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The Bulgarian-Russian relations are going through a renaissance.

The director of the Russian Cultural and Information Center and the head of the Russians' Rossotrudnichestvo Office in Bulgaria, Mr. Pavel Vladimirovich Zhuravlev, is well-known to the public and the media in Bulgaria. Taking over the important positions for the Bulgarian-Russian relations in November 2016, he completed his mandate in Sofia in the beginning of November 2018. During his stay in Bulgaria, Zhuravlev added to his respectful professional biography in the field of the media the work with the youth, with the fellow countrymen abroad etc.; as well as two years devoted to the cultural diplomacy and humanitarian cooperation between our countries. Otherwise, the 49-year-old diplomat is always a smiling and friendly interlocutor. Before leaving Bulgaria, he said that the Bulgarian-Russian relations are currently going through a renaissance.

- Mr. Zhuravlev, how did you feel in Bulgaria among Bulgarians who are connected with the Russian people through centuries of historical, religious and human ties?

- During the whole time, while I was working in Bulgaria, I felt very comfortable. We have established constructive business and creative contacts with our Bulgarian partners and have been able to do a great deal together.

The common historical roots, the true Bulgarian-Russian friendship are very bright. I liked the country very much and I liked its people too. And the historical events in which we were fortunate to take part in together - I am thinking of the events dedicated to the 140th anniversary of the Liberation of Bulgaria and all the national holidays and other important events. These of course will remain with me for a lifetime and I will keep it in my heart.

- Tell us more about the renaissance of the Bulgarian-Russian relations. Where can we see its results?

- Yes, you rightly note that we have recently used the term "renaissance" in Russian-Bulgarian relations and we are not talking about it by accident. It is well known that over the past 25 years, our shared history has gone through various stages that have often not favored friendship and mutual understanding, but to date the sphere of cultural and humanitarian relations, cultural and public diplomacy is undoubtedly on the rise.

It is quite obvious that in recent times there has been activation in these areas. I mean the renewed and very high interest in studying Russian language, Russian and Soviet culture, literature, contemporary Russian cinema - not only among the older generation and middle-aged generation but also among young people too. And if we develop this topic, the obvious confirmation of the revival of mutual interest is that every year there is a growing number of young Bulgarians who choose to receive Russian education.

Intensive contacts have taken place lately at the highest level: both at government and at presidential levels. I think this is a good sign. Here is a news of the last days - the meeting of the Intergovernmental Russian-Bulgarian Commission for Economic and Scientific and Technological Cooperation passed very effectively and efficiently under the co-chairmen: Minister of Industry and Trade of Russia - Denis Manturov and the Minister of Energy of Bulgaria Temenuzhka Petkova. As far as I know, serious issues have been discussed, including such in the sphere of the economy and industry, of interaction towards establishment of an Association of Chambers of Commerce and Entrepreneurs.

All this confirms the Renaissance in our relations we are talking about. Of course, there are certain limitations that deter this movement, but I think we see a very clear positive dynamics in this issue recently. And of course, our work on the vector of cultural and humanitarian cooperation, supported by the development of economic and political relations, complements the full model of cooperation.

- What were the highlights you put in the framework of the cultural and humanitarian diplomacy of the RCIC in Bulgaria in the last two years?

- As I said, first of all, we are very enthusiastic about promoting Russian education in Bulgaria: both in higher education and in general and special education. If we are talking about our priorities, we devote a great deal of attention to youth programs in different directions today. We are talking about the "New Generation" program developed by Rossotrudnichestvo, and those projects in which our Bulgarian friends have been able to take part. These are events related to scientific, technical, educational and innovative cooperation. Over the past two years, the interest of Russian and Bulgarian authorities in joint projects has increased: agreements have been signed, joint educational programs have been formed, and so on.

A striking example of scientific and technical cooperation in the youth field was the International Festival of Children and Youth Scientific and Technical Creativity  From the Screw held in 2018, which we realized together with our Bulgarian partners. It was especially important that for this event the Aviation and Space Forum (ACF) Bulgaria was by our side. The festival went through with great success and we will make sure to develop this promising format of international youth cooperation.

We can not forget to mention our project Open Art Scene at Shipka, within which we created a repertory theater at the Regional Cultural Center. Every month, 15-20 theatrical productions are presented based on works by Russian, Soviet and Bulgarian authors. And most importantly, the project includes Bulgarian creative teams, Bulgarian regional theaters, which prepare special performances for it. Of course, the Russian chamber theater also works within the project.

It is important that we are not the only ones who are the organizers and initiators of these events, we rely on the fact that any cooperation in the cultural and humanitarian sphere shall be bilateral, there shall be interest from both the Russian and the Bulgarian side, then there is very good potential.

- 140 years have passed since Bulgaria's liberation from Turkish domination with the help of Russia. How did the RCIC take part in celebrating this anniversary?

- First of all, we have been in close partnership with the National Committee to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the Bulgarian Liberation from the Ottoman yoke. We took part in all major events: both in Pleven and Shipka and in many other cities during the whole anniversary year. But I would also like to say that we have been able to initiate and support the creation of three Russian documentary TV projects devoted to the events related to the Liberation of Bulgaria. I think that in the near future, both in Russia and Bulgaria, viewers will be able to see these documentary tapes that we have created together with the Public Opinion film production company, the television company Pleyada and the Russian Military-Historical Society. We think this is also very important because it will attract the attention of hundreds of thousands of people who will be able to learn about the tragedy of the Bulgarian people and about the heroism that helped in the fight for freedom.

- And what do the the RCIC's programs offer to its Russian compatriots?

- The support program for our compatriots, run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, is excellent. In line with this program, there are events that we support. Part of them are funded. The Diaspora of the Russian compatriots in Bulgaria is quite large and active. The Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots, which brings together the largest organizations of compatriots and the Union of Compatriots, works very dynamically and constructively. These organizations are headed by Mrs. Marina Dadikosyan. And that's what we've been able to do lately: we've built a new approach for funding the compatriot programs. This year, a competitive proposal system was introduced in which every compatriots’ organization, whether small or large, can submit a project; a specially created working group assess every project and a support decision is taken. So we strive for the inclusion and support of compatriots' initiatives to be formed first on the basis of real proposals, and second, on the fact that these are the best proposals to date in terms of the diaspora's work, from the point of view of the work of our compatriots in interaction with the Bulgarian organizations. And of course, there is also the topic of attracting attention to the implementation of the programs for young compatriots.

- There is an increasing interest in Russian language and culture among the young Bulgarians. What are the reasons behind that interest and what does the RCIC do to respond to this useful for the bilateral relations tendency?

- We organize Russian language courses on the territory of the center. I can say that there is an unprecedented search for this language service. With us, in the RCIC, there are no premises for new Russian language courses, that's true. That is why we are forced by the needs and demands of our Bulgarian friends, partners, users of this linguistic service to go forward and create an effective framework for wider presentation of the Russian language on the territory of Bulgaria through the so-called "start-up linguistic programs", which will soon be operating in different regions of Bulgaria. And one more thing - this is a maximum realization of the needs of the Bulgarian youth for the opportunity to study in Russia both paid and free of charge through the Russia.Study Program. This year, the quota established for Bulgaria is 220 people, and in the competition compete, for example, 2 - 2.5 young people for a place.

And as I said, we naturally support educational initiatives, scientific and technical initiatives created through the interaction of scientific teams, public organizations and, of course, in the youth field. This is one of the key priorities of the Rossotrudnichestvo at the moment.

- There are Bulgarian youths who want to study in Russia. What are the possibilities for them?

- Russian education is undoubtedly one of the best in the world and today is practically recognized by a majority of countries both in Europe and the world. The Russia.Study Program creates the unique opportunity to get free high-level education at the expense of the Russian Federation's budget in over 500 in 600 different specialties. A big plus is that this education can be converted, that is, it can be obtained at different levels - starting with a bachelor's degree, and completing with a master's degree, a specialty, a doctorate - according to the demand of the young labor market specialists. The Russia.Study Program enables young people to choose a competitive education degree that will then enable them to become effective as young professionals and beyond. And of course, we, and the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Bulgaria, interact with the young people who study in Russia on all educational and domestic issues, and I can say that we receive positive feedback from the students about it.

- Finally, I’d like to ask you what are you taking from Bulgaria to Russia as memories?

- Of course, all the friendly connections I have made here with a very large number of people will remain with me forever. These are wonderful people, thanks to whom I could understand what the true Bulgarianness means, as well as the specifics of the country. I have already said that the time spent in Bulgaria has left only the most pleasant memories in me and a very useful experience that I hope will be useful for further work. And if we speak quite frankly, such trips allow you to get acquainted with the culture of the people, with the peculiarities of everyday life, with the interesting pages of history. Not the tourist ones, but those that are true and sacred to the Bulgarian people. And of course, I will take the memories of the very delicious and interesting Bulgarian cuisine. As well as those of the remarkable wonderful places that exist all over Bulgaria: the mountains, the forests, the wonderful waterfalls, the sea coast, the mountain ski resorts, the eco-paths, and much of what the ordinary tourist may not be able to see and learn. Of course, to all my friends I will recommend to come to Bulgaria because it is a unique country where unique people live. And because in it for the Russians, despite our closeness, there are still many "secrets" and unknown things that one could learn and even love.

- What would you like to say to your successor to the posts in Bulgaria?

- Perhaps I would suggest him to be faithful to those traditions and approaches that we have put in place, and to those that have been set before us. We know that the Russian Cultural and Information Center is a special place, a favorite place, and I think that during the period of my activity we have strengthened the interest towards it and increased its attractiveness for both the Bulgarian population and the Russian-speaking Diaspora. Of course, I would like this cooperation to continue to evolve, to develop new projects in order to have more interaction, work to be built up in a reciprocal format so that what we do can reflect the nature of our understanding, that our bilateral relations are natural, that the cultural contacts between us are natural, that it reflects the necessity of what is being done on the vector of the cultural and humanitarian cooperation in the sense of the Russian-Bulgarian relations, and, of course, I will wish him a path of development and bright events.

The material was provided by "Standart" newspaper.