Non-ordinary American in Perm

Thomas Dumstorf talks about relations between Perm and Louisville, love to the Russian language and American culture.

Mr. Dumstorf occupies the position of the Head of Twin Cities of Louisville-Perm Comittee. He’s a professor of Russian language. Also he acquaints his American students with Russian culture.

Thomas, in your opinion, what is the most peculiar feature of Perm and Louisville relations?

A mutual interest is the most important factor in our relations. The initiative comes from both sides in all spheres, be that culture or education. Perm Administration and the International Department are always ready to suggest new ideas. The only difficulty in our co-operative work is a limit of resources and a big distance. I’d fly to Perm more often if I had more time and financing. That kind of visits is useful for my students too. To be inside that environment, to speak Russian with native speakers is the best way to understand and study the language.

There was a time when both sides had financing for large exchange festivals and meetings. But now our university administration has a crisis and the budget is decreasing. We try hard to find interested people who are ready to help exchange students but it often doesn’t work.

Are any co-operative projects of Perm and Louisville being prepared?

Variants of interaction which do not require big costs and personal presence are being discussed. For example, exhibitions devoted to our relations. Our organization and Perm administration often consider an opportunity of co-operative festivals which are very hard to be organized. The flight from one city to the second one takes about 24 hours and we don’t include the time difference of 10 hours.

Why have you chosen to teach Russian language?

I started to learn Russian in 1984. In America, there was little info about the USSR. For our society Russia was the ‘Empire of Evil’ but I wanted to know the other side. Now I think I’m a part of the country. I guess the Russian people are interested in international relations more than the American ones. An ordinary American lives on his own ‘island’ and he has no plans of leaving it. We have people who haven’t ever leaved their own state and even city. It is too hard for Americans to study Russian culture because our radio doesn’t play Russian music and there are no Russian films on our national TV.

There’s no secret that the relations between Russia and America are tense. Will it negatively influence our cities’ friendship?

Policy changes annually but our relations don’t seem to be different. The idea of twin cities is created for making their citizens closer to each other. Maybe you have an opinion about world politics but disputes and disagreements are not about our friendship.

You often visit Perm. What attracts you in this city?

I cannot say I visit the city for the nature or great views because you know there are more exotic places to visit for that. I like relations between our cities, I have friends here and I feel myself needful. There’s an opportunity to make something significant.

Text: Ruslan Mavlikhanov

Photo: Western Kentucky Univercity