14ymedio, Havana, 14 October 2023 — The political alliance between Havana and Moscow involves the teaching of the Russian language. This is demonstrated by the meeting at the Meliá Cohiba hotel this week of a hundred Cuban professors and students with advisors from the Moscow state university Rosbiotech. With the endorsement and funding of the Kremlin, learning the Russian language begins to gain ground on the Island, and the authorities of both countries are determined that Cubans speak Russian “with quality.”
In four days of work, which began at the University of Havana and followed at the hotel, a delegation of Rosbiotech, founded in Moscow in 1930, explained that the course would be funded by Rossotrudnichestvo, a federal collaboration agency supervised by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The goal is to “raise the rating of Russian language teachers in Cuban universities,” said Anastasia Fedosina, director of Rosbiotech’s Center for Engineering and Complementary Education. The project will begin in Havana, but it will soon be repeated in other provincial universities, which sent representatives to the meeting at the Meliá Cohiba.
Although its efforts have redoubled for several months, Moscow has been providing means to Havana for the teaching of Russian for years. The decisive impulse came last May, during the visit of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Chernishenko. Among the many agreements agreed during that visit, the politician had on his agenda a meeting in the classrooms of the Russian Orthodox cathedral in the Cuban capital.
Interviewed by 14ymedio, a cathedral worker said that the Russian classes taught there are free and that they take place every day of the week, except Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at five in the afternoon. The language is taught, he added, for “the one who knows something, for the one who knows nothing and for the one who comes to review.” Children who wish to receive classes can also take them.
The classrooms of the Havana cathedral have the advice of the Glazov Pedagogical Institute – known as the Korolenko Center – which has provided them with “an interactive whiteboard, a virtual reality helmet, Russian textbooks and fiction. Here the Cuban and Russian classics are combined,” Arseniy Parfyonov, head of the project office of the Korolenko Center, posted on the center’s official website.
The Orthodox priest Savva Gagloev, who has lived in Havana since 2017 and is rector of the cathedral, oversees the project as part of his personal mission on the Island. The priest himself, in an interview with Orthodox Christianity, when asked if he preferred to be appointed to the United States or Cuba, did not think twice before choosing the “Isle of Freedom.”
More than 180 Cubans have already passed through the classrooms, and there are several hundred requests waiting to be seen to. Among the students, according to the Korolenko Center, there are employees of several hotels in the capital.
Online courses have also been promoted, the company Maximum Education told this newspaper by email. Its project, called “Maximum. Govorim po-russki” (“Maximum. We speak Russian”), is funded by the Russian Ministry of Education, and its goal is to “teach Russian to foreign citizens.”
Online courses have also been promoted, the company Maximum Education told this newspaper by email
The classes are taught online with a teacher and at different levels, from beginner to advanced, and even for those who want to take the Unified State Exam to access Russian universities.
The interactive platform they use is based, they explain, on the methodology of Maksimum Obrazovaniye, which has developed “courses of various formats and directions for over 10 years” and, since last year, “has also been implementing international educational projects.”
According to the collaborative encyclopedia page, Maximum Education was founded in Moscow in 2013 by Mikhail Myagkov, who had worked for the American consulting firm Boston Consulting Group and the international educational company Kaplan. The name under which it is registered does not appear on Wikipedia: Umax LLC (Limited Liability Company).
Relations between Cuba and Moscow, which had been going at full speed since Chernishenko’s visit in May, have advanced more cautiously since several international media reported the presence of Cuban soldiers in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The announcement that Russia continues to promote its projects in Cuba is a sign that the alliance with the Kremlin is as healthy as it was several months ago.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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