The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to the Russian Federation Mr Georges Faber has visited St Petersburg University to: discuss the current state of affairs and opportunities for study of the Luxembourgish language and literature at St Petersburg University; and ensure cooperation and partnerships in education and research.

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St Petersburg University has a special status as the oldest university in Russia, said Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs, in his welcoming speech. As a classical institution of higher education, St Petersburg University is famous for research across all disciplines from physics to arts. Also, it actively engages in developing cooperation with leading Russian and international companies. The list of partners of the University includes more than 550 organisations across the globe. They are primarily engaged in ordering research, organising student practices, and updating academic programmes.

Over the past five years, the number of programmes with a focus on the Chinese language has increased ninefold, Today, students not only in philology, but in economics, management, or law can learn Chinese. In recent years, the programmes with a focus on the Korean language have also become more popular.

We have not signed any cooperation agreement with the universities in Luxembourg so far. Yet our researchers interact with Luxembourg’s colleagues and work on joint publications. In my opinion, we have a good potential to develop the breadth and depth of our collaboration. I am confident that we will start a new era of our cooperation with Luxembourg.

Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs at St Petersburg University

'We are interested in establishing new contacts not only with research institutions in Luxembourg, but also with business, international organisations and public sector,' said Sergey Andryushin. 'The special status of the University enables us to sign direct agreements with the public sector. We have signed such agreements with the Ministries of Education of the People’s Republic of China, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary and the Ministry of Culture of Cyprus. We are open for cooperation with your country and interested in how we can develop it.’

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The Ambassador Georges Faber thanked for the invitation and said that it was a great pleasure for him to visit St Petersburg University, a prestigious institution of higher education with almost three centuries of history. He said that he was pleased to learn about the initiative to revive research in the field of languages, literature and culture of Luxembourg at St Petersburg University, and our interest in developing contacts across a wide range of areas. He is ready to discuss opportunities for cooperation and asked to tell him what motivated the University to develop Luxembourgish studies.

Mikhail Koryshev, Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Philology at the University spoke about the history of how the Luxembourgish language had been studied at the University.

The study of the languages ​​of the Romano-Germanic contact zone has a long tradition in St Petersburg. Yet linguists often did not have access to the original historical materials, i.e. manuscripts, and used publications of literary monuments. In this regard, the main focus was on the historical aspect, while the study of the modern sociolinguistic situation in the region was peripheral. The Luxembourgish language rarely became a subject of separate research or teaching. Nevertheless, the St Petersburg (Leningrad) linguistic school made a significant contribution to the study of the Moselle Franconian dialects in the historical aspect, and researchers started to study the Luxemburgish dialects. The research results and findings in this area were summed up by the prominent St Petersburg philologist-Germanist Svetlana Smirnitskaia in her works that were published in the late 1980s – early 1990s and laid the foundations of linguistic Luxembourgish studies.

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In the 2000s, there were various attempts to introduce the Luxembourgish language and literature into universities. The most significant contribution was a collection of books by the classics of Luxembourgish literature in German, Luxembourgish and French that appeared in the University’s Library in 2009. The books were given to the University thanks to the efforts of Alfred Strasser, Associate Professor at the University of Lille, who was the co-publisher of the Krautgarten Forum Junger Poesie, i.e. an important journal for German-speaking authors in Belgium and Luxembourg. According to Mikhail Koryshev, this book collection and high-quality translations into Russian ensure good prospects for studying Luxembourgish literature at St Petersburg University. Today, students learn about Luxembourgish literature from the bachelor's programme course in the fundamentals of comparative studies. Mikhail Koryshev, Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Philology, said that this topic could be the subject of research in graduation projects or dissertations. In this regard, it is of particular interest to develop a large-scale course for literary students that would focus on the multilingual authors of Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Today, the Luxembourgish language is not taught in higher educational institutions in Russia. Yet much has been done by our European colleagues to change this situation.

Mikhail Koryshev, Senior Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Philology at St Petersburg University

'In particular, there are a series of textbooks to teach the Luxembourgish language as the main or as an additional foreign language for students who speak French or German,' said Mikhail Koryshev. ‘Today, in the labour market there is an increasing demand for experts who speak German and French. In this regard, we believe it is worthwhile to open an academic programme to prepare such specialists by 2023’. An introductory course in the Luxemburgish language would be advisable for senior students, he added. It will enable them to act as reliable intermediaries in ensuring communication between Russia, France, Germany, and Luxembourg. In the future, the Luxembourg component will be much in demand in developing programmes with a focus on the study of Dutch and French languages, literary and cultural relations.

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Sergey Andryushin presented to Georges Faber some proposals as to how to develop the study of language and culture at St Petersburg University. Among them were: ensuring cooperation with the universities of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, in particular with the University of Luxembourg; organising student research conferences on cultural and economic cooperation between the two countries; and a project to translate modern literature into Luxembourgish, French, and German. Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs, proposed to consider the prospects for academic staff in Germanic studies to take part in developing online courses on the Luxembourgish language in use and to apply for a grant to the Russkiy Mir Foundation in order to support research on: the history of relations between Russia and Luxembourg; language 'traces'; and renowned persons in history. Sergey Andryushin also invited Georges Faber to become a member of the Council of the academic programme 'Theory and Practice of Intercultural Communication (English)' and deliver a report to students that would focus on the history of Luxembourg and its role in modern politics. The diplomat agreed. In his turn, he said that Luxembourg is developing ​sustainable finance and ESG investment to meet the principles of responsible attitude to the environment, society and management standards (Environmental and Social Governance). This may be of interest to academic staff and students in economics and management at St Petersburg University.

At the end of the meeting, Georges Faber said that cooperation between our countries should be underpinned by ensuring cooperation between people: students, scientists, representatives of business and creative professions, as it is they who are the foundation of collaboration and engagement. The Ambassador said that there are many areas for cooperation in research for Luxembourgish and Russian researchers and promised to make a positive contribution to ensuring cooperation with the universities of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

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