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Keys to Treasures: Philological Festival at STOUH

Kicking off the event, Archpriest Konstantin Polskov, STOUH Vice-Rector for Research and International Affairs of STOUH, delivered some remarks the audience. Father Konstantin is a linguist and a theologian: he is a graduate of Peoples’ Friendship University in Moscow and St. Sergius Institute of Orthodoxy in Paris, where he defended his doctoral thesis and received the degree of maître en théologie. According to Father Konstantin, philology is like a living organism that accumulates and transmits cultural codes and is a direct way to unite people and develop international relations. To illustrate this point, he shared a short family story: “One of my daughters decided to go to MGIMO [Moscow State Institute of International Relations] after high school, but I persuaded her to come to our University, where she studied Romance languages, Spanish and French. Then she continued her studies by enrolling in MGIMO’s Master’s program, and now she is one of the best students there.”

Masterclass #1 was about Romance languages. At it, Prof. Maria Desiatova of the Chair of Romance and Germanic Philology gave a very fascinating talk about the family of Romance languages and their peculiarities. The participants of the master-class learned to greet each other in some of these languages, learned what dialects are, and also had the opportunity to feel the melody of Romance languages: for this purpose Maria showed them fragments of TV programs from Spain, France and other countries. One of Maria’s memorable maxims was “a language is a dialect that got lucky”. She gave the example of the French language, formed on the basis of the dialects of Île-de-France (in particular, of the Abbey of Saint-Denis).

Masterclass #2 was supervised by Lev Viktorovich Pisarev, Head of the Department of Romance and Germanic Philology. After a short theoretical introduction about the numerous dialects of English, Lev Viktorovich organized group work about Received Pronunciation (RP), the standard pronunciation of British English. A fragment of the original text of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Byron was taken as inspiration. Not only an undying classic, but also an unsleeping audience: a perfect combination of classic English poetry and a non-school-like lesson format.

Masterclass #3 was led by Profs. Iosif Alexandrovich Fridman and Mikhail Ivanovich Zerikli of the Department of Eastern Christian Philology and Oriental Churches of the Faculty of Theology. The professors told us that their Department provides opportunities to learn Arabic, Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopian, and offered the students several linguistic challenges. For example, participants were offered a choice of several Russian words among which they had to choose those of Arabic origin: karavan ‘caravan’, kaftan ‘caftan’, sarai ‘barn, shed’, admiral ‘admiral’, gazelʹ ‘gazelle’, and others.

Masterclass #4 was led by Piotr Alekseevich Pashkov, Lecturer at the Department of Ancient Languages and Ancient Christian Literature. The theme of the intellectual quest, “Phaethon as biscuit: philology and cookery”, was intriguing. Having seen an encaustic painting depicting Phaethon, the Roman poet Marcian wittily remarked that the artist, having depicted the son of Helios using wax dissolved with molten metal, had ‘twice burned’ him.  But the intriguing thing is that the Greek word δίπυρος ‘twice burned’ also had a second meaning: it was used as a name for the delicacy of bread that had first been baked and then dried in an oven. Suffice to recall that the Latin equivalent of the word δίπυρος is bis coctus. Poor Phaethon was thus a victim of Marcian’s wit: through a play on words, the poet had made Phaeton into a biscotto: a biscuit, dried bread!

Students from the Department of Eastern Christian Philology sang Psalm 135, “Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good…”, in Arabic. Sofia Chernikova, a student of the Faculty of History and Philology, recited a poem by Serbian poet Milica Miladinović-Keserović about St. Sava of Serbia. Students from the major Foreign Language Philology sang “Silent Night,” “Blue (Da Ba Dee),” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love” to accompaniment by St. Peter’s School instrumental ensemble. Students from the Department of Romance and Germanic Philology sang a French folk song, “En passant par la Lorraine”, and to perfect the festive mood, students of Spanish danced to the incendiary and fairly well known “Besame mucho” and “Clavelitos”.

The festival was attended by about 70 people. All the organizers of the festival were extremely pleased to see the ardent gazes and happy faces of the participants, their interest and enthusiasm.