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Russian Flagship Program cultural event series explores traditions and histories

Kathryn Kao

December 10, 2019

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During the past academic year, students in the University of Georgia’s Russian Flagship Program engaged with the cultures, traditions and histories of Russian-speaking countries through the program’s inaugural Cultural Series.

Created by Russian Flagship coordinator Sofia Ivanova, the series aims to introduce students to diverse communities where Russian is spoken widely in business, government, education and other cultural contexts.

Madina Juraeva

“To become a proficient speaker of a language, and if one wishes to pursue global careers as our students do, it is incredibly important to understand not only the linguistic structures, but also the cultures, histories, ideologies, customs and pragmatic protocols associated with diverse communicative situations,” said Russian Flagship director Victoria Hasko, an associate professor of world language education. “The Russian-speaking world is far from being monolithic, and we are lucky to have representatives of so many countries in which Russian is spoken who have been so willing and passionate to share their cultures and cuisines with our students.”

Uzbek baked goods

While designed for Russian Flagship students, the Cultural Series is open to the public. Last spring, the presenters consisted of both Russian Flagship tutors and graduate students in the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program. The presenters included:

  • Aman Bekmagambetov: From northern Kazakhstan, Bekmagambetov is a doctoral student in political science whose research interests lie in the intersection of political methodology and the politics of information on the web. He is a graduate teaching assistant and tutor in the UGA Russian Flagship Program.
  • Doina Grecu: A native of Moldova and a doctoral student in TESOL and world language education, Grecu earned her master’s degree in 2019 from UGA. She is a graduate teaching assistant and tutor in the UGA Russian Flagship Program.
  • Madina Juraeva: From Uzbekistan, Juraeva is an FLTA hosted by UGA’s department of religion.
  • Marifat Saidalieva: From Tajikistan, Saidalieva is an FLTA hosted by the department of religion.

The Cultural Series also featured the following presenters this past fall:

  • Gulim Batyrgaliyeva: From Pavlodar Pedagogical Institute in Kazakhstan, Batyrgaliyeva is a master’s student in TESOL and world language education whose professional interests include bilingual education, second language acquisition, comprehensible input and arts in teaching languages.
  • Anastasiya (Stacy) Chura: A native of Belarus, Chura is a strategic marketing professional, an MBA candidate and a graduate assistant in UGA’s Terry College of Business.
  • Doina Grecu: From Moldova, Grecu is a graduate teaching assistant and tutor in the UGA Russian Flagship Program.
  • Olga Kuvshinova: A native of Russia and Kazakhstan, Kuvshinova taught English at Novosibirsk State University prior to her appointment as an FLTA hosted by the Russian Flagship Program.
  • Bahriddin Murodov: From Tajikistan, Murodov is an FLTA hosted by the department of religion.
  • Madina Ochilova: From Uzbekistan, Ochilova is an FLTA hosted by the department of religion.

Moldovan dolls

By featuring individuals from Russian-speaking countries, the series engages students with unique and authentic perspectives to dismantle stereotypes and generalizations.

In addition to helping Russian Flagship students master the language, the program also focuses on intercultural competency so students can command a deep knowledge of the country's culture, customs, history and geopolitics.

“The Cultural Series has been a great opportunity to expose students, faculty and guests to numerous countries of the former Soviet bloc; to expand their knowledge of the history, culture and traditions of this vast region; and even to give them the taste of the various cuisines,” said Alexandra Shapiro, a lecturer in the Russian Flagship Program. “All of this makes the students' experience in the classroom more profound and their understanding of the culture and the language that go together deeper.”