11.03.2024 Author: Vanessa Sevidova

World Youth Festival 2024 in Sochi as a platform to strengthen Russian-Arab cooperation

World Youth Festival 2024 in Sochi as a platform to strengthen Russian-Arab cooperation

With the World Youth Festival 2024 (WYF) having come to an end, thousands of foreigners are on their way home – or to visit one of Russia’s many regions within the scope of the regional programme, organised specifically to show foreigners how vast and different Russia is – after an exciting and eventful week in Sochi. Participants from more than 180 countries were represented at the Festival and the Arab world was no exception; hundreds of guests and participants from all countries of the Arab world were represented at the Festival at various levels, ranging from official delegations at the ministerial level to students, media and experts from various fields. The federal territory ‘Sirius’, created by president Vladimir Putin in 2020 to develop the area’s Olympic heritage from the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and where the Festival took place, was transformed into a special mini-town for the duration of the Festival, boasting numerous, grand locations in which over 800 events took place during the Festival.

Russia has traditionally, since Soviet times, hosted and continues to host thousands of foreign students and has produced many highly qualified experts in a number of fields, many of whom choose to stay in Russia. The quota for foreigners to receive their education in leading Russian universities free of charge continues to grow as more and more countries take interest in bettering bilateral relations with Russia, and it has been stably rising by some thousand spots annually in the past few years. The meeting ‘100 Countries of the World Talk About Education in Russia’ brought together leaders of student unions from various countries and universities to discuss the opportunities Russian education has to offer foreigners and how exactly it is to be a foreigner living and studying in Russia. The meeting’s audience was packed full of people from all corners of the world, listening intently, asking a myriad of questions and, perhaps, planning their future education in Russia. Amongst the speakers at this session were Azeyani Mohamed K. A., President of the Association of Arab Students, and Akil Mohammed, Deputy Head of the Russia-BRICS International Youth Cooperation Office.

Speakers from the Middle East region also participated in a number of other events; the lecture ‘Where did the bear go? Modern image of Russia in the multipolar world’ brought together international journalists, political scientists, teachers and opinion leaders from various countries, including Russia, Syria, Iran, USA, Italy and Germany, to discuss the attempts to damage Russia’s image internationally and the reasons for the failure to isolate Russia. Amongst the speakers were Waddah al-Jundi, Director of the Centre for Russian-Arab Cultural and Business Cooperation, Musallam Shaito, Director of the Russian-Arab Cultural Centre in St Petersburg, and Naovaf Ibrahim, International Projects Manager of ‘Sputnik Russia Today’.

During the discussion session ‘International Journalism in Hot Spots’, expert war correspondents shared their experience from the working in the field. Maxim al-Turi, RT Arabic Correspondent, sparked interest and whispers in the eager audience as he reflected upon his difficult sphere, having worked in Syria, Nagornyi Karabakh and the Donbass.

The session ‘Arab League Countries and Russia: New Business Opportunities in a Multipolar World and Integration Processes’ saw a conference room jam-packed with youth representatives and experts, alternating between a lecture format and a lively back-and-forth between speakers and audience members (that eventually even ran overtime). During this session a range of topics were brought up for discussion, including in the spheres of politics, business, economics, culture and education. More specifically, strengthening regional security, opportunities for increasing bilateral economic cooperation and trade growth, child safety on the internet and fighting harmful fake news, increased scientific cooperation and the important role of Russian-Arab partnership in the establishment of a multipolar world order were discussed. Towards the end of the session a guest in the audience expressed the importance of learning each other’s languages, i.e. Russian and Arabic, for a deeper and warmer understanding of each other, proposing to open more language schools to focus on this topic. This elicited an explosive reaction from the audience; many stood up from their chairs, cheering and crying out in support of deepening ties between Russia and the Arab world, making for a touching conclusion of the session.

Much attention at the Festival was paid to cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence, a sphere in which Russia excels and is a world leader. Participants of the Festival from the Arab world showed great interest in expanding cooperation in this field. ‘Znanie. Russia Exhibition’ (showing Russian achievements in developing computer systems, artificial intelligence, space exploration and production), ‘TERMINAL T’ (a presentation of achievements and technological innovations in the nuclear sphere, organised by Rosatom), ‘INTERNATIONAL HUB’ (exhibition to familiarise guests with innovative Russian projects related to information technologies and artificial intelligence, organised by Sinara Group) and others were all popular destinations to visit for Arab guests of the Festival. Foreign guests, particularly from the Gulf region, where FinTech is rapidly developing, were notably impressed with Russian FinTech, which was represented by Sberbank and the Bank of Russia amongst others.

As President Vladimir Putin reminded during his speech at the closing ceremony of the Festival on the 6th of March, Russia is a multicultural and multi-ethnic state that respects and welcomes those who come in good faith, which is what makes Russia attractive to foreigners who share the same values and reject racism and old colonial-era tropes. A wonderful example of the humanity shared at the Festival was the march – one of many – of the Syrian delegation, during which cultural dances and songs were performed in traditional attire. It was not long before bystanders joined in the celebration, laughing amongst themselves and enjoying the atmosphere of the Festival.

The World Youth Festival 2024, held from the 1st–6th of March on the federal territory ‘Sirius’ in Sochi, was a booming success. Foreigners from all over the world not only got to enjoy the rich and diverse programme of the Festival, but also saw Russia through their own eyes – many for the first time. WYF has served as a platform to connect thousands of young people and experts, particularly from the Arab world, which was well represented at the Festival.


Vanessa Sevidova, intern at the Institute of International Studies of the MGIMO MFA of Russia, volunteer of the Festival, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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