Monday, 21 November 2011

KCL to open a Russian Studies Institute

Back in February 2010 I wrote a post commenting on the short sightedness of closing Paleography at KCL. In the post I suggested that it was just as short sighted as the wholesale closing of Russian faculties in the nineties.

The justification for closing Russian departments, departments of Slavic studies, departments of Soviet Studies etc was something along the lines of 'We've won the cold war, Russia is no longer a credible threat, we can't justify the investment', which of course really meant we can no longer get funding from the military and the spooks, and no one else will pay for it - oh yes and Russian is hard, no one will study it.

Well studying Russian is hard. I know, I studied it back in the cold war days. But Russia sits on a vast part of the world's mineral wealth, some of the central Asian successor states are rich in gas and oil, and have immense strategic significance. Just because the genitive plural is mind numbingly complex is no reason for not studying Russian. Just as the complexity of Chinese is no reason for not studying Chinese given the economic significance of China.

Russian companies own aluminium plants in Queensland, newspapers in London and god knows what else. Russia  also still  posesses a fairly serious military capability.  In other words Russia is economically and militarily significant and that means it's in our interests to know something about their language and culture, if only to negotiate more effectively with them.

Unfortunately the wholesale closing of Russian faculties means that the people who could conceivably have taught the mysteries of the genitive plural are now pursuing alteranative careers such as running market gardens in Queensland and the pool of expertise has largely been lost to academia.

So it was with a wry smile that I saw a report this morning that KCL was to establish a dedicated Russia Studies Institute. The wheel is coming full circle ...

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