Portraits of Irkutsk


It is unsurprising that Russians and Chinese are studying each other's respective language.  Moreover, it should not seem strange that different students have different motivations.  Prior to this project, I often heard a very simple explanation: it's just pragmatism, it stems from the economics -- people want good jobs.  While these polls certainly did not definitively refute such an attitude, they should, in my opinion, compel people to reconsider their views.  I would hope that in the future either I or someone else can explore more deeply the reasons Russian students choose to learn Chinese and the reasons for Chinese students to learn Russian.

However, first of all, this was a project about Irkutsk. Thus, it is interesting to note that this city is a place of interaction between peoples.  Here one can find the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China, as well as the Confucius Institute. The Chinese government clearly sees the potential to improve relations with Russia in Irkutsk. Furthermore, there are many Chinese restaurants throughout Irkutsk, and many of them are owned by ethnic or native Chinese. The presence of Chinese students can be seen when you enter any building in Irkutsk State University. You can hear the Chinese language in the Central market. From the obverse side, Russian Sinologists are able to competently compare the culture of Irkutsk with the culture of China because the majority of them have already been to the country. Even among those who have not visited the Middle Kingdom before, they will do so in their third year of study, as part of the curriculum.

All in all, my time in Irkutsk was exciting. Getting to know Russian and Chinese students, learning about their points of view and their opinions about this city was a rare opportunity. I learned that contemporary Irkutsk, while it may be less densely populated than Moscow and St. Petersburg, is actually quite the international locale. The sights, sounds, and culture of Irkutsk attract people to come here (and live here). It is thus a city where you can meet people from many different countries. As a result, local students can get acquainted with the languages of Russia's neighbors, and choose a foreign language based on personal interest. Meanwhile, foreign students can study here and not feel isolated. Once you've visited Irkutsk, it is hardly shocking to find that foreign students want to spend time in Irkutsk, while residents are enticed to learn more about the many interesting people who find their way here.

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