The history of teaching the Russian language in Lebanon: a chronological overview starting with the “Moscow school” of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society until present times

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Abstract


The article is dedicated to the history of teaching the Russian language in Lebanon from the end of the XIX century to present times. The authors tried to analyze how the pivotal historical moments of Russian-Lebanese relations influenced the conditions for teaching the Russian language in Lebanon. The article provides a brief description of the programs and methods used in various educational institutions for teaching Russian in Lebanon, depending on the form in which it was in demand for its functioning (at one stage or another). First as a language taught in some “Moscow schools” of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, then as a language for preserving the Russian culture of the Diaspora initially formed by first wave immigrants and finally at the present stage, Russian as a foreign language or as a native language for bilingual children of compatriots living in Lebanon.


Full Text

The timeline of teaching the Russian language in Lebanon is directly connected with the historical periods of Russia’s relations with this Middle Eastern country, as well with the presence of the Russian Diaspora which was formed in the beginning of the 1920s until the present-day. The Russian Empire has always sought to establish itself in the Middle East as a main power; the patroness of Christian shrines in the region and the Orthodox population of Syria and Palestine. The Russo-Turkish peace treaty that put an end to the 1768-1774 war played a major influence in the strengthening of the Russian state’s position in the region. According to the agreement, Russia had the right to provide patronage to the Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire and a consulate was established in 1820 in the city of Jaffa in order to aid and protect the interests of Russian citizens who would go on pilgrimages to the Holy places in Syria and Palestine. Nonetheless, a focal moment in forming Russian-Lebanese consular relations would be in the year 1839 when the Russian consulate was relocated from Jaffa to Beirut and was named Consulate in Beirut and Palestine and as of the year 1843 it became known as the General Consulate in Beirut (Vorobev, 2010: 18). During this period, the foundation of Russia’s presence in Lebanon was being actively laid out and the Lebanese favor towards Russia was noticeable. Throughout the Turkish dominion, Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church became genuine idols not only for Lebanese orthodox Christians but also for the representatives of other confessions in this part of the Middle East. An important event that further developed the relations between Russia and Lebanon (Palestine and Lebanon at the time were considered part of the territory of Syria, also known as Greater Syria (Arabic ﻝﺍ ﺩﻼ_ﺑﻢﻣﺎ_ﺷ “bilad alshamm”)) would be the creation of the Russian Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS) in 1882. The Society’s charter was based on philanthropic goals of teaching and charity, where three main pillars would guide its practice: (1) scientific - collect, develop and distribute information about Holy places of the Middle East to Russia; (2) pilgrimages - provide benefits for Orthodox pilgrims to these Holy places; (3) humanitarian - set up schools, hospitals, almshouses and offer financial benefits to local residents, churches, monasteries and clergy (Ustav.., 1887). In the research of the Russian philosopher and historian, N.N. Lisovoi (Lisovoi, 2006), it is mentioned that the Russian language was taught from 1883 to 1885 in the Beirut Orthodox Charity Society School by Aleksandr Gavrilovich (Iskander-Dzhebrail) Kezma (1860-1935). The Damascus native was a graduate from Saint Petersburg’s Theological Seminary; later on, as a third-year student at the Moscow Theological Academy he was called to work in Palestine in 1883 and thus became one of the key figures in founding the schools of IOPS in the Middle East. Consequently, A.G. Kezma led the first IOPS schools in Galilee and the male boarding house in Nazareth in 1886 which was then transformed into a teacher seminary in 1889. The first IOPS school in Lebanon was opened on 22 September 1887 in the city of Beirut under the efforts of Maria Aleksandrovna Cherkasova (Saint Petersburg, 21 February 1841 - Beirut, 1918). She was a graduate of the Pavlovsk Institute for Noble Maidens in Saint Petersburg. By the time she arrived at Beirut, she had an extensive pedagogical experience; she taught for a few years in a school in Novgorod oblast (Novgorod region) and managed the Russian theological mission in Japan for girls since 1879. From 1887 to 1914, M.A. Cherkasova organized six schools in Beirut and was an indispensable supervisor. The success of the first IOPS school in Beirut caused a great deal of requests from various regions of Lebanon in order to open such schools. In the 1890s, in accordance with the appeal of the Patriarch of Antioch, many rural Lebanese schools were taken under the patronage of the IOPS (Baher, Fedotov, 2012: 45). The data collected by both T. Baher and P.V. Fedotov (Baher, Fedotov, 2012) are evidence that these schools operated in large cities, where there could be several ones, as well as in small villages. Groups from the schools would meet in districts where Russian supervisors monitored the educational process. Repeatedly, Russian committees of well-known pedagogues visited these schools. The schools were open to representatives of all confessions and education in them was tuition-free. The total number of the “Moscow schools” in the Lebanese territory reached 48, and according to the data for 1912-1914, 5750 boys and girls studied in them. Moreover, educational institutions from outside the IOPS that taught the Russian language were supported by this Society. For example, during 1896-1898 several Russian teachers, who were graduates of the Stoyunin Saint Petersburg girl’s gymnasium, worked along with a local native, who graduated from the IOPS Beyt-Jala teacher seminary, in the Beirut boarding house “Bakurat AlIhsan”. A female orthodox charity society named “Zahrat Al-Ihsan” (lit. “Flower of kindness”, founded in 1880) opened this Beirut boarding house. Mentioned by the orientalist A.Y. Krymskii (Krymskii, 1975: 35), the educational process was headed and monitored by a Russian supervisor of the institute, Ekaterina Ivanova Schmidt from Saint Petersburg. The IOPS schools in the Middle East from 1882 to 1914 constituted a whole system of educational institutions, and the educational program depended on the type of school. The reporting messages of the IOPS (Anichkov, 1899) demonstrate that in one-class rural schools (three groups and three years of education) children from 8-12 years old studied divine law, arithmetic, Arabic and Russian languages and singing. In two-class rural and city schools (five years of education) children from 8-14 years studied the divine law, arithmetic, Arabic, Russian and Turkish languages and geography. All the subjects in the one-class and twoclass schools were taught in Arabic except for the Russian language subject. In order to prepare the educational staff from the local Arab population for the IOPS schools, two teacher seminaries were open in both male and female boarding houses in Palestine: in Nazareth (1886) and in Beyt-Jala (1890) respectively. The best students who finished their courses in the two-class city and village schools enrolled in the seminary. According to established programs, the six-year training course taught the entire subjects in Russian except for divine law, Arabic, Turkish and Greek languages (Anichkov, 1899). It is considered that these two seminaries prepared the first professional pedagogues in the Arab world (Grushevoi, 2018: 274). Also worthy of note is that there were no teacher seminaries in Lebanon; but in her schools, M.A. Cherkasova conducted special lessons designed to teach basic pedagogical techniques and teaching methods to the senior students. During the school year of 1912-1913, 33 teachers, all of whom were local natives and Cherkasova’s students, taught in the Beirut schools (Baher, Fedotov, 2012). Upon the opening of the schools in the Middle East, the administration of the Society discovered an almost complete absence of pedagogical and educational literature in Arabic. As a result, the Society’s staff performed a huge amount of work by translating manuals and compilations of original training materials from Russian to Arabic, while taking into account local specifics. The author of numerous educational textbooks and methodological developments in Arabic for IOPS schools is A.G. Kezma, who began work on the translation of the divine law textbook from Russian to Arabic when he was still in Beirut (Anichkov, 1899). As previously mentioned, the teachings in one-class and two-class rural IOPS schools were given in the Arabic language. The classes of Russian language and Russian singing were introduced only with the availability of trained teachers (Russian or local natives who finished their teaching seminaries with the IOPS). Among the Lebanese schools, the greatest successes in the Russian language were noted among M.A. Cherkasova’s students where classes were held according to her personal techniques (Cherkasova, 1911). Despite the extreme small number of permanent Russian population in Beirut; the facilitator of success would be attributed to the fact that Ms. Cherkasova’s schools were a welcoming place for Russian travelers and pilgrims visiting Beirut, something that gave the students constant opportunities to practice the spoken Russian language (Baher, Fedotov, 2012). The question concerning the practicality and methods of teaching the Russian language in IOPS schools was repeatedly the subject of conversations. The last document related to this question is known as the “Committee’s Report, drawn up by the Council of the Imperial Palestinian Society to consider the programs and instructions of the seminaries worked out at the Nazareth meeting of 1913”, is described by A.G. Grushevoi (Grushevoi, 2015). Recommendations in the document for teaching the Russian language and literature are intended for the seminaries (Nazareth and Beyt-Jala) and exemplary schools. That is to say, an attempt was made to generalize the accumulated experience and create some ideal model of teaching the Russian language to foreign children in specialized educational institutions outside the Russian territory. In this case, specialized educational institutions are professionally oriented teacher’s secondary schools that provide their graduates with a sufficient level of language preparation and general education in order to continue their higher educational studies in Russia. Thereby with the beginning of hostilities between Russia and Turkey in October 1914, Russian schools in Beirut were transferred by the Ottoman authorities to the jurisdiction of local church communities. “The outbreak of war put an end to the history of schools. We cannot tell what could have happened under a different outcome and how the trends of the schools’ development and affairs, which had been outlined in the early years of the twentieth century, would have been realized.” (Grushevoi, 2015: 109-110). All the Russian citizens were sent out of the Lebanese territory by the Ottoman authorities, with an exception for Maria Aleksandrovna Cherkasova who was loved and respected among the Lebanese. She lived in Lebanon until the end of her life; in honor of M.A. Cherkasova, Al Mama street is named after her in the center of Beirut overlooking the current building of the Russian Embassy. The main results drawn from the activities of the “Moscow schools” in Lebanon (1887-1914) was that for the first time, thousands of Orthodox children had the opportunity to receive a systemic primary education that meets the latest pedagogical principles in compliance with their society’s traditions. Sources and scientific literature do not provide a definitive figure of the total number of students who studied in the IOPS schools; however, without a doubt, it can be considered to come around tens of thousands. The teaching of Russian in the Lebanese “Moscow schools” was not something widespread and systematic since it was not the primary mission when organizing the schools. Nevertheless, elementary knowledge of forms of speech etiquette, religious formulas and prayers in Russian language among the students acted as a certain sign of belonging to the global Orthodox culture, one of the pillars of which Russia revered. The positioning of education around the native Arabic language, attention to the history and geography of the native land made it possible to grow a generation of patriotic Orthodox Lebanese in the “Moscow schools”, many of whom became national representatives of the intelligentsia. The selfless activities of the Russian ascetic pedagogues earned gratitude and strengthened the traditional sympathies of the Orthodox Lebanese towards Russia. Evidently, the creation of “Moscow schools” by the IOPS on the Lebanese territory from 1887 until the beginning of the First World War in 1914 was a valuable educational endowment. The first period of systematic teaching of the Russian language in Lebanon corresponds with this timeframe. As the Ottoman Empire dissolved in 1922, the Russian-Lebanese relations were also terminated until they were revived once again in 1944. However, during these 22 years, the series of events that swept over both Lebanon and Russia laid emphasis on the geopolitical map of the countries as well as on their relationship. The October Revolution of 1917 was one of such fateful phenomena at the beginning of the 20th century. It entailed a drastic change in the socio-political situation in Russia, which made the life of a fairly significant part of Russian citizens at home impossible. Many decided to leave their country, believing that they were doing this only for a brief duration. Therefore in 1921 on the territory of soon-to-be Lebanon, as in most foreign countries, first-wave emigrants appeared and the Russian diaspora began to form. Around 400 families entered this Middle Eastern country after the revolution, statistical data about them are presented in the collection Russians in Lebanon (Vorobev, 2010). In fact, immediately upon arrival on Lebanese soil, Russian emigrants formed the so-called “Russian circle” and in 1929 they formed the Russian Technical Association (RTA) which played a crucial role in uniting Russians, who were in Lebanon. After the First World War (1914-1918), Lebanon became part of the French mandate. It would seem at first glance that “the revolutionary era severed all the works of tsarist diplomats in building relations between Russia and this small country. But how surprisingly the fates of Lebanese and Russians intertwined again: White Army officers were selected to work in the mandate province and so forever leaving their homeland. As a result, several hundred families of military engineers turned up in Beirut. These highly educated and talented people founded; the Russian Technical Association (RTA), a Sunday school, a library, a conservatorium and even a ballet studio. Not having time to fully realize themselves in the service of the motherland, they worked hard in Lebanon by paving roads, setting up communications, erecting bridges and building dams” (Vorobev, 2010: 75). The Russian emigrants living in Beirut were reassembled and reunited by various military associations operating in the first half of the 20th century: The CabinCompany of the naval officers of the former Imperial Navy in Beirut, Association of the Russian Regular Cavalry in Syria, Libon and Alautia, Society of Russian Artillery Officers in Syria and Liban, Union of Russian Military Disabled in Syria and Liban and many more. Interestingly enough is that A.A. Elagin; the director of the Thursday School for children of Russian emigrants in Beirut (organized by the RTO, which will be discussed later) was a graduate of the Nikolaev Cavalry School, an officer of the second hussar regiment and a member of the Lebanese group of the Gallipoli community in Asia Minor. Former students of the Thursday School in Beirut, K.B. Novikov and G.A. Serov, recall how A.A. Elagin raised the Russian flag on the flagpole at the school building, and speak of him as an “impeccable, honorable and angelic person” (Baher, URL). In 1929 members of the RTA began to assemble a Russian library, the story of which is told by I.A. Jaber in the collection “Russians in Lebanon” (Vorobev, 2010). (Currently the books of the RTA library are kept in Beirut; the more valuable copies of the editions have been transferred to the Aleksander Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad in Moscow. - authors’ note.) And soon a school for children was formed which was known as the Thursday School since it took place on Thursdays. First-wave emigrants considered their duty to preserve and pass on to their descendants the values and traditions of Russian culture. “In this regard researchers of the Russian Language Abroad, primarily give credit to the parishes of the Orthodox church and the Russian educational parish establishments which contributed to maintaining the ‘purity’ of the national language” (Nedopekina, 2011: 71). Russian emigrants in Beirut as well as many communities of Russian dispersion were united by the arrival of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia (ROCOR). In the “Thursday school”, the Russian emigrant children were taught the Russian language, history and geography of Russia and gymnastics; in parallel, the clergy taught the divine law (a compulsory subject). By the end of the year, successes in subjects, conduct, attendance of the Russian Thursday School for Children in the City of Beirut and grades were found on a sheet as handwritten statements signed by the school’s principal and supervisor. Furthermore, knowledge of the Russian language was evaluated according to five parameters: written, expressive reading, poetry, grammar and spelling (knowledge of the rules). Based on the student’s information and characteristics, the school committee decided whether to transfer her/him to the following grade. This is how Irina Dmitrievna Malisheva, the school’s attendee, describes the events of that period: “Russians who worked in the Lebanese municipality of Beirut teamed up and created a Russian club. Initially it was a male association, and later on women decided to open a school. In the beginning of the school’s activities, Anna Vyacheslavovna Kovalenko, who was actually a Czech Catholic who turned Orthodox when she married Kovalenko, was the supervisor. At the school, 1. Kovalenko taught gymnastics classes and led the church choir. Afterwards the director of the school was Elagin Aleksandr Aleksandrovich. Every Thursday, classes at school began at two in the afternoon and lasted until four. Every half hour the students moved from one room to another. Classes were taught by the parents themselves: Russian language, geography and history of Russia. The divine law was taught by Father Germogen, who at the time was in Lebanon. Back then the Russian cluster was very friendly; we often met up at the Nazarov family and celebrated various holidays and birthdays. Many guests gathered around Elizabeth Fedorovna’s huge table. She used to teach elementary grades at the school. In order for us to be entertained; by the end of the school year, on Easter or on New Year there were performances on stage. I remember how I played some aunt in Chekhov’s play… I was 7 years old. The school started from kindergarten until the last grade - 16-17 years. The theatre was very important because they taught us Russian literature and at the same time it was very interesting. Now I am an adult and I understand how they taught us… With time the school ceased to exist and the grown-up youth started to attend Russian Youth’s Circle. On Sundays after four we met at Kovalenko, who owned a big house between the American University in Beirut and the sea. Many Russians lived there. We brought with us sandwiches and pies. We had an hour of class with Kirpicheva who taught us Russian language lessons. After that we danced and sometimes sang. It was fun, we fooled around, fell in love sometimes but all remained friends. That is the most important thing. I still am friends with Irina Nazarova who now lives in Switzerland” (story told by I.D. Malicheva, recorded by the author of the article N.V. Semaan on March 24, 2020 in Hadath, Beirut). Gregory Aleksandrovich Serov, grandson of the famous painter Valentin Serov, is another representative of the Russian Diaspora among the emigrants in Lebanon. While remembering the Russian Youth’s Circle, he talked about: “At the end of each Russian language class, which always had to end with a dictation (lit. diktovka), there were often lectures and discussions on certain topics with Russian guests in Beirut or the students’ parents. Theatre performances were distinguished by high and professional levels. Rehearsals took place two to three times per week” (interview given to N.V. Semaan, author of the article, on January 10, 2020 in Russian Center for Science and Culture, Beirut). The time interval between the 20s and 40s of the last century can be rightfully considered as the second period of teaching the Russian language in Lebanon when first-wave emigrants, who held on to the spiritual connection between Lebanon and Russia, independently supported the study of their native language in Thursday School and Russian Youth’s Circle. Up until the 3rd of August 1944 when diplomatic relations were established between the USSR and Lebanon, when the latter attained its independence from France in 1943. In the post-war period, the Soviet Union began to actively assist countries that were members of the “socialist camp”. The Lebanese state was not considered a member due to its political and economic structure, but after France conceded its position in the Middle Eastern region, the influence of the United States and Great Britain started to increase significantly. However, this did not hinder with establishing a cultural cooperation between the USSR and Lebanon. In 1950 Beirut, the Soviet Cultural Center (SCC) originally opened in a rented apartment of a residential building, which was located in one of the districts of Beirut. There was a small cinema, library and Russian language courses in the SCC. This was the beginning of the “Soviet period” in the history of teaching the Russian language in Lebanon. Gradually, the activities of the Soviet Cultural Center expanded. For this reason, it had to be moved to a separate building in the center of the Lebanese capital during the early 60s and then once again in 1981 to its own building which was specially built for the SCC. At that time the SCC in Lebanon carried out its activities under the auspices of the Friendship Societies with Foreign Countries (lit. SSOD, 1958-1992). The SSOD was the successor of the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (lit. VOKS, 1925-1958), whose mission was the widespread establishment of cultural ties with foreign countries including those of the Middle East. The Soviet party actively supported the SCC’s activities, where the Russian as a foreign language (RFL) was taught on a regular course basis. The SCC was supplied with textbooks and methodological literature; in addition, the opportunity was given to Lebanese teachers in order to attend advanced training seminars in Patrice Lumumba University (nowadays known as Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia - RUDN University) and at the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute. The Soviet Cultural Center’s staff included not only managers of the RFL courses from Moscow, but also highly qualified specialists working in the field. Among them were Yousef Atalla and Irina Yakhievna Beshkok (Dana), who subsequently led these courses herself and by the end of the 90s she taught the Russian language for bilinguals. During the 80s, RFL was taught in the SCC under an intensive program, 4 lessons per day for an hour and a half. Anyone willing to learn the Russian language could do so for free and were provided with textbooks. These were mainly young people, who were sent to educational Soviet institutes in order to receive various specialties and degrees. The Soviet state enthusiastically helped Lebanon train qualified personnel by providing quotas that were distributed for enrollment. At that time, the Soviet Cultural Center was the only place in Lebanon where future students had the opportunity to take Russian language courses in order to adapt to their studies in the USSR. In the SCC concerts and exhibitions were always organized, a library operated with widely available (translated into Arabic) works of Russian classics and Soviet writers and the local youth was introduced to an active lifestyle through creative activities of music, dance and sports. It is important to note that the period between 1975 until 1990 was an extremely turbulent and dangerous time for Lebanon. A civil war lasted for fifteen years, but the SCC in Beirut did not stop its work. The year when this long war in Lebanon ended coincided with the onset of a crucial turning point in the Soviet history or rather with its collapse in 1991, to be more exact. The fundamental changes in the economic, political, cultural and educational spheres of the post-Soviet life affected the promotion of the Russian language abroad. This was a transitional period for both ideology and organization plans. All the structures of the Russian government were transforming; among them was the reorganization of the SSOD in 1992 to become the Russian Center Abroad (lit. Roszarubejtsentr), and the Soviet Cultural Center in Beirut was renamed and became known as the Russian Center for Science and Culture (RCSC). It remained the only place in Lebanon that taught Russian as a foreign language to adults and since 1997 to bilingual children. During that time, motivation to learn the Russian language significantly declined. Most of the participants in the RFL courses were young people who wanted to “receive general language training with a focus on every day informal interpersonal communication, with some cultural and historic information” (Demesheva, 2006: 49). At that point, the Lebanese showed an interest towards learning Russian because of the desire to create families with representatives of Russia or the Commonwealth Independent States, which completely differed from the motivation of the previous generation who wanted to get an education in Soviet universities. Nonetheless, both of these factors after the collapse of the USSR led to the creation of a large number of mixed Russian-Lebanese families and the emergence of bilingual children. With the adaptation of the federal law “On state policy regarding compatriots abroad” in 1999, all Russian citizens residing in Lebanon along with Russian speaking citizens of the former USSR, received the status of compatriots. Since 2004 a period in Lebanon started relying on Russian language courses, when organizations of compatriots began to be created everywhere in: Baaqline, Baalbeck, Batroun, Beyt Meri, Byblos, Jdaide, Zahle, Nabatieh, Sidon, Tyre and Tripoli. With the support of the RCSC in Beirut, Russian Embassy in Lebanon, Association of USSR Alumni, Association of Russian Federation Alumni and thanks to independent efforts, these public organizations actively developed and reformed into centers, clubs and societies. And in 2011, they merged into the Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots (lit. KSORS). As part of the federal target program “Russian Language”, approved in 2001 and designed for phased implementation over the next 20 years, projects have begun to be implemented abroad to support compatriots and improve the status of the Russian language throughout the world. Also teaching Russian as a foreign language in Lebanon gradually reached a new high level. The Russian Center for Science and Culture in Beirut (is the representative of the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation, more commonly known as Rossotrudnichestvo, in Lebanon since 2008) became not only a modern educational and methodical center for teaching RFL but also a place where in 2007 “Kedr” (lit. “cedar”) - school of Russian language for bilingual children was formed. This school began to hold classes at levels corresponding to the classes of the Russian school curriculum. With the support of Russia’s humanitarian mission to Lebanon in 2017, the Russian language was included as a compulsory subject in the curriculum of the Bekaa International School (BIS), in which students from the primary and secondary classes began to study Russian as a second foreign language twice a week. On the 11th of January 2019 with the support of the RCSC in Beirut, the creation of the Lebanese Society of Russian Language and Literature Teachers organization (more commonly known as LOPRYAL) was a great achievement in maintaining and promoting the Russian language in Lebanon. Separately, it should be noted that teaching the Russian language in higher educational institutions of Lebanon, is a direction that has developed relatively recently. In 2009, the American University of Science and Technology (AUST) in Beirut became the first Lebanese university that approved of the “Russian language” as an academic discipline and included it in its programs. This happened thanks to the initiative and support of the chairperson of the International Affairs Department of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Dr. George Masse - PhD in World History and Foreign Policies. Three step-by-step courses, “Russian I”, “Russian II” and “Russian III”, were introduced as the main subjects in the bachelor’s program for future diplomats and as elective courses for students of different majors. Such an approach is completely reasonable since the Russian language is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. The appropriately constructed program of the “Russian language” subject successfully fit into the credit system of this joint American-Lebanese University, and has become attractive to students and worthy of positioning itself against other foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, French and German. Later on, in 2010, thanks to the assistance and support of the Russkiy Mir Foundation (Russian World Fond), the Faculty of Russian as a Foreign Language was opened in the School of Translators and Interpreters of Beirut in the Saint Joseph University (USJ). Subsequently in 2012, the Lebanese American University in Lebanon demonstrated an initiative to teach Russian as foreign language on an elective basis. Additionally, in 2018 the Lebanese International University (LIU) joined the list of private universities where Russian was introduced as an elective subject for the undergraduate program in various majors. As for the Lebanese University (LU), the first attempt in teaching the Russian language as an elective subject to students of several majors was made in 2014. The Russian language would be included in the foreign languages bureau alongside with French, English, Spanish, German, Italian and Chinese languages. However, it was only in 2018 that the “Russian language” subject was introduced as an elective in the Lebanese University bachelor’s program of various faculties and different majors. This was possible after the signing of an official agreement in 2017 on the cooperation between the management of the Lebanese University and Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia. In the academic year 2019-2020 an important outcome of this bilateral agreement was the implementation of a joint master’s program in the “Russian-Middle Eastern relations and interaction” major. Therefore, the two subjects: “Russian language” and “Introduction to the basics of historical and diplomatic translation” (in combination with Russian and Arabic), received the status of basic subjects at the Faculty of Philology and Humanities of the Lebanese University. Undoubtedly the training of qualified specialists in this area is extremely important for the further building of relations not only between Russia and Lebanon, but also with other Middle Eastern countries. As interest in the possibility of obtaining an education in Russia is increasing among the Lebanese youth, the motivation for studying Russian as a language is progressively growing. The representative office of Rossotrudnichestvo in Lebanon is doing a lot of work on the allocation of quotas, according to which foreign citizens are given affordable enrollment opportunities in Russian universities. Evidently, the mutual interest of Lebanon and Russia in strengthening and expanding their intercultural relations has recently increased noticeably, which may be the key to maintaining the position of the Russian language in this region. Time will tell how the situation will unfold further on. Moreover, such a chronological analysis gives reason to conclude that the outcome of historical events was one of the factors that influenced the promotion of the Russian language in this Middle Eastern country.

About the authors

Nataliya V. Semaan

Russian Center for Science and Culture

Author for correspondence.
Email: haidarnat@yahoo.com
Rachid Karame St., Beirut, 7883, Lebanese Republic

Candidate of Philology, lecturer of the Russian language and literature at the external school of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Lebanese Republic, Head of the Russian language school for bilingual children “Kedr” at the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Beirut, Chairperson of the Lebanese Society of Teachers of the Russian Language and Literature (LOPRYAL).

Elena N. Demesheva

Lebanese University

Email: elena.demesheva@ul.edu.lb
P.O. Box 14/6573, Dekwaneh, Lebanese Republic

Candidate of Pedagogy, lecturer at the Faculty of Philology and Humanities in the Lebanese University, at the Department of International Affairs of Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the American University of Science and Technology, instructor at the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Beirut. Research interests: methods of teaching Russian as a foreign language to an Arabic-speaking audience outside native linguistic and cultural environment, Russian and Arabic phraseology, linguoculturology, linguodidactics, intercultural communication

Tatiana V. Baher

Lebanese Cultural Orthodox Imperial Society

Email: tatiana.baher@yandex.ru
Chaouki Al Chammas Bldg., Liban Nord Abdallah Saadeh Blvd., Amioun, 32111, Lebanese Republic

member of the Lebanese Cultural Orthodox Imperial Society in Amion

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