Speech by Minister of State Maria Böhmer at the opening of the Year of Russian Language in Germany

06.06.2014 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

My Colleague Mr Kaganov,
Mr Shvydkoi,
Mr Kosachev,
Mr Parzinger,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, on 6 June, Russia is celebrating the birth of Alexander Pushkin and with it the birth of modern Russian literature – the beginning of the Golden Age. The great poet Pushkin shaped and enriched the Russian language with his works from the beginning of the 19th century.

I am delighted to be taking part in the opening of the Year of Russian Language and Literature in Germany today. Over the course of a whole year entertaining and informative competitions, theatre performances and conferences will promote the Russian language and its literature in our country.

I very much hope that this will lead to more young people in our schools and universities taking an interest in Russian culture – and to them learning Russian, as this opens doors to the country’s people, its culture, its academic world and its economy.

More than 200 years ago, the great educational reformer Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote:

“When you learn a foreign language, the new words are a window to another world and foster the desire to rub shoulders with that world.”

It is important to embrace these ideas, especially in the current difficult political situation.

The people in Germany and in Russia should not only talk about one another but should talk more to one another.

Because in Europe we are in the midst of the most serious crisis since the end of the Cold War.

This crisis can only be resolved together, everyone must do their bit.

All the more so given that the people in Ukraine voted so clearly in the presidential elections in their country. They voted as a majority against violence and chaos and for a future for their country and for a united Ukraine.

A Ukraine whose territorial integrity is respected by everyone.

Today, the Federal Chancellor has met President Putin at the commemoration in Normandy. That is important as it is in direct, confidential discussions that the problems and expectations that we are confronted with can be discussed candidly.

A year ago the Germany Year in Russia and Russia Year in Germany came to a very successful conclusion.

We now want to draw on the success of these “double” years with a “double year” of both languages!

Mr Shvydkoi, in our first discussion your passion for the idea of a “double language year” immediately won my enthusiasm for the plan!

Today we are making our way along this linguistic journey together.

Following the summer break we will open the Year of the German Language and Literature in Russia. As we do so, we can make use of a strong German-Russian network – there are few other countries where as many people speak German as in Russia.

Yet first of all we now need to promote the dissemination of the Russian language and its literature here in Germany.

The great poet Pushkin can in fact be cited as the man who best promoted learning Russian and provided most encouragement to each and every pupil studying the language. In his typical poetic style, he wrote:

“Just as I do not like red lips without a smile, I have no care for the Russian language without grammatical mistakes!”

How about that to encourage you to throw yourself into learning this – not entirely easy – language!

And so I now wish you an enjoyable German-Russian evening, but above all I wish the German-Russian Year of Language great success!

Thank you and spassiba!

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