MOSCOW – The Spanish Year of Language and Literature opened in Russia at the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum in Moscow on Monday, to promote Spanish language and culture in Russia.
At the opening ceremony, Jose Maria Lassalle, Secretary of State for Culture of Spain, alluded to the passion that Miguel de Cervantes and Alexander Pushkin shared for their respective mother tongues.
The ceremony closed with a reading of an excerpt from Cervantes’ Don Quixote, a book much admired by the fathers of 19th century Russian literature including Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Ivan Turgenev.
“Russia has been like the promised land for Don Quixote and Cervantes,” said Dario Villanueva, director of the Royal Spanish Academy.
“Few countries have welcomed with such passion all that has to do with our most illustrious writer,” he said.
The cultural love affair between Russia and Spain that began with Cervantes continues today, according to Marina Loshak, director of the Moscow Museum, who said that the cultural links forged by Cervantes, Anton Chekhov, Felix Lope de Vega and Pushkin remain strong regardless of contemporary political situations, such as that created by events in the Ukraine.
Guests viewed an exhibition of lithographs and drawings by Joan Miró and Antoni Tapies, inspired by the verse of Rafael Alberti and Joseph Brodsky respectively.
The ceremony also recognized the growing interest in studying Spanish in Russia, the more than 170 Russian schools with Spanish as part of their curriculum, and the more than 20,000 children studying the language.
Spanish culture will also be included for the first time in the next Russian ‘cultural olympiad’.
Spain’s involvement starts late May with Maria Pages’s production of the ballet “Yo, Carmen” (I, Carmen).
In November Spain will have a major presence at the Russian book fair ‘Non Fiction’, and Moscow will soon host the V Congress of Hispanists, something that will, according to Villanueva, only further encourage learning Spanish in Russia’s schools and universities.