Jul 11, 2021

Olympiada of Spoken Russian

  • Crimson Education
  • Throughout the US
Competition Skill Building


Launched in the late 1960s, the ACTR Olympiada of Spoken Russian is the oldest of ACTR’s secondary school activities. Drawing on the long-established practice of oral exams and competitions within the Russian educational system, the Olympiada has provided successive generations of American high school and middle school students of Russian with a forum in which to demonstrate their achievement in Russian language study, while conversing with native speakers of Russian and meeting with students of Russian from schools other than their own. 

State/Regional Olympiada competitions take place throughout the United States from February through May. Participants may earn gold, silver, or bronze medals in recognition of their proficiency in Russian conversation, poetry recitation, and Russian civilization at various levels of study. In addition, every third or fourth year outstanding contestants at regional ACTR Olympiada contests have the opportunity to participate in an international Olympiada contest that takes place in Moscow and brings together winners of Russian Olympiada contests from throughout the world to compete for international medals and engage in a rich program of cultural activities.

Questions? Comments? Contact the Olympiada National Co-Chairs: Mark Trotter at martrott@indiana.edu and Ruth Edelman at rpedelman@hotmail.com

Type of Opportunity

Extracurricular Activity

Application Deadline

Annual Competition

Age Range



Judges use a 100-point scale for scoring at each commission. At the end of the competition, scores for the three commissions are averaged; medals and certificates are awarded as follows:
• 90-100 points - Gold medal and certificate
• 80-89 points - Silver medal and certificate
• 70-79 points - Bronze medal and certificate
• below 69 points - honorable mention: all contestants who, in the opinion of the state or regional Chair, seriously participate should get at least an honorable mention, a result that is recognized with a certificate (but no medal)

Each school will automatically receive certificates and medals upon successful completion of their respective Olympiadas and upon receipt of complete results and registration fees from the state or regional Chair. Results should be sent to the designated national co-chair (currently Mark Trotter) using the template provided.

In a year of an International Olympiada in Moscow, each state or region may nominate at least one upper-level student (Level 3 or higher) for the opportunity to compete for a spot on the US team at the International Olympiada in Moscow. States/regions may nominate one additional student per each twenty contestants (any level) in their regional competition over twenty (e.g., states/regions with 40 contestants can nominate a total of 2, those with 60 contestants can nominate a total of 3, etc). Note that nominees may have to meet non-academic criteria pertaining to such matters as age and citizenship.

A selection committee, formed by the American Councils for International Education (which sponsors US participation in the International Olympiada) in Washington, DC, will make the final determination of US International Olympiada team members among the nominees from each state/region. Nominees may be required to submit letters of recommendation from their teachers or other school officials, write an essay in Russian and/or English, and take part in individual telephone interviews in Russian conducted by experienced native speakers of Russian from the American Councils office in Washington, DC.

Every year, the chairs of the state/regional Olympiada contests will consult with their respective judges and select one (1) non-heritage and one (1) heritage learner contestant to be recognized for outstanding achievement in Russian language study, as evidenced by performance in the competition and, in some cases, other criteria (e.g., years spent in study of the language). The names and full-face color photo shall be sent to the chair(s) for printing in the ACTR Newsletter. In addition, a book prize may be awarded to each of the winners, if funds are available. Students may be so honored only once.

Participation Cost

All students participating in the ACTR Olympiada of Spoken Russian must have a sponsor, who will register the student in advance of the event and chaperone the student at the event.

1) The sponsor will be the student’s Russian teacher.  Teachers who register student participants must be current members of the American Council of Teachers of Russian as shown in the ACTR Directory of Members. They should enroll only students that they themselves teach.
2) Students in a school or other institution that offers a formal Russian program must be currently enrolled in a Russian class.

1) If a student's school does not have a formal Russian language program, he or she may participate with the approval of the state or regional chairperson;
2) If the school or institution has a formal Russian program in which the student is not enrolled, he/she may not register for the Olympiada, unless he/she has exhausted all of the school’s offerings in Russian;
3) If the student is otherwise eligible, a teacher, tutor, or other adult may sponsor the student.  The sponsor must become a Regular Member of ACTR, pay the appropriate dues in the Pre-College Teachers category, and chaperone the student at the Olympiada.
4) If the state or regional competition collects a school participation fee in addition to the ACTR participation fee (currently $6.00), it will be the state or regional chairperson's decision as to whether an individual student participant's sponsor is liable for that fee.

Most students will register in this category according to their level of study (e.g., Russian I students in Level I, etc.). These are students whose knowledge of Russian was acquired in a United States classroom, more or less exclusively.

Heritage Learners
Heritage Learners are students who arrived in the United States up to and including age 10, from countries where Russian is a required language in school or is spoken by a sizable portion of the population. The Heritage Learners are to compete in their own separate category.
For the purposes of the competition, heritage learners should be registered one level higher than his or her level of study (i.e. first-year students enrolled as second-year, etc.)

Native Speakers
This category is for students who arrived in the United States after the age of 10 from countries where Russian is a required language or is spoken by a sizable portion of the population. 

In cases where a student’s category is not self-evident, sponsors should consult with the state/regional chairs. The ultimate decision as to the proper classification of such students rests with the state/regional chairs. Teachers are urged to distinguish carefully between heritage learners and native speakers.

Teachers should register students directly with their state/regional chairs, using the format designated and within the deadline established by them.

For all students the registration fee is $6.00. All teachers or adults who sponsor and chaperone students must be members of ACTR for the current year (renew or enter a new membership now). State/Regional chairs shall be responsible for verifying the membership status of teachers participating in their Olympiada.

There are no refunds for students who do not participate after registration. Registration fees should be collected by the state/regional chair and forwarded together to the designated national co-chair (currently Mark Trotter), who will record the payments and send them on to the ACTR Treasurer. Medals and certificates will NOT be issued to students of a school until payment for registration fees has reached the designated national co-chair.