Music of True Love
Yuliya Rutskaya, a famous singer in Kyrgyzstan and beyond, known for her talent and sincere love of her country and its people, is also an alumna of the American University of Central Asia. Yulia was nice enough to stop by AUCA after she returned from a performance in Minsk.
Yulia, how long has it been since you last visited AUCA?
It has been about a year. There is something very special about this place, because every time I visit, I see smiling, friendly faces. AUCA creates a certain atmosphere and spirit. I studied at another university in Bishkek, and I saw clear differences between its approach to life, knowledge, and education, and AUCA’s. AUCA’s high standards of academic honesty made it hard for me to accept some of the practices of the other university, and I decided to leave.
Please tell us about your academic and career choices, which seem so unusual. You are an ICP graduate, right?
Yes, I graduated from AUCA in 2002 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations (IR, now International and Comparative Politics). I grew up in a family of diplomats, and in my early years I was surrounded by intelligent people and interesting guests who discussed politics, international relations, and history. I remember wanting to be like them and promote peace around the world. At the age of 13 I decided to study politics.
I graduated from high school, went on an exchange program to Denmark, and upon my return had a choice to either study at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations or AUCA. I decided to stay in Bishkek and enroll in the IR program at AUCA.
And what about singing?
I graduated from the Music School, and when I was a freshman here, I was fortunate to meet the person who would influence the rest of my life. Muhtarov Husein Muhtarovich is an Honored Artist of the Soviet Union, professional singer, and the perfect teacher. He was passing by the classroom where I was practicing a song for Initiation with three other girls. We wanted to create a girls’ version of the Backstreet Boys, a very popular band at that time. He heard me singing and suggested that I attend his vocal classes. I agreed, and what started out as a hobby or extra-curricular activity became the beginning of my singing career. By the end of my first year at AUCA I already had fans among our faculty and students. I started to participate in various contests, first as an amateur, then as a professional.
What does it take to be a professional singer?
I always prefer to sing live and it is a requirement in any international contest or show. Many of our local singers do not follow this principle and prefer to use prepared studio versions of their songs. But in order to be a professional, one should be ready to sing live at any time, which requires hard work, of course. Another important thing is that I never sing in a language I do not understand. I refuse to merely memorize words. I do not want to be dishonest with my audience.
How many languages do you know?
I speak and sing in Kyrgyz, Russian, Turkish, Spanish, English and Belorussian. Very often, people are surprised to find out that I sing in Kyrgyz. Once, I heard a song in Kyrgyz and loved it so much that I had to sing it. I did everything possible to find the author and ask for his permission to perform the song. Furthermore, I genuinely love Kyrgyzstan, and I consider it an honor to represent my country internationally.
Recently, I returned from a music festival in Italy where I received an award. I was the first to sing at the concert. Usually it is very difficult to open a show. However, I decided to sing a Kyrgyz song and sing from the heart. At the end of the festival, I was stunned to hear my name announced as one of the winners. A jury member from France, Anne-Marie David, said that even though she did not understand a single word, she enjoyed the song immensely and decided to give me the award.
That’s great! Congratulations! Going back to your time at AUCA – how did you do?
It was not easy, but I managed to finish my academic tasks by myself and on time. My professors did not display any preferential treatment toward me. In fact, very often, I had to prove to them that I knew the subject.
For a long time after graduation, I was combining my professional singing career with a job in my field. I worked as an international relations specialist in places such as the Embassy of Belarus in Kyrgyzstan, DFID, TV and radio. I was even a member of a political party, and, a few years ago, I became a Goodwill Ambassador against HIV in Kyrgyzstan. Combining two careers is always challenging, but to be honest, I enjoy it because it suits my inner being and my character. I demand a lot of myself.
What do you do in your free time, if you have any?
I like photography, and plan to attend a seminar to gain some professional skills. Also, I enjoy traveling and exploring new countries and cultures. I find great inspiration in listening to other country’s folk music. Now, for example, I have a CD with modern Georgian national music, and I listen to it for hours on end.
Yuliya, what is happiness to you?
Happiness is when you do not ponder whether you are happy or not. Of course, it includes the wellbeing of your family and those close to you. Finally, happiness is enjoying the work you do and having the freedom to make your own choices.
What is the most precious piece of wisdom ever given to you?
Nothing in life is accidental. Any event that occurs, any person that you meet, has a purpose. Every encounter carries a lesson, and our task is to learn what those lessons are.
Who are the people who have influenced your life the most?
My mother and father, Husein Muhtarovich, and the professors at AUCA have had the biggest impact on me. Looking back, I understand the importance of the education that I received at AUCA. Usually, the career of a singer suggests a very narrow path, but I have had an opportunity to fully realize my potential as a singer, and apply my skills in other fields. I am very thankful for that.
Earlier you mentioned that you had a choice between Moscow State Institute and AUCA. If you had the chance, would you change your mind and study in Moscow?
No! I have never regretted my choice and I would not change anything. I am never ashamed to say that I am an AUCA graduate, and will always be thankful to my alma mater.
What do you think the role of AUCA alumni in the local and international community is?
There is something different about AUCA alumni. We are special in that we carry on the principles and attitudes we received here in our lives, and in society. I think it is very important for us to be united and to combine our strengths in order to change this world for the better. Many of my close friends are AUCA graduates, and at this dramatic stage of our country’s history, I believe we can do much to help.
By Aliona Kim