Why Study Russian and Czech?

Every year, many of our undergraduates come with little or no previous experience of either language. Four years later, they speak fluently, having spent at least half a year in RussianĀ­ or Czech-speaking environments. Study Russian or Czech and you'll find it often becomes a favourite subject, and has the potential to be a core element of a future career.

Our courses are tailored to different language abilities, with advanced units on offer for those who already have an A-level, or equivalent, in Russian. Our former beginners in Russian are among those who graduate with First Class degrees, with most students securing at least an Upper Second Class degree.

There are plenty more reasons why you should consider a degree in these languages.

A major international presence

Russia is an enormous potential market, a crucial source of natural resources, and a major diplomatic, economic and military power demanding a central role on the international stage. Russia is determined to follow its own path and has only partially adopted Western democratic and economic models. 

Many believe there is room for closer alliance with the West. Russia’s stance on world issues, from the environment to terrorism to human rights, needs constant communication and interpretation by those who understand the historical and cultural background to the present position. Key roles where this knowledge can be used include law, the media, national and international diplomacy and civil services, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and charities.

Important roles in Europe's expansion

The Czech Republic was the second-largest of the ten countries that joined the EU in May 2004, and from January to June 2009 held the rotating EU presidency. Since the fall of Communism, Prague, now at the heart of the expanded European Union, has established itself as the dominant regional centre for banking, finance, media, diplomacy and tourism.

The Czech Republic is a very close ally and trading partner of the U.K. and has benefited immensely from eastward investment in the last fifteen years, making Czech expertise a great asset in a wide variety of professions, especially combined with a major European language.

Attractive languages for employers

When beginning the study of modern languages, students often believe that their future lies in translation and interpreting. However, this is a highly specialised career, usually requiring further postgraduate training.

Most of our graduates go on to careers with a very different central focus, but in the pursuit of that focus they regularly use their language skills for a variety of purposes: translation, interpreting, negotiation, giving presentations or in day-to-day communication.

Transferable skills

Languages are seen as a crucial asset by many employers looking for the range of transferable skills, including communication and leadership, that Bristol graduates tend to possess at a very high level. Recent Bristol graduates in Russian and Czech have gone into careers as diverse as accounting & finance, industry, the media, publishing, law, travel & tourism, British and international civil services, the police, the army, non-governmental organisations, teaching, translating and interpreting and academia.

Even if you decide not to use the languages directly in your future career, they attract attention on any CV as a relatively unusual, highly respected humanities degree. They suggest individuality, originality, intelligence and a willingness to take on something different and succeed.

Fascinating countries and cultures 


Studying Russian opens up a country of amazing geographical diversity, with a dramatic past full of colourful, larger-than-life figures. One of Europe’s most influential and admired ‘big’ cultures, Russian society shares much with the rest of Europe, but at the same time seems fundamentally different.

Russian culture constantly worries about its relationship with the West, and the influence of the West in Russia, and tries to make sense of its role and place in the world. At Bristol you can study Russia’s development from the eighteenth century to the present day through its history, thinkers, literature, cinema, religion and popular culture.


Normally we study the languages of once dominant, empire-building nations. By contrast, the Czechs have fought merely to preserve their independent language, culture and identity through Europe’s turbulent history.  

At Bristol you can study the influence of Europe and the Czechs’ cultural and social experience from the nineteenth century to the present day. You will gain knowledge of the closely related Slovak language and Slovak culture. Recently we have created a co-taught course unit about the history and culture of Prague with colleagues in the Department of German.

A sense of achievement

Russian and Czech may seem very daunting. They are Slavonic languages and, with the Cyrillic alphabet or numerous diacritics, look and sound exotic. However, they are similar in structure to other European languages.

Learners of German, Latin or Ancient Greek will be especially familiar with the way the languages work. Once you understand the grammar of one of the Slavonic languages, you can easily pick up the others.

Russian and Czech are hardest at the beginning, requiring a lot of discipline and systematic learning, but students always comment on their sense of progress in both spoken and written language. Your commitment to the subject will be richly rewarded with wonderful experiences, valuable skills and broadened horizons. 

Surrounded by supportive groups of teachers and fellow-students our beginners graduate with very good marks and considerable self-confidence in the Russian or Czech languages.

Find out why Bristol is the right place to study Russian and Czech

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