Russian Graduate Studies

Director of Graduate Studies/Graduate Advisor (contact)

The Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures - Russian and Slavic Studies offers graduate instruction at both the MA and PhD levels. Our faculty specialize in 19th and 20th century Russian literature and culture, working in such areas as the Russian Novel, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Russian Modernism, Russian Romanticism, High Stalinist Culture, Post-Soviet culture, cultural mythology, intertextuality, and women's studies. We offer a broad and flexible range of graduate seminars and our small but dynamic program allows for a great deal of personal attention, an atmosphere of collegiality, and a close-knit intellectual community.

McGill University is world renowned for its academic rigour and scholarly achievements. Located in Montreal, a cosmopolitan and vibrant city, it provides a fascinating intellectual and cultural setting for serious graduate studies.

Information concerning McGill’s general graduate application and admission guidelines can be found on the website of the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office. Applications may only be submitted online. Please direct all questions concerning the program of study to the Graduate Program director: laura.beraha [at] (Laura Beraha)

Programs Offered

Master’s and PhD in Russian

The Department offers graduate instruction (seminar and guided independent reading courses) as well as research and thesis supervision in the fields of Russian culture and literature. Particular emphasis is laid on working with the original language; practicum courses may be allotted, at the discretion of the Department, to course work leading to advanced proficiency in this area.

PhD Language Tests

PhD candidates in other departments who require Russian for research or to satisfy a language requirement should contact the Department for recommended courses.

Admissions Requirements

The general rules of the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office apply and are outlined in the General Information and Regulations section of the Calendar.

The minimum academic requirement is normally a high standing in Honours Russian. Further, the Department must be convinced that the candidate for admission has an aptitude for research work and will be able to make an original contribution to knowledge.

A working knowledge of French is recommended for the PhD program.

Any necessary preparation to fulfill these requirements will be offered within the Department or elsewhere at McGill. Certain graduate courses may be taken by arrangement at approved universities.

Application Procedures

As of October 2012, McGill’s formerly paper-based graduate application process has been replaced with a more convenient electronic version.  Please see detailed instructions on how to apply and how to upload required supporting documents. 

Deadlines for Receipt of Completed Applications:

Please note that incomplete applications (including letters of recommendation, testing scores (TOEFL, IELTS), transcripts, sample(s) of written work) by the application deadline will not be considered.

For Fall Admission:  January 6 (Canadian/Permanent Resident/International).

For Winter Admission:  September 15 (Canadian/Permanent Resident); August 14 (International).

Special/Exchange/Visiting:  As above.

Application and Required Documents:

Should you decide to formally apply, all supplemental application materials and supporting documents must be uploaded directly to the McGill admissions processing system

  • Online application form.
  • Application fee.  You must pay a $100 non-refundable fee or your application will not be processed.
  • All university transcripts. Those transcripts not in English or French must be accompanied by a certified English or French translation (prepared by a licensed translator).
  • Statement of purpose. Applicants are requested to send a brief statement of their interests and the areas they wish to study within the Department (1 to 3 pages).
  • Two letters of recommendation. Those letters not in English or French must be accompanied by a certified English or French translation (prepared by a licensed translator). On the application form you must provide the names and email addresses of at least two professors who are familiar with your academic work. McGill will contact these referees and invite them to upload references on your behalf. Please note that although you can list public domain addresses such as Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo Mail on the application form, references uploaded from these addresses will not be accepted by the Department. Therefore you must list a valid institutional or corporate e-mail address for your referees.
  • One or two samples of written work (in PDF format). This can be in the form of a graded paper, a chapter from a thesis, or an academic article.
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores for non-native English applicants. This is a requirement of all students applying whose native language is other than English. Results must be on file by application deadline – Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies no longer process applications without official results. Minimum score of 575 or 231 computer based scale. Please note that permanent residents may be required to submit a TOEFL score. IELTS scores are also acceptable: a band score of 6.5 or greater (Academic module).
  • Interview, where appropriate, if necessary by telephone, with members of the Department Graduate Committee. 

Master’s in Russian

48 credits distributed as follows:

Required credits (30 credits in MA thesis courses)

  • RUSS 691 MA Thesis Proposal (6)
  • RUSS 692 MA Thesis (24)

Complementary credits (18)

  • 12-18 credits in graduate coursework in Russian & Slavic Studies
  • Up to 6 credits in graduate coursework outside the Department, subject to approval by the Department Graduate Committee.
  • Credits in RUSS 600 Tutorial in Russian 1 and/or RUSS 601 Tutorial in Russian 2, if deemed necessary by the Department.

The MA Thesis Proposal is normally submitted for review by the Department Graduate Committee at the end of the second semester of residency. Candidates should consult the thesis proposal guidelines prepared by the Department.

Time to Completion

The MA program should take no more than two (2) years to complete. Requests for extensions beyond this time frame should be presented in writing, and in timely fashion, for Departmental approval.

PhD in Russian

Required courses

  • RUSS 700 PhD Tutorial
  • RUSS 701 PhD Comprehensive Examination
  • RUSS 702 PhD Thesis Proposal
  • French Language Examination
  • Thesis
  • Thesis Defence

Depending on their individual background, students may be asked to take additional coursework as approved by the Department Graduate Committee.

All students must complete two of the following guided research projects (Foundation Courses):

  • RUSS 750 History of Russian Language
  • RUSS 760 Pre-Petrine Foundatio
  • RUSS 770 18th C Foundation

Foundation Courses

Foundation courses are Guided Research Projects including supervised independent study of a designated period, followed by the submission of an extensive essay, or series of essays, written over a forty-eight-hour period with full access to the critical literature. Each of these essays will focus on themes and issues central to the period in question, and will be examined by at least two members of the Department Graduate Committee.

Language requirements

  • Proficiency in Russian.à 
  • Functional ability in English
  • Functional ability in French (preferred)
  • proficiency in a second Slavic language, if relevant to the research topic and where deemed appropriate by the Department Graduate Committee 

All students must successfully defend their doctoral dissertation.

Department Graduate Committee

The Graduate Committee of the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures - Russian and Slavic Studies consists of all faculty members of the Department and, where appropriate, scholars invited from related fields.

PhD Comprehensive Examination

The PhD Comprehensive Examination is normally held after the end of the candidate’s second year of residency, and no later than the end of the third year of the program. Exceptional cases will be reviewed by the Department Graduate Committee, upon receipt of a written request for extension. The results of this examination determine whether or not the candidate will be permitted to continue in the program. It is intended to allow the candidate to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge in the discipline sufficient to undertake original research and situate the findings of that research within the context of the fundamental trends of Russian and Slavic Studies. The examination covers period themes, major authors and works, as well as critical issues; it may include analyses of specific passages of designated texts.

The examination is based on the PhD Comprehensive Reading List, distributed at the beginning of the candidate’s program. Candidates are required, in consultation with the Department Graduate Committee, to choose two Minor and Two Major Fields from eight areas:

History of the Russian Language

  • Pre-Petrine Period
  • 18th Century
  • Theory and Interpretation
  • (NB: the above are available as Minor Fields only)

Romantic Period

  • 19th Century Realism
  • Early Twentieth Century (Modernism and the Soviet Period)
  • Later Twentieth Century (from the Thaw to Postmodernism)
  • (NB: the above are available as either Major or Minor Fields)

Preparation for the examination includes the successful completion of two Foundation Courses as guided research projects (see above), normally completed in the third semester of residency, as well as RUSS 700 PhD Tutorial, normally held during the fourth semester of residency.

An in-department written examination of not more than three hours is followed, within a maximum of two weeks, by an oral examination of not more than three hours before the Department Graduate Committee, pursuing issues raised in the written component.

Students should consult as well the PhD Comprehensives Policy in the General Information: Faculty Regulations and Research Guidelines booklet.

PhD Thesis Proposal

Candidates should consult the thesis proposal guidelines prepared by the Department. A successful proposal normally includes a clear and succinct outline of the proposed topic of research, its envisaged contribution to Slavic studies, justification of the materials for analysis (author or authors, texts, trend and/or period), methodology and approach, review of the relevant literature, as well as a comprehensive bibliography. The written proposal, normally ten to fifteen pages in length excluding bibliography, will be evaluated by the Department Graduate Committee. An oral defense of the proposal will be scheduled normally within three weeks of its successful evaluation.

Time to Completion:

The PhD program should normally take no more than five (5) years to complete. Requests for extensions beyond this time frame should be presented in writing, and in timely fashion for Department approval.

Contact Information:

Ms. Lynda Bastien
Graduate Coordinator
Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
McGill University
688 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 3R1
info.llcu [at] (Email)
Phone : (514) 398-4400 ext. 09015