Russian Language and Literature

Collection Area

Russian Language and Literature


Courses in Russian language and literature have been taught since 1918 at Dartmouth, where at one point it was reported that there were more undergraduates studying Russian than at any other one place in the U.S. However, enrollment in Russian courses continued to decline until 1930, at which time Russian was removed from the curriculum. Russian was revived at Dartmouth College in 1942 when Professor Dimitri von Mohrenshildt joined the faculty.

In the fall of 1948 a Special Committee on Russian Studies was charged by President Dickey with systematically reviewing the place of Russian studies at Dartmouth College. As a result of the committee's proposals, Dartmouth inaugurated a Department of Russian Civilization in the fall of 1950 with a curriculum of 15 courses. Professor von Mohrenshildt became the department's first chairman; the newly created department made it possible for undergraduates to major in Russian. The following year, the program, which was unusual in its scope for an undergraduate college, received an initial $50,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation to develop the Russian program and to expand the Russian collection in Baker Library.

In 1960 Dartmouth began holding an annual summer Russian Language Institute through the National Defense Language Program; the institute continued through 1968. In 1963 the department became housed in the Humanities Division and changed its name to the Department of Russian Language and Literature. By the 1970s the number of full-time faculty members in the department had stabilized at 7, and has remained at that number ever since. The department has expanded its curriculum over the years with literature courses on individual writers, linguistics courses, and other specialized courses based on student/faculty interest.

General Purpose

The Russian language and literature collection supports the teaching programs and research needs of students and faculty of the Russian Department. While departmental activity requires coverage of all periods of Russian language, literature, and civilization, concentration is on the literature of the 19th and 20th centuries and Russian culture. Materials in film and theater studies, art and architecture, folklore, and history are also purchased.

Dartmouth College Program

Russian is the only Slavic language taught at Dartmouth. The Department offers a major in language and literature, a major in Russian area studies (covering the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe), and a modified major in Russian, which is satisfied by a coordinated program in Russian, comparative literature, economics, environmental studies, geography, government, and history. Departmental offerings emphasize the evolution and structure of the Russian language, and Russian literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. Independent study programs enable students to work on specialized topics such as the literature of earlier periods. Study abroad and honors programs are available. Graduate degrees are not offered.

General Subject Boundaries

Russian language and literature is in the PG class of the Library of Congress classification scheme and in 891 of the Dewey Decimal Classification. Separate collection development policy statements cover Russian materials purchased in art, history, drama and film. The collection is primarily housed in the open stacks of Baker Library, although older materials, a high percentage of which are brittle and/or rare, have been transferred to the Dartmouth Library Depository.


Russian is the primary language of the collection; English is the secondary language. German and French works are occasionally acquired, generally in the linguistics area. No Western language is excluded. Works in other Slavic languages have been collected at a minimum level, primarily as representative works of the given language. English translations from other Slavic languages, such as Ukrainian, Czech and Polish, are acquired on a regular basis.

Geographic Areas

The collection emphasizes Russian language works published in Russia. However, the importance of emigre literature necessitates substantial acquisitions from the United States and Europe. The collection also includes critical works, works on linguistics, and translations published in the United States or Europe. The major disruption of the book trade caused by the recent break-up of the Soviet Union has meant that exchange programs formerly maintained with the Lenin Library (now the Russian State Library) and with Akademiia Nauk (now split into separate academies in each constituent republic) have diminished markedly and have required reliance on vendors outside of Russia for acquisition of new titles.

Types Of Material Collected

Monographs and serials constitute the core of the collection. Standard reference works are routinely collected. Major Russian-language newspapers and journals are collected in electronic format.

Format Of Materials Collected

Print materials make up the bulk of the collection, although online products are acquired as well. Source material (documents, news services, etc.), including the Russian Archive, continues to become available online. The library owns a small number of Russian CD-ROM products, and a significant number of Russian and East European films on DVD. The library also subscribes to ABSEES Online (American Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies).

Special Collections and Manuscripts

The Stefansson Collection housed in Rauner Library contains over 100 print items in Russian pertaining to Arctic explorations.  Special rare publications purchased for class use are also kept in Rauner.  The recently acquired Dean Worth/Emily Klenin collection on Slavic linguistics is shelved throughout the general collection.

Other Resources Available

Interlibrary loan provides access to resources not in the collection. Dartmouth's Russian Department has a small departmental library.

January 1989, (A. McHugo)
December 1994, (A. McHugo)
May 2000, (J. DeSantis)

October 2016, (J. DeSantis)


LC Class


Current Bibliographer

John C. DeSantis