Joining the program is Professor Lucio Giuliodori who has been teaching Italian and lecturing in aesthetics for 8 years in Russia.
To the first question of whether Russians really understand Italy, Lucio points out that Russians have quite an idealistic picture about Italy, "their judgement is biased, because they look at it like a heaven, like a paradise, but in fact it's not. That's why we escape from it, and they can't understand that. So many of them ask me why you came here, or even why you left Italy, because in their perception it's somewhere you can't leave. Some people say that they like Italy so much, but at the same time they say that they have never been abroad…"
Host John Harrison asks where the stereotypes that Russians have about Italy come from. Lucio says: "One of the reasons for the stereotypes reasons could be that during Soviet times, you couldn't listen to much Italian music, but somehow some Italian songs managed to come here, and, they really liked them, and as we know, if something is forbidden, it becomes much more interesting. They connected this music with Italy that sound, that harmony, it represented something they really liked; some happiness, some good vibes, and they associated this with the country that they had in their minds. They couldn't go there, so that's why I think that they idealized it, even more. They liked the language, food, and all the things that foreigners like." The stereotypes worked in two directions. "For Italians, the further the place is, the more they idealized it…"
Lucio finds it amazing that today the same old stereotypes are used. "They are still stuck with those same old singers, Toto Cutugno and Adriano Celentano, which actually we loathe…" Lucio sees the same sort of thing happening with cinema, and describes the sort of Italian cinema that Russians like as being: 'trash cinema.'
Be this as it may, Italy is still a world center for Art. "So when you wander round the cities, you are surrounded by art, by sculptures. Of course we are used to it, so we don't even pay attention to it….But I can understand foreigners when they go there; it's a kind of cultural shock. So visiting Italy increases their idealistic perception. But as I always say, it is one thing to go on holiday to Italy and it is another living there….We have got so many problems, especially now, lots of people are not even moving, but escaping. Most of my friends live abroad. The problems are unemployment, corruption at all levels, very bad politics…"
Lucio talks about his experience teaching Italian. "Italian is difficult, but the demand for Italian is very high. People think that it is easy but step by step as they approach the language they realize that it is not as easy as they thought. The grammar is very difficult, of course if you like it you can learn it, and it is not Chinese of course….Russians manage to learn it in the end; pronunciation is not difficult for them because the sounds are quite similar to Russian."
Clearly, perceptions are closely linked to stereotypes, and the only way to dispel false perceptions is to travel to the country concerned. Benvenuti in Italia!
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