The Bridge of Friendship between Serbia and Russia
The prospects of the Russian-Serbian relations were discussed at the University of Belgrade in reference to the world geopolitical processes.
Just before the scientific and public conference on “Russia and Serbia in the spiritual and cultural dialogue” Vladimir Yakunin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation of Saint Andrew the First-Called, and Vladimir Bumbashirevic, Rector of the largest Serbian University of Belgrade, discussed the prospects for cooperation between the Foundation of Saint Andrew the First-Called, the Lomonosov MSU and the University of Belgrade. During the opening part of the scientific and public conference on “Russia and Serbia in the spiritual and cultural dialogue” Vladimir Bushuyev, Director of the Foundation of Saint Andrew the First-Called, introduced Serbian and Russian participants of the conference and read out a welcome letter on behalf of Minister of Culture of the RF Vladimir Medinsky.
Welcome speeches were held by the initiators of the conference: Vladimir Yakunin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation of Saint Andrew the First-Called, and Dragomir Karic, Deputy of Narodna Skupština of the Republic of Serbia, Advisor of “The Karic Fund” (Serbia), Doctor of Philosophy and Economics, professor.
In his speech Sergey Gavrilov, Chairman of the Committee of State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation on Development of Civil Society, Issues of Public and Religious Institutions, coordinator of the inter-factional deputy group on protection of Christian values, Candidate of Economic Sciences, said that parliamentary relations between Russia and Serbia were unique. The inter-parliamentary cooperation has been developing for 25 years already. These relations had to undergo hard tests. Russia supported Serbia during the aggression 1999. Russia’s position was tougher at international platforms.
During the conference welcome words by Eleonora Mitrofanova, Head of the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, compatriots who live abroad, and for international humanitarian cooperation, were read aloud for participants. In the welcome letter she said: “Today, when relations are being reconsidered all over the world, the unity and support Russia and Serbia show are of great importance”. She also acknowledged the valuable contribution of the Foundation of Saint Andrew the First-Called into the matter of development of such relations which is of particular importance in the year of the 180th anniversary of relations between Russia and Serbia.
In his speech Vladimir Yakunin emphasized the necessity to work with the youth in order to preserve the succession of culture and history of our people. Vladimir Yakunin reminded of how close our cultures, traditions and mentality really were. “There is a popular point of view that contemporary Serbian people are closer to West-European people rather than to Russians as far as values are concerned, and that it is history that stops Serbian people from becoming an essential part of the Western society. However if we check the tools of scientific schools offering different methods for social digitalization of a value, being a poorly formalized parameter, the conclusion we make tends to be different. Serbian people and Russian people appear to be in one cluster of values with their values being in strong discord with the axiological aspect of Western countries. One of the digitalization methods is applied by the scientific school of Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede. His method processes six parameters: 1. The scope of individualism; 2. Keeping distance from the power; 3. Masculinity; 4. Avoiding uncertainty; 5. The future-oriented aspect; 6. The level of life satisfaction. The deviation scope of Russia and Serbia is insignificant but for one indicator – the future-oriented aspect”.
Liliana Markovic, Dean of the faculty of philology at the University of Belgrade, told about the way they learnt Russian language and literature at the major Serbian university. They have been studying Russian language and literature here for 140 years. The department of Russian studies is one of the most popular departments at the university. In 2009 a reformation of the programs took place. As a result there are 3 areas of studies at the moment including language studies, literature and culture. It has become possible to enter university for those who have not studied Russian before. It has become an effective tool for attracting new students. Currently 120 students choose Russian language as their major. The same number of students choose Russian language as an additional subject. Today it is graduates of the philology faculty who teach Russian language all around Serbia. Liliana Markovic also told that recently at the initiative of Serbian scientists and with support from Russian colleagues 18 volumes of the History of Serbian Language were translated into Russian and published. The University of Belgrade has introduced a new discipline in the Master’s programme: “cultures in dialogue”. The programme is implemented jointly with the university from Nizhny Novgorod. Liliana Markovic invited all interested institutions to take part in the programme and asked for help to develop the programme not only as a Master’s programme but as a programme for the post-graduate school as well. Also, she expressed interest in cooperation with the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called regarding lectures of Russian scientists to be held in Serbia.
Vladislav Jovanovic, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Yugoslavia, provided data from sociological surveys. The data indicated that 80 per cent of the Serbian population are Russian-oriented. “We are never going to treat the West with sincerity. Our relations with Russia had no signs of violence and aggression. Starting from Khilandar Monastery, from Saint Savva we began to build up our relations. Western countries continue with their aggressive approach towards Serbia which they first revealed 20 years ago. But other means are used now. It can be seen in the way the West treats Kosovo and Metohija. The approach based on blackmail doesn’t evolve good feelings. They should not turn Serbia into a puppet state. They insist on cutting off the umbilical cord that connects us to Russia” – said the former eminent politician.
Radivoye Stoykovic, Director of Gymnasium in Novi Sad, Candidate of Mathematical and Psychological Sciences, told that only 9 per cent of pupils in Serbia learnt Russian language at the moment. In the middle of the XX century 55 per cent of pupils learnt Russian. There is interest for Russian language. An academic competition in Russian language is held for pupils from Serbia and Montenegro. Totally 1,200 pupils have taken part in the competition. But studies of other languages are much more financially supported. In his opinion, Russian and Serbian state and non-governmental institutions should make the information about learning Russian language more available, support the practice of school children exchange.
Vitaly Kostomarov, President of the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute, shared his impressions after the meeting with teachers and students of the philology faculty of the University of Belgrade. He told how “bridges of friendship” were built thanks to efforts from Soviet and Serbian philologists, starting from 1950s.
Ivana Zigon, famous Serbian actress, Chairperson of the Russian-Serbian Friendship Association, told about her family, about friendship with outstanding Russian film directors, actors, and about the way her father, great Serbian actor Stevo Zigon, treated the relations between Serbia and Russia, the role of culture in the modern world.
Živadin Jovanović, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Chairman of the Belgrade forum for the world of equals, was baffled by the fact that there was no Centre for Serbian culture in Russia yet. He thanked Russia for the contribution it had made into the spiritual life of Serbia. He also paid attention to the history being reconsidered following the financial support from western states. “Why is there no response to that?” – asked Mr. Jovanović addressing the participants. Reconsideration of history turns to reconsideration of borders. Today most western states want Serbia to be the first country to reconsider its borders. He reminded that hundreds of thousands of Serbian people had left Kosovo and Metohija and they couldn’t come back there.
Famous Russian film director Alexey German Jr. told about creation of “Dovlatov”. The film has been presented in over 40 countries of the world. “Our film is an example of cooperation and collaboration established from within” – he emphasized. “We know very little of each other. People in Serbia don’t really know what is going on in Russia. It is very important to grow mutual understanding of each other. We should have more joint cultural projects. If Serbia becomes a trend in Russia and Russia is a trend in Serbia the situation is going to change”. He emphasized the importance of the young generation and their active involvement in joint projects.
Yekaterina Entina, expert in Balkan studies, researcher at the HSE, Candidate of Political Sciences, expressed her opinion saying that “Russia had lost its opportunity to have systemic influence on the situation in Balkan states”. In her opinion, this statement can be confirmed by the fact that Russia lost in the situation with Montenegro rather fast. She proposed to reconsider the agenda of economic cooperation including further cooperation in the field of digital economy. As for the field of culture, it is important to develop projects related to heritage of the Russian emigration. “Where is the promotion of the things Russian people did in Belgrade?” – asked Yekaterina Entina. Rossotrudnichestvo allocates 9,000 scholarships for education at Russian universities. But in major Russian universities there are very few students from Serbia. Serbian students must be shown the best educational practices in Russian companies (Sberbank, Yandex). In this case they will not be so focused on the West.
At the end of the conference Vladimir Yakunin reminded about the erection of the monument to Savva Raguzinsky, an associate of Peter the Great. Dragomir Karic reminded about the situation when he organized an unscheduled visit of Patriarch Alexis II to Serbia in the days Serbia was suffering from bombing. Also, he promised that plaques made of marble will be placed on every building in Belgrade where Russian people were involved in design or construction.
The conference was held as part of the programme titled “Russia – Serbia: the bridge of friendship”. The programme is implemented by the Foundation of Saint Andrew the First-Called with support from “Ruski Dom” Russian Centre for Science and Culture, The Karic Brothers Foundation, the University of Belgrade, the State Historical Library of Russia, The Pushkin State Russian Language Institute, the Centre for Quality of Education of the City of Moscow. The events are focused on strengthening the cultural relations between Russia and Serbia.