Professor mustajoki: “Well, if we are to understand Russian as good as possible”

Last Friday at the University of Helsinki celebrated the retiring of the famous scientist-specialist in Russian Philology, Professor Arto mustajoki.

Mustajoki, who for many years headed the Department of Russian language and literature at the University of Helsinki, is also the Vice-President of the International Association of teachers of Russian language and Dean of the faculty of Humanities, Helsinki.

Mustajoki at different times also held various administrative positions at the University level (including the post of Dean and rector), as well as at national and international level. So, he was the Chairman of the Board of the Academy of Finland, the President of the Association of scientific societies, and a representative of Finland in the European science Foundation etc.

In advance of the meeting in honor of retirement of Professor mustajoki in an interview with the Russian service Yle talked about why you need to learn Russian language than Finnish mentality different from Russian, and that the total Finnish specialist in Russian can be with the Minister in the administration of Donald trump.

— Why the choice to teach Russian language? For a person from your environment that was not the typical solution.

But it really was. Initially I started to learn German language at the University. Back then I lived in the town of Ilmajoki that is in the region of southern Ostrobothnia. Almost all the population there is Russian hated, and of course in Russian almost no one spoke. My father was a Lutheran priest, and as a child I was a very obedient child. And at some point had a desire to Express teenage angst against parents. As a protest, I grew a beard and began to study Russian language.

Besides the fact that your family were unhappy with your choice, with some other difficulties I had to encounter on the path to mastering great and mighty?

The parents were unhappy, but they didn’t tell me anything. Can’t say that there were some real difficulties, but periodically I had to explain to people why I chose Russian language. In those days in Finland, if people were taught Russian, he definitely was a Communist. I’m a Communist, never was, and political reasons for the choice of subjects I didn’t have. I was just interested in languages. In the end, Russian language chose me.

You for decades engaged in teaching the Russian language. What seemed easy and what is challenging you and your students?

— This is a very interesting question. If we consider the topics chosen Western Russianists, doing scientific research, it is noticeable that they undertake the most difficult for them topics. So many, for example, to learn kinds of verbs — for many foreigners, the form of the verb causes great difficulties. I chose for the theme of the doctoral dissertation types of the stress of Russian nouns. I believe that the mobility of stress is a very laborious thing for students who study Russian language. Usually teaching does not pay enough attention to pronunciation and accent, although this is a very important factor from the point of view of understanding., During one experiment, I found out how foreign students put the stress in Russian words — and found a lot of mistakes.

Finns are usually afraid of phonetics of the Russian language, the family of the notorious hissing. In fact, from the point of view of pronunciation of Russian language is not so difficult — in the end, even these seven Sizzling six are found in other Indo-European languages. When learning pronunciation of any language has its own nuances, but Russian is especially difficult in this respect I do not think.

— What points in your teaching career especially deposited in the memory?

— There were many, I guess I’ll name one. Students are not the most talented, which people think that they will not be able to finish University. And when facing a thesis of such a student — and it’s a good job, it is a very happy and bright time.

From teaching you have moved to administrative positions and was engaged in that supervised the work of others. As a teacher you are well clear, to criticize the administration, especially in the current climate, when funding for Universities is rapidly declining. What was it like to be in the role of someone you criticize?

— Teachers at the Department are usually quite narrow-minded. They are very good at their job, but usually do not understand how the educational system as a whole. Not always the teachers understand why the administration is taking certain decisions.

The most difficult decisions necessary to make in the past year: I personally had to decide how will the dismissal of the faculty, Thank God, now the situation at the University is much better, and soon we will have the opportunity to open many new jobs for teachers

Generally, in conditions where two opposite sides are hard to understand each other, Dean has to be the arbiter. You need to consider and understand the perspective of all parties. But to understand and to accept are two different things.

— Let’s talk about more positive things. Tell us about your students, especially those who have something memorable for you.

— A lot of them, and I am pleased that the education that with our help, they received gave them the opportunity to do so various things. They work in the Finnish ministries, companies, different organizations, many of them in universities, in schools… they have a very different role in society. Always nice when the graduates after many years and get to know you first name, thank you.

— What advice would you give to people who are now hesitant to teach them the Russian language or not? Many, especially teenagers, may think that Russian language has lost popularity, or the geopolitical situation is not the best for such a choice.

— Definitely worth to learn Russian language! It is a shame, sad and a shame that we have so few people speaking in Russian. Their two to three percent, it is not enough for Finland. We had better know both language and country. Russia is our eternal neighbor, and we need to live together for a long century. Well, if we are to understand Russian the best way possible.

When I say understand, it does not mean that we endorse all the actions of Russia. Our recent Nobel laureate, economist Bengt Holmstrom said recently, what you need to know the enemy. That is, even those Finns who consider Russia an enemy, it is still worthwhile to get acquainted with Russia and Russian mentality

— You have recently published your new book, “a Storm in a glass of vodka”. What the subjects?

— Based on my essays and texts that I had previously published in his blog and other Internet resources. This text about life in Finland, about Russia, about the sport. Tell about his travels to the former Soviet republics, for example, in Turkmenistan. In the Crimea were also a few times.

Of course, Russia is a special country, and Russian is very different from the Finns. I think this is wealth. To withdraw into themselves, not to look for the key to other cultures — for Finland it was a bad decision. Of course, there are things that I was in Russia, annoying, but there are those who like them, and it should learn. I write about it. Russians have a special flexibility in solving problems, and Finns strictly adhere to some formal rules, it is not always the most successful, in truth. And this is an opportunity for us to learn something new.

— In our society, important decisions are made by politicians, economists, lawyers — in short, people from Humanities distant. And if we talk about the purpose of the Humanities in the modern world, what is your role?

— If we consider the major global issues that all share the so-called human factor. It is he who decides everything. I will give an example. Speaking about the environmental problems in the Gulf, constantly mention a strong water pollution. However, until now, to solve this problem, scientists focused on what happens to the water. However, the water itself does not cause risk. The risk is people.

Trying to find a solution to this problem, you need to study the behavior of people living in the region.

I believe in the future will require that representatives of the Humanities are more actively involved in the study of such global issues and scientists would jointly find solutions to global problems. We scientists need to look at the world with wide open eyes and not to cling to life for only one old subject of research. Need to see the opportunities around.

— Tell me, what you will do in the future when you may no longer have jobs?

Exact plans yet. But something is clear. I write books, I want to continue to study the most acute problems in the world, which is, in my opinion, what people do not understand each other. I guess I will go to foreign universities to lecture.

— You was awarded the Russian order of Friendship, which gave you Dmitry Medvedev

— Yes, it is. The same order, by the way, awarded and future U.S. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson. Don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed that I won the same awards, and future Minister in the administration of the trump…