During her speech at the New Year’s celebration, hosted by the Russian Cultural Center in Beijing, in late December 2017, Olga Melnikova, Counsellor of the Russian Embassy and Director of the Russian Cultural Center in Beijing, said Russia has many cultural symbols that come from China. In her opinion, Sino- Russian bilateral relations are an example of “the most stable, healthy, mature and lasting relationship between countries in today’s world.” The Russian Cultural Center for years has organized cultural, educational and science- related activities to stimulate Chinese citizens’ interest in learning the Russian language and culture.
In her recent interview with Women of China (WOC), Melnikova said she hoped the Sino-Russian strategic partnership would be strengthened, and that cultural communications between the people of the two countries would be enhanced.
Had you visited China prior to assuming your post as Director of the Russian Cultural Center in Beijing in September 2017? What is your impression of China and the Chinese people?
I first visited the capital of China, Beijing, in 2012. I was a tourist at that time. Beijing impressed me as a modern metropolis that also kept well its traditional Chinese flavor. I saw magnificent ancient temples and palaces coexisting with modern buildings and small cozy streets. The architectural styles of many buildings, the decorations on streets, and the designs of parks clearly showed how much Chinese people had been respecting their history and traditions.
Now, I look at Beijing through the eyes of one of the city’s residents, not as a tourist. In modern Beijing, people are paying great attention to physical education and sports, and to taking care of their health. I have watched, many times, the Chinese citizens who gather in the morning to exercise together. They perform qigong , a system of deep breathing exercises that Chinese use to train their bodies and properly maintain the energy flow in their bodies.
My job has pushed me to travel around China, and to meet people from all walks of life, including government officials, diplomats, representatives of academic institutions, professions, teachers, students and schoolchildren. Based on my personal communications, I think Chinese are friendly, polite and kindhearted. Chinese always l isten attentively to interlocutors’ opinions, and they know how to correctly defend their points of view.
Please tell our readers about some of the events your center has organized in China to promote Russian culture.
Under the circumstances of globalization, culture becomes an important “language,” or factor, that lays the foundation to build the whole system of international relations. Cultural exchanges include communications in tourism, the scientific and educational fields, business contacts, and cooperation in the sports, mass media, art, music and film industries.
Russia is a country that has a great cultural heritage and centuries-old traditions. Within the framework of popularization of Russian culture in the world, our Russian Cultural Center regularly hosts events, such as concerts of Russian folk artists, music and dance groups, meetings with Russian celebrities in the cultural field, exhibitions of contemporary artists, photo exhibitions of Russian museums’ archival materials, film screenings showcasing the latest achievements of Russian cinematography and theater performances for both children and adults.
Every year, we celebrate our victory in World War II, the day of the first space flight of cosmonaut Yuri Garagin and the launch of our first space satellite. Soon, we will celebrate the date of lifting the blockade of Leningrad and the anniversary of the battle of Stalingrad. Those events are great and memorable, not only for Russian people, but also for humanity all around the world.
Are you interested in Chinese cultural symbols?
Developing mutual interest in our cultures helps us strengthen the “ties” between our peoples. For example, the Chinese horoscope, which includes the tradition and meaning related to the Spring Festival, is very popular in Russia. Some symbols of good fortune, such as the dragon, fish and frog, can be found in decorations that Russian people place in their houses, offices and private shops. Although the images with auspicious hints are used as decorations, most Russians do not fully understand the meanings that those images imply. Perhaps the most popular auspicious inscription is a picture of the upside-down Chinese character of “fu,” which means “happiness.”
What roles are women playing to enhance bilateral communications between Russia and China?
It is a global trend that women play more active roles in different spheres of life — business, politics and diplomacy … In some countries, women occupy the highest positions in government. There are women ministers, prime ministers and even heads of state. Women and men should complement each other while they are dealing with political issues.
Actually, the Russian- Chinese Commission on Humanitarian Cooperation is chaired by Olga Golodets, Vice-Premier of the Russian Government, and Liu Yandong, Vice-Premier of the State Council of China.
The Russian Cultural Center is the representative office of Rossotrudnichestvo — the State Agency, which is headed by Eleonora Mitrofanova, a Russian diplomat of high level with significant experience in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and in international organizations. Our center will continue to make contributions to strengthen the ties between Russia and China, advance the promotion of the Russian language and culture in China, and stimulate the development of mutual exchanges.
Experiencing Chinese Society and Culture
Today Chinese Culture and society is a combination of ancient traditions, customs, and modernized developed and also westernized lifestyle. The Chinese culture and traditions are ancient, its history has huge diversity and variety. Historically, Chinese society is rich in arts, science, and literature. The culture of china has maintained its unique identity till the beginning of western culture in the 19th century. The historical influence of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism is the reflection in Chinese society and culture. Confucianism spread the love and rituals to give respect for society and social hierarchy. The characteristics of Chinese culture unchanged over the period despite the influences and several invasions from the outside. The philosophy of Confucianism stressed that people could be good if they follow the moral principles and made the rituals that respected the gods. In the hard times and war times, Confucianists emphasized carefully follow the traditions that could maintain unity within the society. historically, several Chinese rulers have adopted the core principles of Confucianism. During the Hans dynasty, Emperor Wu had encouraged the hierarchical social structures, the Emperor believed these principles would bring and also maintain the social harmony within the Chinese society throughout history. The Confucius philosophy was dominant during the Hans dynasty in ancient China. during this period the core principles were flourished and reached within the societal structures. The state ideology was based on Confucius’s philosophy, it has improved the societal values and norms. During 500BC the teachings of Confucius have played an important role in shaping the character of Chinese society, shaping behavior, and the way of life of Chinese people. The main objective was to achieve societal harmony and social norms and values. Another core principle and value of Confucianism is forgiveness, compassion, and tolerance. Even today, Chinese society and academicians give immense respect and also promote the core principles of Confucius’s philosophy.
Modern Chinese society and culture are rapidly influenced by western cultural values and traditions. It’s quickly changing nowadays with popular American culture and other cultures of the world. The youth in urban areas are more influenced by popular western culture. Their lifestyle although reflects their wish to adopt the world’s popular culture. This is the 21st century and era of globalization, no society in the world is pure now. The free flow of information through different sources of media has been influenced by the societal existing order. So the modern Chinese society especially in urban areas, developed cities are more likely to become modern, acceptance of new cultural values, lifestyles and easily adopt it.
Personally, it is my observation so far, I interact with general people in the market, train stations, shops, many other public places. The people more like to open to the world now. The youth want to interact with other cultures, curious to know about other people thinking, ideas. But in rural areas and the countrysides there still traditional societal norms and values exist. The people have strong connections with their family backgrounds and also the Confucianism. The strong family system, the hierarchy with the society, and obedience exist.
Here I want to share an example of Chinese modesty when I was doing volunteering in Wuhan railway station, the general people came to me and tried to speak, I just can speak, hello, thank you, bye-bye in Chinese, but still, they are complimenting on my excellent Chinese by saying that (your Chinese is very good). The Chinese people are excellent compliment givers and encouraging other people to learn. They never discourage, although they complement that, you are handsome, wow your nose is so big it’s beautiful. Indeed the traditional Chinese traditional food, delicious and also healthy. The hotpot, although its too much spicy but its interesting to eat in the winter season.
In the winter season, when chilly temperatures and frigid winds prevail over the land, people like to eat food that instantly warms their bodies and lifts their spirits. For that, the hot pot is a delicious and hearty choice. Families or groups of friends sit around a table and eat from a steaming pot in the middle, cooking and drinking and chatting. The hot pot is not only a cooking method; it also provides a way of eating, it is also a cultural mode.However China has opened its doors to the world now, it means that society is more sophisticated and also the acceptance of new ideas and thinkings. The youth want to interact with the world and also want to contribute to the peace and development of the world’s underdeveloped societies. The philosophy of Confucianism works here, dominance in every sector of society.
I would like to conclude by one sentence that yes there should be accepted for new ideas and values but also should promote their societal rich traditions and values to the world.
Rising Pak-Turk Cultural Diplomacy: “Dirilis Ertugrul”- The Prime Catalyst
Amid massive success of famous Turkish drama series Dirilis Ertugrul, also titled as Resurrection Ertugrul in English for Netflix, is both a fictional and historic story based on the life of father of Osman I; Ertugrul Ghazi- set in 13th Century made records across Pakistan in terms of its views and popularity. It gained massive fan-following among all age groups inspiring them to value integrity, steadfastness and have faith. The current Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Imran Khan urged people to watch this series to increase their knowledge about the glorious history of Muslims and true essence of Islam and learn from it. The high-budget drama got dubbed in Pakistan’s national language; Urdu, therefore reaching mass audience.
The viewership of the series shoot up primarily during the month of Ramadan. As a result not only did the people of Pakistan get enlightened and entertained but also the state television earned huge profits. Most importantly it boosted cultural, media and public diplomacy between two Muslim countries; Turkey and Pakistan. The drama serial promoted people-to-people contact, join forces for mutual media and cultural ventures and promote Pak-Turk Tourism, and last but not the least – strengthen relationship between the Muslim countries purely based on love and mutual respect. Therefore, establishing a strong mutual alliance is raison d’être for these potential efforts by the both ends. Pakistan having a strong support-system in Europe and for Turkey to have in South Asia is a prerequisite for both to counter the future challenges – as it has become the need of times keeping the geopolitical dynamics in perspective. Speaking of challenges – Saudi Arab; with whom Pakistan’s relations are already struggling – expressed their reservations regarding the broadcasting of Turkishdizi (dramas) in Pakistan. Irked by the success of Dirilis Ertugrul – Saudi Arab has come up with their own counter narrative version of historical series titled, “Kingdom of Fires”, with an aim to combat Turkish cultural invasion and growing global influence. Fatima Bhutto, in her article for Foreign Policy, ‘How Turkey’s Soft Power Conquered Pakistan’, says that in contemporary times – Turkish dramas has come second only to American ones, otherwise it has toppled the previously most viewed languages in the world, such as, French, Spanish, and Mandarin. Turkish has now become the most watched language worldwide.
Acknowledging the blockbuster success, the lead actors visited Pakistan receiving a warm welcome, immense praise and love from people. The actors too expressed their gratitude and happiness. Several lead actors of the super-hit series namely Engin Altan Duzyatan aka Ertugrul, Cavit Çetin Güner aka Dugan Bey, Nurettin aka Bamsı and Ayberk Pekcan aka Artuk Bey etc.on their short visits met selected Pakistan’s media personnel henceforth expressed their willingness to strengthen the cultural bond by collaborating with each other in future media-based projects and bring together the people of the two nation. Rumor has it – both the Muslim countries are already in talks to come forth with a Pak-Turk TV series; a Pakistan-original with joint efforts for the project by Ansari Films and TRT Films named, “Lala Turki”, commemorating the Khilafat Movement – with an ultimate aim to aware the unaware about the legacy of Islam.
It must be mentioned here that it is not the first time that any Turkish drama series had been aired in Pakistan. The trend was set few years back by URDU 1 channel which ran mostly Turkish dubbed dramas in Urdu so that people of Pakistan would also get a taste of Turkish flavor of serials. It gained massive popularity. Thereon, the trend to air Turkish productions became a new normal. Another series that gained massive popularity was “the Magnificent Century” locally known as “Mera Sultan”. This was run by the channel Geo Kahani. The trend of Turkish dramas never seized till date. However, what “Dirilis Ertugrul”managed to do in this past year can’t be matched. This is the only drama that started involving the two nations on diplomatic level and opened up new ways for collaboration among the brother countries. It helped people realize that not only the flags but the hearts of the two nations are also very similar united by a shared magnificent past and a hope for an incredible future.
New European Bauhaus: Commission launches design phase
Commission launched the design phase of the New European Bauhaus initiative, announced by President von der Leyen in her 2020 State of the Union address. The New European Bauhaus is an environmental, economic and cultural project, aiming to combine design, sustainability, accessibility, affordability and investment in order to help deliver the European Green Deal. The core values of the New European Bauhaus are thus sustainability, aesthetics and inclusiveness. The goal of the design phase is to use a co-creation process to shape the concept by exploring ideas, identifying the most urgent needs and challenges, and to connect interested parties. As one element of the design phase, this spring, the Commission will launch, the first edition of the New European Bauhaus prize.
This design phase will lead to the opening of calls for proposals in autumn this year to bring to life New European Bauhaus ideas in at least five places in EU Member States, through the use of EU funds at national and regional level.
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “The New European Bauhaus is a project of hope to explore how we live better together after the pandemic. It is about matching sustainability with style, to bring the European Green Deal closer to people’s minds and homes. We need all creative minds: designers, artists, scientists, architects and citizens, to make the New European Bauhaus a success.”
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said: “With the New European Bauhaus our ambition is to develop an innovative framework to support, facilitate and accelerate the green transformation by combining sustainability and aesthetics. By being a bridge between the world of art and culture on one side and the world of science and technology on the other, we will make sure to involve society as a whole: our artists, our students, our architects, our engineers, our academia, our innovators. It will kick-off a systemic change.”
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira commented: “The New European Bauhaus is about how we live together, our values, our common spaces of work and leisure, our collective and private experiences. This is a project for all regions and territories in Europe. In promoting affordable solutions, it should contribute to social cohesion and to solving housing problems. If we want to bring real change around us – for a more beautiful, sustainable life together, we need to think about how the New European Bauhaus can bridge the generation of new ideas with implementation in physical places. We are therefore exploring across the Commission how our tools could be mobilised to launch a first set of concrete New European Bauhaus actions.”
The New European Bauhaus is a creative initiative, breaking down boundaries between science and technology, art, culture and social inclusion, to allow design to find solutions for everyday problems.
On the dedicated website launched today, artists, designers, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, architects, students, and all interested people can share examples of inspiring achievements for the New European Bauhaus, their ideas about how it should be shaped and how it should evolve, as well as their concerns and challenges.
This is the beginning of an innovative co-design process. Organisations that want to put more effort into their engagement in this process can become ‘Partners of the New European Bauhaus,’ by responding to the call on the website.
In the coming months, the Commission will award prizes to existing examples that represent the integration of the key values of the initiative, and that may inspire the discussions about, and the transformation of, the places where we live.
In the next phase of the initiative – the ‘delivery’ phase, five pilot projects will be set up to co-design new sustainable and inclusive solutions with style. The objective of the third phase – ‘dissemination’, is to spread the ideas and concepts defining the New European Bauhaus via new projects, networking and sharing of knowledge, in Europe and beyond.
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