RUSSIA: Student day marked with touch of glamour

In a country where political correctness has made barely the tiniest impression on culture and society, Russia celebrated its annual student's day last month with a competition designed to prove that beauty and brains are natural partners.

A group of 27 glamorous young female students battled it out in Moscow's Miss Student 2009 contest, appearing on stage in a lavish spectacle in front of an audience of 3,000 at the capital's Luzhniki stadium. Their talents and looks were pitted in five categories: dancing, sports, national dress, historical costumes and a 'parade of trades'.

Organised by the Moscow city public relations department and city and regional universities, it was the seventh annual contest. Olga Starodumova, a Moscow State University of Civil Engineering second year engineering-architectural student, wowed the judges at a competition timed to coincide with Tatiana Day on January 25 - named after Saint Tatiana, a Christian martyr and Russia's patron saint of students.

"I feel very emotional. I don't know what to say," Starodumova told state news agency RIA Novosti.

"I won't say that I did not expect it or aspired to it but it still came as a shock, a huge shock. I'm delighted. I wanted it very much. I think I won over the jury with my short skirt which I wriggled at them," she gushed.

Her university took a more sober view in a congratulatory note on its website observing that Starodumova's "external beauty and creative potential" were the ingredients in her success.
What Saint Tatiana would make of it all is one of those imponderables no amount of academic endeavour could clarify.