SUSU Pushkin Centre: Prospects and Specifics

February 10th is Alexander Pushkin's Memorial Day. Alexander Pushkin (1799 – 1837) was a great poet and writer, founder of the modern Russian literary language. He was fatally wounded in a notorious duel with Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès. The majority of our huge country’s citizens know this story, but not all international students know everything about the life and work of Alexander Pushkin.

On the occasion of this Memorial Day we have talked to the Head of the Research, Education and Coordination Centre of Open Education in the Russian Language named after A.S. Pushkin of the SUSU Institute of Linguistics and International Communications, Professor of the Department of Russian as a Foreign Language Aleksandra Mironova. She shared on the Centre’s activity, its programs and events being organized for international students, as well as on the plans for the Centre’s development.

– How did you come up with an idea of the SUSU Pushkin Centre?
– It was related to the announcement of a program on popularizing of Russian as a global language in order to attract those willing from various countries to improve their proficiency level and to broaden the boundaries of the international collaboration. Therefore, jointly with the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute in Moscow, a Pushkin Centre was opened in 2014. And later, in 2021, it was renamed into a Research, Education and Coordination Centre of Open Education in the Russian Language named after A.S. Pushkin. We did this so that we could expand our activity: work with migrant children (in-demand in our region) and the partner network with universities from other countries. Today these include the People's Republic of China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Pakistan.

– What are the Centre’s main tasks and goals?
– Primarily, this is the assistance to international students at our university and teaching Russian as a foreign language. We are also forming a network of centres for the support of the Russian language and education in the Russian language. Earlier we have already opened partner centres in other universities and cities. The latest has been opened at Pedagogical Vocational Education Institution No. 2 of the City of Chelyabinsk.

In addition, we teach Russian for the needs of professional activity. Here, on one hand, we work with students who can take advance training while studying in other programmes. They can master programmes on the Special-purpose Russian; Russian Language in Professional Communication; or for instance Translator in the Field of Professional Communication (Russian Language). These are promising and in-demand courses today, especially among Chinese students. On the other hand, we interact with teachers delivering the course on Russian as a Foreign Language and working in other countries, for example, in China. They also have a need for the exchange of new experiences, knowledge, methods and techniques. That is why we offer advanced training courses, master classes, and webinars for teachers who live and work in China.

Also about our tasks: these include the design and development of educational resources for distance learning. For instance, our Centre offers an advanced training programme on how to create your online course, fill it with content and use it in educational process. Teachers take special training on that. As a result, about 200 people have already taken this training.

Another goal is the organization and holding of Olympiads and various creativity contests on the knowledge of the Russian language and culture. Some aim at merely developing the interest in and motivating for the studying of the language and culture, others are profession-related Olympiads and contests. Among the recent ones, for example, the Berezka creativity contest for migrant children has been held. Other competitions include calligraphy contests, creativity projects, video and photo contests. For instance, once we proposed a task to take a photo that depicts something that had made an impression on foreigners in Russia (museums, nature, etc.). There are also many other contests, like essays and Russian calligraphy contests – after all one of the requirements to the level of mastering Russian is the mastering of the written Russian, like in copy-books.

Besides, holding of educational events is also important: city-wise events on the Year of the Russian Language, Russian Language Day, Day of Slavonic Alphabet and Culture, and more. For example, the upcoming event, that all our international students are welcome to attend, will be held at the Central Library named after A.S. Pushkin on the occasion of Alexander Pushkin's Memorial Day and Pushkin's duel with Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès. We will offer you to solve a Pushkin cross-word puzzle. Libraries are also changing their formats of working: they not simply lend books and provide reading rooms – now these are sort of hobby clubs, and their main goal is to attract young people. We also organize a Nationwide Dictation Quiz, which is traditionally held at our Pushkin Centre in April.


– Speaking of the Dictation Quiz, is it difficult for international students to participate? After all, not all Russian-speaking people can handle it sometimes.
– The thing is that it tests knowledge of a different type, that is, knowing the specifics of culture, correlating pictures with text, solving tests, or grouping words. In other words, the text is the same as in the standard Dictation Quiz, but in a more simplified form. At the same time, there are dialogues, lectures, cross-word puzzles – texts varying in form and style, which are offered to students to work on. And the final task is a text about a writer’s works (for example, in 2023, Vasilii Avchenko was the author of the Dictation Quiz). Students answer questions and write a dictation quiz using this text. This is fascinating and helps unite students from different countries. They enjoy participating in this event!


– Could you please give us some numbers?
– As a rule, practically every group in our re-training or advance training programmes consists of 15 people every year. But the number of students in each programme varies year after year: for instance, over the period from 2018 to 2022 we had 13 to 48 students at various courses.


– What programmes do you offer?
– Currently, we offer 6 programmes intended both for students and teachers. They study not only spoken Russian language, but the written one as well. After all, the target is to master the skills of records keeping, business correspondence and business negotiations, that is why both formats of the language studying are obviously important. Our programmes include: Theory and Practice of Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language (350 hours); Translator in the Field of Professional Communication (Russian Language) (400 hours); Methods of Teaching Russian (for Foreign Citizens) (250 hours); Russian Language in Professional Communication (360 hours); Special-purpose Russian (252 hours); and Russian as a Foreign Language: Correctional Course (54 hours).


– What are the Centre’s achievements over the period of its functioning?
– Among such achievements was the creation of a Vanya robot, engineered in 2018 and capable of recognizing speech and generating answers in Russian. It is used as an assistant teacher of Russian since in China we have created a network of centres for the Russian language promotion and improving of the quality of Chinese students’ training before they come to study in Russia.

We also created Massive Online Open Courses, which all those willing can take – all you need is register. Those aim at teaching and improving your phonetics. We offer two options: for Chinese and for Arabic students, since the phonetic apparatus of people in these countries differs. Our antropomorphic robot is also of help here.

– What do you plan for the future? Is there anything you would like to implement?
– Today we would like to launch an advance training programme for university teachers of our city since it is very much in demand currently. We are also planning on re-signing agreements with our partner universities and continue to stay in contact with them, and on interacting and exchanging experience with other teachers as well.

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