Department ofGermanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures



Penn State’s Program in Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures offers a full range of courses in Russian language and culture along with regular instruction Ukrainian. We offer courses in both traditional classroom settings and online.

Why Study Russian and Ukrainian?

Russian and Ukrainian are related East Slavic languages sharing variants of the same alphabet. Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and its role as a geopolitical aggressor highlight the need to better understand the languages and cultures of that region of the world. Russian is still the fifth-most spoken language globally, and it is widely used as a lingua franca of the post-Soviet space. The international prestige of Russian literature, music and art has been a considerable source of “soft power” for the country. While some have advocated a boycott of Russian culture because of its complicity in a genocidal war, what is needed instead is a critical evaluation of its imperial and colonial nature. Russian culture, in its multiple and variegated forms, transcends the autocratic Russian state and will endure after its demise. It is also present among the large and growing diaspora of Russians who have fled the country. Ukrainian is the native language of about 40 million people and the official state language of Europe’s second largest country. Long suppressed in the Russian Empire, it has now emerged as a major European language with a rich literary and cultural heritage. Fluency in Russian and/or Ukrainian opens the door to a variety of careers. Policymakers, businessmen, journalists, scientists, scholars, language specialists, and artists all benefit from a mastery of these languages.

Russian City Skyline

Why Study Russian at Penn State?

Whatever your reason for studying Russian or Ukrainian, you can expect an engaging curriculum here at Penn State. In addition to a full range of language courses conducted entirely in Russian, the Russian program offers courses in English translation devoted to Russia’s literature and culture as well as Russian film, the culture of Stalinism and Nazism, Russia’s multiethnic society, and Putin’s Russia and its protest culture. Our Russian program also sponsors a variety of extracurricular activities. Russian speakers on campus gather weekly over tea, pastries, and sweets at the Russian Tea and participate annually in the Fall Poetry Reading Session, presenting on Russia’s most prominent poets and reciting their verses in Russian. In Ukrainian, we offer a three-semester language sequence and an online course in Ukrainian Culture. There is also an active Ukrainian Club. The Russian and Ukrainian Clubs have been working jointly in condemning the Russian war against Ukraine.