History, traditions
Author`s name Michael Simpson

Russia in America's Opinion: Valenki, Kalashnikov and Vodka

Delegation of American pupils visited the Russian city of Pskov
Pupils from the Thomas Jefferson school in Washington's district Alexandria came to the Russian city of Pskov by invitation of the modern languages faculty in Pskov's Kirov State Pedagogical Institute.

Head of the US delegation Betsy Sandstorm says that friendship between the Institute and the school began with study of Alexander Pushkin. "Earlier, my pupils visited only the Russian cities of Moscow and St.Petersburg. Only after the dean of the Pskov Institute's foreign language department, Anna Bizyayeva visited me in the States, we decided to change the program of our visits to Russia. Now we start our visits in Moscow, then go to Pskov and finish the journey in St.Petersburg. At that, we find more time for Pskov than to Moscow during our visits." 

The American pupils study the Russian language deeply. They come to Russia for nine days during their vacations to check the knowledge, get acquainted with the Russian history, culture and life. The program of the visit in Pskov included excursions about the city; visits to the Pskov-Pechora monastery and to a children's home in Pechora where the American pupils gave many presents to orphans; they took pictures in front of the monument to Alexander Nevsky, under the hoof of Europe's largest horse monument.

During the visit, students of the modern languages department held a special contest for the US pupils to depict jokingly the Russian people just exactly as Americans see them. As it turned out, the image of a Russian as Americans sees him is as follows. Russians wear valenki, high boyar hats with stars and long beards. A Russian is seen to be holding a Kalashnikov gun in the right hand and a bottle of vodka in the left one, a chained bear always accompanies him on the whole territory of the country covered with snow and built up with churches.  This is what idea Americans still have about Russians. In their turn, the Russian students gave their humorous picture of Americans. They say, we imagine all Americans wearing baseball caps, jeans and running shoes; they hold an invariable bottle of Coca Cola in the hand. And McDonald's and Hollywood act as a usual scenery for this image. To break these stereotypes, Russian and American students must have more and more meetings. The visit to Russia became a strong spur for the American students for further study of the Russian language and culture. Another group from the Thomas Jefferson school is to visit Pskov in July already.

Alexander Zakharov
Special to the Pskov news agency

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