Education Export Magazine /p. 37-43/
- The principal objective of the Eurasian Peoples' Assembly (EPA) is to create social integration model where language plays a vital role. How do you see the current status of the Russian language in Eurasia?
- The main problem with the Russian language is that it is washing out. As far as I am aware, there are still many potential students in the ex-Socialist bloc countries that would like to get Russian education. Unfortunately, it is not an easy task for them to get enrolled in Russian universities independently from the availability of scholarships as they lack Russian language proficiency. Organizing Russian as a foreign language course is a serious problem. Back in my studentship at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, there were quite many students from Vietnam, Poland, and many African countries. Nowadays, we do not observe such a large-scale of international student’s presence.
As the Head of the Federal Customs Service, I used to meet colleagues from other countries who appreciated the high quality of education at the Russian Customs Academy. They would like to refer their colleagues to study here, but their Russian language proficiency was always a problem. And as a result, cultural and social relations downgraded.
- Do you have any ideas on possible ways to support Russian language development?
- One thing that we definitely have to do is to restore contacts between the youth. Recently we have talked to Mr. Evgeny Primakov, Head of Rossotrudnichestvo, that Russian Centers of Science and Culture make a great contribution to this by delivering Russian language courses. However, I would like to encourage our academic community to support public efforts by implementing their professional and expert initiatives, bearing in mind the successful experience accumulated during the Soviet times.
It would make sense to put this topic into the spotlight and establish an umbrella organization to coordinate efforts to promote the Russian language, including those supported out of the Russian Government's budget resources. I would also like to stress that we value and acknowledge all the efforts contributed by Rossotrudnichestvo. By no means are we trying to replace this government agency. We only discuss specific niches and areas where we could effectively complement mainstream activity.
- Do you think that cross-national language studies can be a key to long-term peace and successful cooperation between Russian and Eurasian nations?
- Certainly, Russia is a multi-national superpower, and we need to take care of nations' national identities. Often we come across situations when young people do not speak their native language and do not know their native traditions. It would be very good to launch courses of native languages and cultures of different nations based on respective communities. While discussing this opportunity, we have noticed a very lively reaction from Chuvash and Udmurt communities that can bring internal resources and teachers to implement this kind of program.
- Despite the pandemic, EPA has not reduced but even increased its activities by hosting an enormous number of online meetings, contests, and other events. Are you happy with the results you have achieved in 2020 and how you have coped with difficulties related to new conditions?
- Definitely, our life has changed significantly and will not be the same anymore. For example, we regularly hold meetings of the EPA General Counsel, and on my screen, I can see my 17 deputies working in their respective countries. And it is not clear when we meet next time though we have to keep on working. It is obvious that we need to develop a technical platform of the EPA to secure the sustainability of operations and high-quality connection. Similar systems exist and are used in Eurasian universities. We are looking at unifying the use videoconferencing facilities.
I would also like to stress that there are many integrational structures in Eurasia nowadays: Commonwealth of Independent States, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Eurasian Economic Commission, and Eurasian Development Bank, etc. And the Assembly is able to fill the Eurasian space with content and initiatives of people's diplomacy because we see mutual aspirations of people towards communication and cooperation.
For example, we have initiated the organization of the first Eurasian Games (Eurasiade) and have got strong support from across Eurasia. The initiative has also gained support from the Republic of Bashkortostan administration that agreed to host the Eurasiade in 2025.
- What trending issues will fall within the scope of the Assembly interests in 2021?
- Obviously, the pandemic will remain one of the key topics in 2021. I hope that we will be able to discuss ways out of this situation and the post-pandemic world's rules. We are receiving great feedback from our EPA colleagues regarding the Russian COVID-19 vaccine. And we will continue our public awareness campaign or, in other words, aggressive marketing concerning the use of the vaccine.
Certainly, Russia is a multi-national superpower, and we need to take care of nations' national identities.
My Indian colleague Deputy Secretary-General, Mr. Dalbir Singh, told me that only the Russian vaccine would suit India in terms of its hot climate and the Russian vaccine's convenient storage conditions. Moreover, India is ready to launch the production of the vaccine. Our colleague from Cameroon confirms that the Russian vaccine suits Africa very well.
According to experts, the situation will not change for many years, and there is a need to secure a sufficient level of vaccine production for the world. We are going to host a round table discussion and will invite a very reputable academic Aleksandr Chuchalin.
And we need to actively develop our contacts with China and India that possess an enormous demographic potential and a high level of production technologies, even in such hi-tech fields like the pharmacy. And developing contact with China and India through peoples diplomacy is one of the strategic areas of the EPA.