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Moscow – Giuseppe Lo Porto: Italo-Russian relations as seen from the Consulate

“Our country is usually associated with ideas of wellbeing, art, taste, culture and sophistication. The Russian people have always seen Italy as a model of balance and a virtuous example of elegant joie de vivre”. Thus spoke Professor Giuseppe Lo Porto, head of the Education Office at the Italian Consulate General in Moscow in an interview with the Italian Culture on the Net consortium (ICoN). He was talking about relations between Italy and Russia, underlining how “Italians’ contribution down the centuries to developing these areas has certainly not gone unnoticed: from architecture to art and from technology to manufacturing, here in Russia, Italian-made goods are a byword for quality and style”.

It was also an occasion for presenting the Moscow Education Office’s latest initiatives to promote Italy’s language and culture. “In Russia”, he continues, “our diplomatic mission has been running the PRIA programme (to spread the Italian language in Russia) for several years. To date, around 150 educational institutions have signed up throughout Russia, from St Petersburg to Vladivostok”. This engagement is growing, thanks partly to a “renewed interest from the regional and federal institutions”, as Lo Porto confirms, recalling how the year has seen “an intensification of official meetings that have laid the foundations for the official recognition of the Italian language as an L2 in the federal ministerial programmes”. In addition, Italian “has been added to the programme of the federal Olympiads in school subjects, the final stage of which took place last April in Vladivostok”.

The fruits of this unstinting effort are there to see in the “Festival of the Italian Regions” and “Che sia… poesia” (“poetry, please”) competitions sponsored by the Italian Consulate Education Office itself. The former, “in which Russian schools were invited to ‘adopt’ an Italian region and to stage some of its most characteristic folk traditions”, says Lo Porto, “saw the involvement of 35 institutions”. But the real “venture for us has been the poetry competition, complemented by the Demetrio Volcic prize for journalism”. The competition was based on studying Italian and Russian romantic poetry and “involved 15 Russian and 15 Italian establishments where Russian is studied”, he explains. It culminated in an event in Moscow that offered a real feast of poetry, in which Russian and Italian youngsters recited extracts from their respective authors in the original language”. Those two important initiatives were supported by ICoN and by the Eduitalia Association. “An attractive and serious project like this simply had to have prizes,” Lo Porto concludes, “and being able to offer online language courses and scholarships or bursaries to our young winners reinforces the concept of teamwork”.