Chinese-learning craze sweeps Russia

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From the far eastern port of Vladivostok to the northern city of St. Petersburg, from the bustling capital of Moscow to Volga River that stretches endlessly, Confucius Institutes and schools running Chinese courses are spread all over Russia.

Attracted by the rich Chinese culture and the increasing usefulness of the Chinese language, a growing number of Russians are studying the oriental language.

Chinese-learning fervor on the rise

A famous historical anecdote goes that the Chinese Wanli emperor in the Ming Dynasty who reigned between 1572 and 1620 once wrote a goodwill letter to the Russian tsar. However, as there was no Chinese translator in Russia, the letter was laid aside for as long as 50 years.

The anecdote reveals a truth that though being close neighbors, the Russians and Chinese can not carry out smooth communication if they do not solve their language problems.

The Chinese language education in Russia dates back to more than 150 years ago. St. Petersburg State University began to offer Chinese courses in the mid-19th century. But for a long time, its Chinese language education mainly focused on ancient Chinese philosophy and literature, and the student population was small.

As China's national strength grows and the Sino-Russian ties strengthen in recent years, Russia witnesses an urgent need for Chinese-speaking talents. To meet this need, many Russian universities have launched Chinese teaching programs.

At present, nearly 100 state-funded Russian universities are running Chinese courses, with over 40 listing Chinese as their first foreign language, said Pei Yufang, education counselor of the Chinese embassy in Russia.

The number of undergraduate and postgraduate students studying Chinese is estimated to exceed 10,000.

The craze for the Chinese language has brought the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius into Russia.

In 2005, St. Petersburg State University opened the first Confucius Institute in Russia. Since then, such non-profit institutions that aim to promote Chinese language and culture and support Chinese teaching internationally mushroomed in Russia and now the country boasts 12 Confucius Institutes, two Confucius Classrooms and a Radio Confucius Classroom.

However, the thriving Confucius Institutes still can not satisfy the growing need for Chinese learning. And five more Confucius Institutes will be opened in Russia's higher learning institutions during the upcoming "Year of the Chinese language" in Russia.

The Chinese-learning craze has also spread to elementary and high schools. Partial statistics show that Chinese courses are available in more than a dozen elementary and high schools in Moscow, involving some 2,000 students.

Deep fascination

China's Lunar New Year, the Spring Festival, used to have little connection with Russia, now attracts the attention of more and more Russian people.

In February and March, several Russian universities and middle schools with Chinese teaching programs organized events to celebrate the festival.

Students from Moscow Municipal Experimental School put on several performances themed on China to exhibit their understanding of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Established in 1992, the school is famed for its compulsory lessons on martial arts and the Chinese language, two major carriers of the Chinese culture.

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