Russian Language Day celebrates multilingualism and cultural diversity
It was in 2010 that Unesco decided to make June 6 of each year Russian Language Day. It was launched to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote the equal use of the six official UN working languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
Many expats from Russian-speaking countries live in Doha, and other people are also interested in learning the language.
Gulf Times spoke with Vera Pavlova, Cultural Attaché of the Russian Embassy in Doha, as the world celebrates the day on Sunday.
Sharing the historical perspective of the Russian language, Pavlova said that it is part of the East Slavic group (along with Belarusian and Ukrainian) which in turn is part of the Indo-European language family. “Until the 13th and 14th centuries, Eastern Slavs spoke Old Eastern Slavic, from which the three distinct languages developed over a long period.”
She added: “Although Russia is a vast country, there are only three groups of Russian dialects – northern, southern and central – linguistically distinguished. The central dialect is strongly influenced by the other two. However, there is no big difference between them, comparing for example with Arabic. The literary norm is Central Russian or the “Moscow” dialect. The Russian alphabet (Azbuka) is based on the Cyrillic script and has 33 letters.
Underlining the importance of the language at the international level, Pavlova said: “Russian is the language of our world-renowned literature, science and international communication. It also unites all the peoples of our great multinational and multilingual country.
Asked about the significance of Russian Language Day, the cultural attaché said: “The day was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in 2010. The he UN now organizes this celebration every year as part of the program for the support and development of multilingualism and cultural diversity.
She added: “June 6 is an important date for the Russian people. On June 6, 1799, the great Russian poet and writer Alexander Pushkin was born. Pushkin is known as the father of modern Russian literature and literary language.
Russian is the seventh most spoken language in the world. It covers the largest geographical scope of any Eurasian language. Not only
170mn of Russian natives speak this language, there are also 130mn of people from the former republics of the Soviet Union who also speak Russian. It is widely spoken as a lingua franca in many countries around the world. Russian is the second most popular language on the Internet. The “RuNet” – the Russian-speaking community on the Internet – has more than 100 million people.
“Russian is the language of space. Since the launch of the International Space Station (ISS) more than 20 years ago, knowledge of Russian has been essential for any astronaut, cosmonaut or space tourist. All crews are now delivered to the station by a Russian ship. Since the end of the space shuttle program, Soyuz is the only spacecraft used to transport astronauts into orbit where half of the components and systems on board are in Russian.
When asked if the language is growing internationally and if more and more people are learning Russian, the embassy official said: “We are noticing a growing and steady interest in the Russian language in the world and a growing number of people seeking to study it. We are happy to see this dynamic here in Qatar as well. More and more foreign students come to study in Russia and also learn the language. Today, more than 18,000 students from Arab countries study Russian at universities in our country.
About the presence of the language in Qatar, she said: “About 2,000 Russians and about 7,000 Russian speakers are in Qatar. Our compatriots have their own council in Doha and they founded the Russian school ‘Rosinka’ which offers Russian lessons and has a language club.
“There are Russian language programs and courses offered at major universities in Doha, including Qatar University and HBKU. We are also currently working on opening a Russian cultural center in Doha which can provide opportunities to study Russian and learn more about our multicultural and multi-faith country.