PARIS, May 30. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin, accompanied by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, met with students of the Russian Spiritual and Cultural Center in Paris, the head of the Russian Classical Gymnasium, Yulia Rebinder, told TASS.
The two high-ranked guests met with students, who gave them their drawings as present. Putin and Hidalgo also took a photograph with the children.
During the visit, Putin was told about programs of various educational facilities, operating on the Center’s premises, including the Russian Classical Gymnasium, the educational center of the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute and other courses for children and adults. The Russian Spiritual and Cultural Center in Paris was opened on October 19 with an aim to boost the cultural dialogue between Russia and France.
The Russian leader was also told about the popularity of Russian language in the country. Currently, the Russian language is taught in over 400 colleges and lyceums in France. Universities in Paris, Bordeaux, Dijon, Lille, Lyon, Nice, Strasbourg and Toulouse also have courses of Russian in their program.
Putin also toured the Center’s exhibition of World War I relics. French historian and archeologist Pierre Malinowski told him about his excavations at sites of the battles that involved the Russian Expeditionary Force in France, created in 1916 after France requested that Russian troops be sent to fight alongside their own army on the Western Front. It was disbanded after the 1917 February revolution in Russia, but hundreds of its members continued to fight in France as volunteers.
"Russia’s actions on the Eastern front de-facto saved France, otherwise the Germans would have hammered us with all their might, and we would have lost the war," Malinowski. "Besides, the Russian Expeditionary Force was sent to the Western front in order to support our troops in the critical situation."
Russia and France lost some 3 million and 1.5 million soldiers respectively in the First World War. Several French cities, including the capital Paris, have memorials to Russian soldiers.