War impacting Russian language studies at Czech universities

Russia’s war against Ukraine has had widespread negative impacts outside the country’s borders. Among them is a drop in interest in Russian studies at Czech universities and a gradual loss of academic contacts.

More than fourteen months after the war in Ukraine started, Czech universities report a drop in the number of people interested in studying Russian language and literature, a loss of academic contacts with universities in Russia, cancelled internships and fewer study materials. However, schools of higher learning consider it important to maintain the high quality of education in the department of Slavonic studies for those interested in the field. Václav Hanáček is one of the Russian language students at the University of West Bohemia in Plzen.

Photo: Západočeská univerzita Plzeň

“I sent in my application to study Russian before the invasion happened. And I stuck by my decision. A great many Russian speakers are now coming to this country and so I think that learning the language makes sense.”

Despite this argument it is evident that the number of students interested in studying Russian at the university is dropping compared to pre-war years. While 115 students opted to study Russian at the faculty last year, only 40 have applied this year. The head of the Russian studies department at the University of West Bohemia Michela Pešková says the university has also lost all its foreign students from Russia.

“Students from Russia already had problems getting a visa last year and the year before, this year they basically have zero chance of getting one."

Teachers at the university are also having to deal with the inevitable loss of academic contacts and the possibility to send students on exchange programs. Michela Pešková says this presents a problem for both teachers and students.

Many Russian educational sites that we used are now unavailable. Student exchange programs have been frozen. We used to have dozens of Russian interns at the faculty, which is no longer possible and we cannot send any of our students to Russia where the experience they would gain speaking the language is invaluable.”

Despite these problems, universities consider it important to maintain Russian language and literature studies at a high quality level and are developing cooperation with other universities in Europe where Russian is taught, including those in war-torn Ukraine. Zdeněk Vávra is head of the Slavonic studies department at the University of West Bohemia.

"In addition to cooperation with Ukraine, from where students and academics come to us, we are working to establish closer relations with universities which have strong Slavonic studies departments such as universities in Estonia, Latvia, Germany and Slovakia".

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Martina Klímová
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