Cultural Marathon “Around the World in Two Semesters”
In today’s world, the interstate educational contacts are intensively developing, and the number of young people wishing to obtain education in foreign countries is increasing. Students come to Russia from various parts of the world. They represent completely different cultures, traditions, values and accepted standards of conduct. The states from which they originate differ not only in their geographical location – they are inhabited by peoples who have their own unique customs, folk art and literature, etiquette, etc., which determine the peculiarities of these nationalities.
Even superficial acquaintance with different cultures reveals numerous differences between them. What is accepted by one people as a norm can sometimes provoke rejection of others. Today, the world community is open for communication at different levels and it is becoming increasingly aware of the need to know cultures and traditions of other countries. Being up to speed on the intricacies that relate to the traditions and peculiarities of peoples of the world is crucially important, since non-observance of etiquette, traditions and cultural heritage of a given country can lead to various interethnic conflicts.
In 2012, the Institute for International Cooperation of Penza State University launched the project, called the Cultural Marathon “Around the World in Two Semesters”. The idea is that during the academic year foreign citizens introduce Russian and other international students and university staff to culture, traditions and customs of their countries. Such events foster interstate relations and friendship. The main goal of the project is to promote tolerance of students and staff, and the marathon is aimed at socialising international students in higher educational institutions of Russia and stimulating their social activity.
The Day of Arab Culture organised by the Institute for International Cooperation and the International Students Association excites residents of Penza and attracts considerable interest of media. The event is held at the premises of Penza State University.
The holiday is aimed at eliminating prejudice and stereotypes about Arab states and helping citizens of different countries find common ground. PSU students from Arab states become the central figures on that day. At the exhibitions, they present to the guests their national costumes, art, customs, and traditions, as well as the pictures of some famous sights. Master classes in Arabic backgammon and calligraphy do not escape the public attention. Female guests are interested in Arab henna body painting, which is associated with beauty and religious commitment in the East.
The event participants especially want to try national cuisine. The oriental market with many genuine national details and the Arabian tent Madafa is a kind of gift for students and staff of Penza State University. The festivals are usually attended by foreign guest. The holiday culminates in national Arabic dances.
Diwali traditionally unfolds national New Year events arranged at PSU within the Cultural Marathon “Around the World in Two Semesters” during the academic year. This is one of the major holidays in India called the Festival of Lights. Diwali is the Hindu New Year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolise the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. On this day, cities and towns in India are lit up with thousands of lights. Penza State University also lights up a traditional fire as a symbol of the triumph of good over evil, so that the goddess of happiness, luck and wealth Lakshmi joins the feast. National Indian cuisine and concerts staged by Indian students harmoniously complement the festival.
Penza State University has the tradition to hold annual events dedicated to the celebration of the Chinese New Year. As we know, there is no exact date for the Chinese New Year, and it is determined on the basis of the lunar phases. The festival is organised by the Department of Russian as a Foreign Language and the International Education Office of PSU. The programme of the event is saturated, so that the guests can explore Chinese culture and traditions. Chinese students perform their national songs and poems, they wear traditional Chinese costumes, organise quizzes and national tea ceremonies. According to the ancient tradition, it is customary to celebrate the Chinese New Year in red clothes, and parents usually present children coins. Chinese students bestow red envelopes with yuans to those who managed to correctly answer questions about the People’s Republic of China. The highlight of the event is studying Chinese songs and writing hieroglyphs within master classes.
On 5 March 2016, the Kyrgyz national holiday Ak Kalpak was celebrated for the first time in Penza and the Penza region within the Cultural Marathon “Around the World in Two Semesters”. This festival is devoted to the felt headdress “White Hood”, which is an iconic item for Kyrgyz men.
A yurt as the centrepiece of the holiday is constructed on the territory of Penza State University. PSU international students from the Kyrgyz Republic put on the concert for those present. They perform national songs and dances and offer to sample their national cuisine. The festival ends with spectacular combats of Kurash belt-wrestlers.
Nowruz is celebrated at Penza State University on 21 March. It is the festival of the New Year among the Iranians and Turkic peoples. It also marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere according to solar calendar. On 30 September 2009, UNESCO included Nowruz in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Since then, 21 March has been proclaimed the International Day of Nowruz. The word “Nowruz” from the Persian language is translated as “a new day”.
National cultures and traditions are presented by students from such states as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey. The festival of pilaf and cuisine and the exhibition of folk art are organised for guests. The international students perform folk songs and dances are. In addition, the master classes in Farsi calligraphy, knitting Turkmen aladzha, playing Turkish baglama, and Kyrgyz alchiki game are given. The procession of the invited VIP-guests follows the imaginary Great Silk Road to gain an impression of the countries presented within the exhibitions in tents and yurts. The event ends with ethno-style dance party.
Penza State University also hosts the Kurash Belt Wrestling Tournament among foreign students of Penza higher education institutions. The event is dated for celebrating the International Day of Nowruz. Kurash (or kuresh) is a traditional kind of belt-wrestling among the Turkic peoples. In 2016, UNESCO noted the impact of Kurash on fostering relations between communities, which are based on the principles of tolerance, goodwill and solidarity.
The East is a delicate matter, and if the East has some Western components, it is a true riddle. PSU students from Turkey organise the social events, like the festive meeting “Turkey is my homeland: History, culture and traditions”. The event normally begins with the national anthem of the Republic of Turkey.
Turkish students recite poetry in Russian and Turkish and present architectural monuments, national cuisine, customs of their people, and especially Turkish hospitality. They acquaint the participants with Turkish music and traditional art, favorite kinds of recreation. The guests of the event are able to explore this amazing country absorbed the history of the whole world. Many guests have the impression that they virtually travel across ancient and modern Turkey. Through their national history and culture young people from Turkey are able to convey their love for the Fatherland to others.
Multimillion population lives on the Earth.
Each nation has its own language, flag, coat of arms and, last but not least, cultural heritage. We could not find any people with the same cultural values in the world. They can be similar, for example, have same skin colour or speak same language, and yet they are different. Russia is initially a multinational, multicultural and multilingual country. Russian society is always characterised by cultural heterogeneity, which is conditioned by the multi-ethnic composition of its population. It has always been the case.
Meanwhile, well-cultured person is defined by the ability or at least willingness to look at the world through the eyes of another nation, speak its language and absorb its culture. It is no coincidence that one of the first documents signed by Vladimir Putin following his election as President of the Russian Federation was a programme of actions to promote tolerance towards people of another ethnic origin, race, generally towards those who do not resemble “us”. That’s why the relevance of the Cultural Marathon “Around the World in Two Semesters” is undeniable.
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