Today I am talking to a native of Vientiane, Laos. His name is Oubkeo. He is a very interesting person. I met him on the bus. I asked his opinion about Russia.

– Russia or Russians? – he specified.

– Absolutely anything you want to share, the first thing that comes to mind.

– OK, but it will be a long story.


Oubkeo , Laos

Here is what Oubkeo told me:

When Oubkeo at 17 years old enrolled in high school, his teacher asked him to select a foreign language to learn. He had a choice of French, English and Russian languages. And Oubkeo chose the Russian language, because he liked the language, liked the Russian culture and, most importantly, Oubkeo really wanted to go to college in Russia, to study in Russia.

In those days there was a lot of support from the government of Laos, and especially from the Russian government for foreign students who wanted to study in Russia.

Oubkeo had very good chances of getting into college because he had a good command of the Russian language, read Russian literature, for example, the poet Pushkin. And it was not that easy, because for native Lao language speakers it is very difficult to learn an entirely new grammar.

Oubkeo showed me his knowledge of many Russian words and phrases, starting with the usual “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Thank you”, “Please.” Amazingly enough, he spoke almost without an accent!

Oubkeo read a lot on Russian history, he truly was interested in Russia, and he took his preparations seriously.

But then Perestroika came, the reign of Gorbachev. The assistance from the state declined sharply, and Oubkeo had to postpone his plans to study in Russia.

It was very frustrating because besides support programs for education of foreign students in Russia, Russian also funded programs of learning the Russian language in Laos. Teachers from Russia came to Laos to teach. And so many language schools in Laos got closed.

Now Oubkeo would be happy to speak Russian, but such opportunities are not often available to him. And he has to study English, although he likes Russian much more.

I told Oubkeo that now the situation has changed again, and there are many foreign students studying in Russia, but it is hard to say how many of them are getting financial assistance from Russia. Indeed, despite a lot of turmoil, the education system in Russia remains one of the best in the world (or is it the best?) – just take a look at the number and status of Russian college graduates in leading foreign companies and foreign institutions, especially specialists in such complex disciplines as physics , chemistry, IT and others. I would specifically focus on this parameter, and not on the rankings of universities based on publications, because if Russians received their higher education in Russia, but they continue research work abroad, for example, at Cambridge University, then their work will be not credited to their alma mater.

Let’s look again at our traditional chart. The Russian language and literature reinforce the column “Russian culture” and the Russian history named by Oubkeo reinforces the column “Country”:



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