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Open to the “Whole Wide World”

Language courses, a film club, friendly meetings, discussions on methodology, and book launch parties are just a few examples of the numerous events hosted by the University of Debrecen in the recently inaugurated Russian Center.

As a result of a cooperation project between our institution and the foundation Russkiy Mir [Russian World], the Russian Center of the University of Debrecen officially “opened its gates” to the general public this past April in Villa IV on Egyetem téri campus. Russkiy Mir Foundation, in a way very much like the one practised by other cultural organizations sponsored by individual countries or states (like British Council, Goethe Institut, Institute Français, Confucius Institute, American Corner), popularizes the Russian language and culture in more than a hundred centers located all over the world. Following in the footsteps of the ones in Budapest and Pécs, Debrecen’s Russian Center is the third of its kind in Hungary.

“Actual work started during the fall semester of the 2017/2018 academic year. At first, we advertised and offered language courses, in which we currently have 250 students in 18 groups at three levels of fluency (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) studying Russian. In fact, we had not expected such a significant volume of interest previously,” said József Goretity, the Director of the Institute of Slavic Studies at UD.

In the meanwhile, a Russian film club has also been launched, and now it is the Russian Center that provides a venue for the meetings of the Hungarian-Russian Circle, too. In October, the center had a separate section at the event called Európai Nyelvi Koktélbár [European Language Cocktail Bar], and a conference on methodology is scheduled for November, focusing on the teaching of Russian as a foreign language and hosted jointly with the Institute of Slavic Studies.

“Among our plans, there is also a Russian language contest for high school students to be held at the beginning of December and a literary conference on contemporary Russian literature, sponsored jointly by Tolstoy Society and with the participation of several acclaimed literary scholars also towards the end of the year. Tolstoy Society and the Moscow Hungarian Cultural Institute will also help us in organizing a camp for young Russian-Hungarian literary translators,” said József Goretity.

Upon the invitation of Tolstoy Society and Debrecen’s Russian Center, a classic figure of contemporary Russian literature, Yuriy Polyakov, came to Hungary on October 18. This world-famous author visited the Russian Center of the University of Debrecen on October 20. He is regarded as one of the most popular writers in his home country, and his books are published in several hundred thousand copies, while his plays are regularly performed on the stages of theaters in Russia and abroad. The movie made on the basis of his script, titled Voroshilovskiy Strelok [The Sniper of Voroshilov], was played in movie theaters all over the world. His works have been translated to a dozen languages at least, including Hungarian. Books written by him and published in Hungarian include Gödölye tejben, Szökni szeretnék, Bukottak égboltja and Demagrád.

The Russian Center hosted a meet-the-author event with Yuriy Polyakov on the occasion that the publishing house Helikon Kiadó had brought out just now the Hungarian version of his book called Demagrád [Demville] and the second edition of his novel titled Gödölye tejben [Kid in Milk]. At the event, prompted by the questions asked by the translator of Polyakov pieces, József Goretity, the author admitted that he had intended Demagrád originally to be a mere political pamphlet against the policies represented by Boris Yeltsin, yet the work had ended up going beyond that. It became a peculiar dystopia, spiced up with bitter irony and humor, while certain individual elements of the novel later turned out to be prophecies and, by the present time, reality. The fact that Demagrád continues to be topical and challenging even for contemporary readers is due to its content, which is full of questions about social philosophy that are still valid in the 21st century. The epigram-novel Gödölye tejben (as the author defined its genre) uses an unbelievable amount of humor to address the value crisis that became acute at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries in the arts, including literature as well. The prompt for its plot is a situation in which two literary scholars during a night of heavy drinking make a bet on whether a functionally illiterate person can be turned into a world-famous author in the matter of a few months or not.

The meet-the-author evening was concluded with a Q&A session involving the audience.

Press Office