The paper bridge to Serbia. A textbook of the Russian language was presented in Belgrade

The paper bridge to Serbia. A textbook of the Russian language was presented in Belgrade

A simultaneous translator created a new textbook of the Russian language for Serbian people and he is going to create a similar textbook about the Serbian language for Russian people. 

Russia and Serbia do not share a border. However it doesn’t stop us from being closer to each other than to some other adjacent countries. When NATO was bombing Serbia in 1999, Russia was one of the few countries who condemned the aggressive act. And when the West introduced sanctions against Russia in 2014, Serbia was practically the only country in Europe who refused to support the action. The country is Orthodox and the languages are similar. Well, not quite. For instance, Serbian verb “ лjубити ” (it sounds like “to love” in Russian) in fact means “to kiss”. And “ волjети” (which sounds like “will power” in Russian) actually means “to love”.

Mutual understanding
“Once I saw a funny and actually sad situation” – said Dmitry Petrov, a well-known polyglot, TV presenter and simultaneous interpreter, in his interview for “Arguments and Facts” newspaper. “Two strangers – a Russian and a Serb - were trying to discuss something. The Russian man didn’t speak Serbian; the Serbian man didn’t speak Russian. They tried and tried. Then they gave up… and began to speak English. I thought it was wrong that the Russian man and the Serbian man, who spoke languages of the Slavic family of Indo-European languages, could communicate only with the help of one language of the Germanic group. That was the day when I made up my mind to write a textbook about the Russian language for Serbian people, and later – about the Serbian language for Russian people”.

The Russian House
Said and done! This year the textbook titled “РУСКИ JEЗИК. ЕЛЕМЕНТАРНИ КУРС ВЕЖБАЊА” (“The Russian Language. Elementary course”) has been published. It happened thanks to financial support from the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called, the Russian non-governmental organization which supports Orthodoxy and traditional values. On the first days of summer, with plenty of Serbian teachers of Russian language present there, the textbook was presented to the public in Belgrade. The event took place at the cultural centre of the Russian Embassy which people in the Serbian capital know under the name of “The Russian House”. The event was titled “Russia – Serbia: the bridge of friendship”.  

“Our nations have always been very close” – said Vladimir Bushuyev, Director of the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called, during the textbook’s presentation. “We are united by the common Orthodox Faith, the common history, similar cultures. And the textbook by Dmitry Petrov aims to become the bridge between the Russian and the Serbian people. At least our Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called hopes for it”.

“Zdravo” means “Hello”

During discussions behind the scenes Serbian specialists in Russian philology complained that English today is more popular among young people rather than Russian. Dmitry Petrov, who is always optimistic, seems to know the way to improve the situation:

“Though the Russian language remains to be one of the major world languages and recently it was called the second most popular language in Internet after English, in recent years it lost its influence. To a greater extent it happened not due to certain objective reasons but because little attention was paid to facilitation of the Russian language. Or such an attention was paid but it was done in the wrong way”.

Facilitation of the language should not be just about textbooks, information related to grammar and vocabulary. It is terribly boring; it suppresses the desire to learn, especially for young people. Today young people take information in a different way. We did our best for this course to be convenient, comfortable, clear for the young generation. The ultimate task is to teach a novice to make a great number of combinations even out of a limited number of words. In fact it is not so hard to do, as the Russian language is not just a set of words and grammar rules. It is a living space, with its own voice, colour, taste and smell.

Really, the first exercise from the textbook starts with the Russian “привет” (“hello)” (which stands for “zdravo” in Serbian). And the last exercise finishes with the phrase in Russian “Ты говоришь по-русски” (“Do you speak Russian?”). Serbian learners are supposed to understand this question without a dictionary after 16 lectures of the textbook.

Reference information

The Foundation of Saint Andrew the First-Called is the Russian non-governmental organization that was founded in 1992. According to the statutory documents the Foundation realizes projects aimed to form in the public the positive attitude to traditional grounds which strengthen Russia – the state, church, army; it calls for developing of spiritual grounds of a person which are closely related to history and culture of people. The most well-known programmes of the Foundation include the bringing of Orthodox relics to Russia and neighbor countries, reconstruction of churches and monasteries, holding conferences, festivals, concerts and exhibitions, charitable and humanitarian programmes. Vladimir Yakunin, former head of “Russian Railways”, is Chairman of the Board of Trustees. 


The Foundation has been working in Serbia for 20 years already. During this time many projects have been implemented. For instance, the Holy Fire was delivered to the Republic from Jerusalem; scientific conferences on WWI, Yalta and Potsdam conferences were held. This year the Foundation has suggested to name one of new stations of the Moscow Underground in honour of the capital of Serbia – “Belgradskaya” metro station.

Sergey Osipov

Arguments and Facts