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Second Russkiy Mir Assembly Takes Place in Moscow
The Second Russkiy Mir Assembly became like sitting an exam for the Russkiy Mir Foundation. The First Russkiy Mir Assembly held last year was effectively the first large event organized by the foundation under the presidential decree of June 21, 2007. That is why it could be seen as an informational event and as a proclamation of one’s own existence. This year’s assembly assessed the results the foundation achieved in a year. The way the assembly represented its different participants – bringing together over a thousand guests from Russia and neighboring as well as faraway countries – demonstrated that the Russian-speaking community takes an unflagging interest in the activity of the foundation. And at the end of 2008 it is not the expectations for the newly established organization that account for this interest, but the confirmed necessity and effectiveness of the activity already under way.
The assembly’s motto “Russkiy Mir in Action” is meant to underline already achieved results. But no less important is the need to answer the many questions that arise out of the activities of Russian World. However strange it may seem, one of the main questions is what constitutes the notion “Russkiy Mir”. It was touched upon in many speeches at the assembly in one way or another.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, executive director of the Russkiy Mir Foundation, emphasized in his speech that the Russian world rose above confessions and nationalities. In his welcoming speech he said that the approximate third of a billion people worldwide who speak Russian identify themselves with the Russian world. Those who perceive Russian language and culture as of significant value also belong to it, but in a narrower sense. The Russian world, in the view of Vyacheslav Nikonov, denotes a civilization with internationally acclaimed cultural and technological accomplishments, a civilization whose language in particular became the first language in space. Mark, Bishop of Egorievsk, who is also deputy chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, who read out an address of Patriarch Alexis II to the assembly, commented that despite the complex nature and diversity of the Russian world the Orthodox religion has always played a pivotal role. In the opinion of the famous Russian-speaking Kazakh poet Olzhas Suleymenov, who spoke at the assembly, the Russian world first of all means Russian classical literature, which is a more significant force of Russia than its nuclear arsenal. Victor Sadovnichy, Rector of Moscow State University, said that one of the main components of the Russian world is home-grown science.
It is clear that the constituents of the Russian world and the definitions thereof are still a subject for discussion and elaboration. To some extent the activity of the foundation can help find a more accurate answer to these important questions. As Alexey Lobanov, director of the Kazakh association ‘Svetoch’, said, the activity of the foundation helps raise self-awareness of the Russian world.
Still, the answers to such questions are unlikely to be of any value without the actual activity of the foundation. According to Vyacheslav Nikonov, in contrast to the previous assembly, this year the results of the foundation can be discussed in the present, not the future tense.
Throughout the assembly its participants played short films demonstrating the main activities of the foundation, in particular, the opening of Russian centers in cultural and educational institutions in different countries. These centers are intended to be the resource base for all students of Russian abroad, having a rich collection of Russian literature, audio and video materials, and various educational programs. Nine centers like these have been opened so far, but their number is to grow considerably by the end of the year. Confirmation of this came in the speech of Mr. Kudo Tosiki, deputy mayor of the Japanese city of Hakodate, who spoke of the opening of a similar center there based on the branch of the Far East State University. And during a panel discussion held at the assembly a partnership agreement was concluded a between the Russkiy Mir Foundation and the University of Shaulyai (Lithuania), providing for the opening of a similar center there.
Lyudmila Verbitskaya, head of the foundation’s board of trustees, pointed out in her speech that the choice of priorities, consisting of the opening of centers like these and lending different types of support to compatriots, had been proved to be correct in the course of work. According to Verbitskaya, the foundation combines its activity with the long-standing organizations supporting the Russian language across the world – MAPRYAL and ROPRYAL in particular – rather well.
The opening of the assembly was preceded by a major philological conference “The State and Prospects of Russian Language and Literature Teaching Techniques”, supported by the Russkiy Mir Foundation. The exchange of opinions of leading philologists from Russia, the CIS and non-CIS countries about the necessary measures to improve teaching Russian and the use of new approaches to teaching this subject in Russia and abroad gave an understanding of the present state of Russian studies. A resolution summarizing the results of the conference was read out at the assembly.
From the speeches at the assembly one could also learn about the foundation’s granting activity and the first results of supported projects. Marina Niznik, professor at the University of Tel-Aviv, spoke in particular about new textbooks for children of Israeli Russian-speaking families, developed with support from the foundation. Tatyana Zhdanok, a Russian-speaking member of the European Parliament from Latvia, also a public figure, spoke at the assembly and during a panel discussion about various foundation-sponsored initiatives of representatives of Russian-speaking communities in the Baltic states. They concerned the support of the annual European Russian Forum in Brussels, which enables Russian-speaking communities to communicate their problems and interests to the European Parliament and the European community in different EU countries. The Rosinka Russian-speaking children’s choir from London, which gave a performance in front of the assembly participants, was another example of the foundation’s granting activity, having received financial support from Russian World this year. The foundation’s granting programs differ both in terms of their scale and fields. What they have in common is support for Russian language and culture, and specific initiatives coming from the organizations of compatriots.
Greetings to the participants in the assembly were sent by President Dmitry Medevedev, chairman of the Federation Council Sergey Mironov, and Patriarch Alexis II. They all stressed the importance of the foundation’s activity and expressed hope for success in its undertakings.
Support for the Russian world from other structures was also discussed at the assembly. The foundation naturally has no intention of monopolizing this sphere (and would hardly be capable of doing so even if it wanted to), and besides it may need support itself. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign minister, spoke of the ministry’s intention to further actively support the spread of Russian language and culture abroad and help the Russkiy Mir Foundation implement corresponding initiatives. The representative of another co-founder, the Ministry of Education and Science, Alexander Fursenko, its Minister, also highlighted the help given to the foundation. In particular, a representative of the foundation is shortly to go to South America with a ministry’s delegation, which is preparing cooperation agreements in the field of education with a number of Latin American countries, Cuba and Venezuela among them.
Victor Sadovnichy, Rector of Moscow State University, told the participants of the university programs established to support the Russian world, in particular, of the opening of MSU branches that provide education in Russian in accordance with the university’s standards in different CIS countries. The scope of activities relating to the study and support of the Russian world is extremely wide, calling for teamwork of different structures. The foundation is just one of the organizers of this work.
The opening of the assembly was crowned by the performance of the French singer Mireille Mathieu, once very popular in Russia, who sang in Russian two songs ‘Ochi Chernye’ and ‘Podmoskovnye Vechera’. These songs, which long ago became the most recognized examples of Russian song heritage in the West, may have once again reminded of the fact that this recognizable heritage has not changed for many years now. It is one of the things that should be taken into account also when the foundation increases the awareness of Russian culture in the world.
In other words, the assembly showed that the Russkiy Mir Foundation is functioning, its activity is in high demand, and the projects being implemented are yielding results, even though these are, quite naturally, just initial steps in a highly ambitious endeavor to study and support Russkiy Mir – an activity the foundation intends to carry out on a systematic and constant basis.