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Russian Language Teachers as Missionaries

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Russian Language Teachers as Missionaries


Vladimir Emelianenko

Photo credit: BackwardRus/

As the new academic year starts, Russian teachers will travel to three new countries - Mongolia, Serbia and Uzbekistan. There are two more countries waiting for teachers from Russia according to the emerging tradition (Tajikistan since 2017 and Kyrgyzstan since 2019). For the first time, Vietnam requests Russian teachers to teach Russian in the remote mode. This is how the program for promoting Russian language abroad has been developing.

What is more, in the early years Russian teachers signed contracts and went to teach mostly the Russian language and literature. However, for the new 2020/21 academic year different countries have very different requests. Mongolia needs teachers of Russian as a foreign language, mainly for secondary schools and colleges. Serbia expects teachers of mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, biology in Russian for upper secondary schools. Tajikistan needs teachers of Russian language and Russia’s history for language courses for migrants, as well as teachers who teach mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography and computer science in Russian in schools and high schools, both Russian and Tajik ones. Primary school teachers and teachers of mathematics and physics are especialy expected in Kyrgyzstan.

Vietnam, just like Mongolia, expressed a desire to sign contracts with RSL teachers but requested to arrange classes in the remote mode - especially since the country is still closed to Russians due to a new outbreak of coronavirus.

However, most of the experts in teaching Russian as a second language will go to Uzbekistan - a new destination. And they will teach both in primary and secondary schools, as well as in colleges and universities, including branches of Russian universities. Also, teachers of the Russian language and Russian history will work in Uzbekistan PEAs (private employment agencies) to teach spoken Russian and basics of Russian history to those migrants-to-be who intend to go to Russia for work.

The Russian teaches are rewarded well – they get excellent experience of working with a foreign audience. Furthermore, apart from working in the classroom, they will be engaged in children activities and creative work, organize literary evenings, contests, and screenings of Russian films. The program participants are also expected to have an opportunity for professional development: they will regularly participate in round tables and workshops.

Teachers from 18 regions of Russia have been selected to participate in the program of the Ministry of Education of Russia. All of them are guaranteed payment of both – a wage by their host party and an average salary of a Russian teacher, accommodation and medical insurance, as well as reimbursement of travel costs to the place of work and back. Participation in the project does not interrupt the length of teaching service.

Our teachers have a special mission, said Sergey Kravtsov, Russia's Minister of Education, at a recent press conference. – They tell local schoolchildren and teachers about Russia, our culture and traditions, scientific achievements, and share the best practices of Russian education with their colleagues. Such activities are important for our country and in demand abroad, which has been evidenced by appreciation of our foreign partners, who are also interested in Russia’s educators teaching Russian and other subjects in local schools

The Minister emphasized that the international program for teaching Russian as a foreign language had started in 2017 with a joint project by Russia and Tajikistan. A year earlier, the presidents of these two countries reached agreement on cooperation in education. Back then, apart from employment of Russia’s teachers in Tajikistan, Dushanbe asked Moscow to assist in building 20 Russian schools in Tajikistan with Russian language of instruction. Today there are 30 such schools in the Republic. And the demand for such education keeps increasing. Russian universities also continue to open branches in Tajikistan.

Uzbekistan followed the same path in 2019, and Kyrgyzstan had done that even earlier. Now they are joined by Mongolia, Serbia and Vietnam, where branches of Russian higher educational institutions are to open, or the relevant negotiations are under way.

This is a common international practice aimed to promote one's language and culture: the language and culture are globally promoted just so far as there is a demand and desire to learn them, explained Roman Doschinsky, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature. - It is what China, France, England, and Germany do. In the United States, there are institutions affiliated with the State Department that are responsible for promoting American culture and values??throughout the world. As to our country, such institutions are just emerging. Therefore, Russian language in this sense is a kind of missionary and tool, a means of establishing good-neighbor relations between Russia and other countries.

As Sergey Kravtsov emphasized, support and strengthening of Russian language in the CIS is also a way to promote it as a language of interethnic communication. After all, just as it used to be in Russia of the 19th century and then in the Soviet Union, Russian language has been the most natural way to communicate with representatives of other ethnic groups, as well as the shortest way to getting a quality education and, ultimately, success in life.

This is another reason why the Ministry of Education of Russia together with colleagues from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and other CIS countries have prepared and published or are preparing for publication special series of textbooks focused on Russian-language schools in different CIS countries. Similar efforts is currently being made in cooperation with Serbia, Moldova, Mongolia, to a lesser extent - with China, where pragmatic interest in learning the Russian language is also growing, mainly at higher educational institutions.

Thus, in 2019-2020, university lecturers teaching Russian language and literature from Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Vladivostok and St. Petersburg worked in the PRC, and Chinese teachers of Chinese language worked in universities in Siberia, Primorsky Krai and St. Petersburg. Such activities contribute to solving humanitarian tasks and provide an additional inflow of money into education systems of both countries. Therefore, the Russian teachers’ mission to Mongolia, Serbia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is a sign of a new era and bringing back the best practices of the Soviet International times, which are in growing demand as it turns out.

For information

In the academic year of 2019/20, 48 teachers of Russian language and general education subjects (mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, geography) from Russia taught more than 7,000 schoolchildren in Tajikistan. In Kyrgyzstan, more than 2,000 schoolchildren were under care of 22 teachers from Russia

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