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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 10:51 GMT
School Day 24: About Moscow-Tbilisi link-up
Composite image of scenes from Moscow and Tbilisi schools taking part

The BBC Russian Service hosted a live link-up between schoolchildren in Moscow and Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, on 6 December, 2006.

Click on the links to read more about the schools that took part.

Lycee 1535, Moscow, Russia

The surroundings that the some 400 children at Moscow state Lycee Number 1535 spend their time in are very pleasant compared to life in other, more outlying parts of the capital.

Lycee 1535, Moscow
The school was built in 1929 but was extended recently

The school itself, built in 1929, is close to the Sportivnaya (sports) metro station, so named because of the famous Luzhniki stadium - Moscow's biggest - close by. The area is dominated by five- and six-storey buildings built in the 1920s and 30s, with a few taller 1970s blocks thrown in.

One main thoroughfare cuts through the area, but apart from that it has a jumble of tree-lined back streets, little parks and the Moscow River not too far away.

The area has a rich historical heritage, mainly because of the famous Noviy Devichy monastery - one of Moscow's oldest and known for the large number of famous people buried in its cemetery.

The school itself was extended very recently. It is a specialised secondary school where several languages are taught - Hindi, Chinese and Japanese - so the children have a more than average interest in the world outside Russia.

As a lycee, it takes only secondary age children, in contrast to many of the bigger state schools in Moscow that start at primary level.

School Principal Mikhail Mokrinsky feels that the children are interested in other cultures and the school itself tries to promote tolerance.

He says about 10% of the children come from other regions, including those such as Karelia where earlier this year riots broke out between the local population and ethnic Chechens.

School 1, Tbilisi, Georgia

All major events of Georgian history have left their mark on this school.

It was founded more than 200 years ago as the first European-style school in the Caucasus. In the early 19th Century, Russians were in love with the German educational system - so when they came to the Caucasus this school became the first "gymnasium" there, a flagship of quality Russian education in the newly conquered provinces.

Students at Tbilisi school
Feelings in Georgia towards Russia are mixed

Many famous people have graduated from this school. A small museum struggles to accommodate all their portraits on the walls. Founders of Georgian art and science, prominent Russian theatre directors and even the first Ukrainian president all went to school here.

In Soviet times it was the school where all the children of the Communist Party bosses were sent. To send a child to this large building on the central avenue in the heart of the city was to be a part of the elite.

But everything changed after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Moscow and Tbilisi parted ways, and quite soon the civil war started in Georgia. Over several weeks of heavy gunfire and bombardment in 1991-1992 the school was burnt down completely. Other buildings nearby were in ruins.

Only in 1995 did it rise from the ashes with help from Moscow. The mayor of the Russian capital, Yuri Louzhkov, promised to rebuild the school as a present to fellow Georgians. And he did.

The school resembles a palace: glossy entrance, marbled staircases, ancient Greek style halls and large wooden classroom doors.

But the friendship was short-lived.

In 2003 the so-called "rose revolution" brought to power Mikhail Saakashvili who was disliked in Moscow for his pro-Western views.

The epicentre of the revolution, the parliament building, is next to the school - everything happened close to the school doors.

Map showing Moscow, Russia and Tbilisi, Georgia

Soon after the revolution Russia abruptly broke many ties with Georgia, and that included financial support for this school.

Famous alumni didn't abandon it though. There are new computer classes and a new library.

Feelings towards Russia are mixed. Russian is not widely spoken here any more. While in the Soviet Union it was the language of instruction now it is just one of optional foreign languages, along with English, Greek and Farsi.

Leila Tsikarishvili, headmaster at the school, explains that children don't remember Soviet times, they have never been to Russia and don't feel any connection. "I am from the Soviet generation," she says.

"And I can't imagine that my child can't read classic Russian writers in the original language. But I understand that times have changed. And Russian is lost for us. Now all our school programmes are aimed at quick and effective learning of English."

Recent events only added to this.

In October a spy scandal sparked a full-scale diplomatic row between Russia and Georgia. Relations between the two countries hit rock bottom. Moscow imposed financial sanctions, many Georgian-owned businesses were shut down in Russia and quite a few Georgians were sent back to Tbilisi.

This is what everybody is talking about in Georgia these days. And children are no exception.

"I want to ask those children in Moscow how they feel about Georgians being deported from Russia in cargo planes," a 16-year-old boy says very firmly.

And this is not what he's heard on TV. Two recently deported children study alongside him now in this school.

"Don't think that we're angry with Russia," says 77-year-old teacher Liana Shetsiuli.

"We remember all the good things they've done for us. But we remember all the bad things, too. And sometimes the bad things are difficult to forget."


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