Saturday, September 29, 2018

RCSC trying to bring back golden days

Alexander P Demin tells New Age

Ershad Kamol,; original article contains a video, "RCSC trying to bring back golden days"

Alexander P Demin image from article

Russian Centre of Science and Culture director Alexander P Demin says his government is interested to strengthen diplomatic ties with Bangladesh, which will be reflected in public diplomacy [JB emphasis], especially in cultural exchange programmes, in the coming days.

In an interview with New Age, he says that already Russia is regularly sending representatives to festivals taking place in Bangladesh and also sending expert theatre artistes and painters for holding shows and workshops here.

Bangladeshi filmmakers, dancers and theatre activists, he adds, are also participating in the festivals held in Russia while some of them are taking higher studies at reputed Russian universities.

‘We are planning to strengthen the bond between the two friendly countries in the coming days and it will be reflected,’ Demin hopes, ‘in the next two years.’

‘The cultural exchange programmes will accelerate within a few months and we have set a target to present something special in 2020 and 2021 when Russian Federation will celebrate its 75th Victory Day and Bangladesh will celebrate the 50th Independence Day respectively,’ he says.

‘We are friends since Bangladesh declared its independence in 1971 and we want to work more closely with our Bangladeshi partners in the coming days,’ he assures.

‘We don’t see any alternative to cultural diplomacy for strengthening bonds between peoples of the two countries. It’s the one and only way to deepen bonds as every person irrespective of caste and creed understands cultural expressions’, he continues.

Alexander P Demin informs that the Russian culture minister already signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh’s culture minister in Dhaka three years back.

The foreign affairs ministry of Russian Federation is also holding discussions with its Bangladeshi counterpart on different bilateral issues including cultural exchange programmes to take the diplomatic ties to its highest peak, he says.

‘We are now contacting our partners to materialise the plans. Great shows will be organised in 2020 in Russia and in 2021 in Bangladesh. But, we don’t want to disclose those in details before finalising everything,’ Demin hints.

‘But,’ he assures, ‘we can tell you that we took seriously the requests of Bangladeshi culture minister about sponsoring scholarships for the theatre students in Russia and staging Russian plays in Dhaka.’

‘In response,’ he says, ‘we invited popular Russian troupe Chekov Studio in Dhaka in 2017 and they staged the master playwright’s famous drama Seagull at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.’

The troupe members also conducted two workshops in Dhaka — one for theatre activists and the other for Dhaka University’s theatre department, he says.

A student of the department also got scholarship under master’s pragramme at the famous Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS) in Russia, Demin mentions, adding that they will continue scholarship programmes and this year two film students and a theatre student will go to Russia under PhD programmes.

In addition, Demin continues, GITIS’ theatre faculty dean Vladimir Baicher will come to Dhaka in January for conducting some workshops while Dhaka University’s theatre department professor Israfeel Shaheen will visit Russia to conduct workshops on traditional theatre forms of Bangladesh.

‘Our scholarship programmes are not limited only to theatre and film. Every year we give scholarships to the Bangladeshi students for studying nuclear power energy and technology at Russian National Research Nuclear University with the aim to develop hands for operating the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Bangladesh,’ he goes on.

‘As per the contract,’ he says, ‘we are working closely with Atomic Energy Commission for selecting the best students.’

Demin hopes that more Bangladeshi students will get scholarships in Russia in different fields, including dance, music, art and others.

Stressing people-to-people contacts, he says Russia these days has been sending delegates to participate in art and film festivals in Bangladesh and also inviting Bangladeshi artists to the festivals in Russia.

‘Every year, Russian representatives participate in International Short Film Festival held in Dhaka in December and Dhaka International Film Festival in January. A Russian painter Sergei Radyuk recently held a solo show at the Cosmos Gallery and also conducted a workshop with the local artists at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy,’ he recounts.

‘We also sponsored musicians to participate in the Bengal Classical Music Festival and it was a very successful venture,’ Demin notes, adding that Bangladeshi filmmakers are taking part regularly at the Moscow International Film Festival and Kazan International Muslim Film Festival.

‘Bangladeshi dancers regularly take part at the International Cultural Festival of Krasnoyarsk in Russia featuring the culture and tradition of the countries of South and East Asia. Bangladeshi delegates and youths have regularly been participating in the Economic Forums, Youth Forums held in Russia. Russian Centre of Science and Culture is now trying to link journalists of Bangladesh and Russia,’ he says.

‘We are going to organise an online dialogue between Bangladeshi and Russian journalists on Sunday,’ Demin informs.

Alexander P Demin, who has been living in Dhaka since 2011, says he developed very good relations with many Bangladeshis many of whom have told him about the vibrancy of the centre during the Soviet era and repeatedly urged him to revive the lost glory.

‘People of my age here in Bangladesh always remind me of great activities of Russian Cultural Centre until fall of the USSR. But, it is very difficult to restore them all only as beside money there are other constraints,’ he says.

‘Say, for example, the situation till the 1990s was different from what it is now when anybody with a single click on the internet can read any classic book or watch a classic film,’ he explains.

‘So, they need not come to our centre to read books or watch Russian classic films. They now don’t feel interested to come to our library for reading though we have literary programmes with several government and private universities in Bangladesh like BRAC University and Jahangirnagar University,’ he adds.

‘We also initiated film screening events on a regular basis at our auditorium and invited students from Dhaka University, Daffodil University, ULAB but found very poor response and we stopped it. Even our outreach programme of screening films at Jahangirnagar University did not work,’ Demin regrets.

Demin says the centre is also facing difficulties to initiate translation programmes of the Russian classic literature despite the fact that the Russian classic children literature and works of other master writers are very popular here in Dhaka.

‘But, there is no quality translator in Bangladesh or Russia to translate from the original Russian into Bangla,’ he points out.

Most of the translators here in Dhaka, he says, want to translate from the English versions of the classics, which is a very complicated process for translation and it is very difficult to maintain the essence of the original Russian cultural expressions.

‘We know there are some quality translators in Kolkata and there are some companies, which still publish translation of classic Russian literature into Bangla. We have no alternative but to depend on them,’ Demin says.

Jointly with Russian embassy in Dhaka and Russian ministry of culture and cultural society of Russian Federation, Alexander P Demin hopes, Russian Centre of Science and Culture will overcome the challenges in coming days and function as an effective centre to bridge the people of Bangladesh and Russia by involving cultural groups and activists, university students and scientists.

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