7, 2000, Gazette)
St. Petersburg connection
Terry Murphy, dean of arts, Dr. David Stewart, Business Administration,
and Canadian Consul General Linda McDonald.
By Dr. Stuart
Special to the Gazette
When St. Petersburg was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great it
was meant to be an experiment the dream of the imperious
autocrat to break with the traditions of the Muscovite past and
to initiate a new era in Russian history by constructing a
window to the West.
It became known as the
splendid gateway to Europe, the Venice of the North,
inextricably associated with the gradual modernization and Europeanization
of Russia over the following centuries. The citys soul
generated intellectual ferment and a thriving distinctive and
highly cosmopolitan culture in every field of art: the writers
Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Akhmatova, Nabokov and Brodsky;
avant-garde artists Chagal and Malevich; musicians and
composers Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shastakovich, and dancers,
actors, artists, directors and critics, whose influences are
part of the fabric of world culture. Now protected by the United
Nations as a world heritage site, St. Petersburg is one of the
most mystically beautiful and alluring cities in the world.
In the tradition of the Petrine
experiment to introduce foreign influence into Russia, professors
from a variety of faculties at Memorial participated in a unique
10-day professional development program in St. Petersburg in
May, lead by Dr. Terry Murphy, the dean of arts, in collaboration
with the Academic and Management Training Centre in Tsarskoe
Selo, the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, the Canadian Consulate in
St. Petersburg and various universities, governmental and non-governmental
bodies in Russia. At the inaugural reception at the Canadian
Consulate in St. Petersburg, Linda McDonald, Canadian Consul
General, proudly deemed this project the first academic-professional
project of its kind initiated by a Canadian university.
After several inquiries from
colleagues, the idea was conceived to match faculty members from
Memorial with Russian specialists in their fields of interest,
with whom they could consult or initiate independent or collaborative
In certain instances an academic
acquaintanceship already existed. On a Friday afternoon Dr. S.
Chittal, Faculty of Medicine, was introduced to present his lecture
at the Medical Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, and several
of the 60 specialists in attendance applauded prematurely and
exclaimed that they already knew his publications. As a footnote,
the presentation evoked a formal letter of thanks and recognition
from the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation.
For the arts faculty, the goal
of the project was to demonstrate how a small modern language
program can further the short and long term goals of the university.
Dr. Murphy, Dr. S. Durrant, German and Russian, Dr. J. Adler,
Sociology, Dr. Bill McGrath, Political Science, Dr. E. Church,
Womens Studies and Student Affairs, and Dr. W. Barker,
English, either initiated or continued research projects. Just
a few tangible achievements include the formal establishment
of internships for students, the conditions of an exchange with
the A.I. Herzen University, and links with at least 10 research
Our delegation, like many delegations
of foreigners in the 18th century, lived the suburb of St. Petersburg
Tsarskoye Selo, one of the summer residences of Russian tsars,
where majestic classical and baroque palaces separated by tranquil
parks and shady pathways created an ode to imperial history.
But then as now, there is a
connection with business administration just as Petersburg
was conceived as the channel to initiate a new era in Russias
economic transformation, the Academic Management Training Centre,
which hosted our delegation in the former palace of Prince Vasilij
Kochubej, is a multifunctional body. One of its purposes is to
act as an executive facility of the Russian government, to promote
the economic transformation of the country initiated by Gorbachev.
As such it has a very broad network of contacts throughout Russia,
but specifically in the area of business management and the implementation
of a market economy in the new Russia. In this connection,
faculty members from the School of Business Administration,
Dr. David Stewart and Dr. Sudhir Saha, initiated projects and
were invited to explore possibilities to develop cooperative
links with the new schools of management and business administration
and the St. Petersburg International Business Association.
Our Russian organizers of the
project perceive Memorials initiative and the programs
significance in the larger context of St. Petersburgs cultural
tradition. Hence they framed our business and professional meetings
within a cultural context, meticulously designed and timed to
include tours with distinguished scholars at the Hermitage, the
Yusoupoff Palace (site of Rasputins murder), the Russian
State Museum, the State Russian Library, trips to the ancient
city of Novgorod, and Moscow, evening performances of Borodins
Prince Igor at the Bolshoi Theatre, and the memorable concert
featuring Russias virtuoso, Maxim Fedotov, the present
Paganini of the European circuit. The pace of the professional
program was coordinated with Russian discipline, and sustained
with much flare by precisely timed rests at comfortable quiet
restaurants for Russian specialties.
Memorial forged valuable links
with five state universities and 41 academies of higher learning
in St. Petersburg.
Memorials students were
the pathbreakers. For several years successful summer programs
in St. Petersburg have been organized for students from Memorial
University. Since their inception, approximately 250 students
have participated in our Russian Summer Programs in St. Petersburg
and Pushkin. In July and August, 18 students followed in the
footsteps of their professors in May and spent over a month studying
the language, culture and literature of Russia and lived with
a Russian family or individual.
The experience is just as unique
for the Russian hosts, who apply to adopt our students. This
year from almost 50 applicants the hosts were selected to accommodate
students from various disciplines (for example, history, political
science, womens studies). For them the city and its surrounding
towns are both an inspiration and insight in addition
to St. Petersburgs splendour and artistic creativity, for
almost three centuries, the myth of the city has incorporated
the notion of conflict St. Petersburg survived the most
extreme attempts to extinguish it, from natural disasters, described
by Pushkins The Bronze Horseman, to famine, civil war,
revolutions, Stalins purges, the epic 900 day siege by
during the Second World War and Soviet attempts to destroy or
pervert its cultural identity. The city was renamed twice and
regained its original name in 1991.
As our Russian organizers stated,
Memorials programs enhance the cosmopolitan traditions
of the St. Petersburg and students and professors are welcome
now well known guests in the city and participants in its history.
Stuart Durrant is an associate professor in the Department
of German and Russian.