78683 - History of the Russian Language (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Language, Society and Communication (cod. 8874)

Learning outcomes

The students are expected to have a good knowledge of the socio-cultural and historical-political factors which have contributed to the changes that the Russian language has undergone over time, and to be able to understand the latest language policy due to a good knowledge of the most influential scientific studies on synchronic and diachronic aspects of the history and historiography of the Russian language. They are expected to identify and recognize graphic, phonetic, morphological and syntactic, lexical, and pragmatic phenomena of the different stages that comprise the history of the Russian language, and to ascribe certain types of text to precise historic periods. Moreover, they are expected to know how to apply the knowledge and the tools of analysis, and to use the acquired learning methods to extend and update their knowledge independently. They are also expected to know how to do a research on the subject independently. Through practical exercises within a period of two years, all students must have achieved a C1 level in Russian according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which make them able to effectively interpret the socio-linguistic and cultural codes involved in a communicative relationship.

Course contents

Four Walks in the History of Russian Language

Adopting a diachronic approach that takes into account crucial historical and socio-cultural factors, the course focuses on the evolution of Russian language and the linguistic policies. In this respect, particular attention is devoted to four key themes for the understanding of contemporary debates around Russian language: 1. Written Russian language: alphabets, grammar books and orthographic reforms, from the Glagolitic script to ‘runet’; 2. Linguistic purity: from Byzantinisms to the productivity of the English language in Russian word formation and creation of neologisms; 3. The Soviet heritage today: from the so-called ‘novojaz’ to the classification and use of sovietisms in contemporary Russian Language; 4. Russian language outside its geographic borders: Russian as lingua franca for interethnic communication and the linguistic policies carried out during the Soviet period; the status of Russian in the former Soviet republics, with a specific reference to the case of Armenia and Georgia. An important part of the course is dedicated to the study of the bond ‘language – cultural identity – ideology’.

Each course unit will provide an historical frame of reference, together with an explanation of the core concepts of the discipline. Exercises on real texts of diverse typologies will help students improve their knowledge of Russian.


The language component of the course comprises 36 hours of classroom work (“Esercitazioni”) which focuses on Russian for Academic Purposes and places particular emphasis on: oral presentation and writing skills (i.e. answers to open questions).


For a better comprehension of the course, students should possess a basic knowledge of Slavic philology, of Russia’s history and culture. Students should also have a minimum level of competence in Russian corresponding to B2 (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

Course contents/units

1. Written Russian language: alphabets, grammar books and orthographic reforms.

2. Debates on linguistic purity.

3. The Soviet heritage in contemporary Russian Language.

4. Russian Language outside its geographic borders: post-Soviet countries.



Compulsory readings:

Each course unit is associated to one or more compulsory bibliographic references.

Unit 1

1.1.Simonato, E. (2018) "The Quest for a Unified Alphabet: A Soviet Revolutionary Project", Rivoluzione visiva attraverso visioni rivoluzionarie: alfabeti, cinema e letteratura in URSS, a cura di M. Maurizio e V.S. Tomelleri. Torino: Dipartimento di Lingue e Letterature Straniere e Culture Moderne, Università di Torino, pp. 37-48.

1.2. Krys'ko, V.B., Popov, M.B. (2020) "Istorija russkogo jazyka do XVIII v.", Istoričeskaja grammatika russkogo jazyka, pod red. V.B. Krys'ko. Moskva: IC "Azbukovnik", pp. 233-246.

Unit 2

2.1. Gončarova, N.A., Švecova, V.M. (2018) “Inojazyčnye slova v rodnoj reči: obogaščenie jazyka ili simvol čužoj?”, Neofilologija, 4 (14), pp. 5-10.

2.2. Gorham, M.S. (2012) “Language Culture and National Identity in Post-Soviet Russia”, Landslide of the Norm: Language Culture in Post-Soviet Russia (Slavica Bergensia, vol. 6), ed. I. Lunde and T. Roesen. Bergen: Norway, pp. 18-30.

Unit 3

3.1. Kupina, N.A. (2009) “Sovetizmy: k opredeleniju ponjatija”, Političeskaja lingvistika, 28, pp. 35-40. 

Unit 4

4.1. Dietrich, A.P. (2005) “Language policy and the status of Russian in the Soviet Union and the successor states outside the Russian Federation”. Australian Slavonic and East European Studies, 19, 1-2, pp. 1-27.

4.2. Pavlenko, A. (2008) “Russian in post-Soviet countries”, Russian Linguistics, 32, pp. 59–80.


Compulsory readings will be available for free download from the lecturer’s website (section: “teaching material” / "Virtuale"). More material for course work will be uploaded on the Virtuale platform.


Teaching methods

Lectures, seminars, individual or peer-to-peer exercises. During the course, students will be encouraged to actively engage discussions on relevant topics.


Assessment methods

The exam will consist of two parts:

(i) an oral presentation in Russian thematically linked to the contents of the course, to be delivered during the lessons (50% of the final mark, topic to be agreed with the Professor);

(ii) a written exam in Russian on the contents of the course and of the exercise component “Esercitazioni” (50% of the final mark).


(i) Oral presentation

The oral presentation as in point (i) has to be part of a group work (dates to be defined). Each presentation must not exceed 15-20 minutes per person (compliance with the allotted time will be part of the evaluation). Each group must include a linguistic analysis of a meaningful excerpt. Students are expected to send the Professor a Powerpoint file no later than 3 working days before the presentation.

Students not attending the course will have to write an essay in Russian, topic to be agreed with the Professor (10-15 pages, Times New Roman 12, maximum spacing 1,5, language: Russian; 1/3 of the final mark). The essay will focus on one of the themes relevant to the course. Students must send both the essay and the translation with its linguistic comment via e-mail at least 2 weeks prior to the date of the written exam.


(ii) Written exam

The written exam will consist of open questions.


The mark of the oral presentation (i) is valid for one year (i.e. three exam sessions: summer, autumn and winter). After one year, students must submit via e-mail a written essay on the topic of the oral presentation (10-15 pages, Times New Roman 12, maximum spacing 1,5, language: Russian). Students must send this essay at least 2 weeks prior to the selected date of the written exam.


Methods of evaluation

Evaluation of student presentations, papers and written exams will be based on the following criteria: (i) knowledge of the course contents; (ii) appropriateness and coherence of the argumentation; (iii) structure of the answers/presentation/written work (clear sections, proper quotations, accurate bibliography/sitography); (iv) compliance with the allotted time (oral presentation).

Students who demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the course contents and of the topic of their choice (group presentation/essay-linguistic analysis), who actively participate in the lessons (only for students attending the course), who are logically coherent in their exposition and can problematize notions, will obtain an excellent mark.

To obtain an average mark, students have to demonstrate a good knowledge of most contents of the course and an adequate knowledge of the topic of their choice (group presentation/essay-linguistic analysis).

To obtain a pass mark, students have to demonstrate a basic knowledge of most contents of the course and a good knowledge of the most important aspect of the topic of their choice (group presentation/essay-linguistic analysis).


Each A.Y. will offer six dates for written exams.


Teaching tools

Use of audio-visual material, powerpoint presentations, e-learning platforms.

Office hours

See the website of Irina Marchesini


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This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.