The Chair of Russian Language and Literature was established during the 1961/62 academic year and it grew into the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures in 1972. Initially, the curriculum was a three-year programme, but it was later developed into a four-year programme. A significant number of students came to the Chair from the Pedagogical Higher School to continue their study of Russian language and literature. The initial faculty members, Prof. Rikard Kuzmić, who served as the first head of the Chair, and Prof. Tatjana Šeremet, also came from the Pedagogical Higher School.
Milica Milidragović, Marija Ančić and Nazif Kusturica served as the first teaching assistants and associates and they were later joined by Olga Janić, Svetlana Beodranski and Milovan Milinković. From 1964, the Chair developed with greater intensity with the employment of teaching assistants and associates from among its alumni—Dimitrije Veselinović, Bogdan Dabić, Aleksandar Done, Gordana Besarović and Branko Tošović. During that period, the Chair also employed native language lectors: Zofja Maliszewski-Vuković for Polish and Natalia Minaeva for Russian. The Chair was significantly strengthened with the arrival of Dr. Malik Mulić from the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Zagreb.
In 1972, thanks to increased staffing and improvements in teaching and research, the Chair grew into the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, with the possibility of a combined degree with other study groups and subjects. That year, teaching was carried out at the Department by three professors with doctorates: Malik Mulić, Milica Milidragović and Marija Ančić-Obradović. Soon afterwards, Nazif Kusturica and Bogdan Dabić defended their doctoral dissertations, while Dimitrije Veselinović, Gordana Besarović, Branko Tošović and Aleksandar Done defended their master’s thesis. Nirman Moranjak was employed as a teaching assistant and she was joined a few years later by Marina Katnić.
With the retirement of Dr. Rikard Kuzmić (1971) and the deaths of Tatjana Šeremet (1975) and Dr. Marija Ančić-Obradović (1979), the Department, and especially its Chair of Language, was significantly weakened. Still, with the employment of talented teaching assistants and associates, the Department managed to sustain teaching on all its core courses and began creating a stronger foundation for the development of contemporary general and specialised scholarly disciplines in language and literature. Branko Tošović completed his doctoral dissertation under the mentorship of Dr. Malik Mulić and began detailed work on a comparative study of Russian and our native language, especially in the area of stylistics. Already as a teaching assistant, Nirman Moranjak began publishing significant papers on Russian literature and later also on literary theory. Marina Katnić-Bakaršić was also noticed for her scholarly work in stylistics and functional linguistics. With the arrival of Ilijas Tanović, the teaching of applied linguistics, translation theory and teaching methodology took on an important role at the Department. Borislav Tošić MA worked intermittently as a visiting scholar at the Department.
The importance of selecting good teaching assistants was confirmed with the employment of first Safet Kešo and later Adijata Ibrišimović-Šabić, a teaching assistant for literature. During a short period before 1992, Gorjana Dragišić also worked as a teaching assistant for Russian literature.
In the 1990s, the Chair of Polish language and literature was established as part of the Department and Polish received the status of a B discipline. Instruction was carried out with the help of visiting professors from Zagreb and Belgrade (Dr. Zdravko Malić and Dr. Gordana Jovanović) and was gradually taken over by Snežana Kondić, the teaching assistant for Polish language, and Orhan Wasilewski, the teaching assistant for Polish literature. Dr. Nenad Vuković was also employed. Unfortunately, in 1992, with the aggression against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Chair was shut down.
Dr. Bogdan Dabić had already moved to the Department of South Slavic Languages, although he continued to cooperate with the Department and to teach some courses. Dr. Nirman Moranjak-Bamburać moved to the Department of Comparative Literature and Library Sciences, although she continued to assist the Department until her untimely death in 2007.
Under the influence of various factors, interest in the study of Russian language started to decline during the 1990s and fell especially after the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the war, a significant number of faculty members and associates left the Department for various reasons. By 2008, there were only two full-time faculty members working at the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, together with two teaching associates and one lector: Dr. Marina Katnić-Bakaršić, full professor; Dr. Ilijas Tanović, full professor; Safet Kešo MA, teaching associate; Adijata Ibrišimović-Šabić MA, teaching associate; and lector Amela Ljevo-Ovčina. Dr. Nazif Kusturica, emeritus, continued to participate in the work of the Department as both an instructor and a committee member for master’s and doctoral dissertations. In many ways, his enthusiasm and engagement contributed to the continued functioning of the Department. From 2008, with the death of professor Ilijas Tanović, who had served as the head of the Department until his illness, until 2015, Dr. Marina Katnić-Bakaršić was the only faculty member at the Department and she also served as the president of the Council of Departments.
Conditions at the Department have gradually improved since 2010. That year, Linda Prugo-Babić was employed as first a teaching assistant and later a teaching associate for Russian language (she was employed until 2016). Conditions have improved especially since 2015, when Dr. Adijata Ibrišimović-Šabić was employed as an assistant professor of Russian literature following her successful doctoral defence and 2017, when Dr. Amela Ljevo-Ovčina was employed as an assistant professor of Russian language after defending her doctoral dissertation at the University of Silesia in Katowice. Marko Bačanović MA worked as a teaching assistant at the Department for a short period of time. Today, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures has an improved staffing situation with the arrival of young associates so that the Department employs: Dr. Marina Katnić-Bakaršić, full professor; Dr. Adijata Ibrišimović-Šabić, assistant professor; Dr. Amela Ljevo-Ovčina, assistant professor; Safet Kešo MA, teaching methodology instructor (part-time); Dženana Hajdarpašić and Jelena Grebenar MA, teaching assistants.
The opening of lectorates for Czech language (2008) and Slovenian language (2015) is particularly significant for the development of the Department. Students attending courses at these lectorates come from not only our Department but also from other departments and from outside the Faculty. The Department, therefore, has lived up to its name and truly become a department of Slavic languages and literatures by offering instruction in an East Slavic, West Slavic and South Slavic languages. The efforts of native language lectors Jana Skoumalova (Czech lectorate) and Pavel Ocepek MA (Slovenian lectorate) have significantly contributed to the visibility of the Department.
Faculty and associates from the Department have published a significant number of monographs, and professional and scholarly works in various linguistic and literary fields, as well as a series of textbooks and handbooks for teaching Russian language at all levels from primary school to university. They have also published many translations of literary, scientific and academic works. Members of the Department have published a series of translations, original works and other publications in the area of Russian literature.
At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, the Department organised seminars for teachers of Russian language from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Later, the Department, with special efforts from Dr. Branko Tošović and Dr. Nazif Kusturica, organised the “Sarajevo Days of Slavic Studies” conference. Department members and guests from other institutions and countries have participated at these conferences. The “Sarajevo Days of Slavic Studies” conference proceedings and Slavist journal were established. Members of the Department participated actively and continue to participate at local and international linguistic and literary manifestations, promotions, conferences and congresses with papers and presentations. The Department was involved in the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature (MAPRJAL). Members of the Department actively participate in the work of the Slavic Committee of Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the organisation of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Slavic conferences. Their papers are published in conference proceedings from these conferences. In cooperation with Burch University, the Department has organised two Russian forums after which conference proceedings were published. The Department actively participates in the Erasmus+ exchange programmes for faculty and students; our faculty have visited the University of Silesia in Katowice and visiting professors have come to us from Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Germany.
During the 1990s, under the influence of various factors, the number of enrolled students fell significantly. Still, in the past few years, the number of students enrolled at the Department has increased. This is the result of both the possibility of combining the study of Russian language and literature with study at other departments and efforts by the Department to remain sustainable and to attract students through improvements to teaching and research. In addition to a series of successfully defended undergraduate theses in Russian language and literature, we should mention that in 2014, after many decades, the first doctoral dissertation in Russian literature was defended (by Dr. Adijata Ibrišimović-Šabić) and in 2017, the first doctoral dissertation in Russian language was defended within the Bologna system Doctoral Programme in Linguistics (by Dr. Linda Prugo-Babić). We can also add that Dr. Amela Ljevo-Ovčina defended her doctoral dissertation in Poland, in 2016, which indicates that the Department is open towards other centres of Slavic studies. Also, we shouldn’t forget that a large number if students from other departments and from outside the Faculty have attended or are attending courses in Slovenian and Czech and that Russian is offered as a course at the Department of Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian Language as well as at all other departments at the Faculty as a general education course. Significant recognition and encouragement for the Department in its efforts to develop interest in the study of Russian language has come from Dr. Ilijas Tanović, who received the Medal of Pushkin, the highest Russian state decoration for contributions to the study of Russian language and literature, in 2008, and the fact that in 2010/11 Dr. Marina Katnić-Bakaršić was named Outstanding Professor by the University of Sarajevo at the initiative of the Faculty of Philosophy.