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Spring School Provides Italian Students Intense Exposure to Russian Culture

‘Texts and Places: Introduction to Russian History, Language and Culture’ (I testi dei luoghi: introduzione alla storia, alla cultura e alla lingua russa), an international Spring School at HSE organized jointly by Julia Ivanova, leading research fellow at the Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities, and the University of Eastern Piedmont Amedeo Avogadro, took place from March 15 to 23.

Over the course of the week, 11 students selected to participate managed not only to learn about Russia’s most prominent architectural and artistic monuments (e.g., Vladimir and Suzdal churches, Tretyakov Gallery, etc.), but also to complete a significant amount of academic work (more than 22 hours of papers devoted to Russian literature, history, art, and cinema; approximately 40 hours of lectures, field investigations – all of which resulted in each student receiving 4 or 5 credits). The school was preceded by intensive language training, with students studying Russian under the direction of Ilya Guryanov and Yury Rudnev, HSE doctoral students.

The Spring School fostered the students’ interest in Russian language and culture; most of them expressed their intention to continue language courses with their tutors via Skype. Several participants in the school agreed to share their impressions:

Martina Vialardi

My first impression of HSE is very positive. This is a very diverse university. The buildings are located in different parts of the city, which is very unusual for Italy. It’s nice to see young people already taking high positions in the university. They do research and help the university arrange the study process in a number of ways… it’s much more complicated in Italy.

What I liked most about the Spring School were the opportunities for discussion and the way the instructors organized lectures. They involved the audience in discussions, instead of simply reading the material. We can probably transfer this experience to Italy, with work taking place not individually, but in groups, as it was during this school; this is how we were able to immerse ourselves in Russian culture. It would be great if in the future lectures could take place directly in the city space, at locations discussed in the lessons rather than in classrooms. It is difficult to see everything in a week, and classes in such form would provide a more intense experience with discussions on site. Of course, that is if the weather allows.

Alessio Cerreia Varale

The experience we got was thrilling and enriching. The way HSE works is very different from what is traditional for Italy. Personally, I not only gained a comprehensive view of Russian culture, but learned a lot of new authors, whom I would like to look at more closely in the future.

I personally have a passion for the Middle Ages, so I liked Suzdal and Vladimir most of all, since we saw some of the earliest traces of Russian history there.

Valentina Tomasin

I’m very pleased with the experience I got. This was a marvellous example of cultural exchange between Italy and Russia. I am so enchanted with Russian culture, literature, and history, that I don’t want to say good-bye. In the workshop-style classes that seem so widespread in Russia, everyone is focused on clear arguments; everyone has his or her own view on the topics being discussed and is eager to present it to others. The clash of various views gives a comprehensive view of culture. In Italy, topics are narrated chronologically, and you can’t touch all sides of history and culture. Of course, I would like to continue studying Russian culture and literature.

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