“I just say that”

In St. Petersburg, the former rector of St. Petersburg State University, Honorary President of the Russian Academy of Education Lyudmila Verbitskaya died at the age of 83. She personified an entire era of linguistics, being a vivid representative of the Leningrad phonological school. Her love for the Russian language was instilled in her by her grandmother, who, despite four classes of education, composed poems to distract her granddaughter from thoughts about food – Lyudmila Verbitskaya’s childhood passed in besieged Leningrad.

Even then, she impressed her friends with her ability to read poetry. Her reading was heard even by juvenile delinquents who surrounded her in a Lviv colony, where 13-year-old Luda was sent after the arrest of her father, secretary of the city executive committee Alexei Bubnov, who was repressed in the Leningrad case. As a teenager, she could make people listen to the beauty of the composition of the tongue, experience reverence for the true and the great.

She wanted to become a doctor, but the daughter of the enemy of the people was not allowed to do this. So Luda got to the philological faculty of Lviv University, from where she transferred to Leningrad State University – the university, which she eventually headed. She rose from the senior laboratory assistant to the rector with swift steps. After the sudden death of Stanislav Merkuryev, Lyudmila Verbitskaya was the first figure who was not appointed, but chosen. Breaking the foundations was not easy, but Verbitskaya became the woman who was put forward and chosen by almost only the men, of whom then the scientific council of St. Petersburg State University consisted.

Then, more than once, she managed to break the resistance of those who did not believe in her. She achieved all the titles and won all the awards. With her, two new faculties were opened at the university: international relations and medical. She was elected a full member of the Russian Academy of Education, co-chair of the Association of Classical Universities of the Russian Federation, vice-president of the UNESCO Commission on Women’s Education, president of the Russian Society of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature.

In 2002, she created an unusual reference dictionary for officials – “Let’s Speak Correctly.” This dictionary paid great attention to the correct placement of stresses. So, not very well-speaking officials could find out that in the word “agency” the emphasis should be placed on the second, not the first syllable, in the word “alcohol” – on the last, not the first. According to RAO President Yuri Zinchenko, Lyudmila Verbitskaya was the only person in the country who could afford to correct the speech of the head of state. Addressed her and Vladimir Putin.

“When I myself have difficulties, I turn to Lyudmila Alekseevna for a consultation,” the Russian leader said at a meeting of the State Council on improving the general education system in December 2015. – There were some cases when I called directly from the plane, there was some kind of event ahead, and my colleagues and I could not come to a common opinion: how to say it right – one way or another. Anything you ask Lyudmila Alekseevna, she knows everything right in that second.

Since February 18, 2008, Lyudmila Verbitskaya became president of St. Petersburg State University. Her way up reached the highest point in her youth, and since then Lyudmila Verbitskaya did not lower the bar, she did not lose the gained height. She always lived and spoke in high style. I hated obscene language. When asked whether she wrote her speeches in advance, Lyudmila Alekseevna answered: “No, I just say that.”