Do you want to understand Russian media, jokes, songs, TV shows and facebook comments? Do you want to speak the “same language” Russian natives speak?
If so, you have to read what they read.
This site presents a collection of readings, which are included in any Russian school curriculum. All Russian children read (or at least are supposed to read) them. These texts are included in ЕГЭ (the general state examination, similar to the SATs). They are traditionally included in the standard published textbooks for Russian school children.
Frequent allusions and references to characters, plots, and situations from these readings prove their relevance for students of Russian language, literature and culture. Jokes, songs, political cartoons, contemporary films and colloquial expressions will be more accessible if you are familiar with a school canon of classical Russian literature.
The selection is NOT based on the taste of the instructor, nor the artistic merit of the works. In fact, not all of them belong to the “Canon of the Great Masterpieces of Russian Classical Literature.” However, these works do shape contemporary Russian cultural and political discourse.
We decided to begin with the 19th century canon, as it seems to be more stable and “fixed” in Russian school curriculums (as opposed to 20th century literature).
Each reading is presented in three versions:
1) A simple retelling of the plot (or adapted version of an excerpt) for beginners
2) An abridged (or in some cases adapted) version for intermediate students
3) The original text for advanced students
The texts are equipped with a glossary. Simply hover over a word to see its translation in English or explanation in Russian. There are also “Assignments and Links” pages associated with each text, which provide additional information and links to useful materials (such as songs, film adaptations, etc.).
You will also find a poetry school canon. All of the poems included are familiar to any Russian who has attended high school.
Finally, this is a work in progress– comments and suggestions are welcome. The site is open to everyone. Please use it and send us your feedback via e-mail: