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Russian is an important world language, spoken by some 150 million people, and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Russian culture is especially rich and fascinating.

With the opening of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union the world has become smaller. The most important parts of Russia industrially and strategically – East Siberia and the south-east Russian Far East, the regions closest to New Zealand – have opened up for independent trade, business and cultural contacts with Russia's eastern and southern neighbours. For the first time, direct business contacts have become possible between New Zealand and Russia. This new situation is a favourable development for the future of Russian studies in New Zealand.

Many of the best western experts in Russian affairs started as Russian language and literature students; it is they who largely define western policies towards Russia in America, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. It is time our geopolitical region produced its own experts on Russia.

Why study Russian at UC?

In Russian society, literature played a far more important role than in Western societies. Works of literature in many respects replaced the non-existent social institutions of Russia. Political, economic and philosophical thought in Russia were developed on the pages of Russian literature. In our courses at UC you will examine the colourful pages of Russian medieval and imperial history, Russia's literary achievements, the Bolshevik Revolution and the Communist experiment, as well as tensions and dynamics of the post-Soviet social and cultural situation.

Many of our non-language courses can be credited to other majors (eg, European and European Union Studies).

UC takes part in a vibrant exchange arrangement with the School of Translation and Interpretation at Moscow State University (MSU), which allows senior students from UC's Russian programme to spend a semester studying at the oldest and largest university in Russia. In exchange, senior students from MSU spend a semester at UC.

No previous knowledge of Russian is required for the introductory Russian language course RUSS130 Elementary Russian Language A.


See all Russian courses
See all European and European Union Studies courses

100-level courses

Studies in the Russian programme at UC are of wide interdisciplinary interest and can be divided into two categories:

  • Russian language acquisition: as an Indo-European language, Russian is no more difficult to learn than any other European language. The first-year language course requires no previous experience.
  • Study of the culture, history of society of Russia and the former Soviet Union: all UC courses in this area are taught in English and are a good complement to other European studies (eg, European and European Union Studies courses can be credited towards a Bachelor of Arts in Russian).

200-level and beyond

Students who complete RUSS131 Elementary Russian Language B successfully may continue into the 200-level course, RUSS230 Intermediate Russian Language A. They can then begin to build on the language foundation laid in their first year and will become more fluent in Russian.

Beyond 100-level there is also a course on Soviet and post-Soviet history. In addition, several 200 and 300-level EURA courses (European novels and film adaptations, European city, and the Holocaust) include Russian modules.

Career opportunities

Those who study Russian will find themselves well-equipped for positions in diplomatic service, international affairs, human rights, development work, public service, communication, publishing, travel and tourism, as well as teaching.

With the opening of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, those New Zealand students who acquire knowledge of Russian might find themselves in demand for translating, interpreting and for consultancies in business, health, and legal matters (especially as many Russians do not speak English).

Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Russian.

More information

School of Language, Social and Political Sciences

Phone +64 3 369 3377

4th Floor, Logie Building - see campus maps

Postal address
College of Arts | Te Rāngai Toi Tangata
University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand

Karel Doorman

Karel Doorman

'Having studied Russian at university was a real advantage...'

Ewen Ford

Ewen Ford

'UC offers the ideal modern languages department...'