My Russian winter adventure.

In the end of August, exactly eight days after finishing my last exam in Dresden, I’ll stand at the Moscow Domodevovo Airport.

For half a year I’ll study at the university with such a long name, that everyone calls it just with a shortcut. MGIMO. The whole name: Moscow State Institute of International Relations is telling the most important information already – it is the a university specialised and concerned exclusively at study of International Relations. MGIMO serves as an educational institution for prospective diplomats and political elites in Russia and in Europe. For example Sergey Lavrov, the current Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Štefan Füle, the former Czech European Commissioner, are MGIMO graduates. One effect of the universities focus on educating diplomats is its accent on the foreign policy in practice. You can see this by looking at the offered classes and seminars. Students can focus on any country or region worldwide and take courses about its history, population, economic development or foreign policy in the last decades. Another example is the tuition of fifty-six languages and seminars like Etiquette of Diplomacy or Negotiation in the WTO and UN.

So why I’m actually going to Russia?

After Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation a wave of critique of such an explicit breaches of international law came up across the EU. In this context a new word gained a foothold in the German media. Russlandversteher. Verstehen means to understand. Russlandversteher, which would be probably translated as Russia-understander does not apply to experts on Russian language and culture, or specialists on Russian policy. It was a swearword. People who understood the Russian foreign policy, didn’t criticize it enough and advocated a dialogue with Russia. It is really unfortunate, that the meaning of the word understand can be reversed and negatively tinged to such extension.

In my first semester I have chosen Russian as the next language I want to learn and I’m doing so for two years now. The MGIMO classes, which are solely in Russian for exchange students, are great opportunity to improve my Russian. This is not the main reason though, why I have chosen to spend half a year in Moscow. I’m convinced, that understanding Russia is very important and in many cases also inevitable. To understand the motives of it’s foreign policy as  well as to understand the domestic political situation. It is necessary to have a possibility to a constructive dialogue with the neighbour Great Power. Not just because the EU and Russia are economically and energetically interdependent. But as the Syria and Ukraine crisis showed, the restraint, or vice versa the excessive involvement of the Russian foreign policy in the actual crises, has significant impact on the EU. It would be useful understand these actions. Try to grasp something doesn’t mean to agree with it. It is mainly a thirsty asking of curious questions. If we stop trying to understand Russia, I think we won’t see more than just our prejudices. Therefore I want to spend a semester in Moscow experiencing Russia and its perception of Europe. Furthermore I would like to study the role of energetics in Foreign policy. MGIMO is the best place to accomplish this goal.  

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