From Rus­sia with love of po­etry

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Pic­ture: Robert Perry

RUS­SIAN pupil Polina Berezanslia, 14, holds a copy of Robert Burns po­etry as she vis­its the bard’s home coun­try along with 15 of her fel­low stu­dents from St Peters­burg’s School 61.

The group are vis­it­ing Al­loway, Ed­in­burgh, Dum­bar­ton and La­nark to learn more about the poet. Yes­ter­day they at­tended a talk at the Robert Burns Cen­tre at Glas­gow Univer­sity.

HIS cher­ished songs and verses have spo­ken to the na­tion’s soul for more than two cen­turies.

But just as Scots con­sider Rab­bie Burns their na­tional poet, Rus­sians have long taken the Bard of Ayr­shire to their hearts and cel­e­brate the wit and words of their “peo­ple’s poet”.

And now the links be­tween fans in the two coun­tries have been reaf­firmed with the ar­rival of 16 teenage stu­dents on a trip fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Scot­land’s favourite word­smith.

The group, from St Peters­burg, are vis­it­ing Al­loway, Ed­in­burgh, Dum­bar­ton and La­nark to learn more about the poet whose work has ef­fort­lessly crossed both po­lit­i­cal and lin­guis­tic bor­ders.

Yes­ter­day they at­tended a talk at the Robert Burns Cen­tre at the Univer­sity of Glas­gow, with the trip or­gan­ised by the World Robert Burns Fed­er­a­tion.

Teacher Rita Zait­seva ex­plained: “The works of Robert Burns are very well known in Rus­sia and parts of his po­ems and lyrics ap­pear in songs in pop­u­lar films.

“All school­child­ren learn A Red, Red Rose, John Bar­l­ey­corn and other po­ems - the hu­mor­ous ones, the shorts ones, the long ones.”

She added: “Af­ter the revo­lu­tion he be­came even more pop­u­lar be­cause of his love of na­ture and his cel­e­bra­tion of the har­vest and the good­ness in the land.

“This chimed with some of the Soviet ideas about the peas­antry, and his works re­mained as pop­u­lar as be­fore.

“Robert Burns for us is not a per­son like a statue who peo­ple con­sider a god. He is a com­mon per­son, just like any one them.”

Burns po­ems be­came pop­u­lar in 19th-cen­tury Rus­sia, where lit­er­ary so­ci­ety took to their ro­man­tic ap­peal and Burns’ life story as a poet farmer.

But it also sur­vived the revo­lu­tion in 1917, with the Soviet au­thor­i­ties ap­prov­ing of Burns im­age as a son of the soil and his be­lief in the com­mon man.

Now his works are so in­grained in the Rus­sian psy­che his works have be­come a cul­tural touch­stone, just as they are in Scot­land.

And the pupils of School 61 even learn the verses in the orig­i­nal Scots to bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate the lan­guage of their idol.

Pupil Polina Berezanslia, 14, said: “The po­ems of Robert Burns speak to us even now and talk to us about our lives.

“Even though we have to study them for school it it some­thing we en­joy and that all pupils know about. Daniil

Ro­manyuk, 16, said: “Robert Burns po­etry is full of won­der­ful lan­guage and it is very beau­ti­ful.

“I play gui­tar and sing Ae Fond Kiss. It’s a beau­ti­ful song, very touch­ing. We re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate com­ing to Scot­land to learn more about his coun­try and where he was born.”

Dr Gerry Carruthers, co-di­rec­tor of the univer­sity’s Robert Burns Cen­tre, said: “Songs like A Man’s a Man, with its cri­tique of class, was also read­ily ap­pro­pri­ated by the Rus­sians.

“As well as be­ing the peo­ple’s poet, in some ways the Rus­sian Revo­lu­tion is quite sen­ti­men­tal about the peas­antry, so the whole thing trans­fers quite in­tact from pre-Soviet to postSoviet times.

“Many of th­ese songs are pretty di­rect in their egal­i­tar­ian sen­ti­ment, in their pref­er­ence for the poor, their ex­pres­sion of the sim­ple life and their cri­tique of lux­ury.

“There’s a whole set of por­ta­ble ideas there which are amenable to post-revo­lu­tion Rus­sia.”

Pic­ture: Robert Perry

From left: Polina Berezanslia, 14, Daniil Ro­manyuk, 16, Natalia Rozhkova, 13, Ilia Zorin, 14 and Lana Zhikhar, 14.

Pic­ture: Na­tional Gal­leries of Scot­land

Robert Burns by Alexan­der Nas­myth

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