On the side lines of the International Cultural Forum, there was a meeting between Elena Chernova, Senior Vice-Rector of St Petersburg University, and Özgül Özkan Yavuz, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey. The key topics of discussion were possible formats for rapprochement and development of existing relations between St Petersburg University and Turkish partners.

Elena Chernova told distinguished guests that St Petersburg University is the oldest university in Russia and one the largest research and educational centres in Europe and the world. The study of Turkic disciplines at St Petersburg University began in 1822. The Department of the Turkish language was established in 1835, and Turkish was introduced into a number of academic subjects.

‘Nowadays, the issues related to the Turkish language and Turkey are relevant for our students of philology and orientalism. They are also of much interest to the faculty and students of the School of International Relations of St Petersburg University, as well as to the students of the Islamic Studies programme,’ said Elena Chernova.

St Petersburg University has established strong ties with Turkish universities. At present, there are eight agreements with universities in Turkey including: Ankara University; Koç University; Marmara University; and other well-known academic centres.

Elena Chernova noted that, unfortunately, these agreements are framework at present. ‘I hope that our meeting will give these agreements an impetus and translate them into practice, including in the field of academic exchanges and joint research activities,’ she said.

We have longstanding relations and many areas of common interest. And, of course, there is growth potential that would make it possible for us to develop joint research not only in the cultural sphere, but also in other areas.
Elena Chernova, Senior Vice-Rector of St Petersburg University

Özgül Özkan Yavuz, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey, said that Turkey is well aware of the high level and academic success of St Petersburg University. She also emphasised that the recent visit of famous Turkish archaeologists, historians and writers to the International Cultural Forum 2019 will be a significant contribution to establishing closer cooperation.

Within the framework of the VIII St Petersburg International Cultural Forum, Ms Özgül Özkan Yavuz attended the opening of three exhibitions dedicated to the cultural heritage of Turkey. She also presented the University with more than 150 books and exhibition equipment (Hagia Sophia and the ‘grandfather’ of Stonehenge: three exhibitions on Turkish culture are held at St Petersburg University).

Also, Ms Özgül Özkan Yavuz considers the creation of the Centre for Contemporary Turkish Studies at St Petersburg University to be an important step towards enhancing relations. The centre is headed by Apollinariia Avrutina, Associate Professor at the Department of Theory and Methodology of Teaching Languages and Cultures of Asian and African Countries, St Petersburg University.

It is customary to use tourism as the first step towards getting to know our country. We hope that the next step will be a close acquaintance with the culture, history and literature of Turkey. Therefore, we have a great need for cooperation with such a respected institution as St Petersburg University.
Özgül Özkan Yavuz, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey

According to Ms Özgül Özkan Yavuz, it is significant that 2020 will celebrate the centenary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Turkey. Moreover, the leaders of both countries have agreed to declare 2021 the year of their joint and common history.

Mehmet Samsar, the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the Russian Federation, was present at the meeting. During the talks, he said that there is a Russian–Turkish public forum led by the head of Rossotrudnichestvo Eleonora Mitrofanova on the part of the Russian Federation. Elena Chernova proposed that this format should be enhanced through participation of universities. She also suggested including St Petersburg University as a member of the forum.

The talks resulted in the agreement being reached that the Turkish side will finance the publication of books written by Turkish writers and translated into Russian by the publishing house of St Petersburg University.