Folk Art Is the Soul, Strength, and Pride of a Nation: Palette of Languages and Cultures at ETU “LETI”

“Folk art is the soul of a nation, its strength, and pride… It has saved and united the people more than once…” Russian artist Ivan Bilibin wrote in the World of Art magazine. On November 24 and 25 of 2020, declared the year of folk art in Russia, the Department of Foreign Languages of ETU “LETI” held the Thirteenth Interuniversity Palette of Languages and Cultures forum, the theme of which was a quote from the great artist. This year, the event took place online for the first time.

The forum consisted of a conference and a concert organized by students of linguistics. Andrey Shumkov, the Head of the Department of Foreign Languages of ETU “LETI,” opened the scientific part of the event.

“In many countries, people pay a lot of attention to folk art, and our forum does not stand aside. Today’s presentations tell us about incredibly interesting moments in the life of Russia and other countries. It is impossible to describe a language only by formulas. Language is also culture and history. This is what unites us.”

Andrey Shumkov, the Head of the Department of Foreign Languages of ETU “LETI”
Nina Shcherbak, Associate Professor of the Department of English Philology and Linguocultural Studies of St. Petersburg State University, made a presentation titled “Contemporary Scottish and Irish Literature: In Search of the Hero’s Identity.” She analyzed the works of modern Irish and Scottish writers, as well as the influence of postcolonial literature and Feminist literary criticism on them.

Olga Zhuravleva, Associate Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages of ETU “LETI,” told about the traditional symbol of Russian culture – the matryoshka doll – in terms of intercultural communication. This toy has become an important artifact for the perception of Russian culture by representatives of other nations, despite its short history – the first such painted dolls appeared about 120 years ago.

Olga Preobrazhenskaya, a senior lecturer of the Department of Foreign Languages of ETU “LETI,” considered the role of microtoponymy in urban folk art in her presentation on Alternative Nomination of Urban Objects as an Element of Folklore (on the Example of St. Petersburg).

Lubov Ulyanitskaya, Associate Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages of ETU “LETI,” presented a paper titled “Spiritual as an Example of the Folk Tradition of African Americans,” in which she analyzed the song genre that has become a crucial part of the culture of Africans in the USA.

Students of the Faculty of Humanities of ETU “LETI” Evgeniya Gurevich, Elizaveta Skrynnik, and Victoria Ivanova continued to consider the types of folk art of different cultures in their works – from African poetry in French to Karelian folk tales. Students and professors of the St. Petersburg Institute for Foreign Economic Relations, Economics, and Law, the Samara National Research University, the St. Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrumentation, and the Nevsky Institute of Language and Culture also made their presentations.

On November 25, the event continued with awarding the winners of the Poetic Translation Competition. This year, the participants worked with texts in three languages for the first time. The organizers chose folk songs for the event, which added complexity to the task because the translation should not only be close to the original in meaning but also one should be able to sing them. 20 participants from 10 Russian universities tried their hand at the contest.

The winners were Valeria Temina, a graduate of the Lomonosov Moscow State University (English), Anna Zelnikova, a student of the Lobachevsky Nizhny Novgorod State University (German), and Tamara Alekhova, an employee of Peterhof State Museum-Reserve (French). The prize-winners were also students and lecturers of ETU “LETI” Elisey Vaskov, Ekaterina Bubnova, and Alexandra Lvova. Alexandra Khersonskaya performed the best translations to the accompaniment of the guitar.

“The teacher’s work has many amazing stories. Participants and winners of our Poetical Translation Contest are another fortunate discovery. Even though now the borders are closed, we are open to cultures of different countries, to foreign languages and, as the results of this contest have shown, we are open to music.”

Marina Tonkova, a member of the jury of the Poetic Translation Contest, Associate Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages of ETU “LETI”
The two-day forum ended with a concert prepared by the Department of Foreign Languages of ETU “LETI.” Students of the Faculty of Humanities Laura Amashukeli, Victoria Soldatova, Gulya Veliyeva, and Anastasia Goncharova told about the peculiarities of culture and traditions of the peoples of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Buryatia. Yevgeniya Shchelkonogova presented an example of the folklore of the Russian Northern Capital – the urban legend about the St. Petersburg alchemist.

Songs helped the spectators to plunge into the cultures of different countries: the performance in Azerbaijani by Aygyun Yusubova and Russian Kalinka performed by Anna Lysok. Students of ETU “LETI” from far abroad also showed the beauty of their cultures. David Awena from the Democratic Republic of Congo performed the song “Je l’aime à mourir,” and Emmanuel Kwesi Buabeng and Anesu Ruzive, representing Ghana and Zimbabwe, impressed the audience with a dance.