Man on HorseIntegrative Exercise, a.k.a. "Comps"

The integrative exercise gives Russian majors an opportunity to demonstrate their competency in four areas:

1. Broad understanding of the people, movements and events that have shaped Russian cultural history over the past 1000+ years
2. Reading proficiency in Russian
3. Familiarity with theoretical approaches common in the field of Slavic Studies or one of its sub-fields
4. Competence in research methodology

I. The first half of the exercise, a factual exam to be taken fall term of the senior year, focuses on the first area. In preparation for the exam, you should plan to do the following:

  • Review class notes from all relevant content courses.
  • Study the lists of names, dates and terms and artworks provided by the department.
    The list of reference sources on the last page of this guide will help you fill in the gaps.

Study tips:

  • Start early
  • Work in groups when possible
  • Make up a study schedule so you have time to review all the material
  • See list of general reference sources below

II. The second half of the exercise focuses on areas 2, 3 and 4, while giving you an opportunity to investigate in depth a topic of interest to you. This may take the form of an individual research project, or a group research-and-translation project. If you choose an individual topic, you will need to do one of the following:

A. Take a 6-hour written exam on your topic at the end of the eighth week of the term.

B. Write a research paper on your topic.

If you elect option B, you must hand in a complete draft of your paper by the end of the seventh week of the term. Failure to hand in the draft on time will result in automatic reversion to Option A.

For group projects, you will be required to translate a Russian work into English and give a presentation about the work, its historical and cultural context, and the translation process.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Keep your topic as narrowly focused as possible---time is short!
  • Think methodically.
  • Include in your bibliography background sources that ground you in a particular field of inquiry, in addition to sources specific to your topic.
  • All bibliographies must include untranslated Russian sources, but you should take into account your level of reading proficiency in Russian when choosing a topic. For example, a paper on a contemporary Russian writer will most likely require you to read sources mainly in Russian.
  • Allow enough time for ordering materials through interlibrary loan. The University of Minnesota library is also an invaluable resource.
  • Ask our reference librarians for assistance; they can save you time by teaching you the most efficient search strategies.

You should do the following, in consultation with your advisor:

Spring and Summer of junior year: begin thinking about possible topics, doing general reading as needed to help you narrow the field
Fall of senior year: settle on a topic and work toward formulating a thesis; begin compiling a preliminary bibliography
Winter break: begin serious reading of sources related to your topic, being sure to take copious notes and carefully record bibliographic information; continue to revise your thesis
2nd week of winter term: Hand in proposal and bibliography to all members of the department

Some recent topics include:

The evolution of oligarkh as a cultural concept in post-Soviet Russia
Aleksandr Vampilov's Last Summer in Chulimsk as Colonized Theater
An analysis of translations of Chekhov's Cherry Orchard
B. Akunin's historical fiction
The cult of Vladimir Vysotsky
The children’s poetry of Daniil Kharms
Lunacharsky's reading of Bakhtin
The paradigm of the "sinful Mary" and the "fallen woman" in two novels by Dostoevsky
Andrei Tarkovsky's readings of Fedor Dostoevsky
The "superfluous man" in the music of Viktor Tsoi
Viktor Pelevin as a postmodern writer

Click here to find links to online reference sources.

The following general reference sources in literature and history can be found in the Main Reference section of our library:

Handbook of Russian literature / edited by Victor Terras
PG2940 .H29 1985

Dictionary of Russian literature/ William Harkins
PG2940 .H3

The Modern encyclopedia of East Slavic, Baltic and Eurasian literatures /
edited by Peter Rollberg
PG2940 .M6 1996 (through volume 10)

Reference guide to Russian literature / editor, Neil Cornwell
PG2940 .R43 1998

The Cambridge history of Russian literature / edited by Charles A. Moser
PG2951 .C36 1989

Dictionary of Russian literature since 1917 / Wolfgang Kasack
PG2991.4 .K3713 1988

Dictionary of Russian women writers / edited by Marina Ledkovsky, Charlotte Rosenthal, Mary Zirin
PG2997 .D53 1994

Companion to Russian history / by John Paxton DK36 .P39 1983

The Modern encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet history
DK14 .M6

Dictionary of Russian historical terms from the eleventh century to 1917/ Pushkarev, S.