HUI, XII, 2021, 163-198

Historia Universitatis Iassiensis 12, 163–198

Iana Balan | Foreign students in the USSR. Formative experiences in the Soviet space of Professor Ariton Vraciu

Abstract. The academic school from Iași has many personalities in multiple fields, who either trained in Iași or have achieved an exceptional academic career here. The Faculty of Letters has many outstanding professors at international and national level. They have asserted themselves through the numerous individual and collective volumes, but also through the training of teachers for preuniversity, university, and of researchers in the philological field. Among the outstanding members of the Faculty of Letters is Ariton Vraciu, well-known philologist, slavist, polyglot and linguist with an exceptional activity in phonetics and phonology, lexicology, morphology and syntax, ethnology or general and comparative linguistics. Ariton Vraciu followed the first stages of its formation in Romanian educational institutions, then, after graduating from high school, he was admitted to the University of Leningrad. Given the historical and political context, he was "assigned" to Geology, then, proving his ability for foreign languages, he was allowed to move to Philology. Here he learned Russian and other foreign languages and after five years of study (1950-1955) he was fluent in Russian, Bulgarian, Polish, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak, Serbian and Croatian. In addition to these Slavic languages, Ariton Vraciu was a good connoisseur of the classical languages (Greek and Latin), of other ancient languages (Paleo-Slavic and Sanskrit) and other foreign languages (French, German, English and Italian). Admission to studies in the USSR was a centralized procedure, given the historical and political context, but it was an objective one from the point of view of the outstanding results during school. Foreign students in the USSR had a special status, but studied according to curricula, similar to the Soviets. The Soviet education system had a number of advantages and disadvantages. It was a completely ideological one, but it was a good one, the graduates were appreciated as well-trained. Ariton Vraciu was an exceptional student with very good results and graduated from the faculty as the top of his class. In Leningrad, he managed to base his vast knowledge in the field of philology and linguistics, which were later used and developed in his teaching and scientific activity. At the same time, the diversity of the courses later helped him to be a remarkable linguist and polyglot, to substantiate and theorize several courses that he taught at the University of Iași. Also, despite ideological subjects specific to the time and regime, we must not deny the advantages of the knowledge gained in Leningrad and the advantages of the Soviet school, which had a high academic reputation. Ariton Vraciu returned to Romania in 1955 and from the academic year 1955/1956 he was employed at the University of Iași. This was followed by a teaching and research career that spanned several decades. He also followed a period of training and specialization in Sofia, where he defended his doctoral thesis. The teacher distinguished himself with interesting, diversified, theoretical and well-structured studies and courses. He initiated new research directions and opened other perspectives on issues related to Romanian language research. Professor Ariton Vraciu was a prominent figure in the Faculty of Letters of the University of Iași. With a rich activity, with new approaches and methodologies, Ariton Vraciu left behind many papers. He was not only a teacher, but he also distinguished himself by his very rich administrative, scientific and research activity. This approach shows only a part of the life and activity of Professor Ariton Vraciu. Even if here are exposed many details, there are still a series of questions regarding the training and activity of Ariton Vraciu: How did the training course in Sofia take place? What were Professor Vraciu's connections with the academic environment abroad? Seemingly trivial questions, but possible answers could clarify his special personality.