Why Learn Russian?

Russian is spoken in the Russian Federation and throughout the former Soviet Union, especially in the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia, where Russian is a lingua franca. Russian is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

"Knowledge of Russian has already opened up countless interesting and profitable experiences, which I’m sure will continue to present themselves in the most unexpected of ways."

- Anne Redmond, Russian Flagship Alumna

Russia is the largest country in the world - almost twice the size of the United States - spanning 9 time zones and covering about one-eighth of the world’s land surface. Russia is the ninth most populous country in the world and the largest in area.

Russia is an economic powerhouse:

  • Russia is one of the largest producers of many natural resources and raw materials, including petroleum, diamonds, gold, copper, manganese, uranium, silver, graphite, platinum, and timber.
  • Russia is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, second largest producer of oil, and third largest producer of coal, steel, and primary aluminum.
  • Russia is a tremendous potential market for U.S. goods and services. Experts expect an increase in demand for American-made equipment related to the energy sector, timber, and food processing, as well as aircraft, and air traffic control equipment, among others.
  • In 2015, the Russian GDP was estimated at $3.471 trillion, the 7th highest in the world. 
Sources: CIA World Factbook, World Coal Association


UW-Madison alumna Karina Shook (center), NASA Aerospace Tehnologist, training with US astronauts and Russian cosmonauts

Study Russian as a gateway to Russian culture! Imagine reading Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in the original; appreciating the poetry of Pushkin, Pasternak, and Brodsky in Russian; having a deeper understanding of Russian avant-garde artists including Chagall, Kandinsky, and Malevich; seeing Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky operas and listening to Rachmaninoff songs without translations; studying ground-breaking Russian theater and cinema in their original language. New worlds will be open to you!

UW-Madison students of Russian go on to great careers. Former students are now working or have worked as engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center with Russian cosmonauts training for the Space Shuttle; at banks operating in international markets; as professors of Russian literature at small colleges and large universities; in major accounting firms; in large and small law firms; in press offices in Russia, Europe, and the United States; in the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Defense, and State; in the Peace Corps; as English teachers in Russian schools; and for non-profit agencies such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the National Foreign Language Center, and the U.S.-Russia Business Council. Some former Russian students have worked for American Councils for International Education and the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) in the United States, Russia, and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

The UW-Madison Russian Flagship is a collaborative initiative of the UW-Madison Department of Slavic Languages and Literature  and the Language Institute, with the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia, and the Doctoral Program in Second Language Acquisition
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