A tale of two cities
What does the future hold for Ukraine?
Discover the Russian side of New York, and find American sites in Moscow PRESS PHOTO
Experts debate the next steps for Kiev P.06
The New York Times Friday, March 28, 2014
This special advertising feature is sponsored and was written by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia) and did not involve the reporting or editing staff of The New York Times
NEWS IN BRIEF
Politics Russia’s annexation of the peninsula has brought the region’s history into the spotlight
How Crimea’s Past Complicates Its Future
Prokhorov to move Nets to Russian jurisdiction Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov plans to transfer the Brooklyn Nets basketball club, which he owns, to Russian jurisdiction, amid Moscow’s call on Russian businessmen to repatriate their assets to lessen the blow of U.S. sanctions.“A Russian company will own the basketball club,”said Prokhorov on March 24.“This does not violate any NBA rules and I will gradually bring it [under Russian jurisdiction].” The NBA has not been informed of any changes to the Brooklyn Nets’ ownership.
Ziferblat chain announces plans to expand to New York
The Ziferblat chain of cafés plans to open its first outlet in New York this year. The name of the chain is Russian for “clock face” and patrons pay not for food or drinks, but for the time they spend in the café. Visitors are welcome to use the space for work, to play games or just to hang out. Free coffee, tea and cookies are provided, along with free wi-fi, and guests can bring their own food. Chain founder Ivan Mitin is currently looking for a space of approximately 1,000 sq. ft. in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. The New York venture will be the third Ziferblat abroad, following outlets in Kiev and London. There are nine Ziferblat cafés in Russia.
Yandex moves into mobile
On March 20, Russia’s State Duma took an unprecedented step in post-Soviet history by approving the annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by Rus-
endum was held in Crimea to separate from Ukraine and become part of the Russian Federation. The decision by Russia to accept Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which is a separate administrative region from Crimea, into the Russian Federation has resulted in sanctions against Russia from the United States and the European Union and the threat from Ukraine to introduce visas for Russians.
During negotiations with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in London before the Crimea referendum, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he hoped the West “would realize this is a case that cannot be considered in isolation from history.” His words resonated with the many Russians who believe a shared past links the region to their country.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has divided family and friends, particuarly in Crimea.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 2
LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER
Russia Beyond the Headlines debuts new logo, unified brand ear Readers — This month Russia Beyond the Headlines debuts a new logo as part of our strategy to create a single brand for our multilingual, multinational news organization. This logo and brand will be introduced this month in all our English-language products as well as in Argentina, Belgium, France, South Korea, Spain and Uruguay, where we will also debut the Russia Beyond the Headlines name. Previously, supplements and websites in these countries were published under a localized ver-
Eugene Abov RBTH
sion of the Russia Beyond the Headlines name, translated into the local language. 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 new logo for the project, a stylized “R” that will appear on all print supplements and websites, was designed by RBTH art director Andrei Shimarsky. It was
ONLY AT RBTH.COM
a challenge to find an element that could be used in all products, regardless of language, especially considering that RBTH is published in languages ranging from Arabic to Japanese. However, it was important for us to create a single element that would identify each of our products as part of RBTH. Wherever we publish, wherever our audience is, whatever language they speak, our mission remains the same: to tell stories about Russia that fall outside the scope of the foreign press. Our web address is also changing as part of this rebranding. You can now find us at rbth.com. The redesign of the print edition has also involved a redesign of the masthead and a new editorial concept. This new editorial concept will reflect our com-
mitment not only to informing our readers about what is happening in Russia, but also to providing deep analysis of the political, social, cultural and economic life of the country, reflecting a wide range of views and showing another Russia, one that is hidden behind stereotypes. As part of this new editorial concept, each issue of RBTH will have at its core a central theme that we will explore in depth. We look forward to introducing you to this new format and, as always, we welcome your feedback.You can write to us at US@ rbth.com or comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/RussiaNow and on Twitter, @russiabeyond. Eugene Abov, Publisher, Russia Beyond the Headlines
sia. The vote was the culmination of events that began in Kiev in late February when violence broke out between protestors who opposed President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to reject an agreement with the E.U. and government forces. Over the course of the following month,Yanukovich fled to Russia, a new interim government consisting of leaders of the opposition movement was established in Kiev, and a refer-
Champions sign on the dotted line RBTH.COM/35121
The decision by Russia to accept Crimea and the city of Sevastopol into the country has resulted in sanctions from the United States and the European Union.
Russian search powerhouseYandex has opened up another front in its war with Google. The company has introduced a software package,Yandex.kit, for mobile phone manufacturers.Yandex.kit is remarkably similar to the Android operating system on which it is based, with one major cavaet — all the services usually provided by Google, such as browser, email and maps, are provided by the Yandex equivalent. Russia’s Explay and Chinese firm Huwei have already developed phones withYandex.kit that will go on sale later this year.
12 concept cars produced and forgotten in the Soviet Union RBTH.COM/34977
Gorbachev: ‘Crimea has proclaimed its desire to be with Russia – this is happiness’ rbth.com/35211
Unique Russian dialect continues to exist in Alaska
Writers and their wives: Together in love, work and legacy
Read at RBTH.COM:
Politics & Society
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES
MOST READ Six stories of Russians with Ukrainian roots rbth.com/35005
SECTION SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, RUSSIA WWW.RBTH.COM
Crimea’s past affects its future CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
The costs to Russia’s economy
The territory was first made part of the Russian empire by Catherine the Great in 1783. It remained part of Russia — through the chaos of the Crimean War, World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution and World War II — until 1954, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred the peninsula to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. It became part of the independent country of Ukraine when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. Crimea was the site of some of Russian history’s most significant events — from the Seige of Sevastopol during the Crimean War to the Yalta Conference that helped bring World War II in Europe to a close. Even as part of Ukraine, Crimea was home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which was established there in 1783. The presence of the Russian sailors and soldiers attached to the fleet complicated the situation after Feb. 21, when troops with no insignia but riding in vehicles registered to the Black Sea Fleet took steps to isolate Ukrainian military units also based on the peninsula. According to the latest Ukrainian Census, which was taken in 2001, ethnic Russians made up 58 percent of the population and 77 percent of the population named Russian as their primary language. Even considering that these numbers might have decreased in the 13 years since the census, it’s likely that some Crimeans support the annexation by Russia. Although the results of the March 16 referendum were not recognized by any state but Russia, Enrique Ravello, an international election monitor and a Spanish parliamentarian from Catalonia in Crimea that day, told Russia’s Interfax news agency “There is no pressure. The referendum is going in a calm, free and open manner.” According to Chairman of the Crimean Referendum Commission Mikhail Malyshev, with 100 percent of the votes in the referendum counted, 96.77 percent of voters were in favor of Crimea becoming a part of Russia.
The annexation will cost Russia economically as well as politically. According to various sources, Crimea may need investment of between $3–5 billion per year to cover social benefits, its budget deficit and infrastructure expenses, including the construction of a bridge across the Kerch Strait to provide a physical link between Crimea and Russia. The region will also need new sources of electricity, water and fuel. In recent years, the peninsula has accepted more funding from the central government in Kiev than it contributed. According to Leonid Pilunsky, a deputy of the Supreme Council of Crimea, last year the region financed only 34 percent of its budget. Alexei Ulyukayev, Russia’s Minister of Economic Development, has also acknowledged that Russia will face the additional challenge of increasing pensions and other social benefits up to Russian levels. According toYekaterina Obukhovskaya, an expert from the Obshchestvennaya Duma (Public Opinion) analytical center, about 200,000 people work in the public sector of Crimea, and according to data from the Ukrainian statistical agency in February, their average salary was 12,500 rubles ($340). In Russia, this figure is almost three times higher — 30,000 rubles ($800 dollars). To raise wages to Russian levels will cost 3.5 billion rubles per month, or 42 billion per year ($1.4 billion). Besides social investment, Russia will need to invest in infrastructure. If Ukraine cuts off Crimea from the electrical grid, transmission lines will have to be built across the Kerch Strait to supply the peninsula with energy, according to Alexander Khurudzhi, chairman of the board of Russia’s noncommercial territorial grid network. Russia’s trade representative in Ukraine has already made a list of projects that need Russian investment. Rebuilding the highway along the edge of Crimea that connects Kherson, Djankoy, Feodosia and Kerch would cost $1.4 billion. Seaport development projects in
Crisis in Ukraine
NOV. 21, 2013 • Protestors take to the streets of Kiev after President Viktor Yanukovich’s government suspended preparations for an association agreement with the E.U.
A boy stands in front of the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol. FEB. 18, 2014 • Protests at Independence Square in Kiev turn violent. Over the course of the next three days, 82 people are killed in clashes between police and protestors.
Russian as native language
FEB. 21, 2014 • An agreement is signed between Yanuovich and representatives of the opposition forces, but the next day, Yanukovich is deposed and flees to Russia.
MARCH 18, 2014 • Russian President Vladimir Putin officially annexes Crimea, citing the principle of self-determination and Crimea’s strategic importance for Russia.
FEB. 26, 2014 • Pro-Russian forces begin to take control of Crimea. On March 16, a referendum is held in which the majority of participants vote to succeed from Ukraine.
Yevpatoriya, Feodosia, Kerch and Yalta would require nearly $1.8 billion. There are also investment projects on the list for facilities for tourism, agriculture-related projects, and the development of the airports in Kerch and Sevastopol. Another $1.2 billion is estimated for the construction of the bridge across the Kerch Strait.
What’s next? The intergovernmental agreement between Russia and the Republic of Crimea, which allows Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to enter the Russian Federation, was signed on March 18 by Vladimir Putin; Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea Vladimir Konstantinov; Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov; and the mayor of Sevastopol, Alexei Chaly. Under the agreement, there will be a transitional period until Jan. 1, 2015 during which issues linked to the integration of the new entities into the economic, financial, credit and legal system of the Russian Federation will be resolved. In the meantime, Crimeans may face shortages and price hikes for consumer goods as well as electricity and fuel. On March 19, Ukraine began withdrawing its military forces from Crimea, essentially surrendering the territory. Russia has remained unresponsive to Western sanctions and reactions from both sides in the coming days will tell if the annexation of Crimea is the first step towards a new Cold War or, as Russian PresidentVladimir Putin stated in a speech to both houses of Russia’s legislature on March 18, the correction of a “blatant historical injustice.” Nikolai Surkov and Anna Kuchma contributed reporting to this story. News about the crisis in Ukraine is moving too fast for print. Follow our coverage online! Read the latest at rbth.com/ukraine
Civil society Former government minister Ella Pamfilova has been confirmed as the new commissioner for human rights
Russia’s Human Rights Watchdog Gets a New Leader MARINA OBRAZKOVA RBTH
For the first time, a woman has been appointed Russia’s commissioner of human rights. On March 18, the State Duma approved the candidacy of Ella Pamfilova, a former Duma deputy and head of the Council on Human Rights. In a speech to the Duma after her appointment, Pamfilova named corruption as the main challenge to improving human rights in Russia. “I see high-level corruption, especially in law enforcement, as the fundamental threat to the protection of human rights. This is our common task: to remove the criminality not only from our state structures, but also from our commercial ones,”Pamfilova said. The office of human rights commissioner was established in 1993 as part of the new Russian Constitution adopted that year. Ac-
cording to the law, the commissioner exercises his or her authority independently. The role of the commissioner is to investigate complaints about human rights violations by state officials. A network of regional representatives help the commissioner investigate complaints. If the representatives determine that a
Determining rules for demonstrations and street actions falls under the umbrella of the commissioner. complaint is valid, the complaint is referred to the commissioner who can appeal to the courts. In the case of gross or massive violations of the rights and freedoms of citizens, the commissioner has the right to appeal to the Russian parliament or can propose the creation of a special commission to conduct a more indepth investigation. Pamfilova will replace Vladimir Lukin, who served a full 10-
Read daily on RBTH.COM and your favorite mobile reader
Vladimir Lukin FORMER RUSSIAN OMBUDSMEN FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (2004–2014)
year term as commissioner. In an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Lukin supported Pamfilova’s candidacy. One focus of Lukin’s work during his time as commissioner was conditions in Russia’s prisons and the treatment of prisoners. He said that Pamfilova will need to continue this work. Lukin added that he had never faced resistance from officials in carrying out his duties. “Overall, I cannot say that the government actively interfered in our activities. In some aspects they even helped us,” Lukin said. For her part, Pamfilova said she was interested in reexamining the case of the Bolotnaya protestors, seven of whom were sentenced to jail terms earlier this year for participating in a mass riot and resisting police. Determining rules and regulations for demonstrations and street actions also falls under the umbrella of the commissioner for human rights. Leonid Polyakov, head of the Department of General Political Science at the Higher School of Economics National Research University, said that the commis-
I can’t say that we solved the problem of torture and cruelty towards prisoners in the country. I sincerely hope that the next person who holds this post will have the opportunity to say that Russia has stopped being a country where torture is practiced.
Pamfilova will be responsible for upholding the rights of prisoners, assessing objectivity in judicial decisions and supervising the actions of state officials.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Pamfilova has spent 25 years in politics.
sioner must have a strong personality and be prepared to speak out against the power structure, and that Pamfilova has the necessary qualities to make the position a strong force in the Russian government.“People in this office can put serious pressure on governmental authorities. State bodies always strive to control everything, but the existence of such a post actually serves as a counterweight,”Polyakov said.“Pamfilova has just such a reputation, as a person confident in her strengths and aware of her rights, and she knows the mechanisms of state power.” Elena Topoleva-Soldunova, director of the N.G.O. Agency for Social Information, said that Pamfilova shares many principles with Lukin, but as a woman, she will bring a different kind of character to the post. “The figure of
Share your opinion on /russianow /russiabeyond
HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AT THE HIGHER SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS
the commissioner for human rights is very important, but she cannot change everything. This position requires a person who is authoritative and can show emotion. So that is why it is very good that specifically a woman will hold this post. Such an ombudsperson cannot simply be waved away,”Topoleva-Soldunova said, adding. “Pamfilova is a person of principle who does not give into compromises or make bargains with her conscience.” Ella Pamfilova began her career as minister of social protection in the government of Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar. She was elected to the State Duma three times and later served as head of the presidential Council on Human Rights.
People in this office can put serious pressure on governmental authorities. Ella Pamfilova has a reputation as a person confident in her strengths and aware of her rights, and she knows the mechanisms of state power.
Elena TopolevaSoldunova THE DIRECTOR OF THE N.G.O. AGENCY FOR SOCIAL INFORMATION
The figure of the commissioner for human rights is very important, but she cannot change everything. This position requires a person who is authoritative and can show emotion. So that is why it is very good that specifically a woman will hold this post.
Read the full story at rbth.com/35217
GET BEST STORIES FROM RUSSIA STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX rbth.com/subscribe
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTS AND SECTIONS ABOUT RUSSIA ARE PRODUCED AND PUBLISHED BY RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES, A DIVISION OF ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA (RUSSIA), IN THE FOLLOWING NEWSPAPERS: THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, UNITED KINGDOM • THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, THE WASHINGTON POST, UNITED STATES • LE FIGARO, FRANCE • SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG, GERMANY • EL PAÍS, SPAIN • LA REPUBBLICA, ITALY • LE SOIR, BELGIUM • POLITIKA, GEOPOLITIKA, SERBIA • NOVA MAKEDONIJA, MACEDONIA • DUMA, BULGARIA • ELEUTHEROS TYPOS, GREECE • THE ECONOMIC TIMES, INDIA • MAINICHI SHIMBUN, JAPAN • GLOBAL TIMES, CHINA • LA NACION, ARGENTINA • FOLHA DE S. PAULO, BRAZIL • EL OBSERVADOR, URUGUAY • JOONGANG ILBO, SOUTH KOREA • THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, THE AGE, AUSTRALIA • GULF NEWS, AL KHALEEJ, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES • NATION, THAILAND • MORE DETAILS AT RBTH.COM/ABOUT
MOST READ How will Russia’s economy fare in a world of crises? rbth.com/35215
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES SECTION SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, RUSSIA WWW.RBTH.COM
Investors Connecting East and West in tech
Cuisine Russian fast-food chain moves ahead with plans to expand to New York
From the Soviet Union to Silicon Valley Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Alexandra Johnson users her bicultural background to connect Russian ideas to American markets. SAM SKOVE
© RIA NOVOSTI
Teremok employees serve free pancakes from a giant pile during a Shrove Tuesday celebration in central Moscow.
Will Americans Flip for Russian Pancakes? the expenses are standard. “For example, food warming equipment is universal,” Goncharov said. Andrei Petrakov, the executive director of restaurant consulting firm Restkon, agrees with Goncharov’s estimate of $140,000 needed to open each restaurant. “Moscow is a very expensive city for restaurants, and perhaps in New York some costs will be lower.,” Petrakov said. He thinks that the company doesn’t need to make many changes to its format initially.“Blini with filling are less international than burgers or pizza and are somehow considered exotically Russian. Consequently, [Teremok] doesn’t need to make any serious changes to the image or menu. Start off asis, and then fine tune according to the response,” Petrakov said. Michael Schaefer, head of Beverages and Food Service at the Chicago office of Euromonitor International, said that one challenge for Teremok will be the fact that in the U.S., even in NewYork, few people are familiar with Russian cuisine. “Even though pancakes are easy to find in major American cities, they were never popular in the fast food segment and I don’t think blini will succeed in quickly changing that situation. Back home in Russia, Teremok’s success is based on consumer commitment and accessibility. In New York, particularly in Manhattan and Brooklyn,
Russian fast-food chain Teremok, which sells pancakes with fillings ranging from smoked salmon to Nutella along with traditional Russian soups and salads, is opening its first U.S. outlets. ANNA LEVINSKAYA RBC DAILY
Teremok, Russia’s most popular domestic fast food outlet, is finalizing plans to open its first storefronts in New York. Company owner and founder Mikhail Goncharov began laying the groundwork for the move last year, making trips to the U.S. to scout locations and meeting with lawyers about registering the company. Now Goncharov is finalizing locations for the first two stores and translating the recipes for the company’s pancakes (blini in Russian), soups and salads into English. Goncharov has no plans to make any significant changes to the menu for the U.S. market, arguing that consumers will vote with their dollars on whether they like the product or not.“My mother is the one who invented all of Teremok’s recipes,”said Goncharov.“Take borscht as an example: Ours is slightly sweet. In traditional recipes it’s more sour, but in our family we’ve always made it this way.” Goncharov estimates that the costs involved in opening each outlet will be approximately the same as in Russia since many of
is the number of restaurants Teremok plans to open in New York by the end of this year. The company is currently looking for space.
million is how many pancakes Teremok sold in 2013. That’s more than one each for the 20 million customers it served last year.
is the number of Teremok restaurants in Russia, making it the country’s largest homegrown fast-food chain.
The main challenge for Teremok will be that, even in New York, few people are familiar with Russian cuisine.
consumers won’t be particularly impressed or surprised by what Teremok has to offer.” In Schaefer’s opinion, it will be challenging for the brand to gain popularity in the U.S. without an unusual concept and a good social media marketing campaign. Goncharov said that the company is already planning for advertising material to accompany the opening of the restaurants. “When we open, of course we’ll hang newspaper and magazine clippings that talk about us.We’re probably even going to try to translate into English interviews with the former U.S. ambassador [Michael McFaul], who in two interviews, when asked, ‘What are your favorite places in Moscow?’ said, ‘the Butman Jazz Club and Teremok on the Arbat.’” Goncharov said that he is still moving forward with his plans despite the imposition of economic sanctions by the U.S. on select Russian politicians and businesses. “The developing situation is truly political,” Goncharov said. “After all, we should remember that even at the height of the Cold War, Pepsi plants were built in Russia. On the contrary, I think it’s important for Russia to be perceived as a country of people who are dynamic, modern and not the least bit dangerous.” This article is based in part on reporting from Afisha magazine.
Energy An innovative bilateral initiative to dispose of nuclear waste recently came to an end
Nuclear program set an example The Megatons to Megawatts program was one of the most successful examples of U.S.-Russia collaboration in the nuclear sphere. MIKHAIL VOLKOV
Megatons to Megawatts was a unique program in the history of nuclear disarmament, nuclear energy and U.S.-Russia relations. As its name implies, it enabled the conversion of megatons of destructive power to megawatts of electricity. This was achieved by turning 500 tons of highly enriched uranium from Russian nuclear warheads dismantled as part of disarmament initiatives into fuel for U.S. nuclear power plants. The program set a precedent by creating a nuclear disarmament initiative using commercial mechanisms. The amount of weapons-grade material disposed of as part of the program would have been sufficient to make 20,000 nuclear warheads. That material was turned instead into enough nuclear fuel to provide electricity for the whole planet for five months, the United States
alone for two years, or Russia for seven years. In one year, 1995, when the first supply of the low enriched uranium (L.E.U.) as part of the Megatons to Megawatts program took place, the annual sales of Russian enrichment services were close to $800 million. At the time the program came to a close, this amount had almost tripled to more than $2 billion.
The program was the biggest single step in the history of irreversible nuclear arms reduction. It also helped the Russian nuclear industry become fully integrated into the global nuclear market. Additionally, the program generated an estimated $17 billion in revenue for the Russian state. “These funds were vital for the survival of the [Russian nu-
clear]industry, said Anton Khlopkov, director of the Moscowbased Center for Energy and Security Studies. In November 2013, the last batch of L.E.U. recycled from Russian nuclear bombs arrived in the United States, and the Megatons to Megawatts program came to an end. According to Khlopkov, Russia is still open to cooperation in the nuclear sphere, if not exactly on the same terms as Megatons to Megawatts. “There are, in total, about 440 operational power reactors today, and 100 of them are in the U.S. It’s a huge market. We would like to be there, but we believe it’s time to change the conditions of this cooperation,” Khlopov said. He added that Russian enrichment company Tenex, which is part of the Rosatom family, is already working with U.S. utilities, and this could be an example to build on in the future.
Read the full story at russia-direct.org
Born in Vladivostok, a city closer to Tokyo than Moscow, investment specialist Alexandra Johnson has always had an international outlook. Soon after the fall of the Soviet Union, she left for the United States, where she added an M.B.A from the University of California, Berkeley to her Ph.D. from St. Petersburg State University. Once in California, she found her niche as a venture capitalist helping entrepreneurs from her homeland translate their ideas into profits. Today, Johnson is the founder and president of the Global Technology Symposium (G.T.S.) and managing director of venture fund DFJ VTB Aurora.
Until a more conducive environment exists domestically, Russian start-ups will continue to look abroad for funding. The first generation of postSoviet entrepreneurs were “people who had spent their whole career working for a big state enterprise,” Johnson said. Consequently, they were enthusiastic, but didn’t always know how to turn their concept into a profitable business. Still, these firsttime business owners were eager to explore the world of capitalism. One businessman, an owner of a small grocery store, spontaneously pitched Johnson the development of noiseless coffee grinder.“When I’m talking to Russian entrepreneurs the sky is the limit,” Johnson said. While many U.S investors were interested in Russia’s business potential following the Soviet Union’s collapse, few had the language abilites and regional expertise necessary for exploring the market. To help U.S. investors and Russian entrepreneurs connect, Johnson founded G.T.S., now in its 11th year. The conference, held annually in Silicon Valley
SPECIAL TO RBTH
Johnson promotes Russian tech firms to American investors.
and sponsored by the likes of tech firm Cisco and Russian retail banking giant Sberbank, has given Russian tech start-ups a platform for finding funding and markets. Russian entrepreneurship has grown considerably since its early, post-Soviet days. In its 2011 inital public offering, Yandex, Russia’s most-popular search engine, raised $1.3 billion and social networking site Vkontakte is worth an estimated $3 to $4 billion.Despite these sucesses, Russia still does not have all the components of a successful start-up ecosystem, Johnson said. Building a new business needs ideas, funding, legal support and a market. Russian start-ups have access to banking services and legal support, but not always a market. Major Russian corporations often refuse to take a chance on a new tech business, preferring instead to rely on well-known partners. Until a more condusive environment exists domestically, startups will continue to look abroad for funding. This year’s G.T.S., which is currently taking place, faced additional challenges given the tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine. Johnson notes, however, that start-ups aren’t short-term, market-based propositions, but long term investments. This year the G.T.S. welcomed both a Ukranian and a Russian company, which Johnson said is evidence that innovation can transcend international rivalries.
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES
MOST READ Top things Google says Russians are rbth.com/33803
SECTION SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, RUSSIA WWW.RBTH.COM
Travel Take a tour of the most Russian places in New York and discover something new around every corner
A New Yorker’s Guide to Moscow on the Hudson SPECIAL TO RBTH
Zurab Tsereteli’s Teardrop sculpture in New Jersey
Health The banya is an essential part of Russian life — and life for Russians in New York
Enjoy Your local bathhouses To the uninitiated, the Russian banya can seem like “an extreme spa” or a subtle form of torture, but this unique experience is definitely worth diving into. DIANA BRUK SPECIAL TO RBTH
In a faraway land, in the shadow of the trembling rails of the overhead subway, there is a magical kingdom of subzero pools and bubbling baths and wooden enclaves from which half-naked humans peacefully appear cloaked in plumes of steam. It is a land where proudly hairy men will offer, with an encouraging and polite grunt, to whip visitors with a bouquet of birch leaves and then dump them into ice-cold water, allowing them to emerge with a stronger spirit, softer skin and soothed senses. And this land is called the Russian banya. In Soviet Russia, the banya was a public bathhouse where men and women would go, separately and nakedly, for their weekly bath, back when the only other option was to grab a hot kettle and wash in the open air of a communal kitchen. In NewYork, the banya has more of a spa-like quality, and welcomes both sexes dressed in bathing suits.
There are four Russian banyas in Brooklyn. Of them, Sandoony (1158 MacDonald Ave.), is largely considered by natives to be the most “legit,” because it has the greatest contingency of burly Russian men and because, as one weekly patron extolled,“The saunas themselves are made properly, and the pechka [coal oven] was flown in completely intact straight from Moscow!” The manager, David Israil, said that this enthusiastic endorsement was “absolutely not” accurate. “But,” he added “they are very close replicas of the ones made in Moscow. When my parents opened this place back in December 2002, banyas in New York were considered not up to par with what we had back home. They wanted to create a banya that was as modern and yet authentic as possible, and that’s what they did. Even now, 80 percent of our clientele is Russian.” Israil describes the banya as “an extreme spa” and, indeed, to the uninitiated, the bathing rituals can appear like a subtle form of torture, so perhaps they require some instruction. When entering the banya, guests will see the doors to the Turkish steamroom and three sau-
ers. Organizers hope for 20,000. Need a special gift but don’t want to go all the way to Russia to get it? Visit the new location of the Saint Petersburg Global Trade House (261 5th Ave.). Giant fur hats? Check. Russian nesting dolls? Check. From St. Petersburg Imperial porcelain to wooden jewelry to wool and silk shawls and the wobbly toys so loved by generations of Soviet kids, shoppers are sure to find a unique gift or a nice souvenir for themselves. Of course there would be no Russian New York without Brighton Beach. This neighborhood, forever linked to Russian speakers, is located in southern Brooklyn bounded by Ocean Parkway, Belt Parkway, Corbin Place and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also sometimes known as “Little Odessa”.As the story goes, that part of New York was chosen by Soviet Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants of the third and the post-perestroika waves for its similarity with the Black Sea city of Odessa. Many establishments here, especially those located on the main strip, still use Russian as their main language and feature window signs in Cyrillic. The Millennium Theater (1029 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn) is currently being rebranded by a new owner, but it is sure to remain one of the main cultural venues in Brighton Beach. It has hosted events ranging from Russian Film Week to the Russian comedy show KVN to a staging of“Chapaev and the Emptiness,” based on the book by contemporary writer Viktor Pelevin. Russian influence can even be found across the river in New Jersey. The Teadrop monument (51 Port Terminal Blvd., Bayonne, N.J.) was built by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli to commemorate the victims of 9/11. This monument to the Twin Towers looks almost as if it represents a single building because such was the view from the vantage point of the peninsula at Bayonne where the monument is erected. In a speech accepting the monument in 2006, former President Bill Clinton said that Tsereteli’s sculpture had caught “feelings that cannot be expressed by words.”
Russians have been living in New York City for about 200 years. The first significant wave of immigrants from the Russian empire began in 1881, although there were Russians living in the city earlier. The network of Russian businesses, schools, stores and restaurants that exists now in the Big Apple is as much a part of the fabric of the city as Chinatown, although maybe not as noticeable. To take a tour of Russian New York, start at the Consulate General of the Russian Federation (9 E. 91st Street). The diplomatic mission of the Russian Federation to New York moved into this building, the former home of New York banker John Henry Hammond, in 1994. Its interiors, designed by New York Public Library architects Carrere and Hastings, have seen the likes of the great jazz player Benny Goodman and British actress Hermione Gingold, but today play host to Russian citizens seeking help with passport and visa questions. Holidays special to Russia are also celebrated in the consulate, which overlooks Central Park. Among the regular festivities are annual celebrations of Orthodox Christmas and International Women’s Day, commemorative events for the Battle of Stalingrad and Victory Day. St. Nicholas Cathedral (15 E. 97th St.) is the go-to place for Russian Orthodox Christians in New York. Fundraising for the cathedral, built in a style based on the Moscow Baroque, began in 1894, but it was 1902 before the first service was held there — and the building still wasn’t completed. The representative office of the Moscow Patriarchate is located in the adjacent building, since the cathedral is a Russian Orthodox-Moscow Patriarchate Church, not a part of the Orthodox Church in America. The whole complex was recognized by the city of New York as an architectural masterpiece in 1973. A lesser-known contribution of Russians to the city of New York is a statue of Vladimir Lenin. Located on the top of the Red Square apartment building, (250 E. Houston St.) in the East Village, the 18-foot tall metal statue greets the city in an unexpected salute from the Communist world to the capitalist one. The owner of the building, a former radical sociology professor at N.Y.U., bought the stat-
from a private collection of Alex1 ander G l e z e r, one of the organizers of the infamous Nonconformist “Bulldozer Exhibition” in the Soviet Union in 1974. The museum has moved on to younger generations of various Russian and Russian-American artists, and is currently hosting an exhibit of Daria Bagrintseva (March 29–April 6). It will feature the artist’s works from abstractionism to erotica. And New York doesn’t just celebrate Russian visual artists. A street named after Russian-American writer Sergei Dovlatov who lived and worked in NewYork, may soon appear on the city map. According to Alex Rubin, who has spearheaded the initiative, the decision to give Dovlatov’s name to 63rd Drive in Forest Hills, Queens, where the writer lived and his widow and daughter still reside, should be made by the city officials within next few months. If passed, Dovlatov Way will be the second street in New York named after a prominent Russian, after the Sakhar o v- B o n n e r c o r n e r, which commemorates the famous Soviet dissidents and activists Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner. The corner is located at the southwest corner of Third Ave. and 67th Street. The petition for Dovlatov Way at change.org currently has more than 14,000 sign-
nas (two Russian, one Finnish), a cold water pool, a regular swimming pool, and a hot tub, with white patio tables and chairs scattered in between. The first step is to conquer the sauna — a little wooden room with three bench
When a Russian comes out of a shower, he or she will be greeted with “S leykim parom!” or “With light steam!” levels, heated by a coal oven to a blistering 160+ degrees. These brave souls must sit on the top bench with a towel wrapped like a makeshift turban around their heads (to prevent heatstroke), sweating and heaving long past the point of comfort. When they can’t take it anymore, they must run out and face the shock of jumping into the 40 degree plunge pool. Then there’s a well deserved rest, during which guests can order traditional delicacies like herring with onion and potatoes fried with garlic, a jug of beer, and an exotic fruit plate (Sandoony is B.Y.O.B. so guests can bring their own beer or water-
ue from Russian artist Yuri Gerasimov after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The most famous Russian restaurant in Manhattan, Russian Samovar (256 W. 52nd St.) was co-founded by Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, the great Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and businessmen Roman Kaplan. It opened on May 24, 1986 — Brodsky’s birthday. Russian Samovar has welcomed Russians, Americans and tourists of all kinds, but the role of creative types — writers, musicians and artists —has remained strong through the years. The restaurant often features lives music, both instrumental and vocal. A newer Russian addition to the restaurant scene is Mari Vanna (41 E. 20th St.), which occupies a busy spot between between Flatiron and Gramercy. Inside, Mari Vanna is furnished with typical elements of a Soviet home — crystal b o w l s , homemadelooking chandeliers, framed 3 black-and-white pictures and other memorabilia that evokes nostalgic feelings in the heart of every guest who was born in or ever visited Soviet Russia. Mari Vanna is good for an unusual spin on a business lunch ($24 covers an appetizer, a soup and a main course) or a dinner. The restaurant’s specialty is a wide selection of infused vodkas. The most popular is the one infused with horseradish, but cranberry, honey and pepper-based “nastoykas” are also popular. The Russian American Cultural Center (520 E. 76th St.) is dedicated to introducing the multinational population of the tristate area to the latest in Russian culture. Art and literature events, film showings and concerts are spread out over a few dozen different venues. Among the current and upcoming RACC events are a talk about the social role of Jewish humor by Hunter College professor Emil Draitser (May 9, Hunter College, CUNY) and the poetry Compass award competition, which this year is dedicated to poetry of the Russian film director Arseny Tarkovsky. Submissions are being accepted through July 31. The Museum of Russian Art (80 Grand St., Jersey City, N.J.) started off by showing unofficial Soviet art that mainly came
New Yorkers have long known to go to Brighton Beach for borscht.
melon if they so choose). Then it’s back into the sauna for a second round, which should include a beating with a venik — a bouquet of dried birch leaves — to exfoliate the skin and ease blood circulation. During this ritual, the air congeals and it becomes hotter than one could possible imagine, which makes the shock of jumping into the plunge pool even more acute. But one emerges from the pool, steam rising from the skin and blood pounding through the body, feeling more alive than ever before. Traditionally, when a Russian comes out of a shower, he or she will be greeted with cries of “S leykim parom!”which translates colloquially into “Enjoy your bath!” It makes little to no sense until it’s considered in the context of the banya, where bathing is not just a hygienic activity but a spiritual ritual, a philosophical rite that mandates short-term pain for long-term pleasure, that creates a battle with one’s own physical limits, that warrants congratulations for overcoming. So, go on, take the plunge, and enjoy your bath. Read the full story at rbth.com/35231
Parties for dressing up and getting down The Russian Party is a semi-underground bimonthly dance party hosted in Williamsburg or Bushwick by promoter Seva Granik and filmmaker Darya Zhuk. The Russian Party is devoted to publicizing Soviet/Russian dance music (including music from Soviet cartoons) among young Americans as well as uniting people born or raised in the Soviet Union and Russia. More details at sevagranik.com.
Russian New York is immediately associated with Brighton Beach, but the influence of Russian immigrants can be felt in other parts of the city as well.
The Petroushka Ball (pictured) is a black-tie gala at the Plaza Hotel, usually held on the second Friday of February and attended by more than 700 guests. All proceeds go to the charity programs of the Russian Children’s Welfare Society (rcws.org). Opera stars Anna Netrebko and Dmitry Hvorostovsky support the event and often perform there. In 2015, Petroushka Ball will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
MOST READ American comfort food takes off in Moscow rbth.com/30961
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES SECTION SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, RUSSIA WWW.RBTH.COM
Travel Moscow was practically isolated from American culture for 70 years, but visitors to the city today would never know it 2
It’s easy for tourists to be overwhelmed by Moscow’s size. From the 16-lane Garden Ring that contains the city center to the Seven Sisters Stalin-era skyscrapers that dominate the skyline, Moscow puts the big in big city. It wasn’t always that way. Until the Soviet leaders moved the Russian capital back to Moscow from St. Petersburg, the city more closely resembled its nickname — the big village. Today, Moscow is the only Russian city with modern skyscrapers, and the city’s architecture owes a lot to New York City. The design of the Seven Sisters was heavily based on the Manhattan Municipal Building and the development of the Moscow City commercial district was clearly influenced by the southern tip of Manhattan. Russia’s Federation Tower, Europe’s tallest skyscraper, boasts a tall spire, just like the Freedom Tower in New York. But the first place to go for visitors interested in seeing a piece of America in Moscow isn’t a tower, but instead a two-storey neo-Classical mansion. Spaso House (No. 10 Spasopeskovskaya Square, Metro Smolenskaya), has been the home of the U.S. ambassador to Russia since 1933. The house is located off a small square among the rabbit warren of alleyways that separate the Old and New Arbat shopping streets, near the charming 18th century Church of the Savior on the Sands. In 1934, less than a year after moving in, the first American ambassador to the Soviet Union, William Bullit, held a notorious Christmas party during which three seals he had borrowed from the Moscow Zoo went on a rampage throughout the building. This party was likely the inspiration for Satan’s ball in Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel“The Master and Margarita.” During the height of the Cold War, the ambassadorial staff would regularly find listening devices in the fireplace and the walls and had to resort to tapping spoons during conversations. Spaso House has hosted visiting dignitaries such as Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan — who met with Soviet dissidents there— as well as many musicians and writers. Unfortunately the house is not open to tourists, but anyone taking a stroll down the Arbat can take a quick detour by the outside. While Americans have never immigrated to Moscow in large enough numbers to shape its culture and architecture, Russia and America have a shared history that is imprinted on the city. For history buffs or those who grew
find the humanities building. Jewish Americans or those interested in Jewish history should visit the Jewish Museum and Tolerence Center (Obraztsova street, 11, building 1А, Metro Marina Roscha), which details the experiences of the Jewish diaspora in Russia, as well as global Jewish history. The museum has a specific focus on interactive learning and makes full use of the latest multimedia techniques. This, along with its dedicated children’s center, make it a good venue for families who are keen to understand more about Jewish culture, past and present, in Russia. Chil-
Located 200 feet underground, Bunker 42 offers visitors the full experience of a Cold War command center. main humanities building of Moscow State University. It was installed in 2009 as part of Hilary Clinton’s visit to the country on the famous “reset” tour, and its inscription quotes Whitman himself:“You Russians, and we, Americans! ... so far apart from each other, so seemingly different, and yet ... in ways that are most important, our countries are so alike.”The Moscow State University complex is very large, so it is a good idea to take a map to
dren of all ages will also be enchanted by Nancy Schon’s Make Way for Ducklings installation (Pond by the Novodevichy convent, Metro Sportivnaya). Inspired by the children’s book of the same name and originally designed for the Boston Public Garden, the Moscow version was installed in 1991 as a gift from Barbara Bush to Raisa Gorbacheva. Gorbacheva is buried in the convent cemetery, which is
the resting place of numerous Russian cultural and political figures. Schon was keen to point out that she is“not a political artist,” and her comment is an important reminder to visitors that the ability to enjoy Moscow does not depend on your nationality or political views.
1) The Moscow City commercial district in central Moscow is home to the Federation Tower. Topping out at 1,112 feet, it is the highest tower in Europe. 2) Spaso House has been the residence of American ambassadors to Russia for 81 years. 3) In Bunker 42, visitors can take a trip back to the darkest days of the Cold War. 4) The ultramodern Jewish Museum and Toleracne center opened in 2012. 5) The Make Way for Ducklings installation is a copy of the beloved Boston sculpture.
Food The Russian capital offers visitors American food of every kind, but with a local twist
Moscow’s Appetite for American Food Is All You Can Eat From burgers and fries to locally sourced grilled meats and fresh salads, American food continues to increase in popularity in Russia. KIRA TVERSKAYA SPECIAL TO RBTH
American visitors to Moscow may find the city more familiar than they expect, given the presence of American chain restaurants seemingly on every corner. Chains like Subway (over 670 outlets across Russia), KFC (over 250) and McDonald’s (417) generally outnumber their local competitors like Teremok, which offers Russian pancakes and has only 228 outlets across Russia. But even the biggest names have to tailor their menus to a local audience. In Moscow, KFC offers for breakfast syrniki, a kind of cheese curd pancake common in Russia but unknown in the U.S. Burger King has also created a Lenten menu to accommodate the strict Russian Orthodox fast. And Starbucks, which caters to on-the-go commuters in the U.S., is more of a fancy cafe in Moscow with coffee prices in the $7-$10 range. Nevertheless, Starbucks outlets don’t seem to lack for clientele.
SPECIAL TO RBTH
statues commemorating the country’s poets, musicians and artists, as well as plaques detailing where they lived. However, it may be a surprise to find out there is a statue of one of the most influential and revered American poets, Walt Whitman (Moscow State University, Metro Universitet) by the
up with the very real threat of nuclear war, Bunker 42 (5th Kotelnichesky pereulok, 11, Metro Taganskaya) is a must-visit location. More than 7,500 square feet in size, it is located 200 feet underground in a central Moscow district and aims to offer the full experience of a Cold War command bunker from the Russian perspective. As the museum’s director, Igor Lavrenchuk, explained, “This was where all the decisions were taken during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and we have carefully reconstructed all the board rooms and conference halls to give a proper flavor of the atmosphere in those days.”The more adventurous tourist can choose between Bunker Quest, a 90-minute game where you have to recapture the bunker from terrorists, and the more surreal Zombie Apocalypse, where the bunker is infested with, unsurprisingly, zombies. Fans of 24 and George Romero apply within. Russia is rightly very proud of its cultural history, and if you wander through Moscow’s various boulevards you will find many
The interest of Muscovites in all things American can be found in sites all around the city, from the neo-Classical U.S. ambassador’s residence to a Cold War bunker.
Discover Moscow: A Great Big American Village
Eating out in Moscow has come a long way from the first McDonald’s to Michelin-starred chef Brad Farmerie’s Saxon + Parole, but one thing that has remained constant is the demand for all things American.
“I like Starbucks — coffee, syrups with various flavors, atmosphere and music,” said student Ksenia Lutsenko, “What I absolutely dislike is the prices. In the U.S. in Starbucks everything costs less than $5; here they went crazy.” Nick Miyares, an American who works in finance in Moscow, is a Starbucks regular, but he goes primarily for the food. “I will never pay $5 for an Americano when I can get the same thing for less than $1 at a Starbucks in the States if I bring my own cup,” Miyares said. Part of the appeal is undoubtably a chain’s American identity. Ksenia Lutsenko goes to McDon-
ald’s for what it represents more than the food. “I like McDonald’s in Russia; it’s like a palace. I think it’s just childhood memories — when I went to elementary school, it was so cool to celebrate your birthday at McDonald’s,” Lutsenko said. But it’s not just American fast food that has captured the Russian imagination. Americaninspired pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants have been popping up all over Moscow in the past couple of years. According to Foursquare, restaurants like Johnny Rockets, the Starlite Diner and the Beverly Hills Diner are
among the top 100 places where people in Moscow “check in,” along with Friends Forever, a trendy cafe that serves Americanstyle food and desserts like cupcakes and cookies that are not traditional Russian treats. Other American chains such as T.G.I. Friday’s and the Hard Rock Café are also popular. Last fall, Moscow marked another milestone in its love affair with American food. A branch of Saxon + Parole, a New York restaurant from executive chef Brad Farmerie, opened in the Patriarshy Prudy neighborhood. Yekaterina Fadeyeva, brand manager of Saxon + Parole, noted
that while there are still fewer high-end American restaurants in Moscow than those serving Italian or Japanese cuisine, American-style has its advantages.“The American model is more democratic, not so sickeningly glossy and more understandable. Despite the fact that Russians tend to be negative about American food because of the overload of American fast food chains, Muscovites travel a lot and have a lot of interest in all things new,” Fadeyeva said. In addition to the food, which is sourced locally as much as possible, Saxon + Parole sets itself apart by offering a cocktail menu from Masahiro Urushido, Naren Young and Linden Pride in the atmosphere of an old-school New York bar. From the day the restaurant opened in late 2013, it has been impossible to get in. Tables were booked up weeks in advance in a city where most people call for day-of reservations. Fadeyeva believes that the key to Saxon + Parole’s success is the accuracy with which the American partners approached moving the concept from New York to Moscow, the efficiency of the Moscow team and the readiness of the audience for a project like Saxon + Parole. The audience, indeed, is ready. The only real obstacle for American restaurants hoping to move into the Moscow market is the high rental prices for real estate. What are syrniki? Find out at rbth.com/35007
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES SECTION SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, RUSSIA WWW.RBTH.COM
MOST READ The Russian empire: Europes’s melting pot rbth.com/34689
THE FUTURE OF UKRAINE While global attention is focused on Crimea and its annexation by Russia, the interim Ukrainian government in Kiev is trying to move forward.
The country faces many challenges, both political and economic, domestic and foreign. The current leadership must balance demands from East
and West while preparing to hold upcoming elections and fend off creditors. Foreign policy analysts remain divided
on what the future holds for Ukraine and what its course means for Europe and the international balance of power. two possibilities. Either Russia, the United States and the European powers work together to untie the knots of European history, one of which is Ukraine, or a new Cold War will begin in Europe, possibly one symbolized by a divided state.
Steven Pifer RUSSIA DIRECT
here is effort in the West — both in the United States and Europe — to help create a path for a dialogue with Russia, but the problem is that there has to be a conversation between Moscow and Kiev. And the Russian government says it won’t recognize the government of Ukraine. So, it’s hard to see how the dialogue is going to begin. It can’t be just a dialogue between Europe, the United States and Russia. Ukraine has to be there as well. Both sides need to exercise a degree of care, because I don’t think that either side is interested in allowing these differences between Russia and the U.S. to spin out of control. And again while the United States is going to impose political, diplomatic and, perhaps, even financial penalties on Russia and work to persuade the European Union to do the same, it is also important that the U.S. Administration make clear that there is way out, that there is a path that leads to a negotiated solution. The U.S. is going to [impose sanctions] in a deliberate way. That will have a negative impact on the U.S.Russia relationship, but that cannot be helped. The U.S. government calculates that it would be a mistake not to impose some consequences on Russia.
Thomas Graham RUSSIA DIRECT
he case of Ukraine is exacerbated by geopolitical competition. And it is difficult to determine which came first, the geopolitical competition or the disagreement about the legitimacy of the government in Kiev.
James Carden RUSSIA DIRECT
Moscow has been strongly opposed to Ukraine being pulled out of Russia’s orbit, while the United States never felt comfortable with Ukraine in Russia’s orbit. Those positions played a central role in shaping the way each country perceived events in Kiev and predisposed the United States to see the new government as legitimate and Russia to reject its legitimacy. We will not come to a common view of the legitimacy of any new government in Kiev until we have managed to find a suitable balance in our geopolitical competition over Ukraine. International recognition of Ukraine as a
neutral state might be one way of moderating our geopolitical rivalry so that we can both support one government. Every time a serious problem emerges in U.S.-Russian relations, someone reaches for the Cold War trope. It is time to put it to rest. The Cold War rivalry resulted from a set of circumstances that no longer exist. What is taking place between Russia and the United States is a not-so-unusual rivalry between great powers. Thomas Graham, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, is a managing director at Kissinger Associates.
Fyodor Lukyanov SPECIAL TO RBTH
he principal conclusion to be drawn from the turmoil is that Ukraine should never have been forced to choose once and for all between Russia and the West. Ukraine’s heterogeneity creates a situation in which any attempt by the government to side with a particular foreign power leads to a sharp increase in internal tensions. Ukraine’s problems can only be addressed when its largest foreign partners work together. A zero sum game is destructive for
AN ASYMMETRICAL CULTURE WAR, FOUGHT IN THE MOVIES Stephen M. Norris SPECIAL TO RBTH
he cover story of the March 3 Time Out Moscow was entitled “America in Moscow: Why Do We Love All Things American?” The issue, which came emblazoned with stars and stripes on the cover, argued that “Moscow has surrendered to America.” American restaurants are popping up across the city, American fashion and art set trends, and American music fills the airwaves. Above all, Russians flock to Hollywood blockbusters. It’s an intriguing issue, made all the more so because it hit the newsstands just as the Crimean crisis heated up and as the political rhetoric emanating from Moscow condemned American support for the Maidan in Kiev. How strange, therefore, that at the same time Time Out Moscow waved the white flag and praised America’s continued cultural conquest of Russia. Even odder would be the possibility of Time Out New York publishing an issue that celebrated Russian culture’s successful invasion on these shores. As luck (or fate) would have it, Fedor Bondarchuk’s “Stalingrad,” the largest-grossing movie in Russian history, debuted in the United States at the same time as the Time Out Moscow issue. Made in expensive Imax 3D and telling an epic World War II tale, the film’s foreign distributors (Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures) hoped the film would draw American audienc-
hat are our options now? They are few, and they are for the most part unpalatable. The least bad option would be a negotiated settlement brokered by the U.N. A U.N.-backed settlement that addresses the status of Crimea, calls for early elections and addresses the status of the ethnically Russian populations in the South and East would be the very best we could hope for.This would hopefully be accompanied by a tripartite aid package for Ukraine from the major players (Russia, the European Union and the U.S.) that would shun I.M.F.-mandated austerity measures. A worse option would be the “Finlandization” of Ukraine [in which Ukraine agrees not to antagonize Russia]. Finlandization would simply institutionalize a frozen conflict between Russia and NATO that would be perpetually at risk of melting down. But the worst option would be the “Two Ukraines” scenario. If Ukraine splinters into two countries, it will renew the old Cold War divide that we lived with for 40 years. A split in Ukraine, however, moves this divide right into the heart of Slavic civilization and the risk of conflict between west and east Ukraine and between NATO and Russia, will remain ever-present.
Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Fyodor Lukyanov is the chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy.
es. And yet, as has always been the case, the Russian film failed to make much of an imprint at all, bringing in $757,000 in its week-long run.While“Stalingrad” suffered from the fact that it had subtitles, received lukewarm reviews and had a paltry marketing campaign, it also illustrated the deep imprints the cultural Cold War has left. Bondarchuk’s movie employs often dazzling, sometimes dizzying special effects, particularly in its elaborate battle sequences and in his superb rendering of the ru-
American box office saw “The Lego Movie” and “Pompeii” win in Russia. These failures and triumphs reflect the construction of an “imaginary West” within the Soviet Union and the “asymmetric warfare”fought by film industries as part of the Cold War. Scholars such as the Berkeley anthropologist AlexeiYurchak have explored how Soviet citizens constructed a vision of“the West”during the Cold War and how Soviet citizens consumed Western popular culture. While the Soviet experiment famously aimed to catch
The Time Out Moscow issue indicates that, for Russians, the allure of the West and its products remains.
In the case of “Stalingrad,” North American film critics judged it through a Cold War lens.
ined city. He also works in many of the ways the war’s meaning has evolved since communism’s collapse, including the focus on a timeless patriotism. While the film is far from great — its 48 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes seems right on the money — this doesn’t fully explain why it failed to make a dent at the American box office after raking in nearly $57 million in its six-week Russian run and opening No. 1 in China, where it earned $8.5 million in its first weekend. The film’s reception might best be understood as part of the cultural Cold War’s continued legacies. The same weekend “Stalingrad” failed to earn much at the
up and overtake the West, this attempt fostered feelings of superiority and inferiority vis-à-vis the West. The Time Out Moscow issue indicates that the allure of the West, its products and its role as a measuring stick remain. Relatedly, what the film scholar Andrey Shcherbenok has described as “asymmetric warfare” within the larger Cold War also survives. Shcherbenok has written that cinema served as an important battle zone but that, unlike the more or less symmetrical technological and militaristic components of the conflict, this cultural element was strikingly different. American movies proved far more consistent and ultimate-
LETTERS FROM READERS, GUEST COLUMNS AND CARTOONS LABELED “COMMENTS” OR “VIEWPOINT,” OR APPEARING ON THE “OPINION” PAGE 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 US@RBTH.COM
ly more successful in their attempts to characterize the Soviet government and Soviet citizens as brainwashed, evil types bent on world domination. Soviet movies, however, tended to be on the defensive when taking part in the cultural Cold War, constantly seeking to prove that socialism was viable. Perhaps no single industry involved with the cultural Cold War illustrated what the historian Michael David-Fox has termed the “ideological overstretch”of the catch-up-and-surpass mentality than the film industry. When communism collapsed, the asymmetry emerged quite clearly. In the case of Bondarchuk’s movie, North American film critics judged it through Cold War lenses: prominent American and Canadian reviewers all labeled the film as “propaganda,” a “Putin spectacle” or “patriotic rebranding.” The Time Out Moscow issue, when compared to “Stalingrad” in America, indicates that the asymmetry has evolved after 1991 just as the “imaginary West” has. Bondarchuk’s movie openly borrows on Hollywood techniques, but imitation did not prove to be the highest form of flattery. American audiences stayed away and critics interpreted “Stalingrad” as a propaganda piece. Meanwhile, in Moscow, American popular culture continues to conquer. Stephen M. Norris is Professor of History and Assistant Director of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies, Miami University (Ohio).
THIS SPECIAL ADVERTISING FEATURE IS SPONSORED AND WAS PRODUCED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA (RUSSIA) AND DID NOT INVOLVE THE REPORTING OR EDITING STAFF OF THE NEW YORK TIMES. WEB ADDRESS HTTP://RBTH.COM E-MAIL US@RBTH.COM TEL. +7 (495) 775 3114 FAX +7 (495) 988 9213 ADDRESS 24 PRAVDY STR., BLDG. 4, STE 720, MOSCOW, RUSSIA, 125 993. EVGENY ABOV PUBLISHER PAVEL GOLUB CHIEF EXECUTIVE EDITOR LARA MCCOY EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WESTERN HEMISPHERE ELENA BOBROVA EDITOR, U.S. EDITIONS OLGA GUITCHOUNTS, ANNA SERGEEVA REPRESENTATIVES, UNITED STATES ANDREY SHIMARSKIY ART DIRECTOR ANDREY ZAITSEV HEAD OF PHOTO DEPT MILLA DOMOGATSKAYA HEAD OF PRE-PRINT DEPT MARIA OSHEPKOVA LAYOUT
a country sandwiched between two large powers. The interpretations of events in both Russia and Europe are dangerously black and white, and loaded with ideological clichés. They support the extremist forces on both sides — the extreme nationalists of western Ukraine and the revanchists in the east. We’ve heard many times since 1989 that the Cold War is over. But time after time events have shown that the inertia of confrontation and rivalry has not disappeared, and that old instincts are very much alive. Ukraine represents a turning point, beyond which there are
James Carden is a former advisor to the U.S.–Russia Presidential Commission.
EXCLUSIVELY AT RUSSIA-DIRECT.ORG March 2014 Monthly Memo
As of Jan. 1, 2015, the Eurasian Economic Union is set to come into existence on the basis of the Customs Union and the common economic space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. What does the future of the organization look like without the participation of Ukraine?
March 2014 Quarterly report
This Quarterly Report is dedicated to U.S.-Russian cooperation in the nuclear sphere. Creators of the Megatons to Megawatts program (1993-2013) look into its origins, analyze its economic and political effects, and suggest the prospects for future RussianU.S. projects.
February 2014 Monthly Memo
Russia Direct explores the Russian government’s plans for urgent school reform at all levels and the challenges it faces in reviving the country’s schools and universities following two decades plagued by loss of funding and prestige.
Access all Russia Direct reports in one place Go>> russia-direct.org/archive AN E-PAPER VERSION OF THIS SUPPLEMENT IS AVAILABLE AT RBTH.COM/E-PAPER. TO ADVERTISE IN THIS SUPPLEMENT, CONTACT SALES@RBTH.COM. © COPYRIGHT 2014, FSFI ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ALEXANDER GORBENKO CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD. PAVEL NEGOITSA GENERAL DIRECTOR VLADISLAV FRONIN CHIEF EDITOR ANY COPYING, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS PUBLICATION, OTHER THAN FOR PERSONAL USE, WITHOUT THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA IS PROHIBITED. TO OBTAIN PERMISSION TO REPRINT OR COPY AN ARTICLE OR PHOTO, PLEASE CALL +7 (495) 775 3114 OR E-MAIL US@RBTH.COM WITH YOUR REQUEST. RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS AND PHOTOS.
MOST READ Exploring the Russian America that almost was rbth.com/34527
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES SECTION SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, RUSSIA WWW.RBTH.COM
BEHIND THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE
Performances Big names help small festival attract audiences in New York and Maryland
Five of the best-known Russian words
Vladimir Spivakov and Moscow Virtuosi Orchestra with soloists from the Spivakov International Charity Foundation
Alexey Mikheev SPECIAL TO RBTH
ussian actively borrows words from other languages, mainly English. But there are also Russian words that travel in the opposite direction and enter the lexicon of other tongues. Vodka — Russia’s traditional alcoholic drink first came into being in the 15th century, when Slavs learned how to make the so-called bread wine. The science and technology behind the process were developed in the late 19th century with participation of the great Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev, who is believed to have come up with its ideal ratio of water and alcohol, at 40 percent. In 1982, the Soviet Union was granted priority in making vodka and the exclusive right to advertise it on the international market under the slogan “Only vodka from Russia is genuine Russian vodka.”Vodka bottles now carry a health warni n g : “ E x c e s s iv e a l c o h o l consumption is detrimental to health.”To which popular wisdom replies: “Vodka in small amounts is good for you in any amount.” Troika — A vehicle driven by three horses was first used in the mid-18th century, when the postal service was in need of light, horse-driven carriages for long trips on usually very poor roads. In fact, there is a popular Russian saying, which says “Russia has two problems: fools and roads.”
Cherry-Picking the Best of Russian Culture Some of Russia’s top classical musicians and dramatists will appear in the United States this spring through a festival organized by Russian emigre. AYANO HODOUCHI DEMPSEY SPECIAL TO RBTH
PRESS PHOTO © RIA NOVOSTI
In May and June this year, a hefty line-up of Russia’s finest artists will come to the east coast for the Cherry Orchard Festival, a culture feast driven by two women passionately dedicated to bringing “the best of the best, crème de la crème” of art to New York. Maria Shclover and Irina Shabshis were both born in Russia, went to music schools in Moscow, emmigrated to New York and studied business there. Their similar backgrounds and values led them to create the festival, which they hope will grow to encompass the whole of the U.S. and become a major center of cultural exchange. While they maintain that they see their festival as “a place to showcase the world’s best classical arts” and the inaugural festival last year had a diverse program including John Malkovich in “The Giacomo Variations,” the Gesher Theater from Israel and Russian pianist Olga Kern, the program of this year’s festival leans heavily toward Russia. “Actually, we’re very glad we are focusing on Russia this time, especially in light of the political situation,” Shabshis, the festival’s artistic director said. She hopes that bringing top-tier Russian artists to the United States will help remind people that countries should be connected by culture.“Art does not have any political angles to it, we believe. By bringing Russian culture to the U.S., we can show that we don’t want any confrontations; we don’t want any wars; we want culture and peace. When you go to the theater and see a great performance, you won’t want to think about anything other than beauty and talent.” This year, the festival brings a choice selection of Russian classical music and dramatic theater. On May 14, renowned conductor and violinist Vladimir Spivakov brings several young people from his own foundation, the Vladimir Spivakov International Charity Foundation. Fourteen-year-old Vladislav Kern, who will play Liszt, has been a recipient of scholarships by Spivakov’s foundation for eight years now. Discovered by the foundation when he was performing in a concert in Moscow, Kern says the foundation gives talented youths the priceless experience of meeting famous musicians and performing in major
1) The production of Eugene Onegin by the Vakhtangov State Academic Theater has received many accolades 2) The festival wraps up with piano recitals by pianist Denis Matsuev, who performed in the closing ceremony of the Sochi Olympics.
halls around the world. He started his studies at the Central Music School in Moscow and the foundation now enables him to study at Juilliard. Vladislav also happens to be the son of Olga Kern, who performs with Spivakov, baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra at Lincoln Center on May 18. “Music is healing; music is the world’s most renowned lan-
whose mission includes bringing “the newest and most daring” works that have never been presented in the U.S. before, also presents the Vakhtangov Theater from Moscow in New York (May 29–June 1) and Boston (June 6– 7.) “Eugene Onegin” was an obvious choice for the organizers. Since it premiered in Moscow over a year ago, it has won multiple awards and successfully toured Lithuania and France.
This year, the Cherry Orchard Festival brings a choice selection of Russian classical music and dramatic theater.
The festival’s mission includes bringing “the newest and most daring” works for U.S. premieres.
guage and music doesn’t have any borders,” said Olga Kern. Established in 1994, Spivakov’s foundation has been gifting instruments, providing scholarships and, no less important, giving young musicians valuable international exposure for two decades. Its recipients include Yulianna Avdeeva, who in 2010 won the revered Chopin International Piano Competition — the first woman to win it since the legendary Martha Argerich in 1965. Avdeeva calls Spivakov a “center of gravity for the leading representatives of Russian culture.”
The theater and its actors are some of the most venerated in Russia. TheVakhtangov theater, named after the Russian actor and director EvgenyVakhtangov (1883– 1922) began as a group of students getting together in 1913 to experiment with Stanislavsky’s “method”system.When their first play flopped, Vakhtangov was reprimanded by his employer, the Moscow Art Theater. The group went underground, but hard work in the next years won the studio recognition. After World War II, the theater struggled in the Siberian city of Omsk, where it had been relocated. Eventually brought back to Moscow, it became an official
From music to drama The Cherry Orchard Festival,
Cherry Orchard Festival Dates May 14 - Concert of Young Musicians, Spivakov International Charity Foundation - Merkin Concert Hall, Lincoln Center, New York. May 18 - Vladimir Spivakov and Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. Gala Soloists: Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone, Olga Kern, piano - Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York. May 29 - Jun 1 - Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia - “Eugene Onegin” - The New York City Center, New York. June 6 - Jun 7 - Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia - “Eugene Onegin” - Cutler Majestic Theatre, Boston, MA. June 14 - Denis Matsuev, piano recital - Sanders Theater, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. June 17 - Denis Matsuev, piano recital, Strathmore Hall, Music Center at Strathmore, North Bethesda, MD.
theater and staged plays deemed appropriate by the Soviet state. After the demise of the Soviet Union, the theater turned into a dramatic institution worthy of export. It began touring abroad, investing in subtitles. Tour producer Elena Geraseva said they chose“Eugene Onegin” for the U.S. tour because it combines all that is great in Russian culture.“With immortal text by Russia’s most beloved writer, Alexander Pushkin, stage directing by the artistic director of the theater, Rimas Tuminas, and a stellar cast, it is one of the best productions in Russia,” Geraseva said. Featuring music by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, along with Russian and French folk songs, this production of “Onegin” is a daring display of theater. The Cherry Orchard Festival wraps up with piano recitals (June 14 in Cambridge, June 17 in Maryland) by Russian pianist Denis Matsuev, who recently performed in the closing ceremony of the Sochi Olympics. The Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation, a registered nonprofit organization, aims to bring the best contemporary artists to new audiences. Marquee names and top-notch performances bring more people, and the organizers hope to attract more private sponsors who share the desire to build stronger international ties through art.
Send us an email telling us what you like best about RBTH and have your name entered in a drawing to win two tickets to a Cherry Orchard Festival performance. Write to US@rbth.com by April 15 to be eligible for the drawing. www.cherryorchardfestival.org
Until the early 20th century, troika was one of the most widely used means of travel and a popular pastime, especially in winter, when sleighs were used. Matryoshka — Matryoshka is a nesting doll. Interestingly, the Russian matryoshka was inspired by a Japanese nesting doll that was first brought into Russia in the late 19th century. Usually a matryoshka is a set of from three to 24 dolls. Dacha — A dacha is a house in the country where people who live in the city spend their summer holidays. The name comes from the verb to give (dat’, thus “dacha,” means something that has been given). Historically, the authorities in Russia and then the Soviet Union “gave” houses like these to members of the privileged classes. These days, dachas are no longer “given” to anyone — they are either built or bought — but the word has remained. Pogrom — The word pogrom is derived from the verb“gromit’”, meaning “to destroy, demolish,” and is used to denote organized violence against a group of people, usually including physical assault and the demolition of buildings. The most notorious pogroms were organized against Jews in Russia in the 19th and early 20th century. Kalashnikov — The assault rifle that is considered to be the world’s best type of firearm and is officially called the AK-47 is known under the name of its designer Mikhail Kalashnikov. Learn more about Russian words and their origins at rbth.com/double_agents
Download our app “Voices of Read Russia” rbth.com/products/read_russia
Translation of Dovlatov Worth the 30-Year Wait a prison guard before he became a journalist. The Journalists’ Union expelled him for secretly SPECIAL TO RBTH publishing his early stories abroad, the K.G.B. destroyed the TITLE: PUSHKIN HILLS letterpresses for his first book, and in 1978 he emigrated, following AUTHOR: SERGEI DOVLATOV his family to New York the folPUBLISHER: COUNTERPOINT lowing year. rom the opening page of Dovlatov died in New York in “Pushkin Hills,”first pub- 1990, but in the intervening delished in Russian in 1983, cade he published some of the Sergei Dovlatov’s witty best-loved Russian novels of the observations and descriptive late 20th century. brilliance are a delight. Readers His identity as an émigré is crufirst meet Boris, an alcoholic, un- cial to Dovlatov’s writing, but he published author, on his way to avoids sentimentality and derides work as a tour guide in the old Soviet author,Viktor Likhonosov, family estates of the poet Alex- for his nostalgic love of folk versander Pushkin. The setting is es, embroidered towels, samovars, autobiographical: Dovlatov icons, honey and caviar. Dovlaworked summers as a guide in tov’s narrator, considering emiand around Mikhailovskoe, gration, says he would miss: “My south of Pskov. The area is one language, my people, my crazy of Russia’s many, charming Za- country ... ”although he“couldn’t povedniki (museum reserves) care less about birch trees.” and the novel’s Russian title Underneath the jokes is a se“Zapovednik” has been made rious internal debate about writmore specific as“Pushkin Hills.” ing in exile:“My readers are here,” This first-ever translation of said Boris. “Who needs my sto“Zapovednik” has been made ries in Chicago?”Celebrated only by Dovlatov’s daughter, Kath- posthumously in Russia, Dovlaerine, who thanks her father in tov himself fits the pattern. The the acknowledgements“for leav- log cabin where he lived in Pushing behind an amazing gift that kin Hills has been recently conallows us to continue a dia- verted into a museum. He delogue.” scribes this cabin in the novel, In some ways, Boris is a clas- with its un-curtained windows, sic example of the Russian“su- holes in the roof and gaps beperfluous man,” a very un-So- tween the floorboards. v i e t fi g u r e . D o v l a t o v ’s Boris compares himself with tour-guide-hero has a drinking Pushkin, who also had “an unproblem, has as much trouble easy relationship with the govwith women as the heroes of ernment” and “trouble with his Lermontov or Turgenev, and de- wife,”but who is now remembered scribes himself as “an almost by legions of museum guides and dissident.” He satirizes one of “each one loves Pushkin madly.” his fellow guides, whose books Despite the humor, Dovlatov’s are “banal, ideologically sound ultimate subject matter is the difand dull.” ficulty of the human journey:“The Dovlatov was born in 1941; only honest path is the path of his mother was an Armenian mistakes, disappointments and actress-turned-proofreader and hopes. Life is the discovery of the his father a Jewish theater di- boundaries of good and evil rector. He grew up in Leningrad, through personal experience. studied Finnish and worked as There is no other way.” Phoebe Taplin
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES
Holidays Russian women feel little benefit from the day that once celebrated equal rights I do; why should I receive presents for this and have a high opinion of myself,” said Svetlana, a mother of three and wife of an Orthodox deacon. “It is a feminist holiday that has nothing in common with the old Russian tradition of a woman being a domestic goddess, a caring mother and a loving wife, not a careerdriven selfish female.” This year for the first time, the church encouraged believers on March 8 to instead celebrate a second feast day for St. Matrona, a Soviet-era saint known for her statements against witchcraft and paganism. St. Matrona’s feast day is already celebrated on May 2, so the new day commorates the uncovering of her relics.
Lots of Flowers, Little Power YAROSLAVA KIRYUKHINA SPECIAL TO RBTH
March is officially Women’s History Month in the United States, although aside from the obligatory newspaper column and the bulletin board in the local library, it’s hard to find much evidence of any celebrations. In Russia, women get a day, rather than a month, but it’s impossible to ignore the celebration of March 8. Only New Year’s Day and Victory Day (Russia’s May 9 celebration of the end of World War II in Europe occasion bigger celebrations. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev made March 8 an official nonworking day in 1965, but it had been an official holiday since 1918, when Alexandra Kollentai convinced Vladimir Lenin to recognize the day, which had been marked in several European countries since 1911. Early Soviet celebrations encouraged women to stand side by side with men waving the sickles and hammers emblematic of the
A day for all women?
All of Russia celebrates international Women’s Day, but the celebrations rarely involve discussions of equal rights for women today.
MOST READ The 10 most influential women in Russia rbth.com/34877
SECTION SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, RUSSIA WWW.RBTH.COM
new society, like in the monument of the Worker and the Collective Farm Woman — designed by a woman, Vera Mukhina. It’s perhaps ironic given this history that the holiday was actually inspired by American garment workers in cities like New York and Chicago demanding higher wages and better working conditions.
“During negotiations with male partners, I am often perceived not as an equal, but as a woman, with all the weaknesses attributed to the fairer sex,” she said. Maria added that, in her view, the only businesswomen International Women’s Day helps today are those who sell flowers, perfume and chocolate. At least these businesswomen do profit
The holiday was inspired by American garment workers demanding higher wages and better working conditions.
Early Soviet celebrations encouraged women to stand side-by-side with men waving emblems of the new society.
But many Russian women today say that the holiday has become a watered-down combination of Mother’s Day andValentine’s Day, and that celebrations of it do not call attention to women who are successful in business, or encourage men to treat women as equals. Maria, a businesswoman who did not want to give her last name, said that men’s attitudes towards women have remained the same over the past century and that a deluge of greeting cards and messages once a year does not make her life easier.
from the holiday: Last year, the Moscow Department of Trade and Services reported that wholesale prices for flowers increased by 50 to 60 percent ahead of March 8.
A competing holiday This year, the Russian Orthodox Church, which has never been fond of Women’s Day due to its socialist roots, is also taking a stand against the holiday. “I do not need flowers or other gifts for being a woman. God Almighty has made me look the way
Another group taking issue with March 8 are transgender women. Irina, who was born female but identifies as a man and is saving for gender reassignment surgery, said that the holiday makes her uncomfortable. She feels awkward being bombarded with gifts and compliments from her male friends and colleagues in the bank where she works. “It is unbearable, but I understand that I cannot show them my attitude towards this so-called holiday, which I personally find discriminatory, because I may simply be fired. I do not want to be pampered by males, but, honestly speaking, I bring a bunch of flowers to my girlfriend, so it seems I myself follow the unwritten rules,” Irina said. Nevertheless, 7 out of every 10 Russian women said they really enjoy this holiday. For them, it marks the beginning of spring and encourages their significant others to express their love and admiration. “I’m used to doing the chores around the house and I work really hard, so I really look forward to this day when I can relax,”said 22-year-old Natalya. Poet Nikolai Nekrasov described the quintessential Russian woman as one“who can can stop a galloping horse, enter a house on fire.” That may be true, but only 364 days a year.
DISCOVER RUSSIA TOGETHER
Why do most Russian women hate feminism? women welcomed a return to traditional gender roles and felt the urge to overcompensate for years of subjugated femininity. There are a few lessons one can glean here. One is that one nation’s progress can be another nation’s retreat. For feminists in the West, the battle for fairness has been about being treated more like men, but for post-Soviet Russian women, the battle quickly became to be treated more like women.
Diana Bruk SPECIAL TO RBTH
t would probably surprise no foreigner who has ever visited Russia that a 2004 Kinsey study described Russian society as existing in a“sexless sexism”in which,“on one side, gender/sex differences have been theoretically disregarded” but “on the other side, both public opinion and social practices have been extremely sexist.” What does often surprise nonRussians, however, is just how “sexless” this sexism really is. In a recent study by the Levada Center, only 38 percent of Russian men and women supported “abstract egalitarianism” in domestic life; cooking, cleaning, and raising children were overwhelmingly labeled as female duties, while handling finances, home repairs and going to war were deemed male duties. Feminism is enormously unpopular, and Russian women often grimace at the word, which carries negative connotations of sloppiness and macho vulgarity. “These feminists, they act like men,” my friend Sveta always says derisively,“Why would I want to act like a man? I’m proud of being a woman.” By all accounts, this intense aversion to feminism seems to have its roots in the Bolshevik Revolution. Russia was one of the the first countries in the world to promote egalitarianism, but it was somewhat of an illusory ideal. Women were still in charge of all domestic duties, but now they had to take on the burden of labor as well. The iconic Soviet female, often portrayed in national leaflets with a kerchief on her head and a sickle and spoon in each hand, was productive rather than glamorous. It’s no wonder then that with the fall of the Soviet Union, as psychologist Yulya Burlakova explains, Russian
“Why would I want to act like a man?” Russian women often ask, “I’m proud of being a woman.” Another lesson could be a cautionary tale for what happens when any cause, even one as noble as feminism, is taken to an extreme. The familiar modern trope in American sitcoms, in which a woman works full-time and does all the housework and tries to cajole her man-baby of a husband to adopt some responsibility in life, is concerningly reminiscent of the issues that made Russian woman weary of feminism. Similarly, today’s tendency to call woman feminists only when they appropriate traditionally male behavior — i.e. burping, making crass jokes, not wearing bras or makeup — inadvertently ends up celebrating being a man rather than being a woman. Feminism is first and foremost about choice, so when it chastises women for being“antifeminist” by choosing to wear heels or sacrifice a career for motherhood (as it often now does), it ends up ironically being just as oppressive as the patriarchal regime it’s supposed to be subverting. To truly live out the ideals of feminism, we have to celebrate all aspects of femininity, and that includes the traditional parts as well.
On March 8, Russia celebrates International Women’s Day. On this day, which is kind of like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day combined, women and girls are given presents like chocolates and flowers from all their male friends and classmates. The whole country gets a day off to celebrate women!
As the days get longer and the sun gets warmer, Russian kids look forward to days off from school! Fortunately, there are lots of holidays celebrated in spring. Learn about them and find out when they are celebrated here! This year, Easter is celebrated on April 20. Russian Orthodox Christians celebrate by decorating Easter eggs and eating special cakes called kulich and paskha. The cakes taste especially good after staying awake all night for the Easter church service!
Learn Russian! Spring holidays - весенние праздники (ves-sen-ee-yeh prazd-nee-kee) Candy - конфеты (kohn-fet-tee) Easter – Пасха (pass-khah) Easter cake – кулич (koo-leech) Labor Day – День Труда (dyen troo-dah) Victory Day – День Победы (dyen po-byeh-dee) Veteran – ветеран (ve-te-rahn)
On May 9, Russians celebrate the end of World War II. Millions of Russians died in the war, and the country uses this day to remember their sacrifice. A big parade of tanks and weapons takes place in central Moscow and in the afternoon, many people gather in Victory Park for a concert and to thank veterans for their service. At night, there are huge fireworks shows. Although the agreement ending the war was signed on May 8, 1945 in Berlin, the papers were signed after midnight Moscow time, so Russians only knew the war was over on May 9.
May 1 is Russia’s version of Labor Day. People get a day off from work and school. Some people go to parades and rallies, but others take a long weekend to start working on their gardens — or just to get out of town. Usually the weather is already turning warm and sunny, so it’s a reminder that summer is coming!
Sofia Kovalevskaya (1850-1891) started learning calculus by doing the equations that were printed on the wallpaper of her room. When she was little, Sofia’s parents hired a tutor to help her develop her talents in math, but when she got older, she had to leave Russia to continue her studies. In the 1800s, Russian women were not allowed to go to college. She moved to Germany, and eventually got a Ph.D. in mathematics. She became a professor in Sweden and was granted a chair in the Russian Academy of Sciences.
One of the most popular presents to give on hoildays in Russia is candy — especially chocolates. Find out about some of Russia’s most famous candies at rbth.com/34861
Across 5) On May 9, Russia celebrates these people, who fought in World War II. 6) This is a special type of Easter cake. 7) Eggs and cakes are taken to church to be blessed for this holiday. 8) Men buy presents for this March 8 holiday. Down 1) These are traditionally dyed red and painted with beautiful patterns. 2) May 9 celebrations end with a big display of these. 3) These are a big part of the May 9 parade in Moscow. 4) These ring all night when Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter. 9) Two holidays are celebrated this month.
Person of the Month
HAVE AN IDEA FOR RBTH FOR KIDS? WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A KID IN RUSSIA? WRITE TO US AT US@RBTH.COM!
Russia Beyond the Headlines supplement distributed with the New York Times in the U.S.