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Regional Studies–Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia

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Course Requirements

  • 16 term-long courses (64 units), distributed as follows:
    • 6 approved area studies courses (24 units), taken for graduate credit
    • A sequence of coursework (8 units) devoted to the thesis (RSRA 298A and B; RSRA 299A and B, or approved equivalent)
    • Coursework to fulfill the regional language proficiency requirement (varies; typically 8-16 units)
    • Approved electives to bring the total to 64 units (typical choices might include: relevant area studies, theory or methodology courses that do not directly address the region; additional language study; or professional school courses that relate to future career plans)
  • All course selections are made in consultation with the director of graduate studies for Regional Studies–Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia (REECA)
  • Students must maintain at least a B average to remain in good standing

Regional Language Proficiency Requirement

All REECA students are required to demonstrate a high level of proficiency in Russian or another regularly-taught language of the region. Students wishing to fulfill the requirement in a non-Russian language should assume four courses (16 units) and consult with the program office for details. There are three options for fulfilling this requirement in Russian:

  1. Pass the Russian Language Qualifying Exam, which is normally offered once per year at the start of fall term. This three-hour exam requires accurate translation of excerpts on history, politics, and economics taken from the Russian press and scholarly journals. The use of a dictionary is permitted.
  2. Complete, with a grade of A- or higher in each, Russian 102r AND one fourth-year Russian language course (Russian 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 120r).
  3. Complete, with a grade of B or higher in each, at least one approved Russian language course during each term in residence, for a minimum of four (16 units). One of these courses must be Russian 102r, which may be repeated for credit.

Credit toward the degree is not awarded for elementary or intermediate Russian (e.g., Russian A, Russian B). Students who enter the program and place below Russian 101 must make up for the missed credits, either by taking five courses during one or more terms, or by taking Harvard Summer School coursework for graduate credit. In addition, these students may be required to take two Russian courses (8 units) during one or more terms to ensure adequate progress in Russian.

Note: Students who completed their secondary education in a school where Russian the language of instruction was Russian or another approved regional language are considered to have fulfilled the Regional Language Proficiency Requirement.

Policy on Incompletes

Students are prohibited from having more than two outstanding Incompletes at any time.


There are no provisions for students in the regional studies program to teach. However, on rare occasions second-year students have been able to arrange a teaching fellowship.


Academic advising in the REECA program is done on a regular basis by the director of graduate studies (DGS). Individual faculty members are also available for consultation.

At the beginning of their first term in the program, first-year students draft a plan of study, which they review with the DGS before making final course selections.

At the beginning of each subsequent term, all students meet with the DGS to review course selections and to discuss any necessary or desired modifications in their plan of study.

While the DGS is available to assist in identifying potential thesis supervisors, students are responsible for making arrangements with the supervisor, and for seeking advice and assistance from the DGS as necessary.

Master of Arts (AM) Thesis

The AM thesis is supervised by a member of the Harvard faculty and normally takes the form of a traditional academic work. It should demonstrate original research and be based, to a significant extent, on sources in one or more languages of the region. The thesis should demonstrate the student’s familiarity with previous scholarship related to the topic.

Thesis Supervisor

As a rule, the thesis supervisor should be a member of the Standing Committee on the AM in Regional Studies or a faculty associate of the Davis Center. The student is responsible for making arrangements with the supervisor. The choice of a supervisor who is not a member of the Harvard faculty must be approved by the DGS.


Early in the second term of the first year, students complete a thesis prospectus. The prospectus is typically four pages in length and includes the proposed research question, hypotheses, goals, and methodology, and is signed by the thesis supervisor.

Course Credit and Grade

Thesis work is carried out in a sequence of courses that appear in the catalog and on the transcript as RSRA 298A and B (for first-year students), and RSRA 299A and B (for second-year students). Students must complete both A and B course segments to receive credit for the sequence; the entire 2-year thesis sequence counts as 8 units. RSRA 298 is letter-graded on the basis of the prospectus, the research question, methodology, literature review, bibliography, and research presentations of thesis work in progress and research results. RSRA 299 is letter-graded on the basis of the final thesis.

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