Welcome to the Russian Program at Case Western Reserve University!

The Russian Program at CWRU offers beginning, intermediate, and advanced Russian courses for non-native and heritage speakers of Russian, as well as Russian literature in translation.

Why Study Russian?

Thirty years ago in the United States the answer to this question was obvious. With the United States and the Soviet Union enshrined as the two antagonistic super-powers, news stories about Russian-related topics were on the front-page every day. The government was willing to support research and learning related to our most feared enemy, and students were fascinated by the Soviet enigma.

Today, stories about Russia are no longer as prominent in the American media. But at the same time, within Russia itself there are myriad opportunities for Americans who know Russian. American law firms, businesses and consulting firms expand almost daily and they all need employees with a knowledge of the Russian language.

The Russians’ own appetite for learning English appears to be insatiable, leading to many teaching jobs inside the country. Given ever-increasing globalization as well as the potential for a western-style Russian economy in the future, the need for Americans with a thorough knowledge of Russian language and culture will certainly increase.

Of course, it is possible to do business or work in Russia without knowing the language, but Americans discover very quickly that in order to work effectively with Russians it is necessary to understand their thinking from the inside. And for this, the language and culture of the country are absolutely essential.

Studying Russian to Understand Culture

The tie of language to culture leads us to one reason for learning Russian that has not changed at all in the past thirty years; the fascination that Russia’s enigmatic culture exerts on Americans. For a huge number of American high-school students an exposure to Russian literature (Dostoevsky in particular) spurs a desire to learn the language in which the works were written. Further acquaintance with living Russian culture only serves to whet the appetite for knowledge that only fluency in the language can provide.

Russian in Your Career

While learning Russian brings personal and intellectual satisfaction, students are also understandably concerned about career opportunities. Is Russian a marketable skill? The answer is definitely yes.

Today, students of Russian have the opportunity to use their language and culture skills in a broad variety of settings in both Russia and the United States. Students go on to work in business as financial and policy analysts for American and Russian companies They work for non-governmental organizations, for publishing houses, for the print and broadcast media. They teach in Russian schools, and consult in fields such as marketing, advertising, aerospace, and computer engineering.

Wherever they work, however, they find that it was a thorough mastery of the Russian language that opened doors for them, doors that would have remained forever closed without language skills and the knowledge of culture that accompanies them.

Russian in the World

There are approximately 5,000 languages used throughout the world today, of which some 130 are spoken by more than one million people and seventy by more than five million. Russian is a member of the Indo-European family of languages, which includes English and the other Germanic languages, the Romance languages and other languages of Europe, the middle East, and the Asian subcontinent. Russian belongs to the Slavic group of languages, which is divided into West Slavic (Czech, Slovak, Polish, and Sorbian), South Slavic (Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian, Serbian, and Slovenian), and East Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian).

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 major world 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. Russian is a major language for scientific publication, and it is an increasingly important language for business and trade as Russian institutions, both public and private, integrate with their European and American counterparts. Although for the moment the country is not an economic or military superpower, Russia still exerts considerable political influence around the world, and there will always be a need for American specialists in Russian affairs. 

Russian and the Russian Alphabet

Russian has had the reputation of being a difficult language to learn, and it is indeed somewhat more difficult for a native English speaker than French, Spanish, or German. Nevertheless, as an Indo-European language, it does not differ all that radically from English; and because of the Greek and Latin base of many technical terms, the two languages share far more vocabulary than is generally realized. In addition, one of the results of Russia’s new openness to the West has been a gigantic influx into Russian of words borrowed directly from English. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to tell which language a conversation about, say, computers, is being conducted in.

Of course, the Russian alphabet–called Cyrillic in honor of St. Cyril who 1,000 years ago invented an alphabet used by many Slavic peoples–is different and apprehension about the alphabet is, in fact, one of the most frequently given reasons for not studying Russian. This is unfortunate because the Russian alphabet is not at all difficult to learn. Standard college courses spend only the first week or less on its mastery. Half of the 33 letters of the Russian alphabet resemble English letters, while still others are familiar to us from common Greek letters. Students master Cyrillic early in their studies, and when they have done so they find Russian spelling represents the spoken language more accurately than does English spelling.

(information provided by the American Councils for International Education)

Minor in Russian

All CWRU students may obtain a minor in Russian by taking 5 (five) courses in the Russian program..

Students beginning Russian at the introductory level must take 101, 102, 201, 202, and one 300-level course.

Students beginning Russian at the 200-level must take five courses at the 200- and 300-level.


Tatiana Zilotina, Instructor in Russian
Guilford House 302
Phone: x2230
E-mail: tmz2@case.edu
Office Hours: MW 12:30-1:30 p.m. and by apt.

I graduated from Minsk Linguistic University (formerly Minsk State Pedagogical Institute) in Belarus’ with a Bachelor’s degree in English and taught English as a Second Language to secondary school students of all ages in Latvia. Later on, I received both Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Virginia, where my research interests concerned Russian poetry, namely, Marina Tsvetaeva.

In 2000, I joined the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at CWRU.  The courses I have taught include beginning, intermediate and advanced Russian, Russian for Heritage Speakers, Dostoevsky (in translation), Survey of the 19th century Russian literature (in translation) and culture courses in Russian.

My great aspiration is to ignite student interest in Russian culture and help them become life-long learners.

Russian Courses

RUSN 101. Elementary Russian I. 4 Units.

Introductory course emphasizing conversational skills. Students achieve control of alphabet, sound system, and basic sentence structures in spoken and written Russian.

RUSN 102. Elementary Russian II. 4 Units.
Continuation of RUSN 101, emphasizing conversational skills. Recommended preparation: RUSN 101.

RUSN 201. Intermediate Russian. 4 Units.
Furthers students’ ability in four basic language skills: understanding, speaking, reading and writing; expands knowledge of Russian grammar and vocabulary. Recommended preparation: RUSN 102.

RUSN 202. Introduction to Contemporary Civilization. 4 Units.
Continuation of RUSN 201; introduces contemporary Russian culture through readings and discussion. Recommended preparation: RUSN 201.

RUSN 210. Russian for Heritage Speakers. 3 Units.

This course is designed for those students who grew up in Russian-speaking families and want to learn or improve their reading and writing skills.

RUSN 311. Advanced Conversation. 3 Units.
Students work to improve fluency in spoken Russian. Topics of conversation include aspects of contemporary civilization; current vocabulary is stressed. Recommended preparation: RUSN 202.

RUSN 319. Life in Modern Russia. 3 Units.
Examines aspects of life in modern Russia, between the 1917 Revolution and the present, including political and social systems and cultural life through the study of texts, films and other media. Taught in Russian. Recommended preparation: RUSN 202.

RUSN 320. Introduction to Russian Literature. 3 Units.
Introduction to major literary movements, principal writers, and outstanding works of Russian literary works. Taught in Russian. Recommended preparation: RUSN 202 or equivalent.

RUSN 370. Special Topics in Russian. 3 Units.
This course is designed to address the students’ and faculty interests in specific themes or issues not otherwise covered in the curriculum. Approaches and content will vary. This course may have a focus that crosses generic, artistic, historical, disciplinary and geographical boundaries. The honing of the analytical and interpretive skills as well as development of Russian language skills are also integral objectives of the course. The class is conducted in Russian. All written assignments are in Russian. Recommended Preparation: Two years of Russian.

RUSN 375. Russian Literature in Translation. 3 Units.
Topics vary according to student and faculty interest. May include Russian classical and modern literature, cinema, women writers, and individual authors. May count towards Russian minor. Taught in English. No knowledge of Russian required. Cross-listed with WLIT 375. Satisfies the Global

RUSN 399. Independent Study. 1 – 3 Unit.
Students with special interests in Russian language, literature and culture may enroll in this course. Permission of the instructor required.

CWRU Students in Russia

Study Abroad in Russia

More information about Studying Abroad

CWRU Eastern European Culture Club

The purpose of our organization is to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Russia, and areas in which Russian culture is prominent – in both Eastern Europe and in the Greater Cleveland community. We also wish to educate the Case community about Russian culture and provide a place where students can practice speaking the language with native speakers. Our events have included an annual Russian Tea Party, movie showings at the Cleveland Museum of Art, trips to Russian-themed events in the Greater Cleveland area including the Russian Festival and Maslenitsa, and excursions to the Russian grocery store Yeleseyevskiy Deli. We have also collaborated with The International Multicultural Exchange organization to bring Russian culture to a greater audience on campus. Although we are a newly recognized organization, we have continued to grow every day, and strive to bring a diverse perspective to the Case campus.


Gorky Showing (2) - Copy Gorky Showing (3) - Copy Gorky Showing (4) - Copy Maslenitsa (1) - Copy - Copy Maslenitsa 2015 - Copy - Copy Maslenitsa 2015 (3) - Copy Russian Club at TIME - Copy Russian Festival Summer 2015 - Copy Russian Tea Party 2014 (1) - Copy Russian Tea Party 2014 (2) - Copy Russian Tea Party 2014 (3) - Copy Russian Tea Party 2014 Russian Tea Party 2015 (2) Russian Tea Party 2015 (3) Russian Tea Party 2015 (4) Russian Tea Party 2015

We have a Facebook group and page!




Each year, the instructor appoints one student to be a Russian tutor. The student-tutor must have excellent knowledge of the learning materials.

Students who need help with homework, or missed classes and need to catch up, should make appointments on http://tutortrac.case.edu/TutorTrac/Default.html

Russian Conversation

Additional opportunities to practice speaking Russian are offered during the Conversation Hour. The location of Russian chats usually is in Guilford 223. The time is flexible. Please consult the instructor for more information.