Memphis, Meet Russia

Russian Cultural Center opens in South Main Arts District.

| February 02, 2012
The Russian Cultural Center is open on South Main Trolly Nights.
The Russian Cultural Center is open on South Main Trolly Nights.
- Andrew Caldwell

A new red, white, and blue flag waves over a storefront on South Main. But it's not the American flag.

The Russian Cultural Center (RCC) opened its doors at 509 South Main in mid-January, welcoming Memphians to learn about Russian culture. As part of the grand opening, Mayors A C Wharton and Mark Luttrell declared January 14th to be "Russian Federation Day."

"The city of Memphis wishes to strengthen our bonds with multicultural nations, such as the Russian Federation, and develop educational, scientific, cultural, and business relations with this country," Wharton wrote in his proclamation.

While the center aims to serve the local Russian and Russian-speaking population, RCC president Anna Terry said they encourage everyone to visit the center.

"The Russians have been here," Terry said, "but they haven't really had a face in Memphis. They tend to stick together, and we want them to interact with Memphians in a real way. We really want [RCC] to be more of a place where Americans can interact with Russians and vice versa, not a Russian club."

For Terry and the other founders, Memphis was an obvious choice for the new center.

"Everyone around the world loves [Memphis] culture, our food, and music," Terry said, "so we started bringing [Russian] students here in 2010 for business training programs. They just loved it. This is kind of the more real, gritty America, and a lot of Russians only know New York or maybe California. This is like the heart and soul of America."

Terry and the RCC are hoping to work with Memphians who want to travel or study in Russia and are currently working with the Russian Language Department at Rhodes College to connect students who want to study abroad with exchange programs.

"We want to [help produce] a more global economy here. We build relationships through culture, and that leads to doing business together. We want to help make Memphis a more multicultural city," Terry said.

The RCC plans to host educational events like Russian cooking classes, lectures, language courses, and biweekly Russian film screenings in their makeshift theater. There are also plans to hold craft and language courses geared toward children. Part of the RCC's efforts will focus on introducing Memphians to a more accurate image of the Russian people.

"Most people's perception of Russia and Russian culture is about 30 years outdated. There are a lot of stereotypes that need to be pulled apart," Terry said.

The RCC looked to the Russian Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., for much of their funding and the materials to renovate their South Main storefront, but they are still seeking donations through their website, newworldconnection.org.

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

It's great to see yet another center of Russian Language and Culture. My company Prime Language Services: http://www.PrimeLanguageServices.com has been teaching Russian live online via webcam as well as providing any kind of translation services for over a decade. I am happy to see that there is more and more interest to Russian.

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Posted by Tamara von Schmidt-Pauli on 02/02/2012 at 12:48 PM

The opening of Russian Cultural Center was criticized a lot among Russian- specking population of Memphis area. First of all almost nobody in Russian community new about the center opening ceremony. Another thing is that it does not do anything for Russian community of Memphis (e.g. not offering any ESL classes, any consulting, or children education programs). It has been open by people who knows nothing about Russia. They are from Uzbekistan which is Islamic country with totally different language and culture. This is ridiculous!!!

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Posted by Russian on 05/09/2012 at 11:54 AM

#Russian,

Your comment is very uneducated whatsoever... You must be from Russia, eh? Because "true, legit" Russians have no idea about Uzbekistan. It is islamic country but there are lot of Russian people left there from Soviet Union, back when it was "a part of Russia" so to speak. People like you piss me off, because Russians from Uzbekistan are no different from you, besides the fact that they probably know more about Russian culture as well as history than you are. Так что заткнись, придурок.

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Posted by Я on 10/01/2012 at 10:04 PM
Showing 1-3 of 3

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