Russian history comes to New York

“Why is it important to study history?” Sergei Moroshkin askedof his Russian language class one afternoon. It was deceptively asimple question that every student in the class has heard beforeand had answered on multiple occasions. The responses were varied.One person stressed the pragmatic importance of acknowledging themistakes of the past in order to avoid them in the future. Anotherfocused on the impact of past events to current issues. One studentemphasized the inherent value of knowledge of the past and thewisdom that is unlocked by understanding it.

While all these answers were valid, one could argue that themost important reason to study history is that it is fundamentaland universally relevant to every person regardless of race, color,or creed. History lies at the root of human beings’ selfidentities. It is through teaching what we have learned and toendow others with knowledge, skills and experience. This allowseach successive generation to rise above the previous and add onthe collective pool of intellectual, cultural and spiritualresources of the species. Knowledge of the past and the ability tostudy history is at the very cornerstone of civilization.Therefore, any methods of learning more from the past or anyability that allows one to pass on knowledge more effectively tothe future generation is of vital importance as well.

Bearing this in mind it should come as no surprise thatlanguage, specifically written language, has been the primary toolto learn from the past generation and to teach the future ones. Itis for this reason that that one should visit the “Russia Engagesthe World” exhibit at the New York Public Library.

Russia’s involvement with international relations brought intoquestion numerous issues of religion, ethics, and politics that aredebated today by Russians and all those surrounding the empire.

The exhibit features over 230 items, many of which are beingshown for the first time, including books, manuscripts, and otherworks on paper that trace Russia’s development from the smallkingdom of Muscovy to a global empire.

Providing information from the reigns Ivan the Terrible throughAlexander I, the exhibit highlights Russia’s relationship withAsia, the Americas and other European countries. The exhibit alsodisplays detailed paintings and first hand texts that areimmeasurably important to the Russian identity.

In addition to the library’s main exhibit, a series of lectures,films, and symposiums will also given with similar themes of theshow.

“Russia Engages the World” can be seen at the New York PublicLibrary on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street through Jan. 31, 2004. Formore information, visit http://russia.nypl.org.