In the autumn of 2019, a number of experts commented on a two-fold decline in interest in studying the Russian language in the world compared to the beginning of the 1990s. Moreover, this trend was predicted to persist. The International Online Olympiad on Russian as a Foreign Language is a joint project of St Petersburg University and the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation. Its results indicate the opposite: in just one year, the number of participants in this competition increased fivefold.
The principal aim of the Olympiad was to stimulate the interest of foreigners in the Russian language and Russian culture, as well as to increase the importance of the Russian language as a means of international communication. The competitive tasks were similar in structure to those used in the state testing system for Russian as a foreign language.
The Olympiad was held for two age groups: 13-17 years old and 18-30 years old. About 3,000 people were expected to take part in it, but this figure more than doubled. 7,199 people from 131 countries – from Argentina to Japan – applied for the contest. However, only a few hundred young people withstood the high competition and were shortlisted for the final. According to the organisers, the record number of participants and the wide geography of the competition indicate a huge interest in learning the Russian language from all over the world.\
‘St Petersburg University began its work on Olympiads and competitions on Russian as a foreign language only a year ago. However, during this time we have achieved a decent result. At present, the international Olympiad is held annually at St Petersburg University. In 2018, we received 1,450 applications for participation from citizens of 82 countries. 250 people became winners and were given prizes. In 2019, the number of participants increased by almost five times. The International Online Olympiad in Russian as a Foreign Language was conducted completely remotely, which meets the needs of numerous applicants from all over the world,’ said Dmitrii Ptiushkin, Acting Director of the St Petersburg University Language Testing Centre.