University of Wisconsin–Madison

Slavic Graduate Program

Located within GNS, the Slavic Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the nation’s leading doctoral programs, and welcomes students with a BA/BS or MA who are interested in all areas of Russian and comparative Slavic prose, poetry, drama and philosophy. Our curriculum offers breadth and depth in a variety of areas of Slavic philology, literature, and culture, and is known for offering a balanced approach to training in teaching, writing, and research. If you are considering graduate work in Slavic Languages and Literature, you probably already know that many universities have PhD programs in Slavic. At UW-Madison, our strength at the doctoral level is in Russian literature with a strong comparative Slavic perspective. We are currently unable to accept students seeking a Ph.D. specifically in Slavic linguistics, but are in the process of developing a second track in Comparative Slavic Cultures. Check with us for more information on this option. In the meantime, students seeking a PhD in a Slavic literature other than Russian would be considered on an exceptional basis and are encouraged to contact the department for more information.

We are fortunate to count among our faculty specialists in Bosnian, Czech, Polish, Russian, and Serbian languages, literature, and culture, including current and former presidents of AATSEEL and ASEEES , award-winning authors and teachers, and editors of leading journals. Our faculty biographical sketches provide more information on our faculty and instructional academic staff.

In addition to their excellence in teaching and research, our professors are unparalleled mentors to graduate students. Our students work closely with faculty members on writing, teaching, and publishing. Graduate students are expected to produce publishable articles during their graduate careers, and are provided the guidance and feedback to do so. Other professional development opportunities include the annual AATSEEL-Wisconsin Conference in which graduate students, faculty members, and other scholars present their research and receive timely and effective feedback.

The Slavic Program places high expectations on graduate students to achieve and maintain professional-level proficiency in the Russian language in all four modalities: speaking, writing, listening, and reading. All students who are not native speakers of Russian will be tested in those modalities — plus Russian grammar — when they enter program and periodically throughout their tenure. Appropriate competency must be demonstrated before receiving a teaching assistantship and before passing from MA to PhD candidacy.

Our graduate students receive exceptional training in teaching both language and literature. The Slavic Program has a thriving undergraduate program in Slavic languages with strong enrollments in language, literature, and culture, providing many opportunities for teaching experience, working closely with master teachers among our faculty and academic staff. In addition to teaching assignments in first- through fourth-semester Russian language — and occasionally in Polish and Bosnian, Croatian, or Serbian as well — and in our two-semester survey of Russian literature course, we have also instituted an apprenticeship program for adequately prepared graduate students in the teaching of advanced literature and language classes. Our graduate teaching assistants regularly win prestigious campus awards for their excellence in the classroom.


Located within GNS, the Slavic Program at UW-Madison currently has the following programs available for graduate students:

Other related programs are available in collaboration with or independently of the Slavic Department:

Please note that the Slavic Department does not typically award a terminal MA degree. Rather, the MA is earned as part of studies towards the PhD. Students who are admitted already holding an MA in Slavic from another institution are required to complete a qualifying exam no later than the first semester in residence, or to fulfill all UW-Madison MA requirements as well.

General Requirements for MA Degree (Russian Literature and Culture)

  • 23 credits in the major area, including at least five credits of Professional (800-level) Courses, and two 3-credit Seminars (900-level). See Required Coursework for details.
  • Passing grades on three of the program’s six Foundation examinations in Russian literature
  • Satisfactory demonstration of Russian language proficiency

Completion of MA requirements is expected by the end of the student’s fourth semester (second year) in residence. At that time, students also undergo a “Gateway” exercise in which the full faculty reviews progress to date. Consensus must be reached that the student has the capability of writing a dissertation, and at least one senior faculty member must express willingness ultimately to serve as dissertation advisor. Following successful completion of the “Gateway” exercise, students with the MA are advanced to work towards the PhD.

General Requirements for PhD Degree (Russian Literature and Culture)

  • 34 credits in the major area. This includes the 23 credits required for the MA, plus an additional 11 credits, including four credits of Professional (800-level) courses, and three credits of Seminar (900-level). (see Required Coursework for details)
  • Nine credits for the PhD minor
  • Passing grades on all six Foundation examinations in Russian literature
  • Demonstrated Russian language proficiency in all modalities
  • Demonstrated proficiency in a second Slavic Language (Czech, Polish, Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian)
    • The Second Slavic requirement can be fulfilled one of two ways: Graduate students can take two semesters of intensive instruction in the second Slavic language of their choice. Passing this sequence with an AB average fulfills the requirement. Alternatively, graduate students also have the option of taking the second Slavic language test without taking the two semesters of instruction and will satisfy the requirement if they pass the test with a grade of AB.
  • Demonstrated reading proficiency in French or German.
  • Submission of a capstone portfolio
  • Submission and defense of a dissertation proposal
  • Submission and defense of the PhD dissertation.

PhD students prepare a capstone portfolio at the beginning of the seventh semester (fourth year), consisting of all six Foundation exams plus two revised seminar-length papers (of which one can be from the area of the PhD minor / secondary specialization). Students then prepare a 20-30 page dissertation proposal plus bibliography, which is submitted to the Department’s prelim committee and defended by oral examination at the end of the seventh semester.

Following the successful defense of the dissertation proposal and the meeting of all other requirements, students advance to dissertator status and begin work on the dissertation. Defense of the dissertation is expected to take place during the sixth year of graduate study, and no later than the end of the seventh year.

In addition to the requirements of the Graduate School, the Slavic Program requires the following:

  • Applicants must have the equivalent of the BA from an accredited institution.
  • Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Applicants who have done graduate work elsewhere must have a GPA in graduate work of at least 3.25.
  • Students who do not fulfill the above requirements may be recommended to the Graduate School for admission, but, if admitted, will be placed on departmental probation.
  • Students admitted with deficiencies must make up such deficiencies by taking the appropriate courses in addition to fulfilling regular degree requirements.
  • Students with an MA in Slavic Languages and Literatures from another institution are required, if admitted, to take a qualifying examination to confirm their MA degree no later than the end of their first semester in residence, or to earn a second MA from UW-Madison.
  • Students usually enter the University of Wisconsin Slavic program intending to pursue a PhD in literature. Applicants should check the PhD degree goal on the application, and will earn MA degree as they progress through coursework. Students interested in a terminal MA in Area Studies should contact the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA), University of Wisconsin, 210 Ingraham Hall, 1155 Observatory Dr., Madison, WI 53706. Phone: (608) 262-3379, Fax: (608) 265-3062,

Most of our graduate students are funded for at least six years of their studies with a stipend, full tuition remission, and generous health benefits. Depending on circumstances, we can often guarantee funding for up to five years, and continue funding yearly toward completion of the PhD. This funding usually takes the form of a combination of fellowship, teaching assistantship, and project or research assistantship. Student hourly funding is usually available to supplement the stipend.


Some university-based fellowships are available for incoming students, including University Fellowships and Advanced Opportunity Fellowships. The Slavic Program nominates a small percentage of its accepted students for University Fellowships, which are awarded through the Graduate School.  Advanced Opportunity Fellowships are also available to targeted minority and disadvantaged students from a partnership of the Graduate School and the College of Letters and Science, through the Community of Graduate Research Scholars (L&S CGRS). This program also offers special mentoring, professional development, and networking opportunities to its scholars. Applicants for these fellowships should complete the Graduate School’s on-line “Funding Form” as well as the Slavic Program’s form “Statement of Interest in Fellowships and Financial Aid.” All admissions materials must be received by the Slavic Program by January 2 if you wish to be considered for these fellowship competitions and many other forms of support.

Other fellowships are awarded directly from the Slavic Department, including Michael and Emily Lapinski Graduate Fellowships in Polish Studies and the Xenia Z. Gasiorowska Fellowship in Polish. The Lapinksi Fellowship has its own application form; the annual deadline is on or around March 1. Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships are awarded for academic year and summer language study by CREECA; this also requires a separate application and the annual deadline is on or around February 15.

Graduate Assistantships

All graduate assistants with combined graduate assistant appointments of one-third time or more receive out-of-state tuition remission as well as a remission of in-state fees. (They must still pay segregated fees and special fees approved by the Wisconsin State legislature.) Assistantships at this level also provide an excellent health insurance program and sick leave benefits. Teaching Assistantships are the most common form of graduate student support in our department. Teaching Assistants (TAs) are assigned teaching responsibilities in 1st- or 2nd-year Russian under the supervision of a language program coordinator or for intensive-writing discussion sections for our large literature survey classes under the supervision of the faculty member responsible for the survey course. TAs are occasionally needed for first or second-year classes in Serbo-Croatian, Czech, and Polish, and for discussion sections for a CREECA interdisciplinary course on Russia or on Eastern Europe. All TAs in our department are eligible for full tuition-remission and benefits.Project Assistants assist professors with research, training, or other academic programs or projects. Project Assistantships in our department are offered at an appointment level of at least 33.3% time, making PAs eligible for full tuition-remission and benefits. The Department often has additional funding for students as readers/graders in large undergraduate courses; as student hourly assistants on the departmental website, newsletter, and other tasks; and as librarian/curator of our internationally utilized Pushkin Library.

More detailed information on funding can be found at the Graduate School.

Step 1: Submit your application online and pay your application fee.. When specifying “Intended Field Study,” select Slavic Languages and Literature.

Step 2:  Materials to be sent to the Slavic Program include:

1.Official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended. *International academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation.* Documents must be issued by the school with the official seal/stamp and an official signature.

2.Three letters of recommendation from recent employers or faculty
Letters of Recommendation are submitted online by your references. Each recommender will receive an electronic invitation to submit a letter on the applicant’s behalf. You can check to see if your recommendations have been submitted in the online application status system.

3.GRE (North American Students Only)
GRE scores are sent electronically from ETS – use institution code 1846.

4.TOEFL or MELAB (Non-Native English Students only)
TOEFL scores are required of all applicants whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English. TOEFL scores are sent electronically from ETS – use institution code 1846

5. Writing sample (preferably in English about literature) of 15-25 pp. in length

6.  Statement of purpose

Step 3: You may track your application progress through OASIS (Online Admission Status Information System) once you submit your electronic application.

OASIS (Online Admission Status Information System) is a web-based application which applicants can check their admission status online.   Applicants will get a personalized link when they submit their application that they can access with their UW ID.

Applications for admission to the graduate program in Russian literature can be received at any time, but only complete applications received by January 2 will be considered for fellowships for the following fall semester.

Advice on Applying


Students interested in applying to the graduate program should ask for recommendations from those professors who know well not only their language skills, but also their ability to work with literary and other cultural texts (both primary and secondary). Often it is best for students to get recommendations from professors from whom they have taken several courses and with whom they have had personal contact.  It is sometimes helpful for students to get a good recommendation from a professor outside their department.  A student’s performance in third-year Russian grammar may be less impressive than an outstanding performance in a course on the modern English novel, in which the student outperformed all English majors.  Please note, however, that most of our students begin graduate study with very good to excellent Russian language skills.

First-year graduate students from other institutions who have only been at that institution for one semester (and have not taken more than one course from a professor) should solicit most of their recommendations from their undergraduate or previous institution.

Statement of Purpose and Writing Sample

A good Statement of Purpose for Graduate Study (500 words or more) is very important, and so is a writing sample. The writing sample should be a scholarly paper in English, generally under 20 pages in length, analyzing a literary text or texts (preferably a Russian literary text or texts). 

GRE Scores

GRE scores are required for admission to the graduate program and for most major fellowships.  If the Slavic Department does not receive GRE scores by the January 2 fellowship deadline, applicants will not be eligible for consideration for a fellowship.  Accordingly, we encourage students to take the GREs in time for us to get the scores. The GREs are administered annually in November, but applicants may also take the tests by computer on a year-round basis.  For more information, see

Foundation Courses and Exams (700-level)

The Slavic Program offers six Foundation courses in Russian literature. These two- and three-credit courses cover the medieval period to contemporary, post-Soviet literature. One Foundation course is offered each semester. Assessment is by final examination.

General credit requirements aside, only the examination is required for satisfactory progress to the MA and PhD degrees. Thus, students who do not need to take a particular foundation course for credit can prepare the reading list independently and sit for the equivalent of the final examination for the course, to be offered twice per year. Exams will be graded by an instructor who regularly teaches the course. Passing the exam will fulfill the degree requirement, although course credit will not be granted.

For the MA, students must pass three examinations.
For the PhD, students must pass all six examinations.

Old Russian Literature [2 cr.]
Eighteenth-Century Literature [2 cr.]
Romanticism (~1790s – 1840s) [3 cr.]
Realism (~1840s – 1890s) [3 cr.]
Modernism (~1890s – 1920s) [3 cr.]
Soviet, Emigre, and Post-Soviet Periods (~1930s – present) [3 cr.]

Required Professional Courses (800-level)

These courses introduce students to graduate study, the Slavic field, research methods, language pedagogy, the historical and linguistic origins of colloquial and literary Russian, and literary theory in the Slavic world and beyond.

For the MA, five of the 23 total credits are required in this area.
For the PhD, nine of the 34 total major credits are required in this area.

Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Study in Slavic [1 cr.]
Critical Theory [2 cr.]
Structure of Russian [2 cr.]
Introduction to Old Church Slavonic and the History of the Russian Literary Language [2 cr.]
Methods of Teaching Slavic Languages [2 cr.]

Seminars (900-level)

Seminars are one- to three-credit advanced-level courses on literature. At least one three-credit seminar is offered once per semester. In the Seminar format, students study an aspect of literature or culture in detail, engaging in individual research related to the theme. Seminar students write a research paper and generally give one or more presentations throughout the course of a Seminar.

For the MA, at least two seminars (six out of the 23 total credits) are required.
For the PhD, at least three seminars (nine out of the 34 total major credits) are required.

Recent seminars in the Slavic Department include:

“Modernism: Aesthetic Ideas, Poetics, and Cultural Mythologies”
“Gogol’s Mertvye dushi”
“The Petersburg Text in Russian Literature”

Examples schedules illustrating a student’s progress through the entire program are available here.

In addition to required coursework, the Slavic Program offers its graduate students a number of options for one-on-one independent or directed study with faculty members and academic staff, including Apprenticeships in Teaching and Writing.

Apprenticeships are one-credit courses that can be taken repeatedly after completion of the second year of coursework.  They require intensive one-on-one interaction with a faculty member over the course of the entire semester.

  • Directed Reading / Independent Study courses provide graduate students with the opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty members and academic staff, studying and writing on a topic not otherwise covered in departmental course offerings.
  • An “Apprenticeship in Teaching” pairs an advanced graduate student with a professor who is teaching a specialized undergraduate literature course or an advanced language/literature course in the major. It provides the student with the opportunity to discuss the rationale behind the syllabus with the professor at the beginning of the semester, sit in class with the professor periodically throughout the semester, and meet outside of class to discuss strategies for presentation and discussion. Depending on the situation, the student might give a guest lecture or lead a discussion under the professor’s supervision.
  • The “Apprenticeship in Writing” is designed to help the student work one-on-one with a faculty member to develop a paper already written for a seminar or other course, and bring it up to publishable quality.