Ambassador Aleksei Erkhov’s interview for Ankara-based Diplomatic Student Community
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Turkey Aleksei Erkhov answered the questions of Diplomatic Student Community «Unreal Hegemony Research Organization» concerning knowledge and skills needed to succeed in diplomatic service.
Can you tell us something about university years, sir? How were your days when you were a student?
Mr. Erkhov: University years are always joyful and funny though I didn’t realise it at that time. When you are young your life is always a joy although it was rather hard to carry the burden of everyday lessons. I was a student at the famous Moscow MGIMO University. At that time we were studying 6 days from Monday to Saturday starting at 8:30 am and terminating at 4:30 pm and sometimes even later. We had two series of exams per year with the tests being quiet tough.
I am proud to have graduated with honors. All the marks were excellent exept for one – I failed to learn the 19th century European philosophy. By the way my daughter who is also now a student at MGIMO when passing an exam to the same professor reminded her that many years ago she had a student who is now Ambasador of Russia to Turkey and regretted very much that University lessons had failed to teach him think. And her answer was: “Well I hope now he is at last capable of some serious reflection”.
As you know, foreign languages are very important for diplomatic career. Students who study international relations have confusion on this subject. We have very important question: “Which language should I learn?” What do you think about it?
Mr. Erkhov: I presume that knowing foreign languages is important not only for diplomatic career. Having a good command of foreign languages you can easily express yourself, listen and understand people of other nations. So, the answer is you should learn as many languages as you can. The languages I learnt are English, Arabic and French. And I must say there were periods of my life when I really needed them very very much. Unfortunately, I failed to learn Turkish. Maybe the grammar is rather difficult, or probably I am too old and lazy although I understand some words.
Sir, what do you think are good and bad aspects of being a diplomat?
Mr. Erkhov: If we speak about good aspects many banalities come to mind. You travel a lot, you meet interesting people, sometimes even witness historic events. I am indeed very happy to have worked together with such people like Prime Minister E.Primakov and Minister S.Lavrov, to have met Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Mubarak, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah, King Hassan II etc. Some of them really impressed me.
If you speak of bad things they are closely related to good ones. First and foremost, I can say you are not a master of your time. You have to obey severe rules of behavior which we call protocol. Of course, you have to strictly control your emotions.
In the diplomatic career, mostly you need to stay abroad. That's very hard, I guess. How can you handle this?
Mr. Erkhov: You cannot. Take it or leave it. It’s quiet a problem. I cannot see my mother who is living in Moscow as often as I would like to. She is 91. That concerns also my other relatives and friends, for example my daughter Mary. She refused to come here with us once again. She says she had enough of “golden cage life”.
As the last question of our interview, what do you think someone who wants to become a diplomat in the future should prepare her/himself for first?
Mr. Erkhov: First of all, learn languages, the more the better. Another essential thing – you should read a lot. Reading broadens the mind and helps you to become smart and intelligent. Focus on history and culture of your country and the others you are going to serve in. And, of course, read and learn more about international relations. You will definitely need it. I hope these humble recommendations will help those of you who will choose the career of a diplomat and I wish success and all the best to all of you!