At St. Olaf, we offer a wide range of courses both in the Russian language and in area studies.  These courses are designed to give students a broad overview of the language, history, politics, literature and culture of Russia.  In addition, our entry level courses help students fulfill many of their General Education core requirements.

Students can major in both the Russian language and in Russian Language and Area Studies. These two tracks are complimentary and often students combine both majors – at times with a third major.


The Russian language major is comprised of 9 courses in the Russian language. Seven of these courses are taken here on campus, and two of them are taken abroad in Russia during the student’s junior or senior year.
The Russian Language and Area Studies major entails taking four semesters of the Russian language, a cultural history course entitled “Intro to Russian Culture and Civilization” and four other courses from any of our course offerings.  These majors ensure a firm understanding of the language and region.

Why study Russian?

Here are some examples of occupations that stem from a knowledge of Russian:


For years now, government agencies have been decrying a lack of sufficiently qualified Russian specialists.  There are many government positions available that could utilize Russian language skills:
political specialists, environmental specialists, social workers.

As the U.S. and Russia cooperate more frequently, there are opportunities for bi-lateral governmental activities.  Russia is becoming involved at meetings of NATO, the G-7, and other international governmental organizations.  Our government needs people who are skilled in the Russian language and aware of the Russian culture in order to effectively communicate,  discuss and create policy.


The sciences continue to advance in Russia even though the amount of Russian governmental support has dwindled.  The United States and Europe are doing more and more cooperative work with Russia.  The recent MIR space station is just one highly visible example of this.  There is a great deal of cooperative work in these instances in which language skills are invaluable.  Also, Russia is still one of the world’s leaders in science. 1/3 of the scientific journals and reports in the world are in Russian.  Due to the poor economic conditions right now many Russian scientists are looking for work outside of Russia, increasing the demand for science minded-Russian/English speakers.


Although the economic situation has been volatile in Russia for some time, it can be said with certainty that Russia will be one of the major markets in the 21st Century.  The largest country on earth, Russia also possesses great natural resources in oil, timber and raw minerals.    All of our students who have tried to get jobs utilizing their Russian skills have been successful in finding work.  Many have returned to Russia, and some have worked in corporations here in the US with ties to Russia.   Major companies such as 3M, Microsoft, Honeywell, Cargill, and Motorolla have advertised for positions requiring language and even living experience in Russia and CIS.    A wide variety of businesses have recognized the potential market within Russia and have expanded there: everything from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to time shares.  Russian language skills will give you a boost up into what promises to be one of the most dynamic and lucrative markets of the 21st century.


With the fall of the Soviet Union, travel to Russia has become much more accessible.  During the Soviet period, all travel was organized and run through a central agency – Intourist.  With the introduction of the free market, many companies have begun to specialize in travel to Russia – offering everything from typical city tours of the capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg, to specialized tours such as eco-tours to Lake Baikal and Siberia, tours to witness pagan Russian summer solstice rituals and tours organized through the Russian Orthodox church that specialize in Christian sites in Russia.

In addition to expanded travel opportunities to Russia, there are more and more Russians who are able to travel abroad.  For the first time in recent memory, any Russian (who has the money) is now able to travel outside of the borders of the former Soviet Union.  Favorite sites are Turkey, Cyprus, and southeast asia.  These new-found possibilities of travel  both to and from Russia open many venues for mutually beneficial economic and cultural exchanges.

Social Services

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, many of the social services which people relied on were gone quickly with no social “safety nets” in place.  There has been a continued and growing need for workers to help in the area of Social services.

St. Olaf is one of the largest suppliers of volunteers for the Peace Corps.  We have had many students who worked with the Peace Corps both in Russia and in the states of the former Soviet Union such as Kyrgyzstan.   One recent graduate went to work in Dalnegorsk in Siberia.  He enjoyed the work and people so much that he stayed longer, and married a wonderful Russian woman whom he met there.

In 1999 25 St. Olaf students traveled to the town of Staraya Russa and worked for two weeks at an orphanage.  While there students helped in the construction of a lodge at their summer camp, they taught the children English as a second language, they taught sports and also helped the orphanage to get set up with computers and e-mail.

In addition to the Peace Corps, many philanthropic organizations and religious organizations also operate within Russia and the former Soviet Union.  Recent graduates have worked in orphanages, taught English, worked with housing reform, worked with homeless children, and with children with Cerebral Palsy.

Our students have also supported the Moscow Soup Kitchen which is organized with the help of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy.  Students have done mission work in Russia working with organizations in the United States and through the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia.

There are many, many opportunities to help in the area of social services in Russia.  Your knowledge of Russian will aid you in being ideally suited to working and living a life of service in an area of the world which desperately needs help during a time of transition.