Finno-Ugric World – Intercultural International Dialogue
In the modern context of globalization, academic mobility is an essential part of educational process. It allows students, postgraduates, and teachers to continue education or gain experience in research abroad by participating in short-term and long-term educational or research programs.
By supporting academic mobility, universities in different countries create a united educational environment that helps improve the quality of education, understanding between peoples and cultures, educate new generation ready for the life and work in the modern internationalized information society.
Petrozavodsk State University has long been working on creating such an environment. Now the activities have been reinvigorated as PetrSU received the status of the Flagship University of the Republic of Karelia. The Flagship University Development Program includes the strategic project “Forming Network Partnership “Finno-Ugric World” as a Model of Harmonious Intercultural International Dialogue”. The director of the project is Ilya Solomeshch, the Associate Professor of the Department of the World History, Political Science and International Relations, Head of the Laboratory for the Problems of the Nordic Countries and Finland. He spoke about the resources PetrSU has for the development of intercultural dialogue, and what has already been done in this area.
– Ilya Motelevich, tell us why was this project included in the Flagship University Development Program? What are the reasons behind this?
– It is attributed to the traditions and unique potential of Petrozavodsk University.
PetrSU (in 1940 Karelian-Finnish State University) was established as a classical university in the capital of the Soviet republic of Karelian-Finnish SSR. It trained specialists in the field of the Finnish language and literature, its faculty studied the history, culture of the Finno-Ugric people.
In 1943/44 the university opened the Department of the Finnish Language, now the Department of Baltic and Finnish Philology. Besides that, the Institute of History, Political and Social Sciences has created unique for regional universities Bachelor and Master Degree programs “International Relations” and “History” (specialty “History of the Nordic Countries”), which train highly qualified specialists in the area of international cooperation of Russia in the European North.
The University continues to teach the Finno-Ugric languages: Karelian, Veps, Finnish, as well as the Scandinavian languages: Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish.
At the premises of the Laboratory for the Problems of the Nordic Countries and Finland of PetrSU (founded by Professor Suni in 1992 with a view to provide scientific and methodological support to specializations in the history of the countries of Northern Europe and coordinate research in the history of Finland and Russian-Finnish relations) and the Interdisciplinary Research and Education Center for Baltic and Finnish Research “Fennica” (founded in 2012, head – the Associate Professor Irina Takala) the faculty does research, including interdisciplinary studies, in the field of history, cross-border cooperation and international relations in the North of Europe. Thus, traditional problems of the languages, culture, and traditions of the Finno-Ugric peoples are combined with the issues of harmonization of interfaith, interethnic relations in Northern Europe. Senior students and Master Degree students take an active part in the research.
It should be noted that the work is done in close cooperation with partners in our country and abroad. A principal partner is the Institute of Language, Literature and History of the Karelian Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
– In the context of globalized higher education, its essential part is academic mobility. Is it provisioned for in the strategic project?
– Of course. One of the expected results of the project is the establishment in cooperation with international partners a number of internship grounds in the innovative areas in order to train specialists for the region. This will allow developing the cross-border educational network cooperation, disseminating successful experience and the best practices of the Finno-Ugric cooperation in science, education, culture, and business. PetrSU in its turn will act as such ground for our partners.
Thus, recently PetrSU and the colleagues from Kalevalakoulu, a school in Kuopio (Finland) known for its vigorous international activities, have reached a preliminary agreement to establish an internship site where PetrSU students can undertake their teaching practice, learn about the Finnish educational technologies and master their knowledge of the language. The internship will last approximately one month. First of all, the future participants of this program can be the students of the Department of Baltic and Finnish Philology and the history students of the program “History of the Nordic Countries”. Those willing to take part will be tested in order to assess their motivation and knowledge of the language. We plan to launch this program in the spring of 2018.
Moreover, we are actively involved in the international academic exchange programs: Stipendium Hungaricum (21 winners) and North2North (6 winners). This is the best result in Russia in 2017.
– In the course of the last three years, Petrozavodsk State University has led the International Association of Finno-Ugric Universities. What has been achieved in this are and what is still in progress?
– During this time we held large events aimed at the promotion of culture and education: Festival of the Culture of the Finno-Ugric Peoples, International Contest “Miss Student Finno-Ugria 2016”. We held working meetings between the employees of PetrSU and colleagues from Russian and foreign partner universities.
In the nearest future, we plan to create and develop a Network University of the Association of Finno-Ugric Universities as a premise for strengthening academic mobility and disseminating the best practices in research and education. We will also develop interdisciplinary network educational programs in language, ethnohistorical and ethnocultural subjects.
In order to consolidate experience and efforts in supporting intercultural dialogue in the Finno-Ugric world, we create united information space as we develop portals “Finno-Ugric World” and “Russia-Hungary: Cooperation in Education and Research”.
I am sure that the combination of experience and innovations will allow Petrozavodsk State University to strengthen its position as one of the leading centers for Finno-Ugric studies, which influences both academic environment and the politics of harmonization of interethnic relations, preservation of the national identity of the Finno-Ugric peoples of the Republic of Karelia and the regions of the Russian Federation.