“The popularization of the values of a given culture in the corresponding language and the proper intellectual milieau is important for every people. For this token, the endeavor of Russkiy Mir Foundation to support Russain nationals residing abroad and those others whose native tongue is not Russian and they are not Russian citizens but would be interested in the Russian language and culture as well as the history, the present state, and the future of Russia, makes perfect sense,” said Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Elek Bartha at the April 26 inauguration of the new Russian Center located in Villa IV on Egyetem téri campus.
The Vice-Rector recalled how, in the 1970’s, the instruction of Russian had been in its heyday only to be significantly marginalized and shunned after it had been extracted from public education. At the time of the reintegration of the University of Debrecen, even the possibility of discontinuing the Russian program at the university was an option but, finally, that measure was not implemented after all.
“The past ten years or so can serve as a justification for our past decision. At present, there are more than 120 students enrolled in bachelor’s and master’s courses as well as in teacher training programs offered by the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Faculty of Humanities, and about an annual 20 new Russian majors join them regularly,” said Vice-Rector Bartha.
Valery Lyakhov, Minister-Counsellor at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Budapest, highlighted in his address that the establishment of the Center had been preceded by meticulous planning and coordination spanning several years between the University of Debrecen and Russkiy Mir Foundation.
He added that the Debrecen Center would be the third of its kind in Hungary, but he hoped that there could be even more coming.
“In the current world of information overkill, we do need such “islands” of tranquility where we can find our way out of the maze of information surplus. This institution is to serve as a point of departure for those who have a genuine interest in the Russian language or Russian culture,” said Valery Lyakhov.
As Sergey Shurigin, Deputy director of Russkiy Mir Foundation noted, there are Russian centers in altogether 48 countries of the world, and the one in Debrecen is the 111th of these. The first such center had been inaugurated in Yerevan, Armenia, while the one before ours (the 110th one) was established and opened in Tehran. The alterations, furniture, appliances and technical equipment required for the creation of the center have all been supported financially by the foundation.
“By inaugurating the building, including the library and the multimedia stations, we hereby symbolically pass the baton to the University of Debrecen. From this point onwards, this institution is no longer a center of Russkiy Mir Foundation: it is the Russian Center of the University of Debrecen,” said Sergey Shurigin. However, instead of a baton or even the symbolic key to the building, he handed over a Russian-Hungarian dictionary to the head of the Institute of Slavic Studies at UD, József Goretity, to demonstrate that the dictionary could be the key to opening the door of Russian culture and literature.
A pile of valuable books were also donated to the Russian Center by Dmitri Baranov, Consul General of Russia in Debrecen, who underlined that the library housed by the center was going to be a useful resource for those wishing to study the Russian language and Russian culture. The collection donated contains the classics of Russian literature as well as the most recent pieces of belles-lettres written in Russian, scholarly and popular works on the history, geography, and society of Russia, textbooks and workbooks for learning Russian, and auxiliary material for facilitating the instruction of the Russian language. In addition, there is also a collection of multimedia material, films and music files.
József Goretity, Head of the Russian Center and the Institute of Slavic Studies at UD emphasized that the objective of the new facility was to increase the number of those who wish to speak in Russian. In fact, there is more and more demand perceivable in this respect, as there are no prejudices about Russian in the members of the new generation. Apart from language instruction, the Center will also host a range of cultural programs (like book launches and meet-the-author events, exhibitions, concerts, and film showings) as well as presentations, symposia, round-table talks, and conferences on a variety of topics related to Russia.
At the official opening ceremony, the choir of Debrecen’s Szentháromság Ortodox Egyházközség [Holy Trinity Orthodox Congregation] and the students of the Institute of Slavic Studies at UD sang a compilation of Russian songs conducted by the Russian lector of the institute, Ms Vera Ledeneva.