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“One more step towards cultural isolation”: Russians about why the closure of the British Council is bad

Lecture of writer Naomi Alderman at a forum in Moscow. Photo by Dmitry Smirnov, Enty.ru
Lecture of writer Naomi Alderman at a forum in Moscow. Photo by Dmitry Smirnov, Enty.ru

On March 17, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the closure of the British Council, which worked in Russia since 1992. This was one of the measures in response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Great Britain. The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of this country, Boris Johnson, stressed that stopping the work of the organization would primarily harm the Russians themselves.

The British Council was engaged in educational and cultural programs in Russia.  talked with those who enjoyed the opportunities of the council, taught or taught it using English, and also participated in its programs and activities.

I won a grant to study English at a British school. Must go at the end of April for two weeks of language training. The host party pays for round-trip airfare, transfer, accommodation and training.

I also used their free online English courses. They did a lot for culture and education. They showed films in Russia and Britain, organized meetings with theater-goers, directors, artists, poets and musicians. They made a full-fledged exchange of culture between the two states. What is very important for normal relations between countries.

When I found out about the news, I was very upset, because the British Council is doing a great job in many areas of culture, art and science, and very far from politics. I hope that before the closure it will not come that the parties will be able to reconcile, they will find common ground, and the British Council will be able to continue its work. People should be friends and interact with each other, rather than building fences.

Sergei
30 years, Chelyabinsk

The website of the British Council helped me as an English teacher to create interesting lessons for children and adults. Their resource is free, with a variety of video content and with authentic material. Suitable absolutely for any target audience.

Personally, I also, if possible, tried to make their organization more popular-I often told about it to colleagues at conferences and recommended it to those who just started learning the language on their own. I think if their organization stops its work in Russia, then we will lose this direct connection with the rich culture of Great Britain.

Ellina
35 years, Apatity

I included in my plans: so, I will find a teacher or a language school, I need to raise the level, I can attend seminars, when they spread different wonderful vacancies, I can apply for them. Now I understand that this will not happen in Moscow any more. I feel like I, personally, have been very rudely deprived of something important. In fact, I was deprived of opportunities.

[I could] attend their educational seminars. Learn more about contemporary British culture. To get to their professional seminars and workshops. I have a lot to learn by profession. I’m a screenwriter by education, I’ve been doing video production for the last few years, but I learned everything in practice. It is important to learn some things at the seminars of strong teachers, successful professionals.

I was in London about 10 years ago for work. And I want again – maybe not just come on a business trip, but work in a team of local professionals. This is still quite a long way, but without the British Council, they have become even farther.

This threatens with the fact that there will be no good lectures, seminars, shows, giving a lively, realistic idea of ​​the British, and even about the world culture. And the feeling of some bad repetition of the iron curtain will intensify.

Hope
45 years, Moscow

I’ve always been interested in the theme of the UK, and the British Council helps to get a little closer to her, her culture. This is especially important for those who, for financial reasons, can not yet go there. Although I visit there almost every year, but when I’m in Russia, I feel nostalgia, so I need to attend some events that are somehow connected with Britain.

The most memorable was the visit of Sir Ian McKellen to St. Petersburg with the showing of “Richard III”. I’m also a big fan of English theater, and I was very happy when theatricals began to be broadcast in theaters. I understand that this is a separate organization, but the Council provides information support. I’m afraid that his absence can affect this.

They also have very interesting contests where you can win study trips. I though not lucky in this regard, but there were chances. But, for example, the current contest for the monument to Shakespeare in Moscow is a very useful creative initiative. It’s a pity if this does not happen.

[I respect the closure] extremely negative. All this is very sad. This shows only that interest in culture and education in Russia is far from being a priority. Naturally, all this will sharply reduce the number of events, cultural exchange, educational opportunities. For example, my friend from Krasnoyarsk told me that at one time the British Council was the only way to take books and study materials in English in the original. Of course, now there are a lot of Internet resources, and in this respect it has become easier, but you also need to maintain a keen interest in learning the language and culture.

Maria
28 years old, Petersburg

While still working on the “Culture” TV channel, I worked with them a lot, promoted their projects. She wrote about them, working in the newspaper “Today”.

Culture should be out of politics, like sport, which our state constantly declares. So why is the oldest cultural and educational organization, representing a highly civilized society with a huge layer of humanitarian impact on the world, to be subject to sanctions under sanctions?

Let’s recall the BBC series “War and Peace”, in which one feels respect and admiration of the British not only to Tolstoy, but also to Russia. Look at how it was shot, how detailed and authentic Russian life is shown in that era, how beautifully and precisely everything is selected, how English Bezukhov emotionally speaks of his love for Mother Russia, and how his words sound truthfully. This is the attitude of the British to Russia, which is why we should not close from the world, but must more and more share with him and know how they live, tell us what we really are.

Educational programs of the Council, the possibility of obtaining international certificates for knowledge of the language of world communication, the presentation of books, meetings with British writers, public figures, thinkers – is it bad? Why close this door, deprive the younger generation of new opportunities?

Marina
did not name the age, Moscow

I took an active part in the “Science Week” program of the British Council in October 2017. My school, with which I remained in a warm relationship, was a language school. I’m the only one in five years who decided to go to science (study in medical), and directors are now interested in diversified graduates.

With the physics teacher, we developed a blitz lesson on “Is life possible on Mars”, in conjunction with the NASA colonization program. The children were ecstatic and begged to conduct such lessons more often. And this is in a humanitarian school, where a foreign language is 10 lessons per week, and in high school generally a part of the subjects is studied in a foreign language. I also often went to workshops, round tables, meetings with outstanding scientists. In 2019, she planned to apply with the help of the Council for a grant, as she entered Glasgow University as our equivalent of residency.

The British Council was an excellent bridge between Russian and European science. To be honest, I believe that there is no science in Russia. Young people are not motivated to ruin their lives for a salary of 15 thousand rubles and work on the oldest equipment. The Council provided an opportunity to view science not from the standpoint of the “whip”, but from the position “see how cool and interesting”. Everything was very right there and humanly.

I think this will reflect the discontent of the youth (and I’m in the forefront!) And the decline in interest in learning as such. Even if students or schoolchildren did not hear about the Council, they could be taught by teachers on British methods, organically intertwined in the golden rules of the Soviet school, which I most often saw in young teachers. Now this is all we lost, plus begins inadequate propaganda that the Council “taught children to be gay.” He gave recommendations to parents how to raise an adequate and tolerant child. Our society was brought up and educated, and the Council coped with this, but now this process will be permanently frozen.

Anastasia
23 years, Moscow

I am in charge of the communication bureau “Kstati”. We are a public relations partner of the British Council and we carry out PR support for educational projects for two years in a row, in particular, exhibitions of British education.

The closure of the British Council is a very big loss for the cultural exchange between Russia and the United Kingdom. The sad news. Highly. The British Council was always out of politics and, above all, advocated cross-cultural communication and humanitarian contacts between the two countries in an educational, cultural and scientific field. And this barbarism, when such institutions become tools of manipulation, pressure for geopolitical purposes.

Maria
32 years old, Petersburg

The British Council helped me a lot with the language. As far as I know, they are one of the centers for the preparation and delivery of IELTS in St. Petersburg, which I was going to take in the summer.

First, on the Council’s website is a fairly large selection of free sites to explore. There actually I first met with the site of online courses FutureLearn, since then constantly there is something I’m going through. Secondly, the site has a selection of mobile applications for the same purposes: I have downloaded two, to prepare for IELTS and to increase the vocabulary.

Still, if I’m not mistaken, they are connected with the library of foreign literature in Moscow, in which I was only a couple of times. But I have remote access to this library, there is a very large selection of literature in English. It is rather useful, considering that other libraries in Russia do not develop this sphere very much.

[On the closure] censorship words are not, unfortunately. I am always very sensitive to the issues of education, education, cultural exchange. And always, when such events occur, I become sad. I can not find another word. Anger at all this is not enough to react, so it’s just sad.

Danil
26 years, Petersburg

I used materials for learning English, recommended by the British Council. They still had an application for learning English, I used it. I followed the activity, attended exhibitions, lectures.

The British Council did a great job in the field of cultural relations. If the British Council held an event, be it a lecture or an exhibition, one could safely go without doubting the quality and level. I learned a lot about the culture of the UK, many things encouraged me to learn more. For example, I learned about Julian Barnes’s “Noise of Time” due to a meeting with him, which was conducted by the British Council. I fell in love with Barnes, and then with Ian McEwen. And there were many such discoveries.

The termination of the British Council is an invaluable loss for the Russian cultural space. Indescribably sorry. I do not have the opportunity to often visit the UK, but thanks to the activities of the Council, I had the opportunity to touch Britain while in Russia. They absolutely exactly contributed to my interest in culture and language. And now it must somehow be interrupted.

Fortunately, I am practically fluent in English and will continue to monitor the activities of the British Council, but the activities will be greatly missed. I have no doubt that the Russian side had a lot of ways to react differently to the actions and statements of the UK, but the extreme, alas, were ordinary people, not indifferent to another culture and their education.

Margarita
35 years, Novosibirsk

I am an English teacher, I took part in the BritLit program to create educational materials on British literature. It was the atmosphere of this “co-creation”, when besides knowing the best works of modern British literature, you have the happiness to work with wonderful creative people. For me personally it was a period of joyful discoveries and a transition to a different level of teaching.

The British Council had wonderful educational programs – seminars and training courses for teachers. A conference was organized and held , the importance of which can not be overestimated.

Stopping educational programs and the British Council itself closes not just the opportunity to gain knowledge, but also the opportunity to share them widely. Very sad. Thanks again to the British Council.

Marina
59 years, Moscow

Particularly great was in 2016, when they organized a series of lectures and Q & A with British filmmakers and writers, for example with Julian Barnes. Sometimes I go to watch a big screen of different British theaters (TheaterHD).

The British Council is an example of how to effectively popularize your language and culture of your country. I wanted to hand over IELTS with them, but, apparently, it’s not destiny yet. It is unfortunate that despite the obvious benefits of the Council’s activities for all of us, they were closed down.

Russia has had, for almost a long time (there are and will be) very tense relations with Russia over all our countries because of our foreign policy. Now we – schoolchildren, students, young professionals – understand that in the context of globalization, keeping in touch with other cultures is very important; In addition, the English language today is lingua franca, and it is impossible to ignore the UK’s significant contribution to the development of world culture and technology.

The British Council was the bridge that connected us to them, allowed us to expand our horizons, learn other points of view, learn something new and useful, exchange experiences, after all. Closing of the Council is one more step towards the iron curtain and cultural isolation, which will hamper the development of our own, native culture. If this continues, then I’m afraid we’ll be on the sidelines.

Anastasia
23 years, Moscow

I read the news and materials of the Council: it inspired and allowed me to hope that one day and I will definitely be in one of the programs or even in several.

The page of the Council was and remains a unique platform for the publication of many useful and motivating materials for studying such an ordinary miracle as the English language. There was no day when I would not go to this page. I received an incredible amount of recommendations, how to engage in English productively, how to continuously improve, develop a British accent, sharpen your listening and writing skills.

The Council constantly posted interesting lectures and inspirational speeches of people in English, and audio records – podcasts, which was simply not the price. Thanks to the Council, I looked and read whole sections on how to conduct business correspondence in English and present the work, knowing that this can not be of no use to me.

The council could remotely prepare for the IELTS, help to deal with English punctuation. Most recently, here are six simple rules on how to check your English text for errors and logic. I do not know whether the Council’s page will continue to publish after its closure in Russia. But with all my heart I hope and believe that this business will live. I am infinitely grateful to the Council. He taught me what would not have been told at school (or perhaps at the university), and fully shared my all-consuming love of English.

Maria
17 years old, Petrozavodsk
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