HELSINKI, August 16 (Itar-Tass) — Finnish President Sauli Niiniste takes lessons of the Russian language every day, regarding the knowledge of Russian as “a matter of politeness”. He said this in an interview with the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, admitting that he took up studying Russian about as many times as he tried to give up smoking.
Journalists immediately tried to check on the president’s command of Russian, asking him in Russian about the progress in his studies. The president recognized that Russian was spoken but could not so far sustain a prolonged conversation.
Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, Sauli Niiniste, naturally, preferred relying on the services of interpreters in the official part, while the two presidents spoke English in informal conversation
At his first press conference as president-elect in February 2012, Niiniste said a few words in Russian when asked by itar-Tass about relations with Russia.
Niiniste’s predecessor in the presidential post Tarja Halonen studied Russian, too, believing that it was important to speak the languages of neighbor countries.
The Russian language becomes more required in Finland, particularly in the spheres of services and foreign trade. Specialists with the command of Russian find it easier to land jobs.
Nevertheless, the regional newspaper Karjalainen, making a reference to state secretary of the Education Ministry Tapio Kosunen, reported that the request to the government by six provinces in eastern Finland in 2011 for a five-year project to replace the Swedish language as the compulsory language in local schools with the Russian language would, most probably, be turned down.