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Prof. Vyazemsky interview on new M.A. Program in Russian Culture

In 2012 MGIMO University is launching a new English-taught Master’s Program “Russian Culture and the Arts: Traditions and Modernity”. When it comes to the content of courses, renowned lecturers invited to teach, unique events planned to deepen students’ knowledge, the program has no analogues both in Russia and the world.

Prof. Yury Vyazemsky, the academic supervisor of the program, has answered the questions about the program.

Prof. Yury Vyazemsky, academic supervisor of the program "Russian Culture and the Arts"

Prof. Yury Vyazemsky is a renowned Russian author, philosopher, historian and public person. Having graduated from the MGIMO School of International Journalism, he has later become professor of the Chair of world literature and culture at the University. Prof. Vyazemsky is an author of a number of fiction books, author and leader of an intellectual TV program for students, known throughout Russia.

How has the idea of launching a new English master program on Russian culture and the arts emerged? What made you decide that the start-up of such master program is timely and that it would meet response among potential students?

Lots of people over the world, let it be Europe or the United States or Asian countries, have been manifesting, from my point of view, their love to Russia, its history, its people. Many have kept so to say “historic romanticism” towards Russian culture, its arts. For some of them names of outstanding Russian authors or painters have special meaning – they are striving for revealing secrets of Russian mentalities through masterpieces of Russian literature, Russian music, Russian arts.

And you know, while communicating with our international colleagues, we have found out that a fair number of foreign students are interested in Russian studies and would like to get education here, in this country, in Russia.


What is the concept and main message of the program? What new skills will a student acquire during his/her studies, what sort of experience will gain? So how does the knowledge-bundle which a grad will carry away look like?

The message of our master program is to reveal for foreign students peculiarities of Russian culture, mentality and perceptions. Make our country more comprehensible to the world. I think that it’s a very important thing to do. To implement the task we have included such subjects as Russian philosophy and history, theatrical arts and music, architecture and fine arts, internal and foreign policy etc.

How would you specify the target audience of the master program? Would you make a kind of a sketch of a future master student?

Our master program is designed for quite diverse audience. It may include the one who is connected with Russia professionally - who is involved in different types of activities related to the country but doesn’t have sufficient background. It could be a nice opportunity to learn about Russia even for those who is doing business in Russia or planning a start-up here. The program will be useful for those who want to learn Russian. It envisages a unique course in Russian language and linguistics by best MGIMO professors – students will have about 10 academic hours of Russian a week.

The goal of the program – is to provide broad and in-depth multidisciplinary vision of past, present and future of Russia. So, generally speaking, it is for those who want to broaden their worldview. Or just love our country.

The master program on Russian culture, moreover, when it’s taught in English, is no doubt unique - one will even name it exclusive. What would you provide as an evidence and confirmation of this uniqueness? Probably, some bright events, interesting study courses, lectures by distinguished professors.

Thank you for a very interesting question. Exclusiveness of our master program is that a student enrolled at it will get more than just excellent education – he or she will have a 2-year experience of delving into Russian reality. The education process is planned in an unusual way – it includes not only traditional lectures or workshops, but a number of impressive events such as “cultural trips” to memorable Russian sights or places of interest. Just to name only a few: our students will enjoy an opportunity to spend a few days in the Museum –Estate of Leo Tolstoy “Yasnaya Polyana” where they will get acquainted with Tolstoy’s offsprings during master-classes and will be able to “feel” the spirit of an outstanding Russian genius. The program also provides for trips around Moscow and to St. Petersburg including master-classes by famous representatives of Russian cultural elite, on-site lectures on ethnic diversity and religion in the Caucasus and so on and so on.


By the way, who is invited as lecturers? Are all of them MGIMO professors?

Lectures will be held by both renowned MGIMO faculty members and professorial lecturers from the vast cultural community. I could name, for example, Dr. Bykov who is really very popular in this country, Fekla Tolstaya who is great-granddaughter of Leo Tolstoy and many other outstanding personalities. I hope that we will be able to invite for a master-class or a lecture or just go for a concert Mr. Gergiev who is very well known all over the world because he is really a now living genius.

Do you think your master program will extend that community and probably make Russia more understandable, conceivable to the world? Will you disclose some mysteries of the enigmatic Russian soul? May the future student hope that he or she will “grasp Russia with the mind”?

You know we are just in the process of getting prepared for the students to come. I believe that it’s really very important to try to disclose the Russian soul as it is called. But first I want to disclose the Russian soul for myself. So when it’s disclosed I will share my experience with the audience. I strongly believe that many people nowadays should change their attitude towards Russia. Because some of them do not understand Russian soul, or Russian behavior or call it whatever you want it to call. Some feel threatened by Russia and the background for that is a misunderstanding of what Russia really is and that we are not threatening any more to anybody. When this understanding will occur I think that all problems, all tensions will if not be eliminated - they will be reduced. The more I live the more I understand that we live in a very small world on a very beautiful but very small planet and the better we understand each other the happier we are.

Thank you for your time, Professor.

M.A. in Cultural Studies "Russian Culture and the Arts":

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