About 1,500 Greeks are tested annually in Russian as a foreign language at language testing centres of St Petersburg University.

As part of the Russia-Greece cross-year of history, specialists from the Language Testing Centre of St Petersburg University have developed a course of lectures on Russian history for Greek students. The initiative is implemented jointly with the Russian Language and Culture Centre ‘Russian Word’ (Thessaloniki), on the basis of which St Petersburg University opened a representative office in Greece.

‘Those who study a language of another country cannot help but take an interest in its history,’ said Dmitry Ptyushkin, Director of the Language Testing Centre at St Petersburg University. ‘That is why we decided to create a course of online lectures. They describe in simple terms the main milestones of Russian history, and events related to our joint history with Greece.’

The Russian history course consists of 10 lectures. Students with a B1 level of Russian can listen to them in the original. For those who have recently started studying Russian or are exclusively interested in Russian history, the lectures are available in English. ‘Our specialists have developed the programme so that it is not only full of historical information, but is also of interest to students who are learning the language. That is why it does not contain words they might not understand,’ explained Dmitry Ptyushkin.

‘The topics that we have selected will enable students to see that historically our nations are very close. We have a rich cultural stratum and common history, and we want to make sure that no one forgets this,’ said Dmitry Ptyushkin, Director of the Language Testing Centre at St Petersburg University.

Among the topics included in the lecture programme are: the formation of Kievan Rus’ and the relationship between the Byzantine Empire and Russia; the role of the Russian Empire and the emergence of the New Greek State; the reign of the first Romanovs; the era of Peter the Great; and the activities of Olga Constantinovna of Russia, Queen Consort of Greece. A period of common historical past of Russia and Greece in the 20th century is also covered. A separate lecture is devoted to the life and work of Ioannis Antonios Kapodistrias, the first head of state of independent Greece and Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire.

About 200 Greek students have now signed up for the lectures. The course organisers point out their sincere interest in participating, as they attend the lectures on Saturday mornings and also actively ask questions after the classes and ask for additional materials on Russian history.

Since 2016, St Petersburg University has opened Language Testing Centres in seven Greek cities: Athens, Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Corinth, Alexandroupoli, Heraklion and Volos. Specialists from the centres regularly hold: seminars, webinars and professional development sessions for Greek teachers; presentations of the University's academic programmes for Greek applicants; and online meetings with co-authors of Russian language textbooks.

In 2019, a representative office of St Petersburg University in Thessaloniki was opened

Additionally, open access Russian language courses have been developed by the University staff, with up to 250 Greek students per year enrolled free of charge.

There are plans to develop similar online courses for Italian, Serbian and Brazilian students in the future.