Please tell us about the relationship between Kurdistan and Russia. How are they built? Can you describe the development dynamics of these relationships? What is the influence of political relations on the development of cooperation between our countries, including the field of education?
Russian-Kurdish relations are rooted in the depths of the history of the Russian Empire, whose orientalists made a huge contribution to the science of culture, literature and language of the Kurdish people. A striking example is the first edition of the Russian-Kurdish dictionary in 1856, which showed a deep analysis and genuine interest on the part of Russian scientists in authentic Kurdish culture.
Throughout the XX century, the history of the Russian and Kurdish peoples has been quite eminent. There has always been mutual assistance. At the current stage, it is worth highlighting the special strengthening of cooperation against the background of the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, due to the interaction and common goals of the two peoples.
Russia was the first country to open a Consulate General in Kurdistan after the Iraq War. Also, since 2014, the Embassy of the Kurdistan–Iraq Region has been opened in Russia.
At the present stage, Russian orientalists continue to study Kurdish history and literature. Two works can rightfully be called a significant contribution to literature over the past decade: "Land of Legends. The Kurdish land through the eyes of Russian researchers" and "Kurds. Legend of the East".
If we talk about the economy, there is also active cooperation here: for example, the Russian energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom carry out their activities in Kurdistan. Trade cooperation has been established since 2019. Delegations from the Kurdistan Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Duhok and Halabja) arrived in Moscow, having signed an agreement with the Moscow Chamber of Commerce and Industry. There were plans for a retaliatory act, but the pandemic prevented it from being implemented.
How are interstate relations in the field of education developing?
Kurds, especially natives of the Kurdistan-Iraq Region, studied in the USSR in the 1960s on the territory of the USSR, and the latter allocated budget places for Kurds, which helped them to get a very good higher education. Many graduates teach in higher educational institutions of Iraqi Kurdistan. There are many Doctors of Sciences and politicians among them. Thus, the first Kurd Minister of Education was a graduate of a Russian university.
At the present stage, Russia separately from Iraq provides 35 budget places for potential students of the Kurdistan-Iraq Region. Over the past 10 years, more than 400 students have graduated.
What educational programs in Russian universities are currently the most attractive for Kurdish students, and what is the reason for this?
I can name medicine, in particular, ophthalmology, Russian philology, oil and gas business, as the most popular. Also, education in the field of art, especially theater and music, certainly has an advantage.
Is it difficult for Kurdish students to adapt to living and studying conditions in Russia? What difficulties do Kurdish students face in Russia today? How does the difference of mentalities affect their life?
Students from any country always face various kinds of difficulties related to culture and language. The latter plays an important role, since lack of language skills leads to big problems, even for a Russian person. For example, if you do not know the language at a decent level, there is a chance to break the law by not getting acquainted with it enough or not understanding it.
There is a difficulty in obtaining a certain specialty, since the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation allocates a certain number of budget places for a narrow specialization, and it is not possible to change it. I think that the introduction of a more flexible system in the education segment will make it easier for Kurdistan students to adapt to new conditions and study.
Does the Kurdish diaspora support its compatriots abroad? What measures do you think should be taken by Russian universities to create the most optimal and favorable conditions for attracting new students, including their residence in Russia?
The Kurdish diaspora does provide support. As for the second question, in the context of a pandemic, an acceptable option would be to hold online conferences. In order to eliminate misunderstanding of some aspects of culture and establish closer contact with Russian students, the best option is to involve Kurdish students in organizing such events and inviting them to student and youth camps in Russia. This will help them adapt and get acquainted with the new culture.
Do students return to their homeland after graduating from university in Russia, or do they prefer to build a career in Russia?
More than 90% of students return to their homeland, but there are cases when a person decides to stay, start a family and build a career in Russia.
Are there student exchange and graduate employment programs?
Unfortunately, no. But with my support, 3 students from Moscow State University were accepted in Kurdistan in 2014. In 2019, 6 students from the Moscow State Linguistic University were sent here. Of these, 3 students studied the Kurdish language, and 3 — Arabic. They had an internship in Kurdistan for 3 months. They were provided with scholarship and a residence.
It should be noted that after the New Year holidays, in 2020, it was planned to send 5 students to Kurdistan, but due to the unfavorable situation, the trip had to be postponed. Then the pandemic affected the plans as well, and the project had to be stopped.