The Best Language Is Geographical: How To Find Mutual Understanding And Save Our Planet

The Russian Geographical Society held the discussion "GeoConnect: How Geography United 129 Countries" at the World Youth Forum. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service
The Russian Geographical Society held the discussion "GeoConnect: How Geography United 129 Countries" at the World Youth Forum. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service

Geography is outside politics. This feature has clearly manifested itself in the current situation in the world. However, despite the pressure on Russia from the West, international cooperation in scientific and educational fields continues. Moreover, it is precisely such periods in world history that make it possible to make breakthrough discoveries that will determine the vector of human development for many years to come. The discussion "GeoConnect: How Geography United 129 Countries", which the Russian Geographical Society held on March 4 as part of the World Youth Festival, was devoted to this topic.

Why 129 countries? The answer is simple: that's how many countries have opened the venues for the Geographical Dictation since 2015, when the Russian Geographical Society held it for the first time. In total, about 3.5 million people participated in the international educational campaign.

Anyone in the world can not only participate in the Geographical Dictation, but also take part in the competition for the best question. The winner is invited to the central venue in Moscow for in-person participation in the Geographical Dictation. For example, last year the winner was Roy Sanjib Dutta from the Indian city of Patna. And he came to Moscow!

“The Russian Geographical Society is not affected by anti-Russian sanctions in any way,” said Ilya Gurov, First Deputy Executive Director of the Russian Geographical Society. “We continue to work successfully in all countries of the world actively attracting foreign specialists to participate in our projects inside Russia.”

In 13 years, the Society has allocated about 2.5 billion rubles for grants. At the same time, a significant share was directed to support projects implemented by international and youth organizations.

“If we analyze the life path of famous travelers, it turns out that they made their main geographical discoveries before the age of 35. It turns out that geography is a science for young people," Ilya Gurov noted.

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Ilya Gurov, First Deputy Executive Director of the Russian Geographical Society. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service
Ilya Gurov, First Deputy Executive Director of the Russian Geographical Society. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service

The RGS has its own youth clubs abroad as well as four foreign centers: in India, Transnistria, Serbia, and France. The latter is currently under the greatest pressure.

"Indeed, in Western Europe now everything connected with Russia is perceived as toxic," said Daria Loyola, head of the RGS Center in France, with regret. “Nevertheless, this attitude does not prevent our organization from developing successfully.”

She said that it all had started with ordinary meetings – friends who had bilingual children came to them. Their parents wanted to introduce them to Russia – to history, culture, and natural heritage. As a result, the association “Globus: Geography and History of Russia and France” was created in 2019, and the RGS Center in Paris in 2021.

“Starting in 2019, we have been taking the Geographical Dictation. As soon as it began to be translated into French, the French showed interest in our initiative," said Daria Loyola. “The geography quiz is aimed at young people. We also hold teleconferences with Russian schools and photo exhibitions. We established contacts with French scientists, teachers, and students and began to organize lectures.”

Daria Loyola reminded that the dialogue that the geographers of Russia and France began in the 19th century was never interrupted:

“There has always been correspondence between scientists. And every person who joins this movement makes a modest contribution to the formation of the foundation on which future generations will be able to rely.”

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The head of the RGS Center in France, Daria Loyola. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service
The head of the RGS Center in France, Daria Loyola. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service

Denis Fomin-Nilov, Acting Rector of Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University in Bishkek, spoke about the continuity of generations in his speech.

He reminded that the territory of Kyrgyzstan, Lake Issyk-Kul, the Tien Shan Mountains, and the Pamir-Alai Mountains were explored by Russian geographers in the 19th century, expeditions of the Russian Geographical Society took place there. And in 1980, the largest VII Congress of the Geographical Society of the USSR was held in the city of Frunze (now Bishkek) which gave a powerful impetus to the development of geography in the republic.

“Given the history of our relations, accumulated experience and close ties between our countries, it is logical to talk about opening a branch of the Russian Geographical Society in Kyrgyzstan. This solution seems to be extremely promising," Denis Fomin-Nilov summed up.

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Acting Rector of Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University Denis Fomin-Nilov. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service
Acting Rector of Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University Denis Fomin-Nilov. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service

Another example of international cooperation. A trilateral archaeological project dedicated to the study of cultural ties between the population of the Central Caucasus and Iran during the Stone Age has been working for three decades. It involves specialists from Russia, Iran, and the United States. The head of the North Caucasian Archaeological Expedition, Nazim Gidzhrati, spoke about the discovery of a unique cave in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania which explains the origin of mankind and ontogenesis in general. There are only five such caves in the world.

"The support provided to our project by the Russian Geographical Society, as well as the organizations of Iran, is very important to us," said Nazim Gidzhrati. “Many scientists from other countries, despite the situation in the world, continue to work with us, however, in a remote format. But the work does not stop, cultural and scientific ties between Russia and Iran are not interrupted.”

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Head of the North Caucasian Archaeological Expedition, Nazim Gidzhrati. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service
Head of the North Caucasian Archaeological Expedition, Nazim Gidzhrati. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service

Every year, dozens of exhibitions are held in our country and around the world under the auspices of the Russian Geographical Society. Moreover, according to Ilya Gurov, the Society prefers the placement of exhibitions in public places, in open spaces since this format allows to present the works of the finalists and winners of the photo contest "The Most Beautiful Country" most organically.

By the way, two exhibitions are presented at the World Youth Forum: "The Most Beautiful Country" with the works of the winners of the 2023 photo contest and "Multinational Russia" with the most outstanding and most impressive photographs illustrating the ethnic and cultural diversity of Russia.

Anastasia Sibileva, Head of the International Relations Department of the Department of Foreign Economic and International Relations of the City of Moscow, spoke about the exhibition "Old Baku through the Lens of the Russian Geographical Society: First Photos of the City", which was held in 2023 as part of the cultural program "Days of Moscow in Baku".

“Unique photographs of the capital of Azerbaijan taken in the 19th century were presented. Visitors studied the exhibition with great interest, and we received only positive feedback," she noted.

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Anastasia Sibileva, Head of the International Relations Department of the Department of Foreign Economic and International Relations of the City of Moscow. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service
Anastasia Sibileva, Head of the International Relations Department of the Department of Foreign Economic and International Relations of the City of Moscow. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service

The opening of the RGS Center in December 2023 was received with great enthusiasm in India. It has been in existence for only two and a half months, although the activities of the Society in this country have been conducted for many decades. Moreover, if we recall the journey of the Tver merchant Afanasy Nikitin to India, which he made in the 15th century, then we can say that Russian-Indian relations date back more than 500 years! Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation in India, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the RGS Center in India, Ratish Nair, made a retrospective journey into history and noted that a scientific seminar will be devoted to the legacy of Afanasy Nikitin this year.

“It is planned to hold exhibitions, seminars, and other events dedicated to the study of geography, history, and culture of Russia. For example, the campaigns ‘Geographical Dictation’ and ‘Night of Geography’ will take place this year. The RGS Center will become a good platform for the development of cultural and scientific ties between Russia and India,” summed up Ratish Nair.

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Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation in India, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the RGS Center in India Ratish Nair. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service
Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation in India, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the RGS Center in India Ratish Nair. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service

The RGS Center in Serbia was opened in 2016. Dušan Bajatović, Deputy of the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia, CEO of the state-owned company Srbijagas, became the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. During the discussion, he shared his thoughts on the activities of the RGS Center, the situation in the world, the prospects of public diplomacy, and the purpose of man on Earth.

"We highly appreciate the good relations between our countries," Dušan Bajatović said. “Our goals are to popularize geography, preserve the historical and cultural heritage of Russia and Serbia; joint environmental, educational, research, and publishing activities; and the implementation of student exchange programs. The Russian Geographical Society unites people with inner freedom which is very important because this is the only way to engage in objective research of the world around them. Free people can think freely. And this path will definitely lead to success.”

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Dušan Bajatović, Deputy of the People's Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, CEO of the state-owned company Srbijagas. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service
Dušan Bajatović, Deputy of the People's Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, CEO of the state-owned company Srbijagas. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service

The director of the RGS Center in Serbia, Miroljub Milinčić, spoke about the events being held: "Geographical Dictation", photo exhibitions with the best works of the photo contest "The Most Beautiful Country" (about 100 took place in five years), film festivals, scientific conferences, summer camps, publishing projects. Moreover, all of them are being implemented not only in Serbia but also in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Northern Macedonia.

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Director of the RGS Center in Serbia, Miroljub Milinčić. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service
Director of the RGS Center in Serbia, Miroljub Milinčić. Photo: Vladimir Neskoromny / RGS press service

The lively discussion went beyond the time indicated in the program. Participants from different countries of the world found a common language, geographical, and came to a common conclusion: the Earth is our common home. The goal is to preserve it for future generations. This is what GeoConnect is all about.

Vladimir Neskoromny