Damascus student Omar al-Tawil is one of 24,000 Syrians learning Russian at school The fifteen year old is learning the language of Syria's most powerful ally Moscow intervened in 2015 to help Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad win back territory that he lost to rebels during a civil war that began nearly nine years ago (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN STUDENT LEARNING RUSSIAN LANGUAGE, OMAR AL-TAWIL, SAYING: "At first we did not understand anything and when we first heard the words we started laughing.
Yes it was truly hard at first but now it is easier." Many in Syria are eager to study the new addition to the curriculum, in order to travel or work for Russian companies that might open offices in Syria.
Radwan Rahhal, coordinator of Russian in the Syrian Education Ministry, said demand for classes now outstrips supply.
(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) RUSSIAN LANGUAGE COORDINATOR IN SYRIAN MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, RADWAN RAHHAL, SAYING: "The number of students is increasing.
But we cannot expand more than this in the meantime unless we have a bigger number of teachers." Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Syria and met with Assad on Tuesday - for only the second time since Moscow's intervention.
Russian and Iranian support has helped Assad win back nearly all the territory lost to rebels who tried to overthrow him after a government crackdown on opposition.