Undergraduate Program

Undergraduate Program in the Department of Slavic Studies


What is Slavic? The term refers to the branch of the Indo-European language family that includes Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian (East Slavic), Polish, Czech, Sorbian, Slovak (West Slavic), and Bulgarian, Slovenian, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, and Macedonian (South Slavic). The number of speakers of all Slavic languages is estimated to be 315 million, of which the most commonly spoken languages are Russian (145 million), Polish (43 million), Ukrainian (39.5 million), Czech (11 million), and Serbian (11 million). In addition, Russian is used as a second language in most of the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The Department of Slavic Studies at Brown focuses on three of the most commonly spoken Slavic languages: Russian, Czech, and Polish. Although closely related linguistically and geographically, Russia, Poland, and the Czech Republic followed different paths in history, culture, religion, arts, and politics. Yet their histories are interrelated and exemplify both cultural cross-fertilization and often tumultuous confrontations that are connected with national aspirations and ambitions. They continue to be key players in the constantly changing political landscape of Central and Eastern Europe; their recent histories—most notably Poland and the Czech Republic  joining of the European Union—reflect the tensions and hopes of all European countries.

Our program’s objective is to provide students who are interested in Russian, Polish, and Czech languages, literatures, histories and cultures with an in-depth understanding of cultural, economic, and political processes in Eastern and Central Europe. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the East European Socialist bloc, these countries have undergone rapid economic and political changes and actively engaged in global politics. The professional paths of our former concentrators demonstrate that studying Russian and/or Polish and Czech is a major asset to students considering careers in such diverse fields as international relations and diplomacy, law, business, teaching and academic research. Our program allows students to engage deeply with some of the richest literary traditions in the world, and to examine them in their historical, political contexts – from Russian classics like the works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Nabokov, to brilliant Central and East European writers like Schulz, Gombrowicz, Hrabal and Kundera.