Russian as a Foreign Language

RFL&CE’s team has taught students from the U.S. and other countries for more than 23 years. In 1993 we welcomed the first group of students from Stanford University to Moscow. Since then students from many American universities, including Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, SUNY, Georgia Tech, USC, BYU, etc. have enjoyed learning Russian with our language instructors (See testimonials below). Our team is located at the Academy of National Economy and its successor, the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), but it operates independently as the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences.

In addition to courses in the Russian language, we also provide foreign students with opportunities for living and volunteering in career-related activities that cannot easily be found at other Russian institutions, including internship and direct-enrollment opportunities.

Russian as a Foreign Language

We offer language training for students of Russian at any proficiency level - beginner, intermediate, and advanced - and also to heritage speakers.

Russian for Beginners

192 contact hours. 12 weeks/16 hours a week.

This introductory course is meant to develop functional competence in four basic skills: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. It will give students a basic knowledge of Russian grammar and communication skills, and will enable them to take part in simple conversations. By the end of this class, students are able to:

  • · Understand simple conversations about daily routines, family, school, work, announcements, etc.
  • · Express immediate needs and interests and hold simple conversations
  • · Read and understand articles on familiar topics and brief literature texts
  • · Write simple compositions about daily routines, family, school, and work, postcards and short letters
  • · This course is equivalent to one year of university-level Russian

Intermediate Russian

128 contact hours. 8 weeks/16 hours a week. Requires a minimum of one year of prior Russian study at the university level.

This course is intended for students who are continuing to learn Russian and want to increase their proficiency level significantly. It provides focused instruction to help students expand their proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking Russian.

Classes focus on developing everyday Russian conversational skills that are appropriate in casual and business situations. It aims to:

  • · Increase students’ linguistic confidence by giving them an opportunity to talk on a variety of subjects;
  • · Improve their knowledge and use of proper grammar by emphasizing some of the most common problems that intermediate speakers face;
  • · Enhance their understanding of contemporary Russian language through a study of everyday news;
  • · To provide an insight into contemporary Russian society and culture through media and films.

Advanced Russian

128 contact hours. 8 weeks/16 hours a week. Requires a minimum of two years of prior Russian study at the university level.

This course is aimed at developing students’ communication skills, including advanced reading and writing skills. By capitalizing on the immersive Russian language environment, students can make considerable progress in their speaking and writing abilities. Students will work to develop more sophisticated syntax and grammar, which have a higher frequency of usage in written texts.

Learning materials correspond to the students’ proficiency level and include texts from the areas of current affairs, culture, business, and politics. The course concentrates on discussing topics relevant to problems of contemporary society with a special focus on discussing cultural differences. By the end of this class students will be able to communicate on a wide variety of subjects with native speakers.

Russian for Heritage Speakers

128 contact hours. 8 weeks/16 hours a week.

This course aims to help speakers with a native knowledge of Russian to proceed from a lack of knowledge to the level of competency that typically exceeds that of the students in their third or fourth year of Russian classes. They will master basic reading and writing skills (e.g. script and sound-to-letter fit, including reduced vowels and voicing/devoicing issues), they will review and reinforce Russian grammar, filling in gaps in difficult issues from noun declensions and verbal conjugations to the use of verbals.

This course will help them to expand their vocabulary in areas traditionally beyond the scope of home use, including speaking about the humanities and social sciences (education, history, geography, and politics). They will learn how to avoid word-for-word translation and will be able to compare the original text and translated texts for differences between the Russian and English word order. They will develop listening comprehension and will be challenged to transform communication into connected discourse, working on proficient language performance as well as competence.

Language and Internships Program

For many years, in addition to Russian language study, we have offered our students the opportunity for immersion in the language through internships in Russian and other international organizations and companies.

Working with native Russian-speaking colleagues gives students the opportunity to acquire professional vocabulary, thus improving Russian business communication skills, e.g., business correspondence skills.

These internships also allow students to gain invaluable professional experience, which often becomes their ticket to a prestigious company, and certainly allow them to stand out among the competition in the eyes of HR managers and admissions officers at graduate schools (see testimonials).

Our current internship providers include:

  • Central Children's Hospital
  • Center for Creative Industries (CCI)
  • Center for Strategic Research (Think-tank)
  • Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy (think-tank)
  • Garage Art Gallery
  • Groupon (Recommendation service)
  • Hilti (Construction products and services)
  • Kaspersky Lab (IT)
  • Kidsave International (Charity)
  • Maria’s Children (Charity)
  • Moscow State University Choir
  • Moscow Rowing Club
  • Gulag Museum
  • Olympic Star Fitness Center
  • PIR-Center for Political Studies (think-tank)
  • PR Partner (PR Agency)
  • PWC
  • Slavic Center for Law and Justice (Law firm)
  • SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (NGO)
  • The Cultural Fund "Yekaterina"
  • The Institute for European Studies (Think-tank)
  • The Moscow Times (Newspaper)
  • The State Museum of Literature
  • Tsaritsyno Museum and Park
  • Vegas Lex Law Firm
  • WCIOM (Russian Public Opinion Research Center)

We do not guarantee automatic placement at any of the above-mentioned organizations, but we do our best to find our students internship placements that match their academic majors and/or professional interests.

Customized Study Programs

We understand that some students dream of individual programs that best suit their own interests, plans, and aspirations. Many universities often cannot meet these needs. However, we try to be as flexible as possible and offer international students the opportunity to enjoy a customized study abroad program in Moscow.

These tailor-made programs can be composed of any of the following elements:

  • Russian language courses of any duration and at any level
  • Courses on Russian history, politics, economy, literature, sociology, psychology, law, or religion of the student’s choice. In MSSES and RANEPA we have dozens of faculty members and experts who can teach individual courses on a diverse range of subjects. These courses can be taught in either Russian or English. In some cases international students can attend classes that are taught for local students at the Shaninka or the Academy
  • Individual tutoring on various disciplines
  • Work in Russian archives
  • Internships with Russian companies or organizations
  • Volunteering for charity organizations
  • Research projects at Russian research institutes or think tanks
  • Individual cultural program, which includes visits to places that are not usually seen by tourists

Naturally, time is required to create such a program. Therefore, requests for such programs should be sent well in advance. But we will try to accommodate all requests through mutual correspondence and to create a unique educational program in Moscow, and possibly in some other cities of Russia or other countries of the former Soviet Union.

One-year Master’s Programs in Russian for Advanced Students

Advanced speakers of Russian, and especially heritage students, have the opportunity to spend a year in Russia, studying together with Russian students in the School’s Master's programs. Our Master's programs are validated by the University of Manchester (UK), and our graduates receive a Master’s degree from both our institution and the University of Manchester.

Academic studies at the master's level allow international students to learn Russian academic writing and significantly improve professional communication skills. In addition, studying in a Russian academic institution will help international students to better understand contemporary Russian society, changes that are taking place in the political systems, and the varied opinions on these subjects and others that exist among Russians. Students will undoubtedly be interested in diving into the atmosphere of free academic debate characteristic of the Shaninka, where they will find it challenging to confirm common stereotypes about Russia .

We believe that American students will be especially interested in degrees such as “Public History: Historical Knowledge in Modern Society,” led by well-known Russian scholar Professor Andrey Zorin, and “International Politics,” directed by Professor Vasily Zharkov and taught by famous Russian political scientists Fyodor Lukyanenko, Sergei Medvedev, and Tatyana Vorozheikina.

More information about these programs, as well as other Master's programs can be found on the Shaninka’s website (

We also allow interested international students to attend classes in our master's programs for one semester. Attending classes will undoubtedly contribute to a substantial improvement in students’ knowledge of the Russian language and understanding of Russia, but will not contribute to an academic degree.

Russian International Summer Program (RISS)

RISS allows international students to study in Moscow at the most convenient time of the year – summer.

During the summer we have programs for two kinds of students:

  • Students who come to Moscow through our agreements with different American universities.
  • Students on individual contracts who are then split in different groups according to their proficiency level of Russian.

Our traditional partners in summer programs are, among others: SUNY (Albany), Lauder School (University of Pennsylvania), Georgia Institute of Technology, and Brigham Young University.

Classes for students of these universities are coordinated with their language departments and adjusted to their curricula and requirements. We are always happy to accommodate to our partner universities’ specific requests and to provide language instruction as they see fit.

Classes with individual students are based on our own curriculum and teaching practices, however we often use textbooks that are most frequently used by our American colleagues.

Along with Russian language classes, students have the opportunity to pursue academic internships in various disciplines.

In addition, we offer RISS participants a cultural program that includes visits to museums and sites in Moscow that are of interest to international students

Our summer program starts in mid-May and continues until mid-August. It runs from six to twelve weeks depending on student interest and incorporates different programs based on the students’ level of Russian.

International Component

Both individual students and student groups can split the summer program in two parts. For example, they can spend half of the program in either Riga, Tallinn, or Astana, and the second in Moscow MSSES, or vice versa.

Online Education Opportunities

Online classes are becoming increasingly popular around the world. Shaninka offers partner universities and individual students online classes in Russian with native speakers. This will help international students increase their level of language proficiency, master new vocabulary not included yet in dictionaries and textbooks, and overcome the language barrier.

We would also be happy to provide access to online classes in various disciplines. American students can virtually attend classes offered through Shaninka on politics, history, and sociology, immersing themselves in the academic language environment without leaving their university.

Shaninka as a Gateway to Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia

In the past 20 years more than 2,500 graduates of the Shaninka now work in many of Russia’s cities and in other countries throughout the former Soviet Union. Maintaining close ties with them, the Shaninka offers our international partners additional opportunities outside of Moscow and even outside of Russia.

We can help conduct training programs, study tours, conferences workshops, and other kinds of bilateral and multilateral events, not only in Moscow, but also in Astana, Yerevan, Tbilisi, Riga, Tallinn, and other cities of the former Soviet Union.

As a non-government institution, we do our best to be more flexible than state-operated Russian universities.

We are committed to working with American universities. We cooperate to implement educational programs and work through organizational complexities, which can become stumbling blocks in joint projects. In particular, we provide visa and logistical support to faculty members, researchers, and students from partner universities.

We welcome you! We are happy to be of help and discuss new ideas and opportunities!


"We have worked with Alexander Abashkin and his team for years, and have always had a good experience. Alexander anticipates our needs, communicates clearly, and jumps into problem-solving mode when needed."- Alexandra Vacroux, Executive Director Davis Center, Harvard

I worked with Alexander Abashkin in creating a unique leadership curriculum for 240 students from 120 countries with professors from Harvard, Princeton, Oxford, Georgetown and Columbia. Abashkin is a creative force who works hard to create tailored experiences for his students. He is wise, persistent, energetic and honest. I always seek his input when I have a tough decision to make” - Dr. Sam Potolicchio, Director, Global Education, Georgetown

I enthusiastically endorse the work of Alexander Abashkin and his team at the Shaninka, where I have taught for the past five years. He assigns top priority to easing difficult organizational matters in foreign study and fostering an open and friendly environment as well as an excellent academic curriculum at the School. The Shaninka upholds the high values envisioned in Teodor Shanin's original commitment to university education in Russia. - Professor Carol S. Leonard, Director, Center for Russian Studies, ION, RANEPA

This summer we celebrate the tenth anniversary of successful collaboration between the School of Social and Economic Sciences and the Lauder Institute. Alexander was in charge of organizing ten eight–week summer programs for the Wharton/Lauder MBA students providing outstanding administrative support and high quality of the academic program. Alexander is a strong and capable team leader who is very responsive to the needs and requirements of our program, which may change each year depending on the composition of our groups. We highly appreciate his attention not only to the needs of the program as a whole but also to the personal needs of each student and willingness to resolve any issues in timely and efficient manner. -Maria Bourlatskaya, Director, Russian Language&Culture Program, The Joseph H. Lauder Institute University of Pennsylvania

MSSES/Shaninka and its Director Alexander Abashkin have a proven record of providing excellent educational programs for American and international students in Moscow. In addition to first-rate language programs, MSSES/Shaninka provides customized study programs for both undergraduates and Master’s Degree students. Students from the U.S. and China, with whom I have worked, have benefited immensely from these programs. - Robert Wessling, Dean of Students, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

“I first met Sasha Abashkin in 2008 as a student in Stanford University's study abroad program in Moscow, which Sasha directed. Sasha and his team were welcoming, caring, and always helpful, especially for those of us who arrived without any Russian language knowledge… Studying in Moscow introduced me to international human rights law and rule of law issues and in many ways shaped my subsequent career, including researching related issues on a Fulbright grant in Ukraine and later attending law school.”  Carolyn Forstein JD, Columbia Law School l(2015), currently working at the Constitutional Court of South Africa

I owe my success to my participation in the program run by Abashkin and his team. My internships in Russia enabled me to develop useful skills, such as the ability to communicate with people from different cultures, to work in diverse teams, and, of course to understand, speak, read, and write in Russian. My time in Russia with Sasha's program also helped me to see the world from an unique perspective and gain valuable insight by talking about important issues with people from different backgrounds.  Grant Newman JD Candidate, Harvard Law School, Class of 2019.

It was through the Stanford BOSP program that I first met Sasha Abashkin. He, along with his team, led the International Program at RANEPA (then ANX), where the Stanford group took classes. I have such profound admiration for Abashkin’s team, and the lengths they took to makes sure we were able to experience the beauty of Moscow, the weekly excursions to the theatres and museums, the internships and the language, of course…It was outside the classroom though, where I really feel like I gained the most from the program. In addition to my studies, I was able to pursue my interests through an internship arranged through the program teaching English at an orphanage in Odintsovo. - Marlena Davis. Corporate liaison. Software company


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