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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

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Crisis talks: John Kerry, left, with Sergey Lavrov at the Russian ambassador’s residence in Paris on Sunday. The meeting failed to provide a breakthrough in the Ukraine crisis

AFTER CRIMEA: A NEW ERA FOR RUSSIAN DIPLOMACY? As tensions ease, economic rapprochement with Europe will increase but security comes first for Moscow, discovers Voice of Russia political analyst Dmitry Babich


Five Russian writers bring their literary visions to London



Ukraine crisis Gorbachev on Crimea ‘This time, everything that happened was the people’s will’ P.03

Sochi 2014 A fond farewell Russia bows out as host of an inspiring and friendly Paralympics P.05

ollowing last Sunday’s talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris, which while constructive failed to provide a breakthrough in the Ukraine crisis, many Russia watchers are now asking the question: does Russia have a new diplomatic strategy? After its unilateral action in Crimea, which is seen as“occupation” by the western powers and as “reunification” by the majority of Russians and their allies abroad, there seem two extremes of opinion in approaching this question. One is to say Moscow wants to recover its old Soviet might, even beyond the borders of the former USSR. The other is to say what happened in Crimea was an“unsuccessful improvisation”,and that it will soon be business as usual, with Russia grudgingly accepting the loss of former territories to the western sphere of influence – to the tune of talks about“expanding the zone of security and prosperity.” The truth in these matters rarely lies in such black-and-white views but in the grey area in between. In the view of Rossyiskaya Gazeta, the operation in Crimea indicated a desire to draw the “contour of security”; ie, to mark the territories Russia considers of vital importance and where it will not ignore the creation of antiRussian regimes and an unlimited build-up of the West’s military presence. Ukraine is one such territory.“But it does not mean that Russia plans to become a new planetary rival of the US, stepping into the shoes of the defunct Soviet Union,” says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs. The problem is that this moderate view is not necessarily shared by people on the ground. And not only in Crimea, but also in other regions of Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova. Some even think that the return of the USSR is possible. “If we get back the country, you can keep the change,” says Valentina, a middle-aged woman at her bread and biscuit stall in Sudak, an ancient Crimean town. Everyone I meet in Crimea talks about this mysterious notion:“Our country.”For older people this was clearly the Soviet Union; for the younger ones it looked like Russia; sometimes the picture was vague. But “Our country” was certainly not Ukraine, to which Crimea has formally belonged since 1954 (from 1954 to 1991 in the framework of the Soviet Union). This is

probably the greatest failure, not only of the current Ukrainian government, but also of all the administrations that have run independent Ukraine since 1991: they did not make Crimeans feel at home. Similar sentiment, but on a much greater scale, can now be felt in the small unrecognised state of Transdniester, which separated itself from the now Europe-bound Moldova in 1992. Unlike the Crimeans, Transdniestrians promoted their desire to leave Moldova in 1992, when a short war against the Moldovans ended in a truce. In a referendum in 2006, 97pc voted in favour of joining Russia but the offer was declined by Moscow.“Now, not just regions in Ukraine, but even regions in Moldova – including the Turkic-speaking Gagauzia in the south – all feel reassured in their dreams of waking up in Russia some time," says Armen Oganessian, editor-in-chief of International Life.

tend to run dry, so Russia is the last country willing to hear the sound of gunshots in eastern Europe. But this Afghan scenario is also unacceptable for the EU and Ukraine, where even the most belligerent politicians are not pleased by the perspective of becoming what Kseniya Lyapina, a deputy of the newly ruling Batkivshchyna faction, calls“the initial battlefield for some new global conflict”. Many people, not just in Kiev but also in Moscow, sighed with relief when the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia had no intentions of going beyond the eastern borders of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian foreign minister declared that Kiev’s new masters did not set itself the aim of making Ukraine a Nato member. One senses that if politicians can stop inflaming passions, Russians and Ukrainians will be able to find common ground. The much talked about “ethnic conflict” between Russians and Ukrainians has few roots in reality; it exists mostly in the media or in the minds of intellectual fantasists and publicity seekers. To many, the fact that these individuals get preferential access to the mainstream media on both sides of the Ukrainian border seems more a reflection of media irresponsibility that the state of relations between the people.

Ukrainian urban guerrillas If for the Transdniestrians and the Gagauzians this trend is a sign of hope, for some western politicians it is a reason for concern. The former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has even suggested “providing assistance to Ukrainians, in the sense of weaponry,”if there is a“significant local conflict”between Russia and Ukraine with“implications for the immediate neighbours to the west of Ukraine.” The former US ambassador to Afghanistan and a long-time opponent of the Soviet presence in that region, Zalmay Khalilzad, suggested“arming those forces in Ukraine which are capable of resisting the Russian occupation of the east of that country”. It seems Mr Brzezinski and Mr Khalilzad, regarded as architects of the US policy in Afghanistan, do not exclude an “Afghan option” for eastern Europe, with Ukrainian urban guerrillas in the role of the Afghan Mujahideen. There are reasons to hope Ukraine will avoid this kind of scenario. “The major drawback of this scenario is that it does not suit any of the parties involved,” says Alexei Pilko, head of the Eurasia Centre at RIA Novosti news agency. “It does not suit Moscow, because Russia differs a lot from the Soviet Union, which produced everything for itself. Modern Russia needs pipelines to get hard currency, which would allow it to buy in the EU things needed – for survival, not just fun.” When guns begin speaking, pipelines

Business as usual ruled out

If politicians stop inflaming passions, Russians and Ukrainians will be able to find common ground

“There will be no war in Ukraine, but there will be no return to the business as usual in Russian foreign policy,”says AlexeiVlasov, head of the research centre North-South at Moscow State University. Boris Volokhonsky of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies says: “The hopes of many analysts that the relatively mild sanctions will return Putin’s Russia to Yeltsin’s diplomacy are most likely misguided.” In Mr Volokhonsky’s view, much of Russia’s desire in the Nineties and early Noughties to have a new relationship with western Europe and the US was based on trust rather than on the “balance of fear”. Boris Yeltsin expected western fears of Russia to evaporate as the Soviet bloc’s old bastions – East Germany, Poland, Hungary and the Czechoslovakia – changed hands.Initially,Vladimir Putin followed the same line, acquiescing to the expansion of the EU and Nato – even into


Read on RBTH.CO.UK:


Yulia Lipnitskaya: The nervousness is always there rbth.co.uk/35381


The ZIL limousine, Soviet leaders' car of choice





Five questions about Crimea

Ukraine crisis P2_Tuesday, April 1, 2014_www.rbth.co.uk


Russia Beyond the Headlines: a unified brand



Flying the flag: a man poses in front of a ship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Crimea

Chill winds from East and West Diplomacy Lavrov and Kerry agree plan to reduce tensions after four hours of talks but conflict may lead to long-term freeze in relations with the West NIKOLAI GORSHKOV SPECIAL TO RBTH

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s midair Uturn to discuss Ukraine with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after a candid telephone conversation between Presidents Putin and Obama did not produce a result commensurate with the dramatic change of Mr Kerry’s flight path. But having expressed opposing views on the roots of the crisis, Russia and the US have agreed to seek common ground to deescalate tensions. “We have agreed to work with the Ukrainian government, the Ukrainian people in the broadest sense, to achieve the implementation of such priority measures as minority rights, language rights, disarmament of provocateurs, implementing constitutional reforms and having free and fair elections under international supervision,” Mr Lavrov told journalists after four hours of talks in Paris. In a separate press briefing, Mr Kerry, who diverted his homebound flight from the Middle East for the talks, repeated Washington’s view that Russia’s actions were “illegal and illegitimate”. He voiced concern about a “very large Russian force currently massing along Ukraine’s borders,”despite the absence of hard evidence of aggressive military activities there. Earlier, in an interview with the Russian Channel One TV, Mr Lavrov said:“We have absolutely no intention of or interest in crossing the Ukrainian border, absolutely none.”He quoted President Putin who said that Russia would protect the rights of Russians and Russian

speakers in Ukraine using all political, diplomatic and legal means at its disposal. Addressing the Russian parliament, Mr Putin had sent a message to Ukrainians: “Do not believe those who are trying to scare you with Russia, those shouting that other regions will follow Crimea. We do not want the division of Ukraine.” But many ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in east Ukraine are unhappy with the strong nationalist and anti-Russian overtones in Kiev and the west of the country. Kharkov, Lugansk and Donetsk were Russian provinces until they were annexed to Ukraine by the Bolsheviks in 1918 for political and ideological reasons. This is not to say there is an overwhelming desire to reunite with Russia. In the 1991 referendum, a majority of eastern Ukrainians voted for independence from the Soviet Union. The industrial east was allowed a degree of autonomy and closer ties with Russia that brought jobs and money to Kiev. Russian was eventually recognised as an official language in the region alongside Ukrainian. The violent change of guard in Kiev in February breached the status quo. An immediate attempt to repeal the language law and the replacement of home-grown governors and mayors with pro-western appointees from Kiev led to unrest, a cause for concern in Moscow. President Putin voiced this concern in his address to both houses of the Russian parliament.“Millions of Russian people, Russianspeaking citizens live and will continue to live in Ukraine, and Russia will always defend their interests by political, diplomatic,


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and legal means. However, Ukraine should be interested that the rights and interests of these people are secured – this is the guarantee of stability of Ukrainian statehood and the territorial integrity of the country,” Mr Putin said. Earlier, he had secured the parliament’s permission to use the Russian military to protect Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine. But will he use this power? “Ukraine is basically a failed state and if the ultra-nationalists consolidate their grip on power, and blood is spilt in east Ukraine as a result, Russia would not be able to stay away,” says Ruslan Pukhov of AST, a Moscow centre for the analysis of strategies and technologies. George Friedman, chairman of Stratfor, a consultancy in the field of global intelligence, believes the jury on a possible escalation of the conflict is still out. Russia, he believes, can afford to do nothing. “The Kiev government is highly fractious, and given the pro-Russian factions’ hostility to moving closer to the West, the probability of paralysis is high.” But will the West be tempted to get involved militarily? In Mr Friedman’s view, “Having chosen to support the creation of an anti-Russian regime in Ukraine, the US now faces consequences and decisions. The issue is not deployments of major forces but providing central Europeans, from Poland to Romania, with the technology and material to discourage Russia from dangerous adventures.” The Cold War ended far better than the wars America became directly involved in; it never turned hot in Europe, Mr Friedman says. “Logic has it that at some point the US will adopt this strategy.” He also says that would represent a U-turn away from the belligerence of the past decade, which was marred by hostilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

Out of the blue: Khrushchev’s ‘gift on a golden dish’ ALEKSANDR KOROLKOV SPECIAL TO RBTH


Throughout its history, Crimea was run by the Byzantine Empire, the Khazar Khaganate, the Mongol Empire and the Ottoman Empire until it became part of the Russian Empire in 1783. After the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the Russian Empire was broken down into formally independent Soviet republics and autonomies, including Crimea. The peninsula remained part of Russia, which at the time was called the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). The decision to make Crimea part of Ukraine, which at the time was called the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and had a formal independence within the Soviet Union, came as a complete surprise not only to its residents but also to the country’s ruling elite at the time. Immediately after he came to power as general secretary in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev, who had for many years been in charge of the Communist Party of Ukraine, decided to make the symbolic gesture to ensure he enjoyed strong support among the influential Ukrainian establishment. He did it in his typical arbitrary and headstrong manner, coming up with a proposal – at an agriculture sector

gathering in the Kremlin – to hand Crimea to Ukraine as a gift. Dmitry Shepilov, a future Soviet foreign minister who was at that meeting, later wrote: “Khrushchev wanted to present Ukraine with a gift on a golden dish, so that the whole republic knew how generous he was and how he cared about Ukraine’s prosperity.” “The Ukrainians will, of course, be delighted if we give Crimea to them. I think we shall be able to agree it with the Russian Federation, too. It’s just that we have to be smart about how we do it all,” Khrushchev said, according to Mr Shepilov. Mr Shepilov’s predecessor as Soviet foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, who

Symbolic gesture: Khrushchev’s handover decision came as a surprise to everyone

was also at the meeting, said: “This proposal is, of course, wrong. But it looks like we shall have to adopt it.” The reasoning given by Khrushchev was almost word for word repeated at a session of the presidium of the Supreme Council of RSFSR on February 5, 1954, in “stirring speeches” by Mikhail Tarasov and Otto Kuusinen. The arguments came down to three points: Ukraine was nearer Crimea than Russia; the new configuration would make it easier to run the region’s economy; what difference did it make since Ukraine and Russia were parts of the same country? In the Fifties, the people of Crimea did not think of opposing the handover, largely for the reasons outlined above. Since the change was taking place in the same country, nobody noticed any difference. Many had no idea a change had occurred until they started seeing street signs in Ukrainian. However, 60 years on, debate continues about the legality of that handover. The question that raises most concern among lawyers and historians is: who was authorised to agree, on behalf of the Russian Federation, to a change of its territory? The need for a formal agreement was stipulated in Article 16 of the 1937 constitution of the RSFSR and in Article 18 of the 1936

constitution of the USSR. The relevant agreements from both republics came in the form of resolutions of their respective governments (Supreme Council presidiums). However, Article 33 of the constitution of the RSFSR, which listed the powers of its Presidium of the Supreme Council, did not envisage powers to change the borders of the republic, but did grant the power to initiate a referendum. But no referendum was conducted either in Crimea or in the rest of the RSFSR. The history of the status of Sevastopol is even more complicated. In tsarist times, Sevastopol was a fortress city with the status of an autonomous entity. It lost it after the revolution, but in 1948 – by a resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the RSFSR – the city was taken out of the Crimean region and made a separate entity within the RSFSR. After Crimea was handed over to Ukraine, Sevastopol continued to receive funding from both Moscow and Kiev for a long time. Later, after the adoption of the 1978 constitution, Sevastopol became a separate entity within Ukraine, which its residents were and still are bitterly opposed to. In 1994, the city council even passed a decision to join Russia.

ussia Beyond the Headlines introduces a new logo this month as part of our strategy to create a single brand for our multilingual, multinational news organisation. This logo appears in all of our English-language publications as well as in Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Uruguay, where we will also debut the Russia Beyond the Headlines name. After seven years, in which RBTH has expanded from three English-language supplements to 18 websites in 16 languages and 26 print supplements in 23 countries, the time has come to unite our resources under a single brand. The stylised “R” logo, designed by RBTH art director Andrei Shimarsky, will appear on all print supplements and websites. It was a challenge to find one that suited all our products, especially considering that RBTH publishes in languages ranging from Arabic to Japanese. But we wanted to create a single element identifying the publications as part of RBTH. Our mission: to tell the stories about Russia that fall outside the scope of the foreign press. These are turbulent times. With the Ukraine crisis having raised the spectre of another Cold War, we remain committed to delivering a Russian perspective on the biggest issues of the day with balance and clarity. We will not shy away from the toughest questions and will seek to avoid the pitfalls of an overly partisan approach. We look forward to introducing you to this new format and we welcome feedback. Email us at UK@rbth.com or comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/RussiaNow and on Twitter, @russiabeyond

After Crimea: a new era for Russian diplomacy? CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1

the territory of the Baltic countries, formerly a part of the Soviet Union. But the second – much more violent than in 2004-05 – “regime change” in Ukraine set the alarm bells ringing. In Mr Putin’s eyes, the Kiev experience meant the West had not learnt from the failures of its previous “revolutionary” allies, such as the former presidents of Ukraine and Georgia Viktor Yushchenko and Mikheil Saakashvili. And the violence in Kiev meant, at least in Russian eyes, that the methods of a possible future “regime change” in Moscow might be even more cruel. So, what will Moscow’s new line be? Of course, a 180-degree turn eastwards away from its estranged European relatives is not possible for Russia. But there is little likelihood of blind trust, when, in return for geopolitical concessions, Russia felt lectured on why this or that bitter pill was good for her. (The recent promises from Brussels that Russia could “profit too” from Ukraine’s drift towards the EU were not even taken for sugar coating, but dismissed outright.) Economic rapprochement with the EU and, to a lesser extent, with the US will continue, as soon as the current rhetoric subsides and the tension in relations is relaxed. But security will probably be seen as an even more important criterion than profitability. As Mr Putin put in his speech on Crimea’s incorporation: “I simply cannot imagine that we would travel to Sevastopol to visit Nato sailors. Of course, most of them are wonderful guys, but it would be better to have them come and visit us and be our guests, rather than the other way round.” And while this may sound wrong to an average western European, it certainly sounded right to the people I spoke to in Crimea and Moscow.


The territory of future Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia was once covered by various principalities with their capitals in the major cities: Chernigov, Galicia, Goroden (Grodno) Kiev, Minsk, Novgorod, Pereyaslavl, Polotsk, Ryazan, Smolensk and Volhynia.

After their invasion of the Russian lands, the Mongols formed the Golden Horde. At the same time, Lithuanian princes created the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the largest political entity in Eastern Europe.

In 1569, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland joined together to formed a Commonwealth (or) Republic. A century earlier, Crimean Tatars had split from the Golden Horde to form the Crimean Khanate, become a vassal of the Ottoman Empire.

After a 13-year war between Russia and the PolishLithuanian Commonwealth over the territory of modern Ukraine and Belarus, 1667 saw the conclusion of a truce at Andrusovo. The Commonwealth ceded Smolensk, Left-bank Ukraine, and some other lands to Russia. Right-bank Ukraine and Belarus remained under the control of the Commonwealth.

Ukraine crisis THIS SUPPLEMENT IS SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA_www.rbth.co.uk_Tuesday, April 1, 2014_P3

Sanctions: who pays the biggest price? Economy Europe and the United States are reacting to the crisis in Crimea with proposals that could have unexpected consequences

G8 foreign ministers, ending 16 years of cooperation with Russia in the G8 format. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the G8 was an informal club from which nobody could be expelled, but that“if our Western partners believe this format has exhausted itself, let it be. We are not clinging to it”. He reacted strongly to the sanctions imposed by the US and EU, saying:“Our US colleagues are telling themselves that they use sanctions to compel Russia to co-operate more closely on international issues. This is quite a dirty approach because it is necessary to co-operate honestly and, as we are partners, our interests should be taken into account on all issues, which are on the agenda of the Russian dialogue with the West and the US in particular.” The Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, adopted a statement calling on the US to impose sanctions on all its members in a show of solidarity with Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, who was on an initial sanctions list. Deputy Speaker Ilyas Umakhanov said the statement was“a principled opinion about the impermissibility of political blackmail”. Russia’s presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the blacklists were“totally unacceptable”and that“it won’t take Russia long to react”. The second round of sanctions followed lists issued by the US and EU that provoked derision in Moscow for the limited range of people involved. One of those named, presidential


US ambassador Samantha Power and Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin at the United Nations before Russia vetoed a resolution condemning the referendum in Crimea


336 billion euros of trade took place between the EU and Russia in 2012

18 billion euros – amount of trade between the US and Russia.

4 billion dollars is paid to Ukraine in fees for the transit of Russian gas

It was the will of the people, says Gorbachev ILYA SHEPELIN SLON.RU

In an interview with the Russian news website Slon.ru, the first and last president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, spoke about the crisis in relations between Moscow and Kiev, the referendum in Crimea and Vladimir Putin’s policy towards Ukraine. Did you feel it acutely when Crimea became part of an independent Ukraine? In 1991, I was categorically against the break-up of a union state. My idea for resolving the problems of different nations that had accumulated was to give them rights and powers. It was my belief that all issues of the union state, except for war and peace, should be resolved locally. But some were eager to become little tsars on their territories, and there was nothing one could do about them. God made the human being an amazing creature but has for some reason given us these faults and greed. This time in Crimea, everything happened by the people’s will and at their request. It’s a good thing they chose the path of a referendum and showed that people really

In the second half of the 18th century, the Commonwealth lost its independence; its kings were elected under the Russian Empire’s influence, and Prussia eyed its western lands. In 1772, 1793, and 1795, the Commonwealth underwent a series of partitions, then ceased to exist, and Russia absorbed the Lithuanian, Belarusian and Ukrainian lands. In 1783, Russia annexed Crimea.

jet manufacturer and one of the biggest US defence contractors. It operates joint ventures with Russian company Avisma, the largest titanium producer in the world, as well as technical research and design centres in Moscow. In line with its 30-year partnership programme with Russia, Boeing expects to invest $27bn (£16bn) in titanium production, design and engineering services, including space programmes. This is the same sum that the EU, IMF and US are raising as an emergency loan to Ukraine. A lot has been said about Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, which is, of course, a twoway street. Any cut in Europe’s consumption of Russian energy would deplete Moscow’s coffers. But since Russia has overtaken Germany as the largest retail market in Europe, any fall in sales to Russia would undermine the fragile recovery of European manufacturing. However, the biggest loser would be Ukraine. It is even more dependent on Russian gas than the EU. Ukraine gets up to $4bn in fees for the transit of Russian gas to Europe. Should this transit diminish or stop because of sanctions, Ukraine would lose badly needed income. Alexei Miller, chief executive of Russian gas giant Gazprom, says Ukraine owes Russia about $2bn for gas already consumed. He has said he hopes Ukraine will settle the debt once it gets the loans promised by the US, EU and IMF. This would, in effect, mean the West was paying Russia instead of punishing her.


Russia faced sanctions from the United States and the European Union as well as effective suspension from the G8 group of leading economies as world leaders reacted to the crisis over Crimea. The US extended sanctions to include leading Kremlin officials and business figures alleged to have ties to President Vladimir Putin. President Barack Obama signed an executive order to impose visa restrictions and freeze any US assets of 20 more top officials and business people, as well as Russia’s 17th largest bank, Bank Rossiya, described as“the personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation”. US Treasury officials said the sanctioned individuals would be unable to use any US financial services. The officials named included Sergei Ivanov, head of the presidential administration, Sergei Naryshkin, Speaker of the Duma, and Vladimir Yakunin, the head of Russian Railways, as well as Sergei Mironov, leader of the Just Russia party. Prominent business figures targeted included Gennady Timchenko, co-owner of the oil trader Gunvor, who announced after the sanctions were imposed that he had sold his 43pc share in the company to his business partner Torbjorn Tornqvist to ensure “continued and uninterrupted operations”.Yuri Kovalchuk, head of Bank Rossiya, and businessmen Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, reported to be friends of Mr Putin, were also on the list. US officials said that Bank Rossiya would be “frozen out of the dollar” after Mr Obama said the bank provided “material support” for people on the sanctions list. Visa and Mastercard blocked operations for clients of the bank through their card payments systems. Russia’s stock market reacted badly to the sanctions, losing 3pc of its value the following day, while the rouble also slipped against the dollar. A separate executive order warned of possible further US sanctions aimed at key sectors of the Russian economy, including energy, finance, defence and mining. The EU also added 12 more names to its list of people facing sanctions in protest at Russia’s absorption of Crimea after a referendum vote in the peninsula to leave Ukraine in favour of unification with Russia. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists that the EU was ready to impose serious economic sanctions against Russia under a third phase of a planned response if there was any further escalation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The seven other G8 countries – US, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada – declared they would not attend a summit to be hosted by Russia in June. At a meeting in The Hague, they said they would gather instead without Russia in Brussels. They also pulled out of a meeting in Moscow in April of

adviser Vladislav Surkov, told a Moscow tabloid: “I don’t have accounts abroad. What interests me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work.” The measures are ostensibly designed to induce Russia to reverse its policies towards Kiev and Crimea, but the jury is still out on the effectiveness of sweeping sanctions. “Since the Crimean referendum in mid-March, stock markets around the world have rebounded to almost their record highs, and the rouble and the Moscow stock exchange have been among the world’s strongest markets”,Anatole Kaletsky wrote on his Reuters blog on March 28.“Investors seem to have accepted the Russian annexation of Crimea as a fairly harmless fait accompli, with no major consequences for global prosperity or even for Europe.” Mr Putin, addressing both houses of the Russian parliament on March 18, noted: “Western politicians are trying to scare us not just by sanctions but by the spectre of rising internal problems. Do they count on a worsening of the social and economic situation in our country which would trigger off popular unrest?” The EU is Russia’s top trading partner with €336.5bn (£280bn) turnover in 2012. The US is fifth – well behind China, Belarus and Ukraine.Yet to a number of American companies the Russian connection is business-critical. Take Boeing, the world’s top commercial

want to return back to Russia, showed that nobody is forcing people there. The people of Crimea should make good and responsible use of the happiness they have earned. But from the point of view of procedure, there are two weak points. First, the referendum was announced and held within a very short time… One shouldn’t think so.The referendum in Crimea has, in effect, been going on for all these past years. In a way it has. But Crimea was full of soldiers in uniform without insignia. No matter how ready the residents of Crimea were to vote for joining Russia, that could not help but raise questions This is nonsense. These are all made-up stories. I and all those who were in favour of unification, kept saying Crimea’s return [to Russia] should be voluntary, free and democratic. And without any blood spilt. We had seen what that could lead to. The biggest mistake would be if those opposed to Crimea’s reunification with Russia provoke a confrontation between Russia and Ukraine. The very idea of a war between Russians and Ukrainians is absurd. You are often criticised for preferring a compromise to a possible escalation of tension with the

From 1807-1813, the Duchy of Warsaw existed under the protectorate of the Napoleonic empire, formed from Polish territories ceded to Prussia and Austria during the partition of 1795. At the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) following Napoleon's defeat, most of the lands of the Duchy of Warsaw were allotted to Russia under the name of the Kingdom of Poland.

West to the detriment of the country’s interests As far as political gossip about me is concerned, they do it every day, trying to discredit me. As for compromise, it is a thing that should be sought, always. One should not, however, confuse compromise with spinelessness. I have always been in favour of a peaceful solution to any situation, in whatever circumstances I found myself. Should Russia now act in a tougher way on Crimea-related issues? The West, Russia and Ukraine should realise that we live in a global but very small world. We all now live in one big village. Everything in it is interdependent and is responsible for everything else. We should learn to live in a global world. Interconnections between countries are growing and one would be a fool not to take it into account. Still, Barack Obama has said that the Crimea referendum was illegitimate. What would you tell him in response? At the start of his first presidential term, I supported Obama and very much approved of him. But now he needs to overcome the triumphalism that the American nation has been suffering from since the end of the Cold War. When the Cold War ended, a lot

On November 20, 1917, Kiev proclaimed the Ukrainian People’s Republic, which was followed by the declaration on December 12, 1917, of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in Kharkov and on November 1, 1918, of the West Ukrainian People’s Republic in Lviv. In 1919, they were merged to form the single Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.


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In 1939, the Soviet Union annexed Eastern Galicia, and in 1940 Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia became part of the Ukrainian SSR. In 1945, the Czechoslovakian territory of Subcarpathia was subsumed into the Ukrainian SSR, and in 1954 the Crimea was transferred from the Russian to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic within the Soviet Union.

was said about the need to build a new world order. The Americans did most of the talking. However, in the end the United States chose a different course. They chose triumphalism. At first it worked: “What’s the point of changing anything when we have become what we have become; when the whole world is beneath us; when we are the only superpower? God has led us to this, we should accept it, we should create an empire.” Other countries did not accept that US policy. Now the Americans must do everything to overcome this syndrome. To hold a perestroika of their own. It’s not the same as making fried eggs; it will take a long time. I planned that the perestroika in the USSR would last 25 years. What do you make of Putin’s latest steps as far as Crimea is concerned? You know, at first, during the early years, I liked Putin very much, I supported him everywhere in the West and got a lot of flak for that. However, gradually Vladimir began to lean towards autocracy. I wouldn’t say that it was anything outrageous, but it wasn’t right. People are yet again being pushed out of politics, not being entrusted with the simplest things. There are again slave drivers and herdsmen everywhere. As far as I understand, he believes that Ukraine should be free and that Crimea should be free. Free and able to decide its destiny at a referendum. I welcome this view.

On August 24, 1991, the Ukrainian parliament adopted the Act of Independence in which the parliament declared Ukraine to be an independent democratic state. On March 16, 2014, a referendum was held in Crimea, which showed that 97pc of voters supported leaving Ukraine to join Russia. Ukraine and many other countries refused to recognise the referendum as legitimate.

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Why Ukraine needs a new constitution fair to all


Alexander Yakovenko AMBASSADOR


I first went to Crimea around the turn of the millennium after 10 years working in Russia. Crimea had seemingly slipped out of the global consciousness. A few years later, when I was invited to become official representative for Crimea in the UK as the honorary consul for culture and tourism, it was a bit like explaining the plot of the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup. Crimea is a country the size of Belgium. It is much more than a region of a country: the seaside resort ofYalta is where modern Europe was created by Britain, Russia and the US in February 1945. Yet when I made a speech for the 60th anniversary of theYalta treaty, standing on the spot where Winston Churchill signed, I found myself not just the only Brit in the White Hall of the Livadia Palace but the only western European. There were no Americans, either. Five years later at the 65th anniversary, it was the same. The only British visitors were battlefield tourists and historians. Ironically the Crimean War – known for the Charge of the Light Brigade and Florence Nightingale – began, for us, 160 years ago this coming autumn. It was a pointless and bloody war from which all sides exited claiming victory. The truth was they all lost — and Crimea was devastated. My plans for a major exhibition and cultural event to mark this have been somewhat bent out of shape by current events. So why is Crimea special, and why does it matter so much to Russia? When President Putin gave his speech to the combined houses of the Russian government on March 18, 2014, he referred to Crimea as one of Russia’s jewels. In doing this he was echoing the words of Catherine the Great when Crimea became a part of Russia in 1783, her “Pearl in the Crown”. This act of union that bound the majority of the people of Crimea to Russia is only 76 years younger than the Act of Union that binds Scotland with the rest of Great Britain. Crimea is completely different to other regions that were annexed in the post-war Soviet era. The Baltic states were never Russian: they were occupied territories, no different to eastern Europe. For Russians, Crimea is Tolstoy, War and Peace, Pushkin and Chekhov; it is integral to their culture, something we overlook all too easily. Sadly, in the current Ukraine crisis, Crimea has become a cause célèbre that is diverting attention from the real foundations of the crisis itself. When the protests erupted in Kiev against the utterly inept and corrupt Yanukovych government, Crimea was poised to up the ante in its fight to claw back the highest level

of independence, an ambition Crimea tried to establish for itself when the USSR collapsed in 1992. The deterioration of the noble ideals of the Maidan protest into uncontrollable violence eclipsed these ambitions. Much has been said about the Khrushchev “gift” of Crimea to Ukraine. This was less of a gift and more a pragmatic solution to move the administration of reconstruction from Moscow to Kiev. Under the USSR, they were one nation; this was not an example of nationbuilding, it was just a different drawer of the Soviet filing cabinet. Watching the media reports as the crisis has unfolded has illuminated just how ill-informed the coverage is: as are all of the politicians frenziedly attaching themselves to it. When the crisis first exploded in Kiev, how much better would Ukraine have been served if the external political players had got together and found a combined solution to avert disaster? Instead, all of them gave a first-class impression of vultures ripping up the carcass of a dying beast. The boiling-over of popular anger against the rampant corruption ofYanukovych and his closest aides was provoked by the steady decline of Ukraine’s economy. When Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union it had an economy roughly parallel to Poland; in

Crimea sees Russia as a saviour; the West sees Russia as Genghis Khan reincarnate

the years since then the Polish economy has more than doubled, while Ukraine’s has shrunk. The West promised support, Russia promised support, competing support that should have been combined support. Almost nothing has actually happened; Ukraine is still bleeding. Russia has executed “the will of the Crimean people”; we have all watched this unfold like a slow-motion train crash. Diplomacy has not so much failed; it was never there to begin with. I hesitate to say that no one saw this coming, but if anyone did, then nothing was done to mitigate it. Crimea sees Russia as a saviour; the West sees Russia as Genghis Khan reincarnate. It will take a long time to mend these fences and we will all suffer as a result. The West has abjectly failed to engage with Russia; Russia has met this with identical ineptitude. When Winston Churchill described Russia as a riddle, wrapped in mystery, inside an enigma, he meant it as an observation and not an excuse. This crime in Crimea is one of which we are all guilty. Tim Lewin is an organiser and consultant for major financial, cultural and arts projects in Russia and Ukraine, and the UK Honorary Consul for development to Crimea.

Disputed history and the plum ripe for plucking

Sir Rodric Braithwaite SPECIAL TO RBTH

For a thousand years Russia and Ukraine have been joined in a history whose meaning both sides dispute. These historical emotions are important: they drive the current politics. Kiev was capital of Rus, the first great Slav state. But in 1240 it was destroyed by the Mongols. The lands later known as Ukraine were fought over by Tatars, Cossacks, Poles, Lithuanians, Turks, Swedes, Germans, Austrians and Russians until all – except the western region, which fell to Poland – reverted to the Soviet Union. Six million people died in Stalin’s artificial famine; as many again died in the Second World War. Ukrainian nationalists fought the Soviets under their leader Stepan Bandera, a hero in western Ukraine, but a traitor, a fascist, and an anti-Semite to many Russians. After the war, Soviet repression resumed. Among Ukrainians the memories are vivid. Russians saw this history quite differently. They believed what many Ukrainians dispute: that Russian history flowed directly from medieval Kiev to modern Russia. For most Russians, the separation from Ukraine after 1991 ached like an amputated limb. They could not believe it would last. When it became independent in 1991, Ukraine had many of the requirements for success. The ethnic divisions were manageable. But Ukraine’s new leaders failed to modernise the economy. Corruption ran out of control. The gap widened between those who looked to the West and those who looked to Russia. Western governments believed that the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union gave them the opportunity to re-engineer the geopolitics of Eastern

Putin has set the cat among the pigeons and he glories in it. But the West bears part of the blame, too

Europe. They moved to draw into their orbit first the Soviet Union’s former Warsaw Pact allies, and then former parts of the Soviet Union such as the Baltic states, Ukraine and Georgia. Some in the West argued this would breed huge bitterness even among liberal Russians, and that a renascent Russia might seek to do something about it. That was, after all, what happened in defeated Germany after the First World War. The critics were brushed aside. The Russians noticed all this. Their sense of resentment and impotence was fuelled by Nato’s bombing of Russia’s ally Serbia in 1999, and its incursions into Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya without, as they saw it, proper legal cover from the UN. They concluded that western rhetoric about “democracy”,“human rights” and “international law’’ was mere hypocrisy. They did not believe – what was in fact true – that at first there was much goodwill for Russia in the West, even if western aid was often misdirected, condescending and ineffective. Putin shared his countrymen’s feelings of humiliation when the Soviet Union collapsed, feelings that were reinforced by what they perceived as a western conspiracy against their country. His central objective has been to restore Russia’s place in the world. Crimea is only the latest prize. It had been Russian for most of its history and had a majority of Russian inhabitants. It seemed a plum ripe for the plucking. His largely bloodless annexation of the peninsula, fuelled by grossly exaggerated propaganda about extremist threats to Ukraine’s peaceful Russian citizens, has won him massive popular support. But there is a risk he and his people will believe their own propaganda, and success will go to his head. He knew when to stop after his brief war against Georgia in 2008. If he now pushes his luck and intervenes in Ukraine proper, he would land Russia in an economic and political quagmire. Putin has set the cat among the pigeons, and he glories in it. But the West bears part





of the blame, too. Its policymaking has been ignorant, sometimes irresponsible, often arrogant. It is not left with many options; it will not go to war and some in the West, therefore, talk of appeasement, Munichstyle. But the West cannot avoid doing some difficult things if it is not to lose credibility and self-respect. It will doubtless support the Ukrainian economy, a dauntingly expensive business; apply serious sanctions to Russia, which will inevitably damage the West, too; cut Europe’s dependence on Russian energy; and find ways to reassure Nato’s nervous eastern members. Both sides have plenty to lose. In midMarch, Russia offered talks, including the Ukrainians and the West, about a federalised and neutralised Ukraine, on the condition that there was no further fuss about Crimea. For the West to enter into talks on that basis would shake all the countries in Eastern Europe who fear Russian revanchism. Discreet diplomatic contacts seem to be continuing on Syria and Iran, perhaps even on calming the current row. Moscow and Kiev are talking to one another. But a diplomatic settlement will not happen soon. Suspicions have been aroused and will not quickly die down. Russia’s move towards a modern economic and political system has taken a blow. Western actions are not very likely to deter Putin if he is determined on further action. But they may give him pause: even the threat of western sanctions has put the already shaky Russian economy under pressure. His present triumph may wilt as his Russian admirers begin to feel the economic pinch. As their prospects diminish, they may lose their enthusiasm for him. The game is not over yet. But the West’s relations with Russia are liable to go into the freezer for some little time. Author Rodric Braithwaite was British ambassador in Moscow from 1988 to 1992. His latest book, Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-89 (Profile Books) is published in English and Russian.


VOX POP What RBTH readers think about the hot topics. From facebook. com/russianow Vasyl Babich on Russians in Crimea Go home, Russia! Bring all your troops out of Ukrainian sovereign territory.


Lori Stuart on US sanctions against Russia If somebody had sanctioned the US for all the mess that’s happened in the last 13 years there’d be no money left. Somebody please sanction the crooks in DC.


Kamya Paul Kiharani on the legitimacy of Ukraine’s government In Kiev, there was a protest and a democratically elected government is ousted. In Crimea, a democratic process is followed and a referendum is held. In layman’s terms could you please explain why the government in Kiev is legitimate and referendum in Crimea illegal?


he current situation in Ukraine is nothing short of a deep social and political crisis. Severe tensions have been unleashed in the country provoked by the leaders of Maidan, a small group of people driven by extremist ideology and intolerance; these tensions threaten the future of Ukraine as a modern democratic European nation. With the rights of national minorities violated and the interests of regions disregarded, the people of Crimea found it necessary to determine their own political future by means of a referendum – and to do it fast. We have to respect their right to self-determination, a right guaranteed by the UN Charter. There is currently no legitimate executive authority in Ukraine. The acting government was formed by the parliament under threats – and even direct use of force – against MPs by extremists. Local governments all over Ukraine are taking the situation into their own hands. With a real risk of civil war and social disintegration, there is still a chance to save Ukraine from political, social and, not least, economic collapse. The agreement signed on February 21, 2014 by President Yanukovych and opposition leaders, and mediated by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland, provided for a constitutional reform in Ukraine. This idea remains fully relevant. Any new constitution should recognise the legitimate aspirations of all Ukrainians and all of the nation’s regions to live safely in accordance with their traditions and customs. The principles of rule of law, protection of human rights, including the rights of all minorities, freedom of speech and activities of political parties and mass media should be enshrined in it. Ukraine’s political system should be based on the idea of a democratic federal state such as, for example, Germany, Russia or the US. Its status of military-political neutrality should be enshrined in the constitution and guaranteed by the EU, Russia, the US and a UN Security Council resolution. Along with Ukrainian, Russian should be given state-language status, while other languages granted a status in accordance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Regions should independently elect their legislative and executive bodies through a direct vote and have wide authority, reflecting the cultural and historic identity of each to them, with regard to economy and finance, language policy and education. The rights of national minorities living in the federation’s constituent entities should be protected; interference in matters of religion and faith should be strictly prohibited. Following the adoption of a new constitution by a nationwide referendum, national elections should be held, together with elections of legislative and executive bodies in each constituent entity. A broad and objective international observation will be crucial. These are the proposals that Russia has put forward to our western partners. We believe we could unite our efforts in encouraging Ukrainians to find common ground on the principles outlined. The multi-ethnic Ukrainian people have the right to live in a democratic and civilised state with the future of Ukraine in their own hands. The February 21 agreement was based on this assumption. It is not yet too late to make good on those commitments, if the Ukrainian revolution is to be about democracy and human rights and not about an extremist minority imposing a nationalradical narrative upon the rest of the society. If the former is the case, then Russia is ready and willing to help.

Keep in touch with the Russian Embassy in London on these social networks: www.twitter.com/Amb_Yakovenko www.twitter.com/RussianEmbassy www.twitter.com/RussianEmbassyR (Russian version) www.facebook.com/RussianEmbassy www.youtube.com/RussianEmbassy www.slideshare.net/rusemblon www.flickr.com/photos/rusembassylondon russianembassy.livejournal.com

Letters from readers, guest columns and cartoons labelled “Comments”, “Viewpoint” or appearing on the “Opinion” and “Comment & Analysis” pages of this supplement are selected to represent a broad range of views and do not necessarily represent those of the editors of Russia Beyond the Headlines or Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Please send letters to the editor to UK@rbth.com



Sochi 2014 THIS SUPPLEMENT IS SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA_www.rbth.co.uk_Tuesday, April 1, 2014_P5

Triumph of the Paralympic spirit Paralympics With strong but good-natured competition and a record 80-medal haul for the host nation, Sochi was a sparkling success JEFF VAUGHAN SPECIAL TO RBTH

With a burst of colour and plenty of hip-hop wheelchair dancing, the first Russian-hosted Paralympics wrapped up with a relentlessly upbeat closing ceremony in Sochi. In an unforgettable and inspiring image, giant letters floated in the centre of the arena as double amputee Alexei Chuvashev hauled himself up a rope to insert the apostrophe that changed “Impossible” to “I’m possible.” In the 10 days since the graceful opening ceremony, the world had seen the poise and power of Paralympic sport, with more than 500 athletes from 45 countries competing for medals. For Britain and Russia, those days brought unprecedented success. From the physical intensity of sledge hockey to the glacial grace of wheelchair curling, competition was fierce, but the athletes were at the same time more relaxed and open than the Olympians who had filled the same venues a month before for the Winter Games. Against a backdrop of political tension over Ukraine, the Paralympics passed largely successfully, with a record 80-medal haul for the host nation and ticket sales of 325,000, a new high for a Winter Paralympics. Politics intruded occasionally, with sporadic protests by Ukrainian athletes, but overall the atmosphere was one of positivity. The absence of politics was partly the result of Sochi’s bizarre isolation – athletes, media and many spectators lived in high-security bubbles miles from the city itself, creating a Games-based society where the wider world barely existed. With too many Paralympic heroes to list in full, RBTH presents a brief guide (below) to some of the famous faces of the Sochi Games.

Fast show: Russia’s Inga Medvedeva, who took silver in the standing slalom, in action at Sochi


countries took part in the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, represented by a total of 547 athletes.


sets of medals in five sporting categories were awarded; para-snowboarding made its Paralympic debut.


athletes were selected to compete for Russia, making it the country’s biggest Paralympic team to date.


million people in Russia are known to have a disability, or 9pc of the population, and many face daily struggles in society.


years ago the Paralympic movement in Russia began with the establishment of the Russian Paralympic Committee.


Kelly Gallagher, Britain From a government statistician to a national hero, Sochi changed Kelly Gallagher’s life. The 28-year-old from Northern Ireland, who was born with severely restricted eyesight from a form of genetic albinism, sped down the slopes of Rosa Khutor with her sighted guide Charlotte Evans to win the women’s Super-G skiing in the visually impaired class. Gallagher’s success brought Britain its first gold medal in the history of the Winter Paralympics. The three silvers and one bronze won in Sochi by her Essex-born

Roman Petushkov, Russia

teammate Jade Etherington ensured that Team GB had its best-ever medal table finish at a Winter Paralympics. Gallagher only took up skiing at the age of 17 while on a family holiday and gradually developed into one of the world’s best in visually impaired skiing, where the athlete with reduced vision is helped by a sighted guide via radio link. She came close to quitting the sport three years ago when her father died of cancer, and credits Evans, 22, from Chatham in Kent, for helping her to revive her skiing career.

Roman Petushkov’s life has been one of extremes. The low point came in 2006 when he lost both of his legs in an accident. The mournful looks on the faces of friends and relatives left him feeling hopeless, he said later, like “something that has been thrown away”. Eight years later and Petushkov is Russia’s greatest Paralympic hero, his feat of winning six gold medals in Sochi beamed into living rooms from St Petersburg to Vladivostok. Petushkov was almost unbeatable in the crosscountry skiing and


biathlon events in Sochi, and would have matched the record for most gold medals in a single Winter Paralympics had he not finished fourth in the 10km event on the last day of the Games. He also shows how Russia’s improvements in funding and training facilities have unlocked potential in previously unheralded athletes. Petushkov arrived in Sochi with a single silver medal from the 2010 Games, but left as the most successful athlete of the Paralympics, even though, at 36, he is much older than the typical first-time winner.

Amy Purdy, United States A promising competitive snowboarder, Amy Purdy’s life was turned upside down at the age of 19 when she was struck by a rare form of meningitis that led to the amputation of both her legs. The Las Vegas native refused to give up the sport, however, and joined a small but dedicated group of women determined to establish para-snowboarding worldwide, with the aim of bringing it into the Paralympics. She also forged a career as an actress and reality TV star. Her ambition was finally achieved in Sochi

Alexei Bugaev, Russia

with the introduction of one competition each for men and women on a course with tight bends and hazardous jumps. Despite being the only double amputee in the competition, Purdy, 34, won bronze, while fellow para-snowboard pioneer Bibian Mentel-Spee of the Netherlands took the gold. The bronze added to Purdy’s three golds at the 2011 World Cup. The latest stage in her remarkable 15-year journey now sees her compete on Dancing with the Stars, the US version of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.


One of the youngest competitors at the Sochi Paralympics, and certainly one of the most impressive, was 16-yearold Alexei Bugaev from the industrial city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. He has let nothing stop him pursuing his love of Alpine skiing, in which he won a total of five medals – including two golds – in Sochi, nor his passion for charging around the Siberian forest on a quad bike, despite being born with dysmelia, a condition causing defects of the limbs. The charming, immensely dedicated


young athlete is a sign that Russia’s Paralympic programme has a bright future beyond Sochi, even without the extra attention that comes from hosting the Games. After all, as Bugaev said in Sochi, “if you give up at the first little difficulty, you’ll never achieve anything.” As well as winning the men’s slalom, standing and men’s super combined standing, Bugaev won two silvers, in the downhill and giant slalom, and a bronze in the Super-G. His achievements had international media hailing him as Russia’s Paralympic wunderkind.



Capello plays a long game: Brazil’s just a rehearsal for Russia 2018 James Ellingworth SPECIAL TO RBTH

In modern football, it almost never makes sense for a manager to make long-term plans. After all, chances are he won’t be around to put them into practice. Four years is an eternity, almost four times the average reign of a Premiership manager – less if you discount long-lived anomalies such as Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, who seem like creatures of another age. So why then is former England boss Fabio Capello planning four years ahead in his new job with Russia? Worse still, he’s committing the cardinal sin of suggesting that the upcoming World Cup isn’t the be-all and end-all of his career. “Brazil 2014 will help us gain experience for the real thing ahead, the following World Cup in Russia,” he told the Fifa website in January. The 2014 World Cup – not the “real thing”? Heresy, surely? Perhaps aware he had let something slip, Capello has been more circumspect since then, returning to more typically vague manager-speak. “I’ve always been an ambitious person, but the most correct strategy is to progress from match to match,” was the entirely unhelpful answer he gave

Russia’s qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014 went smoothly as they won their group ahead of favourites Portugal

earlier this month when asked what his target was for the Brazil tournament in June and July. Only grudgingly did he admit that qualifying from the group stage would be a minimum standard of success. Of course, being a 67-year-old multimillionaire with eight Serie A titles gives you the sort of perspective denied the typical layman, but Capello is in something of a unique position in Russia. Unlike his fraught four-year reign with England, when he butted heads with FA bosses and quit rather than submit to their demands to strip Chelsea’s John Terry of the captaincy, Capello has almost untrammeled power in his new role. With his focus firmly on Russia’s first home World Cup in 2018, he has been given sweeping powers to oversee the country’s national sides from youth level to the senior team. That allows him to take the long view and bring through young talent in time for the “real thing”. Russia’s qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014 went surprisingly smoothly as they won their group ahead of favourites Portugal. But a 1-0 defeat to Northern Ireland and a 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan flagged up problems breaking down stubborn, if unskilled defences. That is exactly what Russia will have to do in Brazil, where the draw pits them against defence-orientated Algeria and South Korea in the group stage, as well as more attack-minded Belgium. There are echoes of England’s ill-fated

2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa and their uninspiring goalless draw with Algeria, something Capello acknowledged this month. “I remember how Algeria can play from my work with the England national team,” he said. Russia have played only one game in the past four months, a 2-0 friendly win over Armenia earlier last month, but the basic shape of the team is already clear. Using a formation that, while shifting around, is basically 4-1-4-1, the Italian’s tactics are much like in his England days. However, Russia’s players give them a different spirit. Russia boasts a wealth of midfield talent, led by captain Roman Shirokov, well known for his bombing runs from deep for Zenit St Petersburg, alongside dependable Denis Glushakov and set-piece specialist Alexander Samedov, who has developed rapidly since being handed his international debut by Capello. The Italian has also managed to keep a lid on potential tension in the squad – Shirokov and fellow midfielder Igor Denisov have both clashed with their club management, but that has not been replicated in the national side. In defence, veterans of Russia’s run to the Euro 2008 semi-finals cling on, but have become less reliable and will not be around for 2018. In anticipation of that, Capello has been trying to blood new players such as Dynamo Moscow’s right-back Alexei Kozlov and CSKA Moscow’s left-back Georgy Shchennikov, both of whom are likely to travel to Brazil and could play a big part in the years to come. CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev is one of the world’s best and the undoubted first choice for Capello. Attack is where Capello has problems. Longtime frontman Alexander Kerzhakov has become something of a sideshow at


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Zenit, struggling for playing time as Brazilian star signing Hulk runs the show. Alexander Kokorin is Russia’s only really promising young striker, but so far he lacks the muscle to be a lone striker in Capello’s preferred formation. Third-choice Fyodor Smolov has not scored in a competitive match for more than 18 months and is the butt of jokes from Russian fans. Like Capello, the Russian government is looking to 2018 but its preparations seem to be going less smoothly than those of the Italian coach. Some stadiums are finished or nearly so, including Spartak Moscow’s new ground and the stadium in Sochi that held the Olympic opening ceremony, but they were already planned before 2010, when Russia won the right to host the World Cup. Eight more stadiums, including the venue for the final, Moscow’s Luzhniki, are either to be built from scratch or need near-total redevelopment; so far none have confirmed designs. Basic building work has started but there is a limit to what can be done without a final plan, something that annoys Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko. “The pace of designing the stadiums gives cause for alarm,” he told regional officials earlier this month. “Deadlines are being broken, there are problems in every region.” Of course, this could just be smart politics, a warning that delays will not be tolerated as the World Cup draws closer, and there remains plenty of time to sort out problems. Four years ago, Sochi’s Olympic Park was still a barely landscaped marsh, after all. Capello’s footballers may be gearing up for Brazil 2014 but they and the country are really preparing to host Russia 2018. The coach needs new players, the country needs new stadiums, but all eyes are on “the real thing”.

Year of Culture P6_Tuesday, April 1, 2014_www.rbth.co.uk_THIS SUPPLEMENT IS SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA

Identity check for the history men

Cold comfort: a young Russian discovers the joy of reading

London Book Fair Authors seek to understand modern Russia by exploring literary connections between past and present KONSTANTIN MILCHIN SPECIAL TO RBTH

The five Russian writers who are coming to the London Book Fair on April 8-10 each understand Russian history in their own way. They are trying to make sense of the past and find their place in the present. They are in London as part of the Read Russia initiative, which celebrates contemporary Russian literature and is sponsored by Russia’s Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication under the direction of Vladimir Grigoriev, and organised by the Yeltsin Centre and Paragraph Projects. Zakhar Prilepin has a complicated biography: philology graduate; veteran of two Chechen wars; ardent oppositionist, protester and defender of socialist ideas; constant finalist – and occasional winner – in all possible prizes. Prilepin has been trying for many years to understand who he is, who he is with, and who his “literary parents” are. His first novel, The Pathologies (2004) – recollections of the Chechen wars – is a reinterpretation of Leo Tolstoy’s Caucasian stories. In his most famous novel, Sankya (2006), Prilepin tells the story of a young radical. Although the work is set in contemporary Russia, thematically and stylistically the work refers back to Mother, Maxim Gorky’s homage to the revolutionary cause. In 2011 Prilepin published a biography of Leonid Leonov, a Soviet writer who was a brilliant stylist in the Twenties but is now remembered as an opportunist and literary functionary. Prilepin’s new novel, Resident, released this month, is dedicated to the Silver Age, the last surge of Russian literature, which occurred in the early 20th century. Prilepin’s characters are representatives of the Silver Age, who survive the revolution and struggle to make it through life in a correctional camp. Clearly, his range of inquiry is large, covering nearly the entire spectrum of Russian literature.


Tolstoy on Twitter: advertisers take a novel approach to boost sales ZAKHAR PRILEPIN 38

Marketing It started with Pushkin in 1899. Now the names of classic authors are used to sell a variety of brands, from beers to books MARIYA KARNAUKH

Reinvention of the language


Evgeny Vodolazkin has won praise for his second novel, Lavr (2013) a portrayal of Russia’s late medieval period. As the Russian language has undergone many changes over the past 400 years, it’s an interesting experiment involving a reinvention of the language, so that it appears neither too caricatured nor too modern. However, for Vodolazkin, history is just a vehicle for talking about our own time. Alexander Terekhov lives almost as a recluse, rarely appearing in Moscow and preferring to communicate with the world through his books. Terekhov addresses history delicately. The Stone Bridge (2009) details a contemporary investigation into a murder that occurred in 1993, the discussion about that time conveying a sceptical approach towards our own epoch. Terekhov’s next novel, Germans (2012), which won the National Bestseller prize, describes the world of a Moscow city official, a system of petty and large-scale corruption and intrigues. It is practically documentary; the author has worked in local government. The protagonist is German, like the thousands of Germans who were bureaucrats and officials in the Russian Empire. Terekhov invites the reader to compare then and now through his character’s experiences.

Alexander Pushkin is the most famous Russian poet. His works are read in Russia and abroad, and have been dramatised in theatres around the world and adapted for cinema. Pushkin is a major symbol of Russian culture, behind only the matryoshka doll, the bear and the balalaika by a small margin in terms of popularity. Many people have tried to make money from his name. The first large company to use the Pushkin brand was founded in 1899, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the poet’s birth. That year, anniversary gifts were so popular that they were mass produced: vodka, cigarettes and sweets named after Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin sold like hotcakes. Today, football shirts, sunglasses, prime real estate and building materials all advertise Pushkin. The poet’s name has also been pressed into service by such brands as Nescafé, Coca-Cola and Mars. His portrait can be found on packaging and on café signs even outside Russia’s borders. Alexey Gvintovkin, managing director of the BrandHouse Group says: “Using Pushkin’s image and his works is a win-win option. If we are aiming at overseas markets, this approach lends a product a certain charm, illustrates traditions and the distinctive character of the mysterious Russian soul.”



Homage to the titans German Sadulaev’s search for historical identity runs parallel with a search for national identity. In I Am a Chechen! and The Raid on Shali, he attempts to describe how he feels as a person with two identities, Russian and Chechen. At a time when “nation” is becoming a relative concept in many parts of the world, in Russia, history takes its own course and “the national” is still important. Pavel Basinsky wrote fiction in the Nineties and early 2000s, later turning to biography. He shot to fame with Leo Tolstoy: Flight from Paradise (2010) a retelling of the story of Tolstoy’s final days. The Saint against Leo (2013) describes the enmity between Tolstoy and John of Kronstadt, an important Russian preacher and spiritual writer who was later canonised. This period seems much more attractive to Basinsky than his own time: who are we, he asks, in comparison with these titans? What are our passions and problems compared to the problems of history? In many ways, his work is an escape from modernity.



Literary air fresheners As for literary classics, one of the boldest marketing moves in recent years was an advertising campaign created by the Voskhod agency, which won a bronze Cannes Lions prize in 2011. Voskhod produced a series of air fresheners with extracts from literary classics printed on them for the 100 Tisach Knig (100,000 books) chain of bookstores. The agency decided most people read in the bathroom, so why not print literary works on air fresheners? The literary air fresheners were distributed around shopping, entertainment and business centres, restaurants and bars. This unusual approach increased the footfall at 100 Tisach Knig bookstores by 23pc. Russia’s largest brewer, Baltika, ran a television campaign in 2011 that used

The writer, known for his long sentences and detailed descriptions, is shown trying to post an update on Twitter


Mikhail Lermontov’s poetry. The campaign, by the agency Leo Burnett Moscow, was Baltika’s first image-led campaign in 10 years and covered the entire range of Baltika beers. According to Sergey Denisov, who worked on the project, Leo Burnett Moscow relaunched the Baltika brand. Research at that time showed that the brewing giant had become an unfashionable and even boring brand in the eyes of consumers, with a variety of products but no cohesive concept across the range. “We decided to rectify the situation and Lermontov’s poetry served as the basis for an off-text advertisement,” explains Mr Denisov. Extracts from works by Russia’s second most famous poet after Pushkin served to remind audiences of their common roots and cultural heritage. The impact of the Lermontov campaign on Leo Burnett Moscow’s performance is uncertain but the company’s earnings increased by 13.2pc, according to the accounts for 2011.

authors in just 10 days and more than 10,000 visited their pages. But Facebook’s administrators declared the Facebook accounts a violation of its rules and deleted them. But neither the advertising agency nor the organisers of the festival made a loss. “An author’s copyright remains valid for 70 years after his or her death. They are then made available to the public and there is no need to ask permission to use them,” explains Anna Topornina, a lawyer at Yukov and Partners. The descendants of great writers do not receive any royalties. Apart from that, they have no influence over the context in which a body of work is used – as was the case with Lermontov’s poetry appearing on a beer advertisement. This may seem unfair, since the images of respected authors could be used in inappropriate ways. But in practice the esteem in which great writers are held makes advertisers nervous of doing anything to incur the wrath of their fans.

Writers are trusted

Tolstoy in a tracksuit

In an internet advertising video entitled, “How would the world look if the internet had been around for thousands of years?” Google imagined Leo Tolstoy on Twitter. The author, known for his commitment to long sentences and detailed descriptions over a number of pages, is shown trying to post an update on Twitter. This clever marketing move attracted public attention and around 300,000 users viewed the clip. “The top echelon of writers is a cultural code. If we use their image in an advertisement or quote their works, it means we are aiming at a specific target audience: one that is relatively wide, with average education and income,” says Yekaterina Alekseyeva, head of the department of classical prose and poetry at publishing house Eksmo. According to Ms Alekseyeva, there is a level of trust in the great authors that provides the required association with the product being advertised: Tolstoy does not give bad advice.

One creative approach put Tolstoy, Chekhov and Pushkin in tracksuits as sports coaches on advertising posters for a campaign in 2012 to encourage more Russians to read. The Start Reading campaign posters contained advice on getting into the reading habit, dressed up as athletic training tips. Pushkin, for example, was shown with a whistle in his mouth and the slogan “Start with light texts. Gradually increase the load.”The campaign, developed by the federal agency for press and mass communications, Rospechat, the Russian Book Union and the Slava advertising agency, was repeated last year by transforming the plots of famous works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Pushkin into newspaper-style headlines and stories on an internet portal. The initiative was dreamt up after polling research that found that 44pc of Russians had not read a single book in the previous year.

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In 2010, Affekt put together an unusual promotional campaign for the Book Market book festival. Accounts were generated on Facebook in the names of Tolstoy, Pushkin, Gogol and Dostoyevsky. Their status updates provided pseudo-classical commentary on current events in Russia and abroad, and they answered users’ questions and corresponded between themselves. As a result, more than 1,000 users became “friends” with the virtual

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Tolstoy might have lost one Facebook account, but he lives on in the social network in a page devoted to him by the US publisher of his works, Vintage Books. More than 735,000 people have “liked” Leo Tolstoy’s Facebook page, which is filled with quotations from his works and references to articles about the author. He seems to be twice as popular as Chekhov, whose own page, apparently set up by the publisher Random House, has been “liked” by 336,000 people since he “joined’’ Facebook in 2012.

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The magic’s not lost in translation

Where do Russians get their books?

Language Leading translators explain the process of creating lively and authentic English versions of Russian works

do not read books


bought at store

downloaded from web

borrowed from library

other cases

bought online

shared by relatives and friends


no answer

Do they read on paper or screen? No devices, only in print editions

On a personal computer

On smartphones or notebooks

With an e-reader

Rarely read

No response

Respondents could select more than one of the options available

Number of books read last year

Each year, scores of books are translated from Russian into English. This year has seen publications in a range of genres, from Mikhail Bulgakov’s diaries to the surreal poetry of Alexander Vvedensky and Leo Tolstoy’s philosophical tracts. The long list for 2014’s Rossica translation prize includes 45 books. Robert Chandler is one of the best-known Russian-English translators. He has brought classic works by Andrei Platonov and Vasily Grossman to English-speaking audiences. Mr Chandler says: “For long, seemingly difficult Russian words, the dictionary is usually adequate. But the shorter the word, the more meanings it is likely to have and the greater the scope for misunderstanding.” Cultural differences between Russia and the West also complicate the use of language. Cambridge-based translator Arch Tait points out that you cannot assume a reader’s familiarity with Russian culture: “Does everybody know what a dacha is? A matryoshka? A babushka? “Many English-speaking readers are familiar with details of life in 19th-century Russia, which helps, but the Soviet experience was so odd, much is untranslatable,” Mr Tait says. “It is difficult even to know how to refer to the place: it wasn’t a nation, it wasn’t a country – it was an ideological claim. Was Solzhenitsyn a Soviet writer?”

A geek paradise Mr Tait has translated 25 titles and there are more on the way. He won an award in 2010 for his translation of Anna Politkovskaya’s book Putin’s Russia and has worked with many well-known authors, including Ludmila Ulitskaya and Victor Pelevin. He described Russian grammar in Publishers’ Weekly as “geek paradise,” and says that he has investigated “the murkiest recesses of Russian army chatrooms for scurrilous or discreditable slang” in an attempt to keep up with contemporary Russian. Washington-based poet and translator Katherine E Young is impatient with the nit-picking approach of some critics to works in translation. “Most translators I know in the US start as language students,” she says, “meaning we have to unlearn the idea that a ‘good’ translation involves a word-for-word correspondence with the Russian. I look at translation as a performance, much as a musician




would perform: there’s a score, yes, but it must be interpreted.” Martin Dewhirst, a translator with more than half a century’s experience, told Academia Rossica: “As a rule, a literal translation of a literary work falls completely flat, so translators are obliged to add at least something of their own.” Accuracy is still vital, however. Anna Gunin, who translated German Sadulaev’s I Am a Chechen!, warns against the number of “false friends” between Russian and English, and advises “double-checking cognate words in a monolingual Russian dictionary”.

Postmodern puzzle Mikhail Shishkin’s extraordinary novels have been translated into 25 languages. The UK publisher for his novel The Light and the Dark sent him three sample translations of the same extract with no single phrase translated alike. This was “not because one translator was better than another,” Shishkin says, but “just because three different people translated it from three different life experiences, tastes, world outlooks”. Shishkin’s postmodern texts are particularly difficult to convert into another language. Marian Schwartz, who translated Maidenhair, says: “His array of voices... is dizzying,” with the challenge exacerbated by quotations, neologisms and even “an entire page that is at least half palindromes!” Ms Schwartz says that her biggest challenge is finding the right books to translate; she would like to see more “books that would appeal to a broader audience”. Indeed, many translators find themselves struggling to interest the general, English-reading public in contemporary Russian literature. “Most Russian texts are too long to begin with, and tend to get longer in the process of translation,” says Mr Tait. He even feels that with poetry, “the effort required to make it travel well is usually disproportionate to the impact it is likely to produce.” Translators often develop individual habits or quirks. Ms Schwartz uses Wordfast (translation memory software) to keep vocabulary and phrasing consistent. Lisa Hayden (author of the popular Lizok’s Bookshelf blog) says: “I find myself using different coloured pens depending what draft I’m on. Yes, I still work a lot on paper, particularly for short pieces.” “You can’t do everything on screen,” says Mr Tait. “At some point, often twice, the text needs to be printed out.” He makes the daring admission that “Google Translate can sometimes have better ideas than I do”, and that he prefers “not to know how a story or novel ends while translating the first draft”. Like many translators, Mr Tait’s love of Russian books borders on obsession: “Once started on a translation, I tend to neglect all other duties until it is finished.”


As part of the UK-Russia Year of Culture, Read Russia will be hosting a varied programme of seminars and events with the participation of a new generation of Russian writers. Moscow promises to show off the brightest stars in the contemporary literature scene with round-table talks, lectures and book presentations. Get ready for engaging conversations with prominent Russian writers Zakhar Prilepin, German Sadulaev, Evgeny Vodolazkin, Alexander Terekhov and Pavel Basinsky. ukrussia2014.co.uk/article/7


Rare works from St Petersburg’s undergound art scene are shown for the first time in the UK. They include paintings, videos, graphic and archive material and illustrate the anarchist tendencies in the works of the New Artists and the New Academy, led by Timur Novikov, as well as their members’ interest in the history of art and the classical form. ukrussia2014.co.uk/article/58


Russian and British contemporary artists alike combine their palettes and dabble both inside and outside the elements of conventional creation at the first contemporary art show hosted by Grad. Blending together to explore the effervescent dynamics of paint, surface and gesture, the exhibition series illustrates both the limited and limitless opportunities resting in the hairs of a painter’s brush. ukrussia2014.co.uk/article/55

Russian is Europe’s largest first language, a mother tongue for more than 164 million people and an official language of the UN. At least 80pc of Russia’s population speak Russian as their first and only language, but there are more than 100 minority languages.


The Foreign Service Institute of the US State Department classifies Russian as a Category II language, or one with “significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English”, and estimates that it requires at least 1,100 classroom hours to learn.


There are currently at least 12 English translations of War and Peace. Louise and Aylmer Maude, who worked directly with Tolstoy, published their popular version in 1922 and there have been several new translations of the novel in the past decade.



The St Petersburg-based company, founded in 1977 by the visionary choreographer Boris Eifman, returns to London with a dramatic brace of visceral productions. The programme features the UK premiere of Rodin (April 15-17), inspired by the world-famous sculptor’s passionate relationship with apprentice and muse Camille Claude, and the return of Anna Karenina (April 19), first staged to huge acclaim in London in 2012. ukrussia2014.co.uk/article/26


Belka Productions presents the stage version of three of Vladimir Nabokov’s short stories from the interwar period, originally written in Russian and now dynamically adapted for a British audience for the first time. ukrussia2014.co.uk/article/22


Renowned theatre and film director Andrei Konchalovsky brings the timeless tales of Chekhov to the West End of London. Employing one cast in two plays, Konchalovsky emphasises the parallels between the works of the Russian playwright’s most acclaimed pieces, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters. His tales of frustrated hopes and wasted lives, performed by members of the Mossovet State Academy Theatre, take the audience on a journey across the full emotional spectrum, from tears to laughter. ukrussia2014.co.uk/article/27


Official media partner for the 2014 UK-Russia Year of Culture

Contact us: Tel. + 7 495 775 3114 Email: ukrussia@rbth.com

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Wild Russia and the age of adventure History The vast empire was an irresistible attraction for British travellers, including intrepid cyclists, brave mountaineers and railway enthusiasts






Tourist trail: 1. Olkhon, the largest island in Lake Baikal and fourth-largest lake island in the world 2. Spectacular scenery viewed from the Trans-Siberian railway 3. The Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin on the Nerl River 4. The dilapidated Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Kin-zavod village 5. Around 7,000ft above sea level, the high-altitude Dzhulukul Lake is in the centre of Altai National Park


tourist was also beginning to explore other parts of the rapidly growing Russian empire, travelling south via Moscow to Russia’s newly acquired territories around the Black Sea and in the Crimea, often travelling even further to Constantinople.


British tourism in Russia was certainly not invented by Intourist during the Cold War. An otherwise tragic expedition to discover a northern sea route first brought the English to Muscovy in the middle of the 16th century, and it was essentially trade and profit that inspired further embassies and led to the establishment of a Russia Company to exploit that trade. However, the concept of travelling for pleasure, or what was often termed “out of curiosity”, was much undertaken in the ancient world. What was new was travelling to barbaric, wild Russia, land of snow and bears and wolves, and of peoples with the strangest habits and, as an Englishman would have it,“to vices vile inclin’d’’.

The Grand Tour goes East The 17th century saw the emergence in Britain of the Grand Tour, when young members of the aristocracy and gentry travelled through Europe, usually accompanied by tutors. Although Dr Samuel Johnson might suggest that “the grand object of travelling is to see the shores of the Mediterranean”,the northern lands increasingly beckoned more intrepid travellers. It was St Petersburg, founded in 1703, that was to prove the great tourist attraction, fulfilling the hopes of its first governor-general Prince Alexander Menshikov that it“should become another Venice, to see which Foreigners would travel thither purely out of curiosity.” One of the first Englishmen to be so attracted some three decades after the foundation of the city recorded in his diary: “I am well contented with my journey, and think it very much worth any curious man’s while, going to See, and to Stay there three weeks or a month, but after Curiosity is Satisfied, I think one could amuse oneself better, in more Southern Climates”. By the end of the 18th century, another traveller was writing that “Russia begins now to make a part of the Grand Tour, and not the least curious or useful part of it.” The British

Pioneering traveller

The Caucasus became a magnet for followers of mountaineering, which had gained popularity in Britain

Lady Elizabeth Craven was the first Englishwoman to publish an account of her journey, helping to boost the appeal of the Crimea and newly founded Odessa for a growing stream of travellers up to the Crimean War. A remarkable journey was undertaken towards the end of the reign of Catherine the Great by a young English gentleman John Parkinson. Accompanied by his Oxford tutor, Parkinson recorded in diaries their epic journey to Siberia as far as Tobolsk; then south to Astrakhan and the Caspian and the edge of the Caucasus, before crossing to Crimea and returning through Ukraine to Moscow and St Petersburg.

Russia’s first tour guides As the Grand Tour gave way to middle-class tourism, an indication that Russia was indeed beginning to appeal to a wider public was the appearance of the tourist guide. By the late 1830s there had appeared a Guide to St Petersburg & Moscow by Hamburg, and by steam-packet, across the Baltic to Cronstadt; fully detailing every form and expense from London-Bridge to St Petersburg. It was soon followed by the first Murray for Russia in 1839 which was updated several times and ultimately, by the first English-language Baedeker guide to Russia. Appearing in 1914, the latter offered information that was soon to be made obsolete and irrelevant by the First World War and the October Revolution. It was reprinted in 1971 as a historical curiosity.

Ascent to the Caucasus Cover of The Frosty Caucasus, an account of a visit in 1874

Following Russia’s further territorial acquisitions in the 19th century, Georgia, the Caucasus, Circassia, Bessarabia – even Kamchatka

– joined Siberia, becoming favoured destinations for intrepid tourists and better prepared explorers. Among them were a striking number of members of the Royal Geographical Society. In the early 1840s Sir Roderick Murchison, soon to become the society’s long-serving president, travelled extensively through the Urals, producing a work of lasting value on the geology of the region.

Mountains conquered His achievement was matched by another future president, the geographer and mountaineer Douglas Freshfield, who first climbed in the Caucasus in 1868, conquered Mounts Kazbek and Elbruz, and published by the end of the century his monumental account The Exploration of the Caucasus. The Caucasus became a magnet for followers of mountaineering, which had gained increasing popularity in Britain following the establishment of the Alpine Club of London in 1857. One of the club’s early presidents published The Frosty Caucasus, recounting his tramps through the Caucasus in 1874.

Guide to the Great Siberian Railway, published in 1900

Lake Baikal on new steel-hulled ice-breaking boats that had been built in Newcastle upon Tyne; it was only in 1904, after horrendous difficulties in construction, that the Circum-Baikal railway was completed and it became possible to travel the whole route by rail. In 1900, the Russian Ministry of Ways of Communication published an English-language Guide to the Great Siberian Railway that described in exhaustive detail the main railway and all its connecting lines, with more than 350 photographs. If its aim was to entice Anglo-American tourists to journey along the whole length of the railway then it succeeded. There are dozens of accounts from the first two decades of Nicholas II’s reign about journeys on the Trans-Siberian.

Triumph for cyclists

Welcome to Siberia


Railways opened Russia to the tourist, particularly the Trans-Siberian and the Transcaspian. Begun in 1879, a few years before the TransSiberian, the Transcaspian railway followed the route of the Silk Road from its terminus at the harbour of Krasnovodsk on the Caspian via Bokhara to Samarkand, which had become part of the Russian empire in 1868. By the end of the century it was extended to Tashkent, which became the capital of Russian Turkistan soon after its seizure in 1865. The Trans-Siberian railway caught the imagination, however. Begun in 1890 but only completed in 1916, it was the great “ribbon of iron”along which the anthropologist and translator Annette Meakin travelled towards Vladivostok with her mother in 1900, the first Englishwomen to accomplish that journey. In 1900 the journey still involved a ferry ride across

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By the 1890s, cyclists were pedalling their way through Russia. Sir John Foster Fraser and friends cycled from Odessa through the Crimea and the Caucasus as part of a world tour that took a total of 774 days. The British cycling enthusiast Robert Jefferson claimed a record for his round trip from Warsaw to Moscow in 50 days in 1895. Returning three years later, and accompanied by Russian cycling friends, he followed the Volga and, crossing the Kirgkiz steppe, eventually reached Khiva, where he was received by the Khan. The war and the events of 1917 effectively put paid to British tourism, but by then it can be said that the British had penetrated virtually every corner of the Russian empire. Present-day tourism again offers fantastic opportunities to explore a vast country, but you may well find that wherever you go, a British traveller or tourist has been there long before you. Anthony Cross is a Professor Emeritus of Slavonic Studies at Cambridge and author of many books and articles on 18th-century Russia and Anglo-Russian cultural relations. His last book was A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture (2012).

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2014 #3 RBTH for The Telegraph  

After Crimea: A new era for Russian diplomacy?

2014 #3 RBTH for The Telegraph  

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