Michael Bird, head of the British Council in Russia. Source: Pavel Poboruev

UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature announced for 2016

Shakespeare and Tolstoy to be celebrated next year

Friday, December 18, 2015 - 12:15pm
Alexandra Guzeva

Cultural relations between Russia and the UK continue to be close and active. Just a year after the 2014 UK-Russia Cross-Cultural Year came to an end, 2016 has been designated a UK-Russia year of Language and Literature.

The opening ceremony will be held in London's Royal Festival Hall on Feb. 25, 2016 with a live Philharmonia Orchestra concert screening of the classic 1927 silent movie Love, starring Great Garbo, which is based on Leo Tolstoy's classic novel Anna Karenina.

"In the context of the current political and military crisis, a year of language and literature seems to be very important. It proves that culture and nations have a presumption of innocence," Mikhail Shvydkoy, the Russian President’s Special Representative for International Cultural Cooperation, said.

Many events during the year will mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death in 1616. Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery and London's National Portrait Galley will celebrate their 160th anniversaries next year with an exchange of masterpiece exhibitions in the spring.

Top 10 literary travel destinations to the country of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky

The British Council will lead the UK's Year of Language and Literature in Russia and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affair will lead Russia's celebrations in the UK.

"The 2016 Year of Language and Literature is a great opportunity for us to build on what we achieved in 2014 through the UK-Russia Year of Culture. Shakespeare's anniversary will be commemorated around the world but nowhere will it have more resonance than in Russia, where Shakespeare, because of his influence on Russian writers, is practically a Russian writer himself," said Michael Bird, head of the British Council in Russia. He added that his personal acquaintance with Russia began many years ago with Chekhov's short story Lady with a dog.

Online courses of Russian language for beginners and teachers, Olympiads for children, a Pushkin In Britain festival, poetry conferences, Russian writers' visit of the London Book Fair and a tour of Russian writers across the UK, are among the main events on the Russian agenda in Britain.

Meanwhile Russia welcomes the 17th New British Film Festival, a literary summer in Yasnaya Polyana, a Shakespeare live festival, translators' competition and other events.

The Kompass, RBTH's special section for all things Russian in the UK, will provide further coverage of all the exciting events.

Russian events in the UK:

  • The Pushkin Institute offers a broad online language program. If you want to learn Russian, visit pushkininstitute.ru/learn.
  • If you are a Russian language teacher or want to become one, you can opt for a professional course pushkininstitute.ru
  • There is also a Russian language for kids section rus4chld.pushkininstitute.ru.
  • Pushkin Institute will also hold an international conference for young scholars.
  • Rossotrudnichestvo will lead an Olympiad of Russian language among schools and universities 'New opportunities with Russian' (Новые возможности с русским) and a special Russian Language Fair. In collaboration with the British Association of Teachers of Russian, Rossotrudnichestvo will hold a conference for Russian language teachers.
  • The Russian Poets Fund is arranging a round table for translators from Russian into English.
  • Leading Russian and British universities will take part in a series of academic seminars on linguistics. They will also arrange summer schools for teenagers at Russian universities.
  • A special supplement to the 'Russian language abroad' magazine is planned.

    Literature will also be represented with a range of events:

  • The annual Read Russia translation prize will be awarded in the autumn.
  • Russian writers will tour the UK, while British writers will travel from Moscow to Vladivostok. "There is nothing better than impressions about real life avoiding glamour and stereotypes," says Vladimir Grigoryev, the deputy head of the Russian Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications.
  • Annual festival promoting Russian culture in Europe, Pushkin In Britain will bring together writers and poets to celebrate one of the most famous romantic poets.
  • Russian writers and publishing houses will take part in the London Book Fair.
  • The winner of a UK book blurbs and illustrations devoted to Russian literature competition, will tour Russia.
  • A week of Russian literature is scheduled for British schools.
  • The Big Book Prize committee is considering making a special award to 'Harry Potter' author J.K. Rowling for awakening interest in reading.

British events in Russia:

  • TheatreHD: 40 Russian cities will host live screenings of the most impressive productions performed at the Royal National Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and the Barbican.
  • The 17th New British Film Festival will present a special program devoted to Shakespeare including a screening of Hamlet starring actress Maxine Peake, staged at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. www.ukfilms.ru
  • Tolstoy's estate Yasnaya Polyana will hold a literature seminar involving British writers, poets, critics, journalists and translators. This project aims to facilitate the development of professional dialogue between representatives of literature and academic communities in the UK and Russia.
  • British publishing houses are invited to represent their editions at the book fair on Red Square in Moscow next summer.
  • A delegation of British writers and publishers will take part in the 18th Non/fiction book fair, one of the biggest literary events in Moscow.
  • In spring 2016, the British Council will hold an open competition for the best translation of works by contemporary British writers. In parallel with the competition a grant program will be opened for Russian publishers, enabling them to purchase publishing rights for outstanding, contemporary British fiction and non-fiction.
  • A large-scale summer festival dedicated to Shakespeare will be held in Moscow's parks.
  • In June 2016, the British Council together with the Strelka Institute of Media, Architecture and Design will hold a Future of the World forum on language and literature in the digital age.
  • VisitBritain travel organization is developing an online interactive literary map of the UK.
  • A free online course 'English and Shakespeare' consisting of a 6-week course of lectures and video lessons featuring British actors will be launched in January.
  • The British Council is also re-opening its IELTS examination from December 2015.
  • A bilingual book of sonnets by Shakespeare will be sent for a 'Shakes-tour', a journey around a hundred Russian cities from Sakhalin to Kaliningrad as a part of 'Otkroy rot' (Open mouth) reading competition.