Russian Language and Slavic Studies in Germany and Europe
In October, Professor Holger Kusse, who recently joined International Laboratory for the Study of Russian and European Intellectual Dialogue, lectured at the seminar ‘West and East: The Universalism of Culture’. We spoke with Professor Kusse about the perception of Russan language in Germany, his research, and his plans for the 2020-2021 academic year.
For 15 years, Holger Kusse has been Professor of History and Linguistics of Slavic Languages at the Institute of Slavic Studies at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany. Professor Kusse is a full member of the German Academy of Sciences and Literature (Mainz), and editor-in-chief of Zeitschrift für Slawistik (Journal of Slavistics) and the series, Specimina philologiae Slavicae (Specimens of Slavic Philology).
This year, Holger Kusse, a leading European expert in Slavic studies, joined HSE University. He began collaborating with HSE after becoming acquainted with Professor Vladimir Kantor (Faculty of Humanities) at conferences of the Russian Philosophy Research Group in Germany. Together with Vladimir Kantor, Holger Kusse held a series of conferences in Dresden and Moscow dedicated to Fyodor Stepun, a Russian philosopher of German origin.
For the majority of the German population, Russian is a foreign language, less important than English, but about the same as French or Spanish.
In many schools Russian is taught as a third or even a second foreign language. In the new federal states of Germany, there are still many people who know Russian from the days of the GDR. However, their knowledge is very limited.
Thanks to the works of Russian-speaking authors, such as, for example, Vladimir Kaminer or Olga Gryaznova, the Russian language also has a certain exotic quality in Germany. This is also due to German migration from the former Soviet Union. Due to the repatriates, Russian became one of the most important non-Germanic languages in Germany, along with Polish and Turkish.
Most major universities in Germany offer Slavic studies, which always includes Russian studies. The programmes are philological, and Russian is taught as a language course. In most places, you can start your studies without knowing Russian. The German Association of Slavists is, as far as I know, the largest association outside the Slavic countries.
In addition, Russian is offered as an elective course at many gymnasiums. The situation is similar in Austria and Switzerland. In Italy, there are many strong university Slavic programmes, but in other non-Slavic European countries, Russian language and Slavic studies play a lesser role.
Will Europeans Speak Russian and Know Russian Literature in the Near Future?
'There is a general crisis in philology, which, of course, affects Slavic studies,’ says Professor Kusse. ‘The number of students studying Slavic is declining before our very eyes. At the Dresden University of Technology, we have responded to this trend by developing and introducing new integrative curricula. For example, I am the graduate adviser of the linguistics master's programme in European Languages, which is popular and enjoys great success. We also have Russian students in this programme.’
In his upcoming lectures at HSE, Professor Kusse will discuss topics such as Lomonosov as a representative of German rationalism; German 19th-century popular literary portrayals of Russia, Russians, and Russian language (specifically in the work of Karl May); and depictions of Russia in ‘German’ memoirs, including those of Stepun, Gollwitzer, Leonhard, Kopelev.
Holger Kusse pondered the question of what to recommend to foreign students who are starting to learn Russian. He himself began studying Russian when he was preparing to become a gymnasium teacher in the subjects of ‘Protestant Theology’ and ‘Foreign Language’. For a long time, by the way, he vacillated between French and Russian, but he ultimately choice Russian and now has a nearly perfect mastery of it. Although he says that he experiences difficulties that are typical of Germans—a distinct accent, occasional problems with aspect, and difficulties with palatalization.
Therefore, the German professor of Slavic studies advises simply: ‘Find for yourself topics and directions that are close to you—culturology, literary criticism or linguistics. Don’t lose interest.’
Research and Publications
Holger Kusse is not fazed by having to teach and communicate over Zoom, although he is used to face-to-face communication with students and colleagues at international conferences. He is the author of many studies and publications, and continues to be actively engaged in research.
‘After a book on semantics that I wrote with linguist Boris Norman (Linguistics in the Garden, 2018) and a large study on aggression and argumentation that was published last year, I am currently working with Russian linguist Vladimir Karasik on a book about the discourse of wisdom. I am also interested in linguistic effects which are called "perlocutions" in linguistic terminology.'
HSE University has announced the winners of the Project Competition in Basic Science Research for Intercampus Departments. The competition, which the university is organising for the first time, will provide funding to 10 research teams working on five topics. Four of the winning projects will be implemented by new research departments formed as a result of the competition.
An international group of scientists and medical specialists, including HSE researchers, examined the role played by microRNA (miRNA) and long non-coding RNAs on the progression of ovarian cancer. Having analysed more than a hundred tumour samples, they found that miRNA can prevent cell mutation while long non-coding RNAs have the opposite effect of enabling such mutations. These findings can help design new drugs which act by regulating miRNA concentrations. The study was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
In early September, the HSE University Faculty of Computer Science hosted the international conference Computer Methods of Cognitome Analysis. The event was organised by the International Laboratory of Algebraic Topology and Its Applications at the faculty.
Researchers of the HSE University and the Southern Federal University (SFedU) have tested a new method for studying the perception of facial emotional expressions. They suggest that asking subjects to recognise emotional expressions from dynamic video clips rather than static photographs can improve the accuracy of findings, eg in psychiatric and neurological studies. The paper is published in Applied Sciences.
Academics’ work week became even longer during the pandemic. This is true of researchers from different countries, independently of their gender and specialisation, an international research team with HSE University participation found. Their working time during the pandemic was 51 hours compared to the usual 40. The increased number of working hours per week seems to have become part of the new academic norm. The results of the study were published in the Plos One journal.
Researchers of the HSE International Laboratory of Statistical and Computational Genomics together with their international colleagues have proposed a new statistical method for analysing population admixture that makes it possible to determine the time and number of migration waves more accurately. The history of Colombians and Mexicans (descendants of Native Americans, Spaniards and Africans) features two episodes of admixture that occurred about 350 and 200 years ago for Mexicans and 400 and 100 years ago for Colombians. The results were published in the Plos Genetics journal.
Scholars from Moscow and Vladivostok Join Efforts to Study Institutes and Preferences in Economic Behaviour
Applications from HSE departments for the ‘Mirror Laboratories’ open project competition are open until May 20. One of the ‘mirror laboratories’ successfully operating today was created as a result of a similar competition in 2020 by economists from HSE University and Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) to study institutes and preferences in economic behaviour. Alexis Belianin, Head of the HSE International Laboratory for Experimental and Behavioural Economics, talked about how peers from Moscow and Vladivostok collaborate.
Psychologists from HSE University have joined their peers from Ekaterinburg to look into the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of Russian doctors. They found that medical staff are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression more often than before. The results of the study were published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The laboratory will be led by Robert Sandlersky, a specialist in energy and mass transfer and the study of other properties of landscapes via satellite imagery and Senior Research Fellow at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The HSE News Service spoke to Robert about the laboratory’s future activities.
HSE University has launched a new International Laboratory for the Study and Assessment of Dangerous Geophysical Phenomena. Alexander Kostinskiy, Head of the Laboratory and Deputy Director of HSE MIEM, explains the laboratory’s future work, its important research and practical applications, and the role of international cooperation in the new laboratory.