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Putin’s pet geographical project going places, including Antarctica

Geographical dictation has been conducted by the Russian Geographical Society at the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin annually since 2015 (Images courtesy: Ministry of Defence, Russia)

These days, several thousand Russian military personnel are busy preparing for an exercise — though not the standard military one they are so used to participating in, day in and day out.

The members of the special forces and troops of military units are getting ready for the annual 'Geographical Dictation' event which is going to take place next month.

On Thursday, servicemen of the Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan took part in a 45-minute dictation test which acts as a precursor to the main stage scheduled to be held on November 14, this year.  

Officers, warrant officers, sergeants, contractual workers, civilian personnel, members of the officers' families and representatives of youth organisation Yunarmiya (Young Army All-Russian Military National Movement) answered questions on knowledge of well-known facts from geography, as well as tasks requiring the use of creative thinking and logic.  

Geographical dictation has been conducted by the Russian Geographical Society at the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin annually since 2015.

Preservation of the natural, historical, and cultural heritage of Russia is something that Putin has been taking a special interest in for the last many years as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Geographical Society.

Putin has been urging the organisation based in Saint Petersburg to make its events interesting so that they bring together a large number of people of all ages, professions, hobbies, especially those who "sincerely love Russia" and are interested in its history and distinctive traditions.

"We had a good practice in the ancestral period, when we gathered during the holidays, usually in the summer, somewhere in the field of events that were held with your support by the Russian Geographical Society," the Russian President recalled during a board meeting of the Society, earlier this year.


The rising popularity of Geographical Dictation 

Over the last six years, nearly 1.8 million people have taken part in the Geographical Dictation project where participants anonymously answer questions about the geography of Russia.

It aims to popularise geographical knowledge, as well as to increase interest in science and national heritage.

The action became international in 2017 when the dictation was written in 25 countries around the world.

In 2020, the number of participating countries, including Russia, reached 110. The action took place on all continents except Antarctica, and even in space – on the International Space Station with Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev sending his greetings from orbit.

This year, Progress and Mirny – the two Russian research stations in Antarctica – have also been registered as participants for the educational action on November 14.

As lakhs wrote dictation at the venues or checked their knowledge online, the event has also grown in popularity outside Russia, including in China, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan over the past few years.

According to the organisers, the dictation includes 25 test items that are divided into three blocks. The first consists of assignments for knowledge of geographical concepts and terms; the second aims at testing knowledge about the location of geographical objects on the map and the third part is about the knowledge of geographical descriptions.

Russian Military

"One of the main principles of the action is anonymity. People cannot write their names on the forms of tasks and answers. Participants are asked to write only age, occupation, attitude to geography (for example, a student or teacher of a specialized university) and some other information. This information is necessary in order to evaluate and analyse the level of geographical knowledge of the inhabitants of Russia," says the Society.

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