Slava Paperno (director)
Krystyna Golovakova
Raissa Krivitsky
Viktoria Tsimberov
Richard L. Leed (1929-2011)
Lora Paperno (retired)

Requirements, etc.
2016 survey

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Russian 3303: Course Description

The course meets three times a week:

  • one reading/discussion class
  • one film/discussion class
  • one writing/grammar class

The materials and the nature of all assignments for each class are described below.

This is a variable-credit course: you select the number of credits when you enroll. Sign up for 3 credits to attend all three classes. Sign up for 2 credits and attend two classes each week. If you cannot attend more than one weekly class, sign up for 1 credit.

See Syllabus for dates and details. See Rooms and times for meeting times and places.


  • For the reading class:
    1. Liudmila Ulitskayia. "Tsyu-yurikh." A Short Story. The online version is linked to the course syllabus. Note that the online version includes English glosses that the printed book does not have.
    2. Liudmila Ulitskaia. Book Detstvo sorok Deviat'. Borrow your copy from the department.
  • Documentaries at the Lexicon Bridge Cloud site. See Watching the films, below.
    • Майкл и Светлана (a Cornell-only resource)
    • Newsmaker's Kit: Children from Russia
    • На атомной речке
    Watching the films: Use any personal computer or tablet to visit Lexicon Bridge Cloud. Click Register and create an account using your email address. Don't subscribe to anything: log out and log in again, and you will have free subscriptions to all titles on the site.
  • Any good Russian-English and English-Russian dictionary (e.g. the one by Kenneth Katzner, paperback edition available)

Performance in the film class — 25 percent, performance in the reading class — 25 percent, written homework — 25 percent, final examination — 25 percent. No other tests.

Missing more than three classes without a good reason may affect your grade. If you do have to miss a class, send your teacher a note, preferably before the class that you have to miss. If you have symptoms of a contagious illness, please be kind to your classmates and don't attend the meeting. If you feel up to it, do the work that can be done on your computer, and when you recover be sure to ask your teachers for help catching up. We'll always be happy to help.


Reading class
Read the assigned segment of the story and make sure that you understand its content. When reading the online version, move your mouse pointer over links to read English glosses. Do not try to translate every word. It is important to learn reading authentic texts without looking up every word.
Print out the assigned pages and highlight words and expressions which, in your opinion, need clarification or explanation. Be prepared to retell the text in as much detail as you can, and also to ask five or six questions based on your assigned reading.

Film/discussion class

Consult the Syllabus and watch the assigned videos. Make sure that you understand the dialog. If some of the passages are difficult to understand, consult the transcripts (see above, under Materials). For each film class, prepare 3 questions on the assigned episodes. In class your questions will be answered by your classmates as part of the discussion.

Make sure that you understand the dialog. If some of the passages are difficult to understand, consult the transcripts. You can read them on the screen or print the relevant parts.

In addition to bringing to class your three questions, be prepared for a general discussion of the events and issues raised in the films. For example, How do the characters treat each other? How are the situations in the films different from similar situations in American films or American life? How do their living conditions or attitudes differ from what you expected or from your own? What have you learned about Russia from this film, and how is Russia different in this respect from the U.S.? etc.

For each film, you will assume the role of one of its characters. The roles will be assigned in class. While discussing the assigned episodes, try to be true to your role. This does not mean that you have to think and speak exactly as that character does in the film. A certain amount of interpretation and improvisation would be very welcome. But try to stay true to your role.

For one of the films (Children from Russia) you'll have to work with another student. Each pair is assigned their own portion of the documentary (shown in the Syllabus). In class, you will be asked to act out your part or to report on it in the form of an interview: one of you will interview the other(s). Work together to prepare questions and issues that may be relevant to the story.

For the film class, you will also write three essays, indicated in the syllabus. The essays should be typed double-spaced, 1.5 to 2 pages.

There will be three panel discussions based on the documentaries. For these classes, each student will assume a role related to the film. For example, you may be the head of a marriage agency, a marriage counselor, the director of an orphanage, a doctor, or a parent. Prepare a short statement about your position on an issue, or your analysis of a problem. Watch the relevant parts of the film again. In class, after you make your statement, other students will ask you questions related to your role or point of view. They may challenge your position or demand clarification, etc. You should also be prepared to ask similar questions of other students. Before each panel discussion class, your teacher will bring a list of "roles" to class, and you will choose (or be given) a role.

Writing class
In this part of the course you will learn to write essays in good Russian. Everyone writes about whatever is important or interesting for her or him, and in whatever style feels appropriate. In our first language, each of us has her or his own subset of words, phrases, turns of speech, etc. Some people prefer short sentences while other like longer one. Some people will present an idea, and then expand on it while others like to surprise the reader. Some are more comfortable with a slow and well-paced narrative while others gush forth. These things define (or/and are defined) by our personalities, experience, taste, etc. This semester is your chance to find your typical Russian essay style. We will discuss narrative techniques as well as finer points of grammar and style. You must use the Russian Essay box on our Web site to write and submit your drafts and your final versions. The Windows and Mac OS X computers in the Language Learning Center are fully configured for that, and you may also be able to use your own computer. Please keep backup copies of your texts. For instructions on using the Essay Box, click its Help button. For typing Russian on your own computer, you may use the Russian keyboard that is included in the operating system. Mac OSX comes with at least two different Russian keyboard layouts. Some versions of Windows include only one (standard) layout, but if you like, you can install the mnemonic layout (called Student or Phonetic) that may be easier to learn.

You will work on each of your essays twice. First, you will write a draft and save it in the Essay Box. Make sure you do this at least 24 hours before your next class, because your teacher needs time to read it and to add comments to it. In addition to corrections, these comments may include a small assignment, e.g. "Rewrite the first paragraph as a dialog" or "Change this passage so that it is presented from the point of view of the little girl." You may want to print a copy of this first draft for your reference, but you do not need to submit the printout.

You will correct your first drafts in class (in the carrel area of the language lab in Noyes Lodge--the upper level, near the fireplace), while your teacher goes around the class and helps as much as he can. If you like, you may continue working on your essay after the class, but normally the idea is to complete most of your revisions in class, while the teacher is around to help you. If you cannot complete your revisions in class, do that soon after the class because your teacher will read your revised text early next week and make some final adjustments that you will review as you start working on your next essay. The length of your essays should be such that your homework takes about an hour to complete.

Your essays may be on any subject that interests you. It may also be based on the videos that you will watch in this course, or on any materials that you read in this course. You may write about the entire video/story in more general terms, or select only one or two points for a detailed treatment. You may report on the events, the people and their attitudes, the language and the anecdotes, or offer your own views on the issues or describe similar experiences and observations. In other words, you should feel free to be a real author and learn to express your own thoughts. This is one of the goals of the course--help you find and develop your own Russian.

As you work on your essays, use The Russian Dictionary Tree for reference. Although this computer dictionary does not include all the vocabulary that you may need, it will help you avoid the most common errors. The Russian Essay Box and the dictionary may be displayed and used on the computer screen at the same time, and you can copy and paste text between the two (Ctrl+C copies the selected text, and Ctrl+V pastes it at the insertion point). If you need help using the software, refer to the programs' Help or ask your teacher for a demonstration.

You will find links to other online Russian dictionary and word-use databases under Outside resources. The language lab staff should be able to help you get started with the computer and find your applications, but cannot help with any specific features of the software.

This Web site uses custom Russian fonts with accented vowels (ЂђЃ Љљѓ ЌќЊ, etc.).
If your browser does not display them correctly, follow these directions.
Dept. of Comparative Literature • Russian Language Program • 240 Goldwin Smith Hall • Cornell University • Ithaca, NY 14853-4701, USA
tel. 607/255-4155 • fax 607/255-8177 • email