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Tuesday, December 17, 2013




Monthly supplement from Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Moscow, Russia) which takes sole responsibility for the contents

For each grumpy Russian waiter, there is a smiling babushka serving pelmeni.

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For each bottle of vodka, there is a glass of kvas.

For each of you, there is a Russia of your choice.

Getting armed and ready Beijing expands its military might, thanks to warming ties with Moscow Page 4

Winter Games


Olympics are safe for athletes and visitors

Students talk about their home cities

> PAGES 8-9





> PAGES 12-13

2 Tuesday, December 17, 2013



Year to remember HIGHLIGHTS



As we prepare to bid farewell to an eventful year, in Russia there were several events that will be forever etched in the memories of those who were affected. To find out more details about what happened, go to the link at the end of each caption.

FIRE IN THE SKY On February 15, a meteorite lit up the sky above the Chelyabinsk region. It generated a shockwave that injured more than 1,000 people. Scientists collected more than 100kg of fragments from the meteorite.



TOP OF THE UNIVERSE Miss Venezuela Gabriela Isler was crowned Miss Universe 2013 on November 9, beating 85 other contestants at a glittering ceremony in Moscow.


French actor Gerard Depardieu was given a warm welcome in Russia in January, after he renounced his French citizenship. He was granted Russian citizenship.


In Mainichi Shimbun (Japan)


In JoongAng Ilbo (South Korea)

In The Economic Times (India)





Tuesday, December 17, 2013

RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES SIGN OF THE TIMES President Xi Jinping visited Moscow on March 22. The visit paved the way for the two nations to sign lucrative oil and defence contracts.

GAME ON Russia is all set to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The prestigious event will be held in February.


St Petersburg hosted the G20 summit in September, where the Syrian crisis was partly resolved.

SPORTING CHANCE This year, Russia hosted numerous sporting events for the first time. One of the most important was the World Athletics Championships.

An enormous Louis Vuitton case was on display in Red Square last month.





Read daily on RBTH.RU and your favorite mobile reader



Russia granted temporary asylum to American whistle-blower Edward Snowden on August 1. Snowden fled to Russia from Hong Kong.


Share you opinion on /russianow


Get best stories from Russia straight to your inbox RBTH.RU/SUBSCRIBE



Tuesday, December 17, 2013


China’s call for arms Warming ties are helping expand military co-operation, writes Vasily Kashin




Beijing set to enhance military capabilities

The Su-35 fighter may significantly boost China’s ability to react to conflicts. out the past decade. Sources in the Chinese aerospace industry say the country will continue to buy powerplants from Russia at the same rate in the years to come. In fact, the number of newly ordered engines may even grow. While Chinese air-framers have achieved impressive results, the country’s military warplane engine technology remains at a relatively low level of development. All the three indigenous fourth-generation fighter designs are powered by Russian engines: the AL-31F for the J-11B, the Saturn AL-31FN for the Chengdu J-10, and the Klimov RD-93 for the CAC FC-1. China’s newest Xian H-6K long-range bomber is also fitted with Russian engines of the Soloviev D-30KP2 design. The country’s two fifth-generation fighter programmes, the Chengdu J-20 and the Shenyang J-31, are in the flight-testing phase, and China is apparently interested in fitting them with Russian next-generation engines, including the Saturn 117S, which powers the Sukhoi


arming ties between Russia and China are reviving the arms trade between the two countries. One theory doing the rounds in the 2000s was that RussianChinese military-technical co-operation was going downhill and would inevitably cease altogether. Now, however, it is obvious that the situation has improved, with Russian military exports to China picking up again. The volume of exports has already reached the level of the 1990s and the early 2000s, and may yet beat that record. However, one difference is how insignificant the arms trade is in the overall structure of co-operation between the two countries. In the 1990s, military-technical co-operation was one of the pillars of mutual trade, and served as the basis for their bilateral partnership. After Russian arms exporters had broken into new markets in the 2000s, China’s share in the total volume of exported Russian military equipment decreased noticeably. According to published data, Russian arms exports to China peaked during the early years of the last decade. China is still a major buyer of Russian weapons, second only to India. However, China is no longer crucial to the survival of the Russian defence industry. According to a 2012 statement by Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, exports accounted for only 22 per cent of the national defence industry’s total revenues, while 45 per cent came from sales to the national armed forces. This growing domestic demand, and new export markets, and diversification into civilian markets, has lessened arms manufacturers’ dependence on Chinese contracts, while providing Moscow with a significant degree of freedom in negotiating future contracts with Beijing. The data available indicates that Russian military exports to China exceeded US$1.9 billion in 2011, and expanded last year. As for the newly signed contracts, Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport reports that China accounts for 12 per cent of the overall US$17.6 billion in new arms sales; this puts the total contracts signed with China at more than US$2.1 billion. Of this figure, US$1.3 billion worth of contracts have been accounted for. These include a US$600 million deal to deliver 52 Mil Mi-171E helicopters, and a US$700 million order for 140 Saturn AL-31F engines. These powerplants are intended for the Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighters previously sold to China, and for indigenous Shenyang J-11B/BS, J-15 and J-16 warplanes. No one really knows the nature of the contracts for the remaining US$800 million, but may assume that these represent a number of relatively minor orders. Aero engine exports to China stayed at a relatively significant level through-

China’s newest Xian H-6K long-range bomber is fitted with Russian engines

Project 677 submarines can help China counter Japan’s powerful antisubmarine defence systems.

Su-35. In addition, virtually all Chinesebuilt military and civilian aircraft designs are equipped with imported powerplants. In terms of helicopter exports to Beijing, apart from contracts for transport helicopters, it is expected that China will continue limited procurement of Kamov’s special-mission aircraft, which are either impossible or unfeasible to clone locally in the foreseeable future. One traditional aspect of bilateral arms trade is represented by joint research and development efforts, or by research and development programmes run by Russia in China’s interests. These include some key Chinese weapons systems, such as the PL-12 air-to-air missile, the HQ-16 SAM system, the Hongdu L-15 combat trainer, the CAIC WZ-10 combat helicopter, the FC-1 tactical fighter, the Project 054À frigate.

An MoU was signed last year for the delivery of 24 Su-35 fighters. The contract can be signed this year or in 2014. Despite the limited number of aircraft to be purchased, some of the Su-35 capabilities, most notably its new powerful radar, may significantly expand China’s ability to react to local conflicts, including its dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands. Negotiations are continuing for the delivery of a batch of S-400 SAM systems. Earlier reports said that deliveries to China would not start until these systems had been supplied in necessary numbers to the Russian armed forces. China is believed to be interested in SAM systems with long-range capabilities, reaching a distance of 400km. If ordered, Beijing’s S-400s could cover all of the airspace over Taiwan, or the Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands. For the delivery of 34 Ulyanovskbuilt Ilyushin Il-76MD-90A heavy military transports, Beijing is attempting to increase the potential of its strategic military aviation transport sector. Some Chinese experts put the national air force’s need for heavy transports at 100 units. China is procuring used Soviet-era Il-76s from Russia and Ukraine. Meanwhile, an MoU was signed for the delivery of Project 677 diesel-electric submarines, and the contract is being negotiated. Beijing’s interest in procuring new submarines may stem from the recent worsening of ChineseJapanese relations.

Engine exports for China’s warplanes remained at a relatively significant level throughout the past decade. China is expected to continue buying powerplants from Russia

Tuesday, December 17, 2013



Nation’s fast-action heroes The Tu-95 bomber was the last plane developed under Stalin’s orders, writes Anton Valagin



italy Volkov remembers how his Tupolev Tu-95 was used to harass United States aircraft carriers during the Soviet era. In one mission, Volkov was part of a crew who were nearly caught by their American adversaries. They only managed to escape because of the extraordinary speed the Tu-95 turboprop was capable of. “We would be briefed that a carrier had been detected at a certain point in the Atlantic, and instructed to fly there,” Volkov says. “Long before reaching our target, we would descend to around 200 metres, so their radar could not see us. “We would then pass over their flight deck while making certain [indecent] gestures at them. Once we overdid it: somewhere off the Azores, USS America launched four fighters to intercept us. Our captain reported to the base, and was ordered to escape. We pushed the throttles all the way up and disappeared in the clouds.” The Tupolev Tu-95 has indeed been among the dominant turboprop bombers over the past few decades, comparable to the US Boeing B-52 strategic bomber in capability and reputation. Indeed, these two behemoths of the skies are still in operation today, more than 60 years after first taking to the skies. The first Tupolev Tu-95 turboprop

The design of the propellers made the Tu-95 one of the noisiest aircraft ever.

Its longevity in service is only matched by the US Boeing B-52 strategic bomber: both first flew in 1952 and continue in operation today

took flight in November 1952, the same year the B-52 also came online. It was the first Soviet intercontinental bomber and the last aircraft design developed on Stalin’s orders. In the initial phases of the programme, there were proposals to power the Tu-95 by jet engines or by a mix of turboprop and jet powerplants. In fact, the first prototype, known as Article 95/1, had eight turboprops with fourbladed propellers measuring 5.6 metres in diameter. The design of the propellers, and the engines’ high power, made the Tu-95 one of the noisiest aircraft in the world: it can be detected even by submarine sonar. At the same time, the Tu-95 is the fastest propeller aircraft on earth

Tupolev company is developing aircraft to replace its existing bombers Andrey Kislyakov Russia’s iconic Tupolev aircraft production company is said to be working on the country’s next generation of strategic planes that would eventually replace the legendary Tu-95 and Tu-160 workhorses now in service. Although some say the Advanced Long-Range Aviation Complex (PAK DA – Perspektivniy Aviatsionniy Kompleks Dalney Aviatsii) is nothing more than a copy of the American B-2 stealth bomber, others insist it will be a step ahead of existing aircraft. It is suggested that the airframe of this aircraft will resemble a “flying wing”, and that it would be subsonic and fitted with a system to reduce its radar target signature. The Chief of the General Staff, General Valeriy Gerasimov, announced in the summer that development work would begin in 2014 and series production of the aircraft itself will start in 2020. An official representative of the Ministry of Defence said: “The PAK DA would be equipped with all the precision weapons currently being developed, including hypersonic weapons.”

Later, Boris Obvosov, general director of Tekhnicheskoe Raketnoe Vooruzhenie, said a hypersonic missile for the new bomber had already been produced but flew for only a few seconds. Series production of the missile is also set to begin in 2020. Questions have been raised as to why the military wants to develop such a subsonic aircraft as part of its strategic upgrade.

The aircraft will be equipped with all the precision weapons currently being developed The most likely answer is that the aircraft has a part to play in combat. It could either be a fairly compact, stealthy missile-carrying aircraft, or a hypersonic aircraft with the potential to penetrate air defence systems by virtue of its speed. However, it is believed that the tech-

nology to develop a relatively large stealth bomber that can fly at hypersonic speeds does not exist yet. A small, subsonic stealth aircraft, which can operate from medium-sized airfields with the potential to carry hypersonic missiles, would be able to patrol the launch area over long periods and strike the target with high-speed weaponry at very short notice. This was the reason the Americans chose not to use the B-1 supersonic bomber for this role in favour of the B-2. How similar, though, are the PAK DA and the B-2? From a scientific-technical point of view, “copying” an aircraft is no more than an observation of the laws of aerodynamics and other fundamental laws. When designers are faced with identical or similar tasks, their solutions will follow more or less the same methodology. A huge number of differences, though, lurk behind the external similarities, which define the level of sophistication of one combat system over another. As experience has shown, few would deny that the Tu-144 and Concorde are alike.

and the world’s only turboprop bomber still in production. The Tu-95 evolved into more than 20 different modifications over the years. Tupolev also used the design as the basis for several other aircraft types, including the Tu-116, which first flew in 1956, was intended as an international transport for Soviet government leaders. This airplane was essentially a Tu-95 with the bomb bay supplanted by a pressurised cabin with seats for 20 passengers, a galley and auxiliary compartments. Shortly after that, another Tu-95based design – the Tu-114 long-haul passenger jet – entered production. The Tu-114 passenger cabin included sleeping compartments and a galley.

Tu-95 aircraft were repeatedly used to release nuclear and thermonuclear bombs in tests. A single example of the Tu-95V modification was built for test-dropping the 60-megaton AN602 thermonuclear device, known as the “King of Bombs”. At the moment of detonation on October 30, 1961, the release aircraft was 39km away from the epicentre. Its post-flight inspection revealed that the fuselage and wings had been badly burned. The crew, led by Major Andrei Durnovtsev, was relieved that the bomb had not been tested complete with its third stage, which would have increased the strength of the blast to 100 megatons.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Country means business Rise in rankings reflects efforts to improve the financial environment, writes Artem Zagorodnov


n the latest World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business survey, Russia jumped 20 places to number 92 out of 185 countries. This follows a concerted reform effort and widespread improvements in access to electricity, according to a report by the international body. The rise up the ranking is because of “a huge reform effort”, according to Rita Ramalho, programme manager of the World Bank’s Doing Business team. Putin aims to take Russia to 20th place by 2018 through a series of “road maps” designed to reduce bureaucracy and cut red tape. The survey results are the first tangible signs of success as recognised by a major international body. Russia edged ahead of China in the index, which placed at number 96, and placed higher than any of its peers in the BRICS club of emerging economies, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Brazil moved up two notches to 116th place, while India dropped three places to 134th. Russia made significant progress in improving access to electricity, jump-

ing ahead 71 places in that category, the World Bank said. Russia also advanced 29 places in the ease of registering property. Its weakest sectors remained construction permits, where it languished in 178th place, and trading across borders, where it ranked 157th. Oleg Budargin, CEO of the Federal Grid Company, says electricity reliability is measured by the number of outages and Russia had already surpassed many developed countries. Outages in Russia last an average of 0.9 hours, compared with 1.7 hours in Europe and 3.3 hours globally. “We’ve reduced the cost of an electricity connection by three times, from 9,500 roubles [HK$2,334] in 2009 to around 3,000 roubles today. This has led to a subsequent increase in applications, from 200,000 then to 416,000 in 2012,” Budargin says. Meanwhile, Ruslan Davydov, deputy head of Russia’s Customs Service, says data for the World Bank’s study was collected in March and that indicators for international trade would see a major improvement in next year’s index. “We’ve reduced the number of days

Better access to electricity has helped Russia climb up the rankings. it takes to import products by seven and to export them by six. Next year, we’re switching to 100 per cent of customs documents being processed online. By 2018, our goal is for the entire import/ export process to take no more than two hours,” he says.

We need to make sure all of these positive changes are being reflected in the regions Alexei Komissarov, the head of Moscow’s Department for Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship, is delighted with the progress. “In Moscow, we set up a special customs point for hi-tech equipment that allows it to be imported in six hours rather than several months like before,” Komissarov says. “It’s very important

for the city in attracting hi-tech companies here.” A number of experts have pointed out that Russia’s common economic space with neighbours Belarus and Kazakhstan – set to become fully operational in 2015 – could push companies to invest there instead of Russia to better take advantage of the 170 million-strong consumer market. Belarus took 63rd place in this year’s study, while Kazakhstan came in at 50th, making the need to reform all the more urgent. Meanwhile, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has suggested expanding the Eurasian Union to include countries such as Turkey and Armenia. However, Alexander Ivlev, Ernst & Young’s country manager for Russia, disagrees. “I haven’t heard of a single major company relocating to either of those countries from Russia since the Customs Union [the predecessor to the Eurasian Economic Union] came into being,” Ivlev says. “In Russia, we have a growing middle class and better margins. Plus our tax system meets the standards international investors expect.”

COMMERCE Andrei Nikitin, head of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, says Russia’s efficiency must now spread beyond the major cities. “The easiest work is behind us,” says Nikitin, whose agency is tasked with developing and implementing road maps to meet Putin’s ambitious goal. “We need to make sure all of these positive changes are being reflected in the regions, and not just Moscow, where the World Bank data is collected.” Entrepreneur Roman Putin says: “As an investment adviser to the heads of several Russian regions, I see real improvements in reducing administrative barriers at the local level, which is especially relevant to non-extractive industries.

Lower growth forecast is realistic, experts say Anna Kuchma Russia has amended its growth forecast leading up to 2030 to portray a more conservative, almost negative, scenario for the country’s development. The Russian Ministry of Economic Development (MED) says the economy will experience 1.5 times lower growth over the next 17 years than was forecast in spring, lagging behind global economic growth rates. March predictions had growth at 4.3 per cent, but experts say the new figures are more realistic and do not signal a looming crisis in the Russian economy. “That our economy had entered nearly total stagnation first became evident

back in March,” says Nikolay Kondrashov, with the Development Centre at the National Research University Higher School of Economics. “This is why the latest revision of the MED forecast appears to reflect an adjustment of the ministry’s expectations to the real situation: the March forecast was totally unrealistic and had extremely negative feedback from independent experts.” Alexei Balayev, of the Economic Expert Group, agrees, saying the conservative scenario better correlates with the forecasts of international organisations. “Even with a favourable economic scenario, long-term budget planning must be based on a conservative prediction so as to minimise possible risks,” he says. Higher School of Economics expert

Nikolay Petrov says the revised MED forecast is a message from the ministry’s new head Alexei Ulyukayev, who does not want to pick up the tab for the decisions made by his predecessor. “This is not to say that the revised forecast will necessarily come true. It is more of a wake-up call, a signal that radical, serious and painful reforms are urgently needed,” Petrov says. “In fact, some of such measures are already under development. Perhaps we may expect changes in the government, including former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin’s comeback.” Maxim Petronevich, of Gazprombank’s Centre for Economic Forecasting, also believes the new forecast is a precursor to government reshuffles. “The next step would be to fine-tune

the state administration system so that the forecast would prompt action, not merely serve as an excuse for inadequate implementation of [government] decisions,” he says. “The MED has managed to improve Russia’s standing on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. This shows that fine-tuning the state administration is not impossible, despite all the nuances of Russian politics. “Russia rose 20 places on the index thanks to efforts to simplify the procedures for getting electricity and dealing with construction permits.” According to the revised forecast, the country’s oil and gas sector will be growing faster than the rest of the Russian economy. However, owing to the absence of any significant growth in real

oil prices and stagnating output, Russia’s fuel exports will no longer be the powerhouse of the economy that they used to be prior to the 2008 global financial crisis. The revised forecast has lower expectations of government and foreign investments; it predicts slower retail trade growth, lower growth in real incomes and slower industrial production. However, analysts note, the new figures will hardly affect those investors who are in it for quick returns and shortterm investments will remain at the present levels. As for long-term investments, low inflation will play an important part and the forecast lowers the expected change in the level of consumer prices in 2013/2030 by more than 25 per cent.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013



Yandex takes on Google Search engine launches better analysis tool and cloud system to widen appeal, writes Anastasia Bruk of advertising campaigns. Metrica for Apps, however, is designed to make it easier for developers to get feedback from users of their products on Android platforms and Apple products. The service collects information on how apps are used and can sort the data with various filters including geolocation, application version, type and version of operating system, type of device (tablet or smartphone), model and the manufacturer, screen resolution, language, mobile provider, connection type and the user’s actions and sessions. In addition, the tool can identify any drawbacks of running the application on mobile devices. For example, it can show how many glitches Russian users experience per week when running the application on a tablet. App developers can receive data from Yandex.Metrica in real time or over a long period. Unlike Google Analytics for mobile apps, Yandex.Metrica does not yet provide data on conversions, such as the number of installations following a click on an advertisement, or performance, such as the number of users who make a purchase with an app. Yandex does, though, plan to offer these features in the future. “The next step in developing the service will be to offer marketing tools. With their help, developers will be able to see the traffic sources, funnels, conversions and much more,” a company representative says.




ussian internet giant Yandex is taking its competition with Google to the next level. With the launch of an improved analysis tool and its own cloud system, Russia’s leading search engine hopes to grow its market share at home and abroad. At the end of October, Yandex launched two different services for mobile application developers: an analytics system for mobile applications and a cloud-based system for app developers the company has dubbed “Cocaine”. The analytics tool is actually an expansion of the Yandex.Metrica for Apps, which the company launched in 2009. Nicholas Turubar, an expert on mobile technology, says the new Yandex products is a serious attempt by the company to strengthen its market position with regard to Google. “By creating mobile metrics, Yandex seeks to consolidate its position on the international market of mobile applications and to support its own Yandex. Store,” Turubar says. “However, no one can predict how Google will react. There is a risk that the company will attempt to prevent its competitor from developing its own app store.” Should this happen, Yandex will not be able to integrate with GooglePlay, the largest app store for devices with Android operating systems. The original Yandex.Metrica for Apps allowed website owners to analyse the behaviour of users and the effectiveness

Read about Russian startups at our special project page

TripAdvisor will switch from Google to Yandex maps in Russia and Turkey.

Yandex.Metrica for applications is available for free to developers worldwide in English and Russian. Cocaine is an acronym for Configurable Omnipotent Custom Applications Integrated Network Engine, but also reflects the company’s hopes that the service will become addictive. The service, which will be used to create individualised cloud hosting applications, is an open source platform (PaaS) similar to Google App Engine or Heroku. Yandex.Store, launched last year, consists of two parts: one for developers and one for users. The store offers more than 85,000 applications, according to its official site. However, competitors have blocked Yandex applications in the past. Facebook banned Yandex’s Wonder mobile app from receiving information about Facebook users within hours of the app’s launch. At the beginning of this year, Yandex had 62 per cent of the internet search market in Russia, compared with 26 per cent for Google. Yandex issued an initial public offering on the Nasdaq exchange in 2011 and is valued at more than US$11 billion.

Banking on Eastern pivot to fuel growth Vladimir Kolychev Chief economist for Russia at VTB Capital Russia is increasingly looking to China and the Asia Pacific – the so-called Eastern pivot – for economic development amid sluggish business with its traditional trading partners from the West. Business relations between Russia and China have been gaining pace over the past decade. Indeed, China now represents Russia’s biggest trade partner after the European Union, with a bilateral turnover of more than US$87 billion last year. Expanding relations with the dynamic Asian tigers has also become of critical importance for Russia, particularly with its traditional European trade partners facing prolonged stagnation and limited trade links with the Unit-

ed States, where recovery is expected to gather pace. Feng Yujun, director of the Institute of Russian Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, says the Asia-Pacific region has become an increasingly significant political and economic region for Russia since the 2008 economic crisis. “While major powers, such as the United States, are shifting their focus to the region, and China is exerting an increasing influence on its neighbours, Russia, which considers itself as a global power, also wants to enhance its presence in the region,” Feng was quoted as saying in the Chinese media. This Eastern pivot is opening up new opportunities for Russia and for VTB Capital, which is a key strategic arm of Russia’s VTB Group. Russia’s far east region has become

Recent agreements have created a framework for a substantial increase in oil exports to China the focus of this strategic economic realignment. The region’s favourable geographic location and vast and underdeveloped resource base provide a strong foundation to expand co-operation with the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region and China in particular. The energy sector has traditionally made up the largest part of Russia’s

exports to China – almost 70 per cent of total exports last year, with oil and coal among the key products. This is likely to remain the main focus of cooperation in the coming years. The dynamic development of the Chinese industrial sector, rising car ownership, and the need to shift to a cleaner fuel mix with larger share of gas, means that China has to find reliable suppliers to meet this rising energy demand. Recent inter-governmental agreements between Russia and China have created a framework for a substantial increase in oil exports to China over the next five years. The two countries are also on the verge of signing a gas supply agreement. Projects in the energy sector are being further accelerated by the rapid construction of the necessary transport

infrastructure, partially financed by billions of Chinese long-term funding and prepayments. The potential for this growing relationship has made the rich resource base in Russia’s far east region the main source of interest for foreign trade and investments. But there is also significant scope for growth in other areas, especially across related manufacturing industries. However, underdeveloped transport and power infrastructure, a shortage of a qualified labour force, and a complex business climate have always been the main barriers for private investment in Russia’s far east region. Overcoming these hurdles will be tough. But there are plans to eliminate major infrastructure bottlenecks, introduce tax incentives for new businesses and intensify efforts to cut red tape.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Ensuring security at event is no game


ussia is going all out to ensure peace and harmony for thousands during the Winter Olympics in a region surrounded by restive republics. With an Islamist insurgency raging across the Russian Caucasus, many foreigners are fearful of their safety during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi that open on February 7. Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi Organising Committee, promised in an interview with NBC that the Sochi Olympics will be “the safest Games ever”. “This is because we understand from the very beginning of our campaign that the safety is a key priority of the organisers,” Chernyshenko said. “Terrorism, it’s a global threat. Take Boston [Marathon] for example. This is an illustration that terrorism has no boundaries.” Security at the games was thrown into the spotlight earlier this year after Russia’s Islamist movement leader Doku Umarov called on fighters to target the

OLYMPICS Olympics in a video from June. The Games are staged right next door to what many consider the centre of regional terrorism. In order to neutralise the terror threat and reassure competitors and international visitors, organisers have introduced some of the most extensive identity checks and sweeping security measures ever seen at an global sports event. This year, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltzev said more

than 30,000 police officers and soldiers will be deployed to protect the city, patrol Olympic facilities, screen incoming vehicles and X-ray construction materials for explosives. The total military presence at the 2012 London Summer Games, with its unprecedented security, involved close to 18,000 personnel. According to Yuri Deshevikh, the head of Emergency Ministry Supervisory Activities Department, around 1,500 firefighters and lifeguards will keep watch over the Games’ participants and guests, supported by 100 units of equipment, including four helicopters and five ships. Russian economist Mikhail Delyagin, however, forecasts that the number of foreign tourists to the Sochi Olympics held in the Black Sea resort area from February 7 to 23 won’t exceed 15,000 to 20,000 – five times less than official estimates and three times less that the total number of foreign volunteers and members of sports delegations.


Authorities are determined to prevent terrorism, writes Yaroslava Kiryukhina

Cars outside the Sochi security zone will be banned.

Enjoy rest and relaxation GETTING TO in Stalin’s little haven KNOW THE SOCHI GAMES Let the adventure begin!

Svetlana Sinepostolovich

The history of Sochi, the southern Russian city on the Black Sea and host to the 2014 Winter Olympics, is intricately entwined with the life of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Stalin saw the tourism potential of the Black Sea coast after visiting Sochi’s Matsesta sulphur baths. A long-standing sufferer of rheumatism, he felt immediate relief from the baths and decided to make Sochi his holiday destination. In 1934, Stalin allocated more than 1 billion roubles (HK$234 million) to improve Sochi’s infrastructure. Health resorts and parks sprung up around the city with special attention being paid to Matsesta, Stalin’s pet project. During his first visits, Stalin stayed at the Mikhaylovskoye estate, situated on the hill between the Matsesta rift and the Agurskiy waterfall. In time, he built a dacha (country house). The dacha, which today is open to

Stalin thought that every Soviet citizen should be given the opportunity to experience luxury visitors as a museum and small hotel, was designed by a young Soviet architect, Miron Merzhanov, who catered to Stalin’s every whim. The furniture of the dacha was also filled with horsehair, which apparently made it close to bullet-proof. The facade of the building was painted emerald green, so that it would blend into the surroundings, and even now it is hard to see the dacha through the trees. Stalin, though, usually stayed in a separate building within the dacha complex, in part because he liked peace and couldn’t stand the smell of food and the clattering of dishes.

By the 1930s, Sochi had become the Soviet Union’s most popular holiday resort. Stalin spent a lot of time and conducted a lot of his work from there. During the second world war, his family lived there. After the war, Stalin ordered eucalyptus trees to be planted across Sochi, believing they would stave off malaria. Sochi’s sanatoriums, used as hospitals during the war, returned to their primary role of holiday resorts. The buildings, constructed on Stalin’s orders and still functional, are impressive and still remind people of grand palaces with pillars and ornate ceilings. Stalin thought that every Soviet citizen should be given the opportunity to experience luxury on their holidays, so they would work harder when they returned to work. Post-war, Stalin continued to work from Sochi, summoning political advisers from Moscow to visit him there. Stalin usually kept a low profile but once, on September 18, 1947, he made a surprise appearance at the Kavkazs-

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES Around 1,500 firefighters and lifeguards will be present to protect competitors and spectators during next year’s Winter Olympics.


Chernyshenko says Russian and American officials had collaborated on security plans and that military personnel would not be dressed in standard uniforms but don a more festive


Nonetheless, one this is for sure, they will be heavily protected by people and sophisticated weaponry. Six Pantsir-S short-range air defence systems, designed to take on various targets flying at low levels, including cruise missiles and aircraft, were deployed in the region to protect the Russian airspace along its southern borders.

look.Russia has also reached out to Britain and Georgia to co-operate on security, moves that reflect Russian and global concerns over potential violence at the event. Some experts have, however, voiced their concerns that security measures are in fact aimed at anti-Putin protesters, while others compared them to the Soviet actions ahead of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, when the KGB simply sent all those deemed suspicious out of the capital. Russian authorities have also implemented restrictions on protests in the area from January 7 until March 21. They say, however, that they are not targeting lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender rights activists who may be willing to protest Russia’s new “gay propaganda” law. Rigorous identity checks start at the ticket-buying stage. Anyone wanting to attend the Olympics will have to buy a ticket online and obtain a “spectator pass” for access, providing passport details and contacts so that the authorities can check identities upon arrival. Spectators will be asked to wear their security passes while attending sports events for quick identification. Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov says the measures are useless for people already in the area, which is scarcely a hundred kilometres from the North Caucasus. However, it seems Russian authorities foresaw this. Police in Sochi conducted house-to-house document checks to screen residents and reportedly deported thousands of migrant workers.

Whether you’re an athlete, fan or a volunteer SOCHI HAS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE


Stalin's dacha, near Sochi, is named Zelenaya Rosha (green grove). kaya Riviera resort, in the centre of Sochi. In 1948, Sochi became an independent administrative centre, which, in line with Stalin’s increasing madness, imposed certain rules and regulations. Sochi’s main avenue, Prospekt Stalina, was washed three times a day, for example, and cars with dirty tyres were not allowed on it. All Sochi residents and visitors had to abide by a dress code

and look “smart”. Merzhanov also designed a sanatorium in Matsesta, where Stalin liked to take sulphur baths. T oday, the renovated building has similar clientele to its Soviet days: Russian leaders, foreign dignitaries and wellknown artists and musicians. Stalin is also credited with putting Akhun mountain on the map.

He ordered the construction of an 11km road leading up to the peak near Sochi. The road was built by prisoners to whom Stalin had promised early release if they finished their work in 100 days. One version of history says that all the prisoners ended up being freed, and another says they were all killed for not being able to finish the road on time.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Zakhar Prilepin


n Russia, liberals are not embraced in the same way they largely are in the West. In fact, there is absolutely no benefit at all in being a liberal in modern Russia, where they are derogatorily called “liber-asts” (liberal/pederast). To the layman whiling their hours in front of the TV – itself more a propaganda tool than a source of information – liberals are freaks, most likely homosexuals and agents of the West. Another disadvantage of being a liberal is that you have no right to represent the interests of your own people. In an autocracy, survival is the name of the game and people therefore believe it is better not to antagonise the authorities who feed and look after them, or so they believe. When I tell people in Russia that liberalism gives man the autonomy to change for the better without external coercion, that the pursuit of freedom is intrinsic to humans, I get suspicious looks. And when I say that a free person is perfectly able to feed himself or herself, people look at me with open hatred. “We know what kind of freedom you mean, it’s that freedom [brought by former Soviet president Mikhail] Gorbachev, which led to [the USSR] getting destroyed and plundered. We don’t want any more of that,” they say. To many Russians, freedom implies rampant crime, disintegration and decay. Order, on the other hand, means submission to the authorities and the restriction of personal liberties for the sake of the state’s grandeur – even though this means


It is not easy to make good investments in China, which is awash with its own and foreign money the omnipotence of the tsar, who in this country happens to be called the president. As historian and Slavist Richard Pipes appropriately put it, Russians invariably choose order over freedom, without realising that this is the wrong choice. In other words, Russians today hate liberals while knowing virtually nothing about liberalism. Most of my students at Moscow State University, where I teach a course on radio journalism, don’t know

who Pipes is. They have also never heard of Noam Chomsky, whose paper, “Government in the Future”, written half a century ago, gives a detailed description of several government models, including the liberal one. My students are generally less educated than my friends. Perhaps this was how the educationthirsty Soviet society nurtured and matured the liberal idea, which demanded an end to censorship and the authorisation of private entrepreneurship – ideas that eventually destroyed the Soviet Union. Today, however, a convinced conservative in Russia is usually ignorant, and takes myths for facts. This is one more reason why I am a liberal: it is dull siding with those who do not want to know anything. There is also a third reason: I do not believe that in this day and age, moral behaviour can be based exclusively on intuition and emotions. If you rush in to help a person injured in a road crash, but have no medical knowledge, you may actually kill him. Civilisation is becoming more complicated, and survival increasingly depends on knowledge. Whom would you prefer to operate on you: a sincere surgeon or one with proper qualifications? In Russia, as a rule, such formulas involve the destruction of enemies. An enemy is a geographic or religious alien, or someone who feels differently than yourself, or someone who lives a different life – in short, a liberal. It’s liberals that are responsible for all our woes. One such sincere seducer is Zakhar Prilepin, a gifted writer. Having suffered his share of adver-


Liberal freak is better than a stooge

sity – he used to be a member of the banned National Bolshevik party, was arrested and experienced police cruelty – Prilepin’s writing sings to ordinary people who are led through life by fate. These are people who are always right on the mere strength of being in the majority, of being Russian and having Russian roots. Deep down, Prilepin’s short stories and novellas are sincere, to the point of physiological sincerity, in praising modern Russia. So, I would like to say I am a liberal, even though it does not pay to be one. Zakhar Prilepin is a well-known Russian writer, journalist, politician and businessman.

Liberalism does not really mean freedom Dmitry Gubin From the start of the 1990s, Russia broadly built an enlightened liberal society. The country was integrated as a partner into global political, financial and banking systems, and was no longer a centre of power lined up against the rest of civilisation. We are indisputably availed of fundamental liberal freedoms, anyone with the requisite resources can move freely around the country and abroad, there are hundreds of sufficiently independent media, and Russians can, with five minutes of internet research, dig up a ton of dirt on pretty much any state official. People can access any literature and music, and there is an independent film scene and an even freer theatre. Droves of private clinics sprung into

existence along with private schools and universities, and hundreds of other firms and institutions now provide all manner of private services. If we are talking about models of liberal reforms, is it not more feasible to cite such countries as Greece, Italy or Spain, with their looming economic collapse and mass of intractable social problems? True, Russia has a high level of corruption. But there are a whole lot more typically liberal countries that also have serious corruption issues. True, we have political prisoners, including some of my own associates with anti-liberal views. True, we have specific problems with the media, and there are cases where journalists were forced to resign over their work. But in the liberal world there are also taboo themes. Nor will that magical land we call the United States cease to be the


It is not easy to make good investments in China, which is awash with its own and foreign money centre of world liberalism, regardless of who comes to power there - fluffy Democrats or austere Republicans, devotees of the Bible and automatic weapons. All of us, liberals and antiliberals, need honest courts and ramps for the disabled, a functioning electoral system and a normal police force, social protection and decent medical care. But then again,

who said that these are evidence of liberalism? Liberals have convinced themselves that all the good things in the world – freedom, chewing gum, wine, elections, good novels, ice cream, flowers and mini-skirts – are liberal, and all the bad things – war, prison, emigration, jingoist films and tarpaulin boots – are antiliberal. It would never occur to them that war, the absence of disabled ramps, jingoistic films and prejudice on the grounds of nationality almost always take root in liberal countries. Freedom is not a synonym for liberalism. Economic independence is even less a synonym for liberalism. And, ultimately, state independence is not a synonym of liberalism either. Look around you and you’ll see what I mean. Dmitry Gubin is a Russian journalist. The piece is his response to Zakhar Prilepin’s opinion.





Tuesday, December 17, 2013 11


Work starts on new fleet Hopes are high that three vessels will be built within a decade, writes Alexander Yemelyanenkov




The government has allocated nearly US$4 trillion for building three nuclear icebreakers in the coming years.

The new icebreaker [design] is versatile. It will be able to operate in deep-sea areas and in shallow waters the route since the beginning of this year, versus 46 in 2012 and only 34 in 2011. The first two foreign commercial vessels to navigate the Northern Sea route in 2009 were the Beluga Fraternity and the Beluga Foresight. Supported by the icebreakers 50 Lyet Pobyedi and Rossiya, they safely passed from South Korea to their Nigerian port of destination. The route via the Suez Canal would have taken 10 days longer.


Fifty-one vessels have navigated the route so far this year.

Corridor of new and lucrative opportunities for shippers It will only be a matter of time before trade via the northern shipping lanes starts to take business away from the Suez Canal. Experts say that the northern shipping lanes will soon become a key conduit to European and Asia-Pacific markets. For example, the northern route will cut the distance between Yokohama and Rotterdam by a third. The trav-

el time will be reduced from 33 to 20 days and vessels will be able to save 800 tonnes of fuel. Russia is at the forefront of developing the northern sea lanes and it is building new icebreakers. The country is also poised to pass a special navigation law for the Northern Sea route. Russia’s parliament believes that such a law will help make the north-

ern sea lanes more lucrative to shipping companies. “The Northern Sea route could be one of the key global transport sectors,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told leaders of other countries at a recent forum. “But [we must] create a competitive environment for traditional maritime lanes, and also assure safety.”

Technologically advanced nuclear fleet commands Northern Sea route Using state-of-the-art technology, Russia has the most powerful icebreaker fleet in the world. Today, the nuclear fleet has five icebreakers, one container and four technological service vessels. The goal is to maintain operations in the Northern Sea route, and to gain access to the far north and the Arctic shelf. The nuclear icebreaker fleet was

developed alongside the national nuclear energy programme. The decision to build the first nuclear icebreaker was in 1953, and work started in August 1956 with the building of a berth at Admiralteisky in Leningrad. Soon after, the nuclear icebreaker Lenin set sail on its maiden voyage. In 1989, the vessel was decommissioned and today it’s a museum in Murmansk.


ussia has started building new-generation icebreakers to support year-round navigation along the Northern Sea route. The keel for the first vessel of the three-ship series was laid at St Petersburg’s Baltiysky Zavod wharf last month. The first ship will be operated by Atomflot, Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation’s arm responsible for the operation of Russia’s entire nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet. Atomflot operates four such icebreakers – Vaigach, Taimyr, Yamal and 50 Lyet Pobyedi – and has one ship in reserve, Sovetskiy Soyuz. Atomflot CEO Vyacheslav Ruksha praised the ceremony as a milestone event. “Not only does it symbolise a resurrection of Russia’s civilian nuclear-powered shipbuilding, it also ensures that, even in 40 to 50 years to come, our nuclear icebreaker fleet will continue working, effectively and continuously, in the Arctic and along the Northern Sea Route,” he said. Russia’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker, Lenin, was built in the Soviet Union more than 50 years ago. After its retirement the ship was turned into a museum in Murmansk. Three more Soviet-built nuclear-powered icebreakers – Arktika, Sibir and Russiya – have also been decommissioned. The icebreaker under construction at Baltiysky Zavod has yet to be named. It will become the 10th nuclear icebreaker to be built since Russia’s independence. Rosatom deputy CEO Ivan Kamenskykh, who attended the keel-laying ceremony, said construction of the other two ships in the series would be launched shortly. Slightly over US$4 billion has been allocated for the entire project, which will take 10 years to complete. “The key feature of the new icebreaker [design] is its versatility,” says Atomflot representative Sergey Maklakov. “It will be able to operate both in deepsea areas of the Northern Sea route and in shallow shelf and estuary waters near the Arctic coast.” Thanks to this versatility, each vessel of the new design is expected to replace two icebreakers in operation. Atomflot is planning to mainly use its three new ships in the western section of the Northern Sea route to support large freight vessels, including bulk carriers from China, South Korea and Japan. The news of the keel-laying ceremony comes on the heels of a report that freight transit along the Northern Sea route in 2013 is at its greatest level over the past few years. According to Atomflot spokesman Mustafa Kashka, 1.26 million tonnes were transported along the route by mid-October, which is comparable to the volume moved during all of 2012. Kashka says 51 vessels have navigated

Russia boasts the most technologically advanced icebreakers.

12 Tuesday, December 17, 2013





St Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city, a former capital (from 1712 to 1918) and a Unesco World Heritage Site. It was founded by Peter the Great who, like his name, was one of the greatest rulers in Russian history. The city was built according to a wellthought-out plan with the aim of becoming the new, beautiful and modern capital of a great European nation. Buildings in the city’s historical centre were designed by leading architects from all over Europe. There are numerous sightseeing attractions in St Petersburg. The city is the home to the world’s fourth-largest cathedral, St Isaac’s Cathedral. The picturesque Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is situated on the beautiful embankment of the Griboyedov Canal. The magnificent Kazan Cathedral was built to commemorate Russia’s victory over the French in 1812. Nevsky Prospekt is the city’s main avenue, which attracts millions of visitors every year. The Winter Palace and the Palace Square, near the River Neva, is one of the most beautiful places in the city. Because of its numerous canals, St Petersburg has become known as the Venice of the north. At night, bridges in the centre of the city are drawn up to


allow big ships to pass. To the southwest of the city, there are the spectacular imperial palaces of Peterhof and Catherine Palace in the town of Pushkin. The best time of year to visit St Petersburg is from early May until late September. September is particularly beautiful as the leaves turn from green into red and gold. All throughout the summer, the weather is usually quite warm. Russians call St Petersburg the city of legend. It is rightly considered the tourist capital of Russia.

Home’s where the heart is Russian students at HKUST tell Hongkongers about their wonderful cities, writes Gleb Fedorov Irkutsk


I was born in Siberia, in Irkutsk. When they hear the word Siberia, my foreign friends always ask me: “How do you survive there? There is nothing but snow and bears around.” Indeed, it does get very cold in Siberia and, in the forest, one might, very rarely, come across a bear. However, what my native Irkutsk region is primarily famous is another wonder of nature, Lake Baikal – the deepest lake in the world. It is home to some wonderful species, such as the Baikal seal or Baikal oilfish. Baikal is particularly great in winter, when one can drive on the ice, flying over ice-hummocks in a jeep at a high speed. If you want something a bit more relaxing, you can simply enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the majestic expanse of the ice desert. For those who like to reflect on life, Baikal is the place to ponder you inner self away from the hustle and bustle, and problems of everyday life. Lake Baikal is a place that every visitor to Russia must see. It is around 25 million years old and its crystal-clear waters cover an area of 31,470 square kilometres, comparable to the size of Belgium. The city of Irkutsk also has many tourist attractions. These is, of course, the embankment,



the most popular place for taking a stroll or meeting up with friends. In the centre of the embankment is a monument to Tsar Alexander III. In the town centre is the monument to Babr, a mythical animal symbolising prosperity and strength that is the symbol of the city. Today, the central part of Irkutsk has preserved much of the ambiance created during the commercial and building expansion at the beginning of the 20th century.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013




My native city of Krasnoyarsk is situated in the very heart of the country, in Siberia. In summer, it gets very hot (up to 30 degrees Celsius) and extremely cold in winter, with the temperature dropping to minus 20 degrees Celsius. For almost half of the year we are covered in snow, which is why many people here love their winter sports. The city was founded in 1628 as a frontier outpost on the southern reaches of the Yenisei River. For me and my friends, the most popular place in the city is a fun park called Bobrovy Log. There are things to do there all year round, for adults and children. In winter, you can go skiing, snowboarding or skating, with all the necessary equipment easy to rent at the venues. You can also watch competitions in extreme sports, or just enjoy a relaxing ride on a chair lift. The observation deck platform at the top offers a breathtaking view of the Stolby nature reserve, the River Yenisei and the whole of the city. In summer, you can swim in an open pool or just sit in deckchairs and enjoy the sun. There are interesting events taking place in Bobrovy Log all year round, and you can always enjoy a taste of traditional Russian food in local restaurants

In last month’s issue, we wrote about Hongkongers learning Russian. This time we put together stories by students, participating in the RUSAL-HKUST 2013/14 scholarship programme, in which they describe their home cities in Russia. You can read more about the four places by following the links.


Here is how to have an enjoyable, action-packed adventure


and cafes. My city offers great recreation and tourism opportunities throughout the year. Still, I would advise against visiting in January because it can get very cold. I think the best time for a visit is May, when nature has already woken up from its winter slumber and everything is in bloom. The outdoor life will not let you down.





Chita is a city of junctions – the meeting point for a variety of themes: of the Oriental and Western cultures, of taiga and Daurian steppes, of two ocean watersheds, among others. Because of its geographic position, the climate in the Transbaikal region is harsh, with extremely cold winters and unbearably hot summers. Interestingly, this is reflected in the disposition of the local people. At first glance, they may appear rather severe, but once you get to know them better, they strike you as very warm-hearted. Chita has a interesting history. It started off as a settlement for exiled prisoners and at one point was even the capital of the Far Eastern Socialist Republic. Few people had heard of this republic, but it did exist, albeit briefly, before joining the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1922. There are many monuments in Chita, dating back to different times in its history. There is the ubiquitous Lenin statue in the city’s Lenin Square, and there is the famous house of merchant brothers, the Shumovs, which is now the regional directorate of the Federal Security Service. Legend has it that the design for this house was bought from a French architect, who later built an identical house in Paris. There is also the charming



building of the Transbaikal Railways directorate. Then there are the quaint wooden houses in the city’s historical centre. Sadly, however, these are being replaced by uniform and boring apartment blocks. The Transbaikal region is famous for its nature reserves: the Ivano-Arakhleiskiye lakes, and the resorts of Shivanda, Kuka and Darasun. Strange as it may sound, my favourite place in Chita is Lenin Square. Many young people hang out there because it is in the middle of the city.


14 Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Keeping faith in the city The Russian Orthodox Church in Hong Kong serves anyone who seek peace, writes Brian Yeung




he majority of Hongkongers celebrate Christmas on December 25. However, a handful will set aside January 7 as their holy day – that’s the day the Russian Orthodox Church observes Christmas Day and many non-Russian Hongkongers have embraced the faith. Christmas for Orthodox churches refers to the same holiday as the Catholic Christmas, but is based on the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45BC, instead of the Gregorian calendar. During Soviet times, religion was banned by the communist regime, so New Year festivities replaced Christmas celebrations. In Hong Kong, the Orthodox Church hosts a Christmas service and New Year party. Father Denis Pozdnyaev, of Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, says his Easter service is more popular than the Christmas one and, theologically, Easter carries more weight. “Jesus Christ was born to sacrifice himself for mankind. So his resurrec-

tion is an ultimate proof of Jesus’ mission being accomplished,” he says. The Russian Orthodox Church in Hong Kong has been steadily growing in recent years, with 25 per cent of its members being non-Russians and admits it focuses more on its Chinese followers. Father Denis says there is a common ground between the Orthodox religion and Chinese culture, especially in moral and ethical values. They translate the Bible and books about the Orthodox religion and do their services in multiple languages, including Russian, English and Chinese. The number of Orthodox Christians in China is estimated to be about 15,000. Ambrose Lam, a Chinese Orthodox Christian who came from the mainland, says the early stage of his spiritual journey was not easy. “Not many people understand the Orthodox religion, so my parents and friends were concerned at the beginning,” he says.

Christmas for the Orthodox Christians is in January.


There are similarities between the Orthodox Church and Chinese culture, according to Father Denis Pozdnyaev.



All That Folk Russian Bookshelf

Father Denis says a key misconception of the Orthodox religion was that it is a religion of Russia and for Russians only. In fact, he says, the Orthodox religion is culturally adaptable and its set of values is universal. Still, the development of the Orthodox religion in Hong Kong is closely linked to the history of Russian immigration. “One of the White Russian emigrants in Hong Kong was the first Russian Orthodox priest, named Dimitry Uspensky,” Pozdnyaeva Kira, also of Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, says. “After 1917, he was sent to China and, in 1934, he was appointed as chief priest of the Hong Kong Russian Orthodox community that comprised about 300 to 400 people. “He stayed in Hong Kong during the hard years of the second world war and passed through all difficulties shoulder to shoulder with locals.” The life of Father Dimitry, who passed away in 1970, typifies the history of Russian immigration history to Hong Kong. There are 105 Russian Orthodox graves inside the Hong Kong Cemetery, and each of them has its own story to tell. Historian Jason Wordie says: “The first wave of Russian emigration to Hong Kong could be traced to the 1920s, followed by the second wave in the 1940s. Driven by the October revolution in 1917, some of these emigrants sought refugee status and paved their way to the United States and Australia. “In fact, there was a refugee category called the White Chinese, which referred to Russians. It also [in the very broadest sense] included those Chinese who did not agree with the communists and left China. White Chinese, in that respect, can be seen as a play on White Russian as opposed to Red Chinese and Red Russians.” Asked about what impact the Orthodox Church aspires to create for Hong Kong communities, Father Denis says: “I think the Orthodox Church shall bring to the people of Hong Kong an understanding of the ways of Christian spiritual practice. “The church first of all takes care of persons, not groups of people, and our mission is to bring the spirit of compassion, love and sense of being to anyone who searches for it in their contemporary, complex and fragmented life.”

Carefully selected and recorded for you.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013 15


Viktor Belyaev has cooked for famous heads to state


Cold war chef’s food diplomacy

Indira Gandhi loved how I cooked egg yolk noodles ... and she asked me for the recipe because I had somehow learned very quickly how to cook some very fine solyanka [a thick, spicy and sour soup] and so on,” Belyaev says. “Her uncle was the director of catering in the Kremlin. It was thanks to Zinaida Vasilyevna that I ended up not in the worker’s canteen but in the Kremlin’s speciality kitchen itself. “I ended up in the speciality kitchen that cooked for the government ministers. This was a separate and absolutely astonishing operation. When I first went in there, I saw gas stoves from the dacha, spread over 10 metres. They were subsequently converted to electricity. I worked there for 14 years.” This speciality kitchen cooked on a daily basis and served world leaders who visited the Kremlin.

DELICIOUS RUSSIA. Try the best traditional recipes and get tips from the country’s foodies es

Chanterelles & soft salted cucumbers

Leonid Brezhnev (standing) with former Indian leader Indira Gandhi

Boris Yeltsin (left) welcomes Russian elite in mid-90s.

Okroshka, cold soup with kvass

Baked pumpkin with apple and honey



“The advance parties would arrive first, the protocol officers and the doctors,” he says. “We were told who liked what, who was healthy, and who was suffering from chronic diseases. Representatives of Arabic countries, however, were very different because they would not eat our own soups and dishes. Embassy chefs would arrive and we would learn how to cook national dishes. “When Chinese delegations came to visit, sea cucumbers would be brought up to the kitchens, which we would also have to prepare. But we did not learn all this in one go.” Foreigners loved Russian cooking and several of them asked the chefs to share the recipes. “Indira Gandhi loved how I cooked egg yolk noodles; she came into the kitchen and asked for the recipe. Then, a few months later, she arrived for a forum and I was on shift. She approached me and said that her family had enjoyed the dish so much, she made it herself and it was really something special,” Belyaev says. Nixon, though, didn’t want to spoil his beautifully laid out hors d’oeuvres arrangement by eating them, which Belyaev described as one of his most unusual experiences. The chef, though, has also had to deal with fickle tastes. The most discerning, he says, were South Koreans and Romanians. After a while, Belyaev decided it was time to venture overseas. He left for Syria with his family, but things did not turn out that well. There were shortages of Russian black bread, kefir (a fermented milk drink favoured by Russians) and herring. In addition, the climate did not suit him. He did not enjoy standing in a kitchen in 50 degrees Celsius heat, so he returned home.



ndira Gandhi loved his egg yolk noodles so much she wanted the recipe. Richard Nixon was so enamoured by how he presented the hors d’oeuvres, the leader of the free world only wanted to photograph them. Viktor Borisovich Belyaev was for more than 30 years the Soviet Union’s and Russia’s maestro chef for world leaders. Apart from former Indian prime minister Gandhi and US president Nixon, Belyaev has also cooked for Fidel Castro, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, Jimmy Carter and Giscard d’Estaing. “The list is truly exhaustive,” he says. “It was interesting. Firstly because of the people and secondly because we learned about foreign cooking.” Belyaev was formerly with famous Moscow restaurant Pravda before working at the Kremlin. In the middle of his career, he made an ill-fated move to Syria, wanting to try something different, but eventually returned to the Kremlin to cook under the reign of former president Boris Yeltsin. He retired in 2008 after suffering a heart attack and is now president of the Association of Russian Gastronomers. As a youngster, Belyaev thought nothing of being a chef. In fact, he wanted to become an archivist, but then noticed an advertisement on the doors of a cookery college. It turned out that students at the college were paid a sizeable scholarship and that swayed his decision. He described the start of his career at Pravda as his first miracle. He started off spending most of his time carving meat and fish, and cleaning potatoes. He ended up serving at a banquet in the Kremlin and was invited to work there permanently. “I had a cookery teacher, Zinaida Vasilyevna, and she was very kind to me


Nikita Khrushchev (right) relaxes with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

16 Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Orchestra hits right note Siberians loved the HKCO, but Tuvan singers were less popular in the city, writes Brian Yeung


MUSIC terested in Tuvan throat singing,” said Andriyanov after the event. “Once I sat down in a park in Shenzhen with my laptop. Some people said hello, and some looked at my screen. Once I put away my laptop and started Tuvan throat singing, everyone just turned away and ignored me as if I were invisible.” Mark Zavadskiy, founder of Asia To Go who organised the concert, said: “Siberia is under-represented in Hong Kong, considering that we have direct flights between Hong Kong and Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok and Irkutsk. I wanted to create some interest in Siberia among the local audience.” Still, Russia and China enjoy a long history of musical exchange, with several leading figures in Chinese music having had exposure to Russian culture. Among the most prominent was Zhang Guoyong, vice-chairman of the Chinese Musicians’ Association, president and artistic director of the Shanghai Opera House and a National Class One conductor of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. Zhang studied at the PI Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatoire. “Russian music was popular among my predecessors and my generation – we are all familiar with Russian folk songs,” Yan says. “Russian music resonates with us and that reminds us of the days when we were young. The Russian cultural influence was much stronger than the American and British in those days.” Overseas music tours can be a big investment. For example, HKCO’s Siberia tour cost HK$2.6 million and was partly funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

The local media described the performance as ‘sophisticated in the Oriental way’.


embers of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO) were pleasantly surprised at how much their music was appreciated by audiences in Siberia. The same, however, could not be said about the response of Hongkongers to Siberian throat music. The HKCO’s inaugural performance in Siberia served to generate great interest in traditional Chinese music. On October 4, a delegation of 85 musicians from HKCO took the stage at the Opera House Chelyabinsk. Two more concerts were held on October 5 at the Philharmonic Hall Ekaterinburg and at the Philharmonic Hall Tyumen on October 7. What impressed the orchestra most was not the three sold-out concerts, but the enthusiasm of the local audiences. The local media described the performance as “sophisticated in the Oriental way and with a philosophical take on life”. “Given the language barriers, we were not sure how our performance in Siberia would be received by the local audience. They appeared very open-minded – they came to our concert without a presumption of stereotypical Chinese music,” says principal conductor Yan Huichang. It was the first time the Hong Kong orchestra had performed in Russia’s South Ural, and they selected a Russian folk song, Kalinka, especially for their performances in Siberia. Executive director Celina Chin Manwah adds: “Some say Russian audiences are very direct – they will just leave if they don’t appreciate your music. We were very glad to see the dynamics we had with the local audience, and that was truly rewarding.” Given the cultural links between Russia and China, Yan thought Hongkongers in their 60s or 70s would appreciate Russian music. However, the Russian concert organiser struggled to find an audience for the concert in Hong Kong for Tuvan throat singing, popular in Siberia. The first concert in Hong Kong, featuring Siberian musician Sayan Andriyanov, attracted only a small audience. “Chinese audiences don’t seem in-

Hong Kong’s musicians are given a warm welcome by the local audience.

What impressed the orchestra most was the enthusiastic response by the local audience

The throat singing concert organiser worked on much less support and admitted to suffering losses. Asked whether the concert was a success, Zavadskiy said: “Emotionally, yes, financially, not quite. I understand that it takes time to cultivate local interest in Russian-related concerts.” Despite the small audience, the concert at least helped to raise awareness

of traditional Siberian music. “I didn’t know much about throat singing. It’s my first encounter with Siberian music,” said Will Ng Wai-yin, a professor who came to the concert out of curiosity. “The music carries a powerful sound, and the musicians are very charming. It reminds me immediately of Mongolian singers I have heard before.”

RBTH Hong Kong December 2013 issue  

Dec'13 issue of Russia Beyond the Headlines supplement distributed in Hong KOng

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