  

Course Contacts: 
Dr Elena Filimonova

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