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The 11th International Schoolchildren's Contest in the Russian language finished in Moscow
The 226 participants of this week-long contest took back to their 36 countries commemorative medals with the inscription "For achievements in Russian studies", diplomas of different degrees, prizes and souvenirs that prove their good command of Russian, knowledge of the country and its culture. Five absolute winners, school graduates from Belarus, North Korea, Moldova, the Czech Republic and Estonia, were granted the Russian Education Ministry's stipends and the right to enter the Russian language and literature department at any Russian state university without exams. Latvian Jana Toperte won a stipendium from the Moscow magazine Vokrug Sveta, which also gives her the right to receive free education in Russia. The winners' teachers were sent the Olympiad greeting letters. Those who took part in the first such contest held in 1971 today are around fifty. The International Association of Teachers of the Russian Language and Literature arranges the Olympiads every third year. "It is a most important arrangement of the Association and we always try to make it really festive," says the Association's president, rector of the St. Petersburg University. "Young foreigners interested in the Russian language and culture receive an opportunity to hear live Russian speech, to visit theaters, to see the treasures of Moscow museums". This time the event was definitely a success. But there were some disappointments. A young man from the U.S., the absolute winner of the Olympiad, refused to study at a Russian university saying he had already entered Chicago University. The guests' national costumes were less exotic than in the past, when citizens of many African and Latin American states were present. For financial reasons, the Russian party could not cover the travel expenses, which naturally narrowed the range of participants. Nadezhda Smirnova, chairman of the organizational committee, especially regretted absence of Peruvian schoolchildren who had been active participants of previous Olympiads. Today Russian is studied by approximately 10 million people in different countries. It is a working language of the UN, member of the World Language Club. This elite linguistic club comprises six languages considered by most countries important for a younger generation to study. Academician Vitaly Kostomarov, a prominent Russian linguist and president of the Pushkin Russian Language and Literature Institute, which hosted the Olympiad, believes that today Russian is openly competing with other languages and winning an increasing popularity among foreigners. "It is one of the richest and most developed languages of the world, it has an enormous vocabulary, clear and understandable grammar, sonorous phonetics. Russian is a key to great literature, scientific and technological achievements". One third of specialized global literature today is published in Russian. Celebrated chess player Robert Fischer once began to learn Russian only to read in the original the great number of chess books published in Russia. Knowledge of Russian once urged French President Jacques Chirac to translate into French one of the world's greatest classics, novel Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. According to Kostomarov, "the Russian language attracts foreigners also by its aesthetics, it is poetic and musical. It has strongly developed logical relations as in Latin, which helps develop children's intellectual abilities". A German 19th-century writer, Varnhagen von Ense, who translated Pushkin, wrote, "the Russian language is superior to Roman languages for the richness of words and to German languages for the richness of forms". He also believed that "the Russian language is capable of progressive development the boundaries of which cannot be predicted", and he was right. Today the Russianlanguage, linguists say, "puts a new photo into its historical passport". It is a consequence of drastic changes in the Russian life, as a language always needs the demands of a society. Many participants of the 11th Olympiad took home from Russia "personal vocabularies", putting down or recording lots of modern words and phrases they heard from others, even in the crowd in the Moscow street.
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