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.

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.

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