"You’ll Be Dying of Curiosity": the Former Participants Talk About the Geographical Dictation

Приходите на Геодиктант, будем думать над вопросами вместе. Фото: пресс-служба РГО
Приходите на Геодиктант, будем думать над вопросами вместе. Фото: пресс-служба РГО

It is extremely important for all of us to be in the right mood before the start. And what will help inspire those who want to take part in the Geographical Dictation for the first time this year? Of course, stories and advice from experienced participants of the event. Professional geographers or inquisitive enthusiasts – they all have one thing in common: a love of the geography of Russia. We talked with some of them on the eve of the Dictation.

The talent for asking questions

Almost 60% of the Dictation's questions this year were created by the participants of the Russian Geographical Society’s competition "Write your question for the Geographical Dictation". The author of one of them (for obvious reasons, we will not show the question itself) was a geography teacher from Veliky Novgorod, Tamara Ivanova. According to her, there was no doubt about whether to participate in the competition. She’s had the idea for the competition question for a long time – all that remained was to work on its wording. The inspiration was not only the love of geography, but also one of Tamara's favorite literary works.


Тамара Иванова. Фото из личного архива
Тамара Иванова. Фото из личного архива

"Geography, along with the Russian language and history, is the most important area of ​​knowledge for any Russian. By creating a question for the Dictation, you gain a cognitive experience. It is, at least, very interesting," she said.

Andrey Ostapenko from the city of Nyuksenitsa, Vologda Oblast, has been regularly taking the Dictation since 2017. He learned about the competition for the questions last year, but did not take part in it. But this time he decided not to miss the opportunity and try his hand at it – as it turned out later, successfully. Andrey's profession is not connected with geography, so with his question he wanted to emphasize that this science is much broader than it seems. Geography, he said, surrounded us every day and was present in everything: literature, history, art.


Андрей Остапенко. Фото из личного архива
Андрей Остапенко. Фото из личного архива

“Participation in such a competition is very exciting. It can be compared to a small scientific paper. First, you need to decide on the topic: it is better if it is something close to you in terms of your occupation or hobbies. Then, you have to work on your topic thoroughly so that there are no mistakes, formulate your thought in two or three lines, come up with the wrong answers. And even if your question is not included on the list of finalists, it’s an interesting and useful way to spend your time," Andrey shared.

Gleb Vinogradov is an inquisitive tenth grader from Chelyabinsk. The focus of the young man’s studies is natural sciences, but he tries to be knowledgeable in many areas. Gleb learned about the competition in a geography class and, like some of his classmates, decided to try his luck. He came up with several task versions at once. In Chelyabinsk Oblast, native to Gleb, there are many interesting places, and it was a perfect place for searching for topics. The names of the finalists of the competition were determined at the end of June – on the same day when Gleb received the results of the final exams. It turned out to be a double reason for joy.


Глеб Виноградов. Фото из личного архива
Глеб Виноградов. Фото из личного архива

“At first I was a little uncomfortable: there are people who are much more interested in geography, but I was the one among the winners. I was very flattered that the experts rated my work highly. The victory excited me. That’s why, if possible, I will try my hand next year. In the meantime, I will participate in the Dictation – I will take it remotely. I will not be pursuing a perfect result, but I will do everything in my power and see how well I know the geography of Russia. I wish all the participants of the Geographical Dictation good luck and patience. Even if you come across a difficult question in the test, in this case the main thing, as in anything, is to think, not to rush. And don't give up, of course," Gleb noted.

The Dictation is a family matter

Larisa Shobyreva from St. Petersburg works as a psychologist, but she first graduated as a geographer. Back in 2015, when she learned that a large-scale geographic campaign was starting, she never doubted that she would take part in it. Moreover, she would not come alone, but with her son Artyom. When the two of them first came to the Dictation, the young man was in the fourth grade – so he became the youngest participant in the event. And three years later, Artyom received the highest score.


Артём и Лариса Шобыревы. Фото из семейного архива
Артём и Лариса Шобыревы. Фото из личного архива

“I myself am now interested in economics, but this science does not exist separately from geography, the love for which my mother instilled in me. Even then, in 2015, the Dictation interested her as a geographer, so she decided to take part in it, and at the same time invited me. Over time, I myself got involved, and later I consciously came to the Dictation. Since geography is not my direct specialty, it was a great joy for me to get a good result on the Dictation. As a future economist, it is very important for me to know geography in order to understand the processes taking place in the world," said the young man.

Larisa and Artyom will be taking the Dictation for the seventh year in a row – the event has become a kind of joint hobby for them.

“The Geographical Dictation for me is an excellent intellectual exercise that helps to test my knowledge of geography, and at the same time learn something new about the world around me, about my country and myself. After the Dictation, I want to go to the library, take out books, magazines, atlases. Find the right information and see the correct answers to the questions," shared Larisa Vladimirovna.

Test of strength

From time to time, professionals also need to test themselves: academics, teachers. Therefore, it is not surprising that among the excellent students of the Dictation there are many geography teachers. Among them is Natalia Seryakova from the city of Ishimbay, Republic of Bashkortostan. She has been working in education for 39 years, and has been participating in the Dictation every year from the very beginning. Moreover, for the fifth year in a row, Natalia has been organizing a Dictation’s venue in her city.


Наталия Серякова. Фото из личного архива
Наталия Серякова. Фото из личного архива

"I have loved geography since childhood – for me it is the most interesting science that helps to learn more and more about our planet, our native country. By participating in the Dictation, we always acquire new knowledge, expand our horizons. And here, of course, the process of reflection and self-examination that is important, the results are only a secondary. Therefore, to everyone who comes to take the Dictation, I would wish the main thing: be surprised, impressed and happy!" noted Natalia.

Olga Bauer from the city of Achinsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, has also been participating in the event since 2015. As a geography teacher, the Dictation is of a professional interest to her. She managed to instill her love for geography in her students. At first, together in the classroom, they analyzed tasks from different versions of the Dictation of previous years, but then the students began to independently participate in the event – mainly in the online format.


Ольга Бауэр. Фото из личного архива
Ольга Бауэр. Фото из личного архива

"Participation in the Dictation gives an opportunity to experience the discoveries made by Russian travelers, learn about the traditions of different peoples of our country, get acquainted with interesting facts from the field of geography. Completing tasks, everyone learns something new. Someone will subsequently be inspired and continue to study geography, and someone might even want to go on a trip across Russia. But when the test of knowledge yields a good result, it is, of course, twice as pleasant."

Tips from the experienced

Successful preparation is only part of the story. On the eve of the Dictation, the right attitude is no less important. Geographers – professional and just beginners – volunteered to "charge" the participants. Among the first is Dmitry Bogachev, Candidate of Geographic Sciences, Chairman of the Central Subject-Methodological Commission of the All-Russian Olympiad for Schoolchildren in Geography. He first took the Geographical Dictation in 2015 and has never missed it since.

"Thanks to the Geographical Dictation, many people learn about the Russian Geographical Society, become interested in its activities and are surprised to discover that even now there is a place for discoveries – primarily personal ones: in their native settlement, in their native region, in their native country, in the world. You should come to the Dictation with the whole family. Even if someone fails to get a high score the first time, you can take part in the event again. This is an excellent reason to discover your amazing country and multifaceted science, geography."

Olga Ovchinnikova took part in the Dictation twice: the impetus was her love for geography and intellectual competition. Under the girl's belt is a victory in the International Olympiad in Geography among school students. Now she is studying at the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University. The Dictation for Olga is an excellent excuse to test her "combat shape".

"Map in the navigator, weather forecast, landscapes of mountains and river valleys, a trip to the south – geography surrounds us everywhere. Therefore, everyone should be a bit of a geographer. If this is not the case, the Geographical Dictation will help fix it! Even if you do not know the answer to some question, you will be tormented by curiosity, and immediately after the Dictation you will go looking for the correct answer, and who knows, maybe you will get carried away by geography. In any case, participation is the main thing! Before the Dictation, try looking through an atlas, study pictures taken from space. Not only is this incredibly interesting, but it also helps to generalize and get various interesting facts from the far corners of the mind. During the Dictation itself, do not rush to skip a question to which you seemingly do not know the answer: often even the most complicated facts can be reached logically."


Ольга Овчинникова. Фото из личного архива
Ольга Овчинникова. Фото из личного архива

For Pavel Kirillov, a leading researcher at the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University, member of the Central Subject-Methodological Commission of the All-Russian Olympiad for Schoolchildren in Geography, the Dictation is not just the most interesting, massive event of the year in Russian geography. It is also a kind of "all-Russian census of geographers". After all, almost everyone in Russia loves and knows geography – Pavel has no doubts about it.

“For those who come to take the Dictation this year, I would like to wish, of course, correct answers. But the main thing is that this event hooks the participants, especially the young ones, those who have not yet decided on their future activity and profession. It is not the result that is important here, but the process of testing one's knowledge itself. After all, even a wrong or uncertain answer is, first of all, a reason to think about what you still do not know about Russia and other countries, to learn about those patterns and curious facts that you have never thought about. I always want the Dictation to inspire a desire to travel. And in a pandemic, this is another reason to use reference and cartographic services on the Internet, check an atlas, and maybe even hang a new large map at home."


Никита Панфилов. Фото из личного архива
Никита Панфилов. Фото из личного архива

"Remember, discover, wonder!" – this is the motto of Nikita Panfilov, a freshman at the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University, winner of the International Olympiad in Geography in Istanbul. In a sense, this year he himself will become a pioneer: despite the fact that the young man has many Olympiads and competitions in geography behind him, he will take the Dictation for the first time.

"A good result on the Dictation is probably what all the participants strive for. But it seems to me that the most important thing here is to learn something new, be surprised at your ‘discovery’, to support or revive a youthful and bright curiosity. I want as many people as possible to learn the geography of Russia and expand their horizons, become inquisitive. Come to the Geographical Dictation, we will think over the questions together!"

Asya Starodubtseva