A blog by a former Wauconda resident, who moved abroad to study linguistics and hermaneutics

Russian culture can be considered as a world-wide culture not only thanks to the universally recognized masterpieces of art and literature but also due to the fact that Russian culture in the widest sense of the word is actively spreading throughout the world.

Everywhere outside Russia, where there are Russians and any signs of Russian culture, from culinary recipes to Orthodox churches, where Russian is studied, Orthodoxy is practiced – a certain Russian linguistic and cultural environment is formed with its own specific, both mental and other features.

Depending on the scale of this environment, the importance of functioning in the public life of a given country, it can be considered as a Russian-speaking world, the inhabitants of which should include both ethnic Russians and those indigenous people who, to one degree or another, have connected their lives with Russia, its language and culture.

Hokkaido Island is considered a unique place where a small, but specifically meaningful Russian linguistic and cultural environment has developed, which is determined, firstly, by people (a small but growing Russian diaspora; Japanese and Korean immigrants from Sakhalin and the South Kuril Islands; businessmen, government officials, translators, scholars, teachers, pupils and students – all those

who are somehow connected with Russia and the Russian language), and secondly, the state-administrative activity of the Hokkaido government, which is not active, but rather with maintains a stable relationship with Russia; thirdly, the geographical position of the island; and, finally, a special attitude to the Russian language.

In Japan, it is believed that Hokkaido, the second largest island and the only governorate in the country (other administrative-territorial units are called prefectures), is a unique world that differs from the usual Japanese in many factors:

low population density, space free from traces of civilization, preserved virgin nature, climate (long snowy winter like in Russia), Hokkaido dialect, less commitment to tradition in everyday communication, as well as the fact that Hokkaido is ubiquitous the breath of Russia is clearly felt, and to a greater extent than the rest of Japan the Russian language is spoken.

In addition, as we have already noted, Hokkaido has established stable administrative, economic and cultural ties with Russia, primarily with the Far Eastern and Siberian regions. Teaching Russian on this island also has its own specifics. Due to the proximity of Russia, there is higher motivation for learning the Russian language, more chances of contacting with Russians, getting work with Russian languages.

And the organization of teaching RCTs is, to some extent, more specifically practical. Quite often, students who choose Russian as their future specialty come to study in Hokkaido from different parts of Japan, explaining that this region is in many respects close to Russia, that there is the same cold winter and nature is more similar to Russian.

In addition, several friendship societies with Russia and the CIS countries are actively operating in Hokkaido. Much work on the dissemination of Russian culture is carried out by the Consulate General of the Russian Federation. Teachers from Russia often teach Russian at educational institutions.

Largely due to these factors, the Ministry of Education of Japan declared Hokkaido a zone of the prevailing study of Russian as a second foreign language.
It should be noted that in the historical aspect, the appeal to the study of the Russian language in Hokkaido as well as in the central regions of Japan was largely due to spiritual pursuits, rather than pragmatic focus.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, two factors became decisive for its distribution: Russian literature and Orthodoxy. Thanks to my acquaintance with the works of Russian classical literature, which appeared in Japanese at the end of the 19th century and largely predetermined the formation of 20th-century Japanese literature, on the one hand, and the missionary work of Archbishop Father Nikolai, which led to Orthodoxy, tens of thousands of Japanese, on the other on the other hand, a strong interest in Russia and the Russian language aroused in Japan.

Organized teaching of the Russian language in Japan begins in the mid-19th century, and in many ways it turns out to be connected with Hokkaido. In 1858, the first Russian consulate in Japan, the Russian Orthodox mission, and the Russian language school appeared in Hakodate.

The first textbook of the Russian language for the Japanese was a primer called “Russia but Iroha. Russian official a gift to Japanese children ”, written by mission priest I. Makhov. Both children and adults were engaged in this book. It is noteworthy that in November 2008, the Russkiy Mir Foundation opened its representative office in the old building of the former Russian Consulate in Hakodate.

In general, the period from 1858 (the establishment of diplomatic relations with Japan) to 1905 (the Russo-Japanese War) was the most favorable for the Japanese Russian-speaking world in environmental terms.

In the following decades, anti-Russian and anti-Soviet sentiments began to exert a serious influence on Japanese society and the insignificant Russian-speaking environment in Hokkaido was in difficult conditions.

According to the memoirs of the oldest Hokkaido Russian scholar, Professor Kainum, in the postwar years (meaning World War II), those who studied the Russian language and had some relation to Russia were highly suspicious (from the author’s oral conversations with Professor Kainum).

But in the 50s – 60s, the situation begins to change. Three waves of Japanese wide interest in the Russian language were associated with the launch of the artificial Earth satellite in the USSR (1957), Gagarin’s flight into space (1961) and Perestroika (80-90 years of the 20th century).

At the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, despite the persistence of serious political differences between Russia and Japan, the Russian-speaking world in Hokkaido began to take shape as a serious and significant social factor.

At this time, the number of Russian people arriving in Hokkaido was rapidly growing; several friendship societies functioned successfully, including a society created by Hokkaido multimillionaire and

Russophile Mr. Sibano; the number of students and schoolchildren studying the Russian language was constantly growing; The branch of the State Children’s University in Hakodate was opened; a company has successfully developed to organize a visa-free exchange between Hokkaido and residents of the Sakhalin Region, etc.

As for the teaching of the Russian language in Hokkaido, at present (the 2007 data obtained from the polls) the following picture is emerging. Russian is taught in Hokkaido at 8 state and two private schools (Coco), at 13 universities, including a branch of the Far Eastern State University (Far Eastern State University), as well as at various courses and in numerous circles.

The total number of students studying Russian in Hokkaido for the 2007/08 school year was approximately 1,400. In general, the Russian language in Hokkaido, thanks to immigrants from Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands and the port city associated with Russia, is more widely distributed than in other parts of Japan.

In schools located in different areas of Hokkaido: in Sapporo (5 schools), in Nemuro (2), in Ishikari (1), in Chitos (1), in Akechi (1), 194 people studied Russian during this period. (In 2006/07 there were 225 of them). In connection with the decree of the Ministry of Education of Japan on the prevailing study of the Russian language in Hokkaido, it is expected that the number of schools teaching RCTs will increase.

In addition, by the decision of the Department of Education under the Hokkaido Governorate, Russian and Japanese teachers-Russian specialists created the Teremok training complex. Thus, for the first time in the history of Japan, a textbook of the Russian language by state order was developed and thereby actually raised the question of systematizing the process of teaching the Russian language at school.

In all universities of Hokkaido, except for the private university of Sapporo, where there are Russian branches (138 people), and Hokkaido University, which has a literary department (70 people), Russian is not studied as the main subject, but as one of the chosen foreign languages. In total, about 1000 people studied at Hokkaido universities, including the FENU branch in Hakodate (83 people), (983 students according to a 2007 survey).

A certain positive role in the teaching of the Russian language in Hokkaido was played by an appeal on the initiative of Russian teachers to the testing system of RCTs according to Russian state standards.

I must say that for the first time TRKI in Japan was held in Hokkaido at the FENU branch in Hakodate in 1999, and Sapporo University was the first Japanese organization to carry out TRKI. Currently, it is the only Japanese university in which testing is conducted annually according to Russian state standards.

A fairly significant army of Russian language lovers of different ages is studying Russian at courses of friendship societies: Eurasia, Japan and Russia Friendship Society, in the Cultural Centers of the Asahi newspaper and the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper, as well as in circles: Ryabinka and “Noglika” (Tomakomai), “We love the Russian language” (Nemuro), “Hope” (Wakkanai) and others. In total – 353 people. In addition, the Russian language is studied at the Ruslan Russian School at the Hokkaido Society of Translators (28 people).

As we have already noted, at the turn of the century, a generally favorable situation with the teaching of RCTs developed in Hokkaido. However, in recent years, teaching the Russian language in Hokkaido, as well as in Japan as a whole, has been in a rather difficult situation for a number of reasons.

This is a general crisis and a crisis of educational institutions in Japan, caused by a negative demographic situation; and educational reform, as a result of which the choice of a second and third foreign language has become much more difficult for students. A certain negative role was also played by the decisions of the Russian side to strengthen control in the seafood trade, as well as to impose duties on the import of foreign cars, which led to a large loss of jobs in the port cities of Hokkaido related to Russian business and, accordingly, the Russian language.

Thus, an unfavorable environmental situation begins to emerge for the teaching and distribution of the Russian language in Hokkaido.

At the same time, as it seems to us, it is possible to take a number of measures to overcome it. And the main point here may be well-thought-out and organized coordination of the actions of both teachers of RCTs and representatives of Russian state organizations in Hokkaido, the Consulate General, the Representative Office of the Sakhalin Administration, the Representative Office of the Russkiy Mir Foundation, aimed at actively promoting the Russian language and fully supporting its teaching .

It is also advisable to intensify the use of new learning technologies; to help the Japanese side in educational and methodological support at the modern level; start to widely use computer networks to promote the Russian language and Russian culture in Japan and to educate the Japanese; to develop large-scale information and reference databases and websites on current

Russian topics with a focus on the Japanese contingent; to improve and reduce the cost of testing RCTs according to Russian state standards, as well as simplify the procedure for processing documentation on the organization of the TRCI as much as possible. In general, we should try to do about the same thing that the leading Western countries are successfully doing to support their ethno-cultural environment abroad.