Next Sunday, November 14, the next, seventh in a row, Geographical Dictation of the Russian Geographical Society will be held. The interest in the event this year is unusually high – we are receiving a lot of questions. We asked the First Deputy Executive Director of the Russian Geographical Society Ilya Gurov – the person who knows the ins and outs of the Geographical Dictation best of all – to answer the most popular of them.
– Ilya Anatolyevich, when and why did the idea of the Geographical Dictation arise?
– The idea of holding the Geographical Dictation was expressed by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin at the XV Congress of the Society on November 7, 2014. At that time, the Russian Geographical Society, again, became a truly all-Russian public organization, good potential had been accumulated from our supporters in the regions. Therefore, there was a need for a truly nationwide event, as accessible as possible for everyone, and not only for professional geographers. The Geographical Dictation became such an event. Therefore, it is especially symbolic that it was started by the President of our country.
– What is the meaning of the Geographical Dictation? What does participation in it give to an ordinary person?
– The idea is to offer people a useful alternative to lying on the couch or being the phone on Sunday, at 12 PM. We especially focus on parents with children, teachers who are not indifferent to leisure and additional education of their students. Naturally, all this should be presented in the liveliest and most interesting form – we have chosen the format of an intellectual test. And an absolutely anonymous one, so as not to alienate anyone, even those who are not yet sure of their knowledge. That’s why we are now looking for those who scored 100 points all over the country – we know that they are out there. And that there are many of them – more than 1700 throughout all the years, but the names are unknown. To summarize, "the ‘ready for labor and defense’ sign on his chest; we don’t know anything else about him.”
– At what age can you take part in the Dictation?
– We do not set an age limit for the participants. And in general, there are no restrictions and should not be in order to know Russia, to be interested in their homeland. This is, in fact, the main goal of the Russian Geographical Society. And in order to approach the Dictation prepared at any age, as in sports, you need to train constantly. To do this, it is useful to take tests on our website, participate in geographic quests, lectures, intellectual games that we conduct online, including on social networks, and live throughout the country.
– What is the Dictation itself like? How much time is given to answer the questions, how many questions are there in total?
– The Dictation is held on the same day at the same time in all constituent entities of the Russian Federation and foreign countries (local time). Time for completing the assignments is the same for all – 45 minutes (academic hour). The total number of questions is 40. You can become a participant of the Dictation by contacting any of its venues, regardless of place of residence and registration. The address of the nearest venue can be found on the Dictation’s website.
– What does a participant get? Are there any rewards for high scores?
– A participant who comes to the venue in-person or, in case of restrictions, takes the Dictation remotely on the day the Dictation is held, receives a "Certificate of Participation". They will find out their results a little later, after all the received forms have been processed. We usually start publishing the results about five weeks after the Dictation.
– What takes so long?
– First, we collect scanned forms with the results from each venue. This process takes quite a long time, since the number of venues exceeds eight thousand. Then all the forms are pre-checked for readability, since the results are calculated by a special program. If the forms are not readable, then we ask the venue to reupload them in better quality. The entire preparatory stage takes about a month. Then all the received forms are loaded into the program, and then the results are calculated, which usually lasts from two to five days.
Each participant of the Dictation receives two results in the form of points. The maximum for the first part is 10 (this is a geographical educational program), for the second – 30 points.
– And if the Dictation participant used cheat sheets, will they be punished?
– If a person does not know elementary things about their own homeland, they have already punished themselves. Or they were punished by their teacher, who failed to instill an interest in one of the most interesting subjects of the school curriculum, geography. But everything in our life is fixable, so we are only for the fact that in the process of taking, preparing for the Dictation, people read something, learn new things, reflect on them. So feel free to use books, maps, globes. Less Wikipedia, more verified information. But naturally, if you are participating to test yourself, then for the sake of the experiment you need to use nothing during the event itself. For example, I myself always sit with my children and prepare them in advance. By the way, as practice shows, there is usually no need to use cheat sheets.
– The Dictation is taken by people with different backgrounds and education levels. Why is there only one Dictation version?
– I must say that after all, there is not one version, but several. We try to adapt them as much as possible. In addition to the main one, there is a version for the visually impaired, there is a version for taking the Dictation online, and finally, a demo version which you can use to test yourself. But keep in mind, a participant certificate is awarded only for taking the first two versions.
At the same time, we are categorically against dividing people into some kind of groups. Therefore, school students take the Dictation alongside academicians.
– Do academicians make mistakes in the Dictation?
– That happens, they confessed to me themselves!
– Are all versions the same in difficulty?
All versions consist of two parts, and they differ in the degree of difficulty. The first part (10 questions) of the basic level is the geographical educational program, compiled based on well-known facts from geography. The second part (30 questions) will require the use of creative thinking, logic, and erudition.
– How are the questions created? Who comes up with them?
– As we gained experience in conducting the Dictation, we changed the vector of the event from educational, testing to enlightening. Over time, we have determined that closed-ended questions with one correct answer are best suited in this case.
Over the years, the questions were prepared by professionals in their field: authors and editors of the questions for "Svoya Igra", well-known experts of "What? Where? When?", as well as experts from the Russian Geographical Society. Recently, we have been receiving some of the questions from people from all over the world within the framework of the "Write a question for the Geographical Dictation" competition. This year it was held for the second time and was very popular. Almost 60% of the questions included in the Dictation versions were obtained through this competition.
– Over the years, the Dictation has become a truly massive event. What are the reasons for the popularity, in your opinion?
– I have already said that no initiative will be implemented if there is no demand for it from consumers, that is, from our fellow citizens. Interest in culture, science and art is being actively restored in Russia. Therefore, geography is in the forefront here. The task of the Russian Geographical Society was to offer the most convenient and interesting format.
First, interesting questions. A person, having come to the Dictation, always learns something new.
Secondly, it is an intellectual competition, not a test of knowledge.
Thirdly, we do our best so that each venue makes the Dictation into a small celebration, holds lectures, quizzes.
Finally, as elsewhere, an individual approach on the part of the Russian Geographical Society both to the participants and to the organizers of the Dictation is very important. Not a single question remains unanswered. If you could not contact us by phone, mail and social networks are at your service. We are always in touch and open to everyone.
– Does the Dictation have any records?
– We are not chasing records, but there are some. Interest in the event is growing every year. The number of venues and participants is constantly increasing. So we can safely say that every Dictation is a record for us. In just six years, almost 1.8 million people from 120 countries of the world took part in them. 18,596 venues were organized. Last year, due to restrictions related to the spread of COVID-19, we offered participants a remote option for taking the Dictation. Choosing this format, the participant could register at any venue in the world and take the Dictation at a convenient time for them. By the way, this year we are going for the record for the number of venues!
– About the venues. Which of them have become the most massive and unusual?
– If you do not take into account the Central Geographical Dictation Venue, where from one and a half to five thousand people took the Dictation in different years, dozens of venues throughout the country became the most visited. In Russia, they are organized at schools, universities, libraries, museums, reserves, intellectual clubs, parks, military units and even correctional institutions. Abroad – at embassies, Russian language schools, Rossotrudnichestvo centers.
The most massive venues for the Dictation
Voronezh State University – 2100 people
Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University, Yakutsk – 1500 people
Military unit 06705, Borzya, Zabaykalsky Krai – 2100 people
Voronezh State University – 2000 people
Zhukov Air and Space Defense Academy, Tver – 1500 people
Club 155 of the naval infantry brigade of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Vladivostok – 1499 people
Club 317 of the independent mixed aviation regiment, military unit 69262 of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Elizovo, Kamchatka Krai – 1495 people
S. M. Budyonny Military Academy of the Signal Corps, St. Petersburg – 1431 people
Lyceum No. 15 named after Hero of the Soviet Union N.N. Makarenko, Kyzyl (Republic of Tyva) – 1315 people
Naval Polytechnic Institute of the MESC of the Navy "Naval Academy" – 1300 people
– What's new in the Dictation in 2021?
– We always strive to improve our event. This year, the demo version of the Dictation was launched, by participating in which people got an idea of what the questions would be in general. International competitions for the symbol (mascot) and slogan for Dictation were held, which were very popular. The most active and creative participants will be awarded with incentive prizes from the Russian Geographical Society.