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Economy Companies invest billions in new oilfields as Russia eyes Asian markets. P.03

Travel Take a trip around Russia's heartland by sailboat. P.06

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Technology On 12 April, Cosmonautics Day, Russia celebrates sending the first human into space in 1961. Baikonur was where it all started.

Space Oddity: The legends of the Baikonur Cosmodrome


Baikonur a leading symbol of the space age. And as so often happens with all things legendary, the history of Baikonur has become so rich in various stories that it's hard to separate fact from fiction.

The Baikonur Cosmodrome has been the departure point for Soviet and Russian space missions since the 1950s. The history of the space centre is full of surreal stories and legends. YEKATERINA TURYSHEVA RBTH

A valley rich in history

All of the Soviet Union’s legendary space odysseys began from a single point on the map: the Baikonur Cosmodrome, lying in the middle of the endless steppes of Kazakhstan. The first artificial Earth satellite, the first craft to approach the Moon, and the first manned orbital craft spacecraft were all launched here, making

Baikonur means “Rich Valley" in Kazakh. The valley in question, however, is actually a desert lying to the east of the Aral Sea. The Soviet government considered several different locations for the country’s first (and largest) space centre, including Dagestan, the Republic of Mari El, and even the Astrakhan Region.

But the choice was eventually made in favour of a spot in the Kyzylorda Region, Kazakhstan, which was ideally suited for the purpose. The advantages offered by Baikonur included enough space to position ground radio relay stations at the required distance from each other, proximity to the equator, and a sunny climate. For centuries, the nomads that lived in the area had passed the Legend of the Black Herder down the generations. According to the story, a long time ago, the Black Herder fashioned a huge sling out of calf hides and used it to hurl red-hot stones into the sky.

The stones would then fall down and strike the herder’s foes, who would flee in terror. But in the places where the stones fell, no plants would grow, all the animals died, and the land itself remained burnt and barren for many years. The legend, it seems, was an eerie premonition of things to come: the giant "sling”is now hurling “red-hot” rockets into space.

The secret path to the stars Mankind took its first step to the stars on January 12, 1955. On that day, two carriages were detached from the rest of the train at the small railway station of Tyuratam and left there. A group of people

in half-length uniform coats stepped out. These were the advance team that set about preparing for the arrival of the main corps of the builders of Baikonur. It is said that when the Soviet Union’s main space rocket designer, Sergei Korolev, arrived at the site and saw a new railway track leading from the Tyuratam station into the steppe, he gave an order to start building the launch pad right where the track ended. That is how the location was chosen for Gagarin’s Start, Baikonur’s first launch pad. The rails, cast back in the early 20th century, are still being used to transport rockets to their launch positions.







Incidentally, the cosmodrome itself was initially named Tyuratam, after the railway station. But since the entire construction project was shrouded in utter secrecy, a different name was used in all official documents. What is more, a decoy space centre, with empty shells parading as facilities, was built not far from the real Baikonur. Not content with that, the Soviet officials who oversaw the project then went ahead and ordered a whole decoy town to be built near the decoy space centre, complete with the shells of schools, shops, and apartment blocks. CONTINUED ON PAGE 4





Vladimir Putin's fiery hour-long speech at the ceremony for signing the treaty with Crimea and Sevastopol on March 18 outlined the principles of Russia's new foreign policy. GEVORG MIRZAYAN SPECIAL TO RBTH

Playing the game American style According to Putin, Russia is tired of the fact that the West does not treat it as an equal partner. "We have been repeatedly cheated, decisions have been made behind our backs and have been put before us as fait accompli," the president said. "So it was with the expansion of NATO to the East ... and the deployment of missile defence systems ... with endless delays in visa negotiations, with promises of fair competition and free access to global markets." He stressed that Moscow wants "our relationships to be equal, open, and honest." He added that Russia has an independent position in the world and intends to defend it any way possible. "We no longer agree with the fact that only one country can violate international law, or with the fact that only one country can invoke the realities of international

politics to protect its national interests," said Dmitry Suslov, Assistant Director of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics. In his speech, Putin made it clear that from now on, Russia will act just like the United States does. "Why are Albanians permitted to do something in Kosovo... that Russians, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars are prevented from doing in Crimea?" he asked.

Our people - our interests Protecting the rights of compatriots abroad was another important component of Putin's speech. The Kremlin has proclaimed itself the protector of those Russians that found themselves scattered in different countries after the collapse of the USSR. "Millions of Russians went to bed in one country and woke up abroad ... the Russian people have become one of the biggest, if not the biggest divided nation in the world," Putin said. Up to now, Moscow has preferred to act through supranational integrational institutions (in particular, the EEC), but now, after what Russia sees as an attempt by the West to win Ukraine back


New assertiveness signals fresh foreign policy era for Russia



International Putin speech shows Moscow has drawn a line in the sand in Crimea and wants the West to take it seriously




US efforts to prevent reintegration on post-Soviet territory are artificial and inertial. If we can reach an understanding that Moscow's consolidation of these lands will not create an axis of anti-American sentiment, the new Yalta-2 (the new rules for engagement in Europe) will be key to cooperating on issues such as Afghanistan, East Asia, and the Middle East.

through a coup, Moscow is declaring its readiness to protect its interests and security in more radical ways. "Vladimir Putin has announced the existing borders in the former Soviet Union could be reexamined if a threat emerges to what the Russian president himself calls the 'Russian world'," says Russian political analyst Sergei Markedonov. These types of statements have intensified the fears of Western partners and the apprehension of

Moscow's intervention to protect Russians in Crimea engendered accusations of aggression and damaged relations with the G8.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry had tough negotiations in London on the Crimean crisis (top) yet President Vladimir Putin ultimately decided to unify Crimea with the Russian Federation and signed the treaty on 18 March (bottom).

some CIS countries (in particular, Kazakhstan, whose north is inhabited by Russians). However, experts believe that these fears are premature. "Russia will not spark conflicts along its borders," said Markedonov. "The situation in Crimea has just shown that if there are threats, there will be a reaction. And if Moscow was ready to consider the anxieties and concerns of the West before the Crimean situation, now it is putting its own interests first."

eign policy paradigm doesn't need to be confrontational. He clearly does not intend to transform Russia into a centre of anti-Americanism or a destabilising force in the world. "The most important point Putin made in his speech was to summarise the period after the collapse of the USSR," explained Fyodor Lukyanov, chief editor of

Negotiations are necessary Putin's speech sent shockwaves across Europe and the US "The West is looking at the change in Russian foreign policy with growing apprehension. There is more and more talk here about a return to confrontation or even a new Cold War with Russia," explains Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment Andrew Weiss. "Moscow will no longer able to work as it did before with Western partners. After Moscow's annexation of Crimea, the West is going to rethink its relations with Russia. It's still too early to say what it will be like. We are only at the beginning of the process." However, in his speech, Putin made it clear that this new for-

"...the Russian people have become one of the biggest, if not the biggest, divided nation in the world" - V. Putin Russia in Global Affairs magazine. "This doesn't mean, of course, restoring the Soviet Union, but instead refusing to see the incident as the absolute end of the process. Moscow now considers it to be a work in process and intends to adjust its intermediate results, not necessarily in the sense of redrawing boundaries. Crimea is most likely a unique case rather than the model. The main thing is to morally and politically reassess the situation." Besides, the Kremlin understands that none of the sides stand

to win if Russian-American or Russian-European relations seriously deteriorate. Therefore, Putin made some conciliatory remarks in his speech. The Russian president tried to convey to the West that Ukraine isn't the only fish in the sea, and that there are other problems in the world that Russia and the West need to work on together. However, the US is not yet ready to accept Russia's new foreign policy course. "We should not expect the West to recognise the Ukraine as part of Russia's sphere of influence.This would be a step backward in terms of the past 20 years in which Ukraine has been integrated into the transatlantic space," says Andrew Weiss. However, this position is not constructive and is fraught with new challenges. "The West, of course, can continue to refuse to negotiate, but this would further destabilise the situation in Europe. We must put an end to the uncertainty and unspoken issues that have persisted since the Cold War," says Dmitry Suslov.

Society Special adaptation centres are to be established for migrants in cities across Russia

Each year millions of foreigners come to Russia in search of work. In order to integrate them into society, the authorities have decided to create special social adaptation centres. YELENA DOLZHENKO SPECIAL TO RBTH

The new draft law “On the adaptation of foreigners”stipulates that the basic principle of social and cultural adaptation and integration is the knowledge of the Russian language, laws and culture. The problem of familiarising migrant workers with all of the above will be solved by creating special centres for migrants. According to the authors of the draft law, such an approach will reduce ethnic tensions and combat the segregation of migrants, and will also create conditions for the effective protection of the rights and legitimate interests of foreign guests. This aims to provide them with a safe and com-

fortable stay in the Russian Federation, as well as reduce the level of illegal migration. As a pilot project, in Russia they have already launched two adaptation centres - in the cities of Tambov (480 kilometres south-east of Moscow) and Orenburg (in the south Urals). The centre in Tambov is designed for 88 people, and the one in Orenburg for 100. Migrants live in the premises of the centres and have the opportunity to work. Twice a week in the evenings they have Russian language classes and once a week they study Russian history and the basics of Russian legislation. The centres consist of dormitories for male foreigners aged 2040, who should ideally have a secondary education. Accommodation for families is not provided. Tatyana Alexeyevna Bazhan, the author of the draft law, noted that the exact length of time a migrant needs for adaptation will be determined by the results of the pilot


Migrant workers to study Russian and history

There are already two adaptation centres in Tambov and Orenburg.

It is hoped that the centres will reduce ethnic tensions and combat the segregation of migrants.

project.“Our task is to determine, with the help of experts, how long it takes a foreigner to learn the Russian language, history and laws of our country. After the experiment, we will know exactly how to develop competent and professional work on the adaptation and integration of foreigners,”she said.

The Federal Migration Service (FMS) has indicated that if the experiment proves successful, similar centres may be opened throughout Russia. The migrants’ accommodation expenses are paid for by their employers and the learning process is organised at the expense of the Russkiy Mir Foundation. Viktor Buyanov, senior advisor to the executive director of Russkiy Mir, pointed out that Russian is taught to the migrants by highly professional philologists - an agreement has been concluded with the Derzhavin Tambov State University and Orenburg State Pedagogical University. The training of foreign workers in the centres is being conducted by university professors, whose work is sponsored by the foundation. Even migrant workers who do not live in adaptation centres but have a desire to learn the Russian language have free access to these classes.

In addition to facilitating adaptation, the centres may be able to help migrants obtain a temporary residence permit in Russia – the FMS is currently considering the possibility of granting such privileges. According to human rights activists, the establishment of such centres is justified, but only if participation in the programme is voluntary. “I have a very positive attitude to this. It’s great that there’s a place where the migrant can live, where he will learn history and the Russian language, where he will be given legal advice - and all this for reasonable money. I am worried only about the fact that people might be herded by force into these centres,”says Svetlana Gannushkina, a human rights activist and Chairman of the Civil Assistance Committee.





Russia-UAE With World Expo 2020 on the horizon, opportunities for commercial cooperation are mushrooming

Russian firms look to fill UAE niches As the UAE prepares to host the upcoming Expo 2020 in Dubai, Russian entrepreneurs are bringing their expertise and knowledge to the UAE market. YEKATERINA POKRIVSKAYA

The increasing number of infrastructural projects poses a growing demand for multiple expertise.



According to Igor Yegorov, chairman of the UAE Russian Business Council, the number of companies registered by Russians in the UAE totalled 3,000 by the end of 2013. The increasing number of infrastructural projects poses a growing demand for multiple expertise, and Russian and CIS business-minded individuals are eyeing various niches for expanding their businesses into the UAE. “We are sure we can collaborate on a mutually beneficial basis in the Gulf countries,” says Leonid Tikhomirov, director of ITPS Mid East, the Dubai subsidiary of a Russian company that specialises in IT solutions. “As several complex infrastructural projects are going to be launched in the run-up to Dubai EXPO 2020, there are numerous opportunities for us to offer our IT solutions,” he says. In December 2012, ITPS completed a comprehensive system integration project for Lukoil MidEast in West Qurna-2, Iraq, where the Russian oil giant is the prime developer. ITPS provided the central processing facility, the power plant, and the pipelines with the necessary IT infrastructure services for optimisation and automation of Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC). Statoil, Samsung Engineering, Technip, Gazprom, Bashneft and others are also ITPS customers.


The UAE government needs to make a more concerted effort to promote the country’s image, benefits, and investment opportunities. More work has to be done on a continuous, systematic basis to popularise the country. We would like Dubai Chamber of Commerce to come to Russia."

The firm is also introducing an innovative high standard fibre optic cable to the UAE market.The cable is produced by Perm-based Russian company Incab, which was an official supplier of infrastructural projects for the Sochi Olympics. “There are plenty of infrastructure building projects going on in Dubai," points out Kirill Vishensky, CEO of LOGIS Mid East Company, citing the Dubai metro, the new tram network, and the ongoing construction of offices, residential and hotels. "All this will require hundreds of kilometres of fiber optic cable," explains Vishensky. Originally from Moscow, LOGIS Mid East Company provides freight forwarding and logistics services to multiple destinations to and from the Middle East, Russia and Europe. The company established itself in the region back in the 1990s when it started pro-



Logis Mid East Trading specialises in the import of all-terrain vehicles from Russia to the UAE.

viding transportation and logistics services in moving oilfield machinery, construction tools and casing pipes from UAE via its Jebel Ali Port to the Russian ports. Later on, in 2009, the company opened an office in Dubai and now has a number of warehousing and freight handling facilities in the UAE: Jebel Ali Port, Sharjah Industrial Free Zone and Dubai Airport Duty Free. LOGIS’s freight forwarding network has expanded, and now also includes inbound

and outbound routes to Russia, the Central Asian republics, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, North Africa, China, and Korea. Vishensky underlines the competitive nature of the logistics and freight forwarding business, in which the ability to maintain lower operational, overhead costs and commission fees is crucial to being able to keep up with rivals. “The spacious storage and handling facilities that the Jebel Ali logistics hub offers create addition-

Energy Russia’s energy export strategy is turning towards Asia

Rosneft to open up new oilfields in bid to capture eastern market Russia’s state-owned energy giant Rosneft has announced plans for additional investment in eastern Siberian oil fields, with the intention of increasing exports to Asia.

Oil and gas deposits in Russia

al advantages for logistics and transport business”,saysVishensky. As the CEO also points out, Dubai makes it abundantly clear that transport, logistics business and trade go together hand in hand. In 2012 he and his partners also registered a trading company in Dubai called Logis Mid East Trading. “We are probably the only company in the world that exports vehicles from Russia to the Emirates”, says Vishensky.

added that annual oil production at the Vankor cluster alone could reach 55 million tons by 2025. Rosneft had previously said that the Vankor cluster would produce 25 million tons of crude oil by 2019. Current production levels at the Vankor field are 21.4 million tonnes of oil and 6.55 billion cubic metres of natural gas. Rosneft began to develop the Tagul field last month.

Turning eastwards

Moscou estime que la construction de nouveaux pipelines serait plus logique que la rénovation


Sviatoslav Slavinsky, vice president for economics and finance at Russian oil giant Rosneft, has announced that the company is to embark on a programme worth 3 trillion rubles ($83 billion) in developing a cluster of oil fields in Siberia's Krasnoyarsk Territory. "We are developing the Vankor cluster of oil and gas fields, which includes the Suzun, Tagul, and Lodochnoye fields," Slavinsky said at the recent Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum, which took place from Feb. 27-March 1 in the Siberian city of the same name.“We now also have a new asset there, the Taas-Yuryakh (the Srednebotubinskoye field) and the Yurubcheno-Tokhomskoye field.” Slavinsky estimates that the investment will create 15,000 highskilled jobs and generate about 8 trillion rubles ($2.2 million) in revenue for the state treasury. He

Developing the Vankor cluster is part of the Russian oil giant's strategic plans to ramp up production in eastern Siberia. Oil from this region is destined mainly for exports to Mongolia, China and the Asia Pacific region.

The investment will create 15,000 highskilled jobs and generate about 8 trillion rubles ($2.2 million) in revenue. Russian oil companies have been eyeing the Asian markets with growing interest for a number of years.“Right now, Europe remains our key export customer,”said Andrei Neshchadin, a professor at the Institute of Experts at the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entreprenuers. "But large investment in the Vankor cluster, where production will be destined almost solely for exports to China, will stimulate Asian exports," he added.

For each metropolis

For each strip of taiga

For each supermodel

For each of you

there is an off-the-beaten-track village.

there is a new techno-park.

According to Vishensky, Logis Mid East Trading exports special types of all-terrain pick-up trucks made by a Russian company from Tyumen called Ecotrans. These vehicles are specially made to operate in the desert, and the first few trucks are on their way to UAE already. The UAE is preparing to accommodate 20 million visitors during Expo 2020. That means more hotels, on top of the 109 projects already under construction. Marina Golomedova, executive director of Dubai real estate consultancy Sunmarina Realty, sees the Dubai market as having very high potential for Russian private investors. “There are many prospective private investors in Russia waiting to invest a lot of money in properties outside Russia”,says Golomedova. "But they do not have enough information about the UAE; its opportunities, its laws,” she adds. As Golomedova notes, with sanctions being imposed by the West in the wake of the Crimea crisis, Russian investors have started looking for property investment alternatives. “They're starting to look in China and Singapore, but they may focus more on Dubai instead,” says Golomedova.

Rosneft is Russia’s largest exporter of crude to the Asian markets. In 2011 it began delivering 15 million tonnes of crude every year to the Chinese National Petroleum Company via the Skovorodino spur of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline. By 2030, Rosneft will have exported 300 million tonnes via that route. A year ago, in March 2013, Rosneft and CNPC signed a deal for an additional 365 million tonnes of oil to be supplied over the next 25 years. The increase in Russian oil exports to Asia will come at the expense of exports to Europe. “Prices in Southeast Asia are much higher than in Europe or the United States," said Anatoly Dmitrievsky, head of the Oil and Gas Studies Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, explaining the change in policy. “This is due to the rapidly growing demand in such developing economies as India and China. These are fast-growing economies, where growth generates more demand for oil. It is therefore only natural for the Russian oil industry to show such great interest in the Asian markets.” Neshchadin also thinks that shifting Russia’s oil exports eastward makes sense. He said that in the light of China’s rapid economic growth, even the most conservative estimates indicate that the country will need to increase its energy imports from Russia in the long term. Additionally, the growth of shale production in the United States is likely to cause a decline in demand for Russian oil in the West.

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Aviation Next-generation Russian airliner is set to take on foreign aircraft in the global market Cooperation India's debt to Russian science

Delhi joins the world's space elite -thanks to Moscow It would not have been possible for India to make such significant forays into space without the tremendous support and cooperation extended by Russian scientists over the decades. ARUN MOHANTY SPECIAL TO RBTH


The MS-21 will be pitted against the latest modifications of the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 narrowbody families.

MS-21 to compete against Boeing and Airbus Russian aircraft manufacturer Irkut Corporation is building the first three prototypes of what it is calling the airliner of the 21st century – the MS-21. YEKATERINA TURYSHEVA RBTH

This next-generation passenger jetliner is key to the Russian government's plan to develop civil aviation. The first prototype is expected to be rolled out in 2015, followed by certification one year later. The airliner is targeted at both the domestic and foreign markets.

Efficient and customisable To survive in the current aviation market and compete against the best-selling aircraft types in its segment, the new Russian airliner will have to meet stringent criteria in terms of performance and fuel efficiency. Irkut says the MS-21 will have a lower empty weight than its competitors, as well as better aerodynamics and more efficient engines.

Potential customers will be involved in the development process from the very first days. The MS-21 will have a reconfigurable cabin layout, allowing operators to select the optimal seat and aisle widths. The overhead bins and cargo holds will be adjustable for capacity.

The MS-21 family MS-21-200, seating for 150 passengers MS-21-300, seating for 181 passengers MS-21-400, seating for 212 passengers

Small numbers, big plans The MS-21 will be pitted against the latest modifications of the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 narrowbody families. Even though Irkut lags behind in terms of annual production output (it projects its capacity at 40 airframes, compared to approximately 500 each for Airbus and Boeing), the positive market experience of another Russian jetliner project, the short-range Sukhoi Superjet 100, which is already in service with airlines around the world, is encouraging. "The Superjet 100 has been operated intensively in Laos and Indonesia since 2013," says Andrei Fomin, editor-in-chief of Russia's

First contracts already signed At the MAKS 2013 exhibition, Russia's United Aircraft Corporation signed $7.5 billion worth of contracts, split evenly between the Sukhoi Superjet and the MS-21.

premier aviation magazine, TakeOff. "Last autumn, airliners of this type started flying in Mexico. They are performing quite well there, so it is possible that new custom-

ers will crop up in the near future, including from the Western Hemisphere. The marketing tactics used for the Superjet are now being proposed for the MS-21." There are currently around 170 orders for the MS-21, all of them from Russian carriers. The airliner is planned as a replacement for the ageing Sovietmade Tupolev Tu-134 and Tu-154 models, as well as for the younger Tu-204 type, which has proved uncompetitive on the global market. "If you want to get customers interested you have to come up with a completely new airliner," said Roman Gusarov, editor-inchief of the internet portal AVIA RU Network. "This is what our aircraft enterprises, including Irkut, are attempting to do. All hopes for the resurrection of the country's civil aviation sector are pinned on the MS-21 programme. If it proves a success, then another serious rival will emerge on the mainline passenger aircraft market."

After two decades of toil, India has finally become a fully-fledged member of the world's elite space league after successfully putting the 1982-kg GSAT -14 communication satellite into perfect orbit with the help of its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rocket, fitted with an indigenous cryogenic engine. It took just 1000 seconds of flight for the GSLV rocket to inject the satellite into orbit on Jan. 5, heralding India’s entry to a club that hitherto included only the US, Russia, Japan, France and China. It was a brilliant display of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) cryogenic technology capability - a crucial element in building more powerful launch vehicles. As India basks in its moment of triumph after the successful launch, it recalls Russia's assistance in developing India’s space research programme over the years with profound gratitude. It was the former USSR that launched the first two Indian satellites - Aryabhat and Bhaskar from the Baikonur Cosmodrome – into orbit. The story of India’s struggle to get the crucial cryogenic engines goes back to 1991, when it was due to receive the technology from the Soviet Union, which unfortunately vanished from the map the same year. Under the deal, the USSR was to supply three cryogenic engines and transfer the crucial technology to India. After Soviet disintegration, BorisYeltsin‘s Russia, buckling under US pressure, refused to honour the deal. Though the US demanded a ban on technology transfer by Russia to India under the pretext of violation international agreement, it was indeed a perfect case of depriving Russia of the lucrative Indian market, as Washington and Paris were keen to sell these engines and technology to Delhi for a much higher price. When Moscow understood the US game, it evinced some interest in implementing a cryogenic deal with India. However, a weak Russia then

could not muster courage to implement the agreement, under tremendous US pressure. Nambi Narayanan, the man who then headed the ISRO’s cryogenic project, managed to bring in vital engine components from Russia, escaping US attention. When Indian carrier Air India refused to carry the hardware, fearing US punishment, the ISRO team used Russia’s Ural Airlines to transport it in three consignments. Russian scientists friendly to India had apparently secretly handed over blueprints relating to the manufacture of such engines. India could have developed its own cryogenic engine by the end of the 1990s with the help of the blueprints from Russia. However, Nambi Narayanan’s arrest in a highly intriguing espionage case, believed to be the work of foreign forces in cohorts with some Indian circles, sealed the fate of the

Russian scientists friendly to India had apparently handed over blueprints relating to the manufacture of engines. project for some time as the fabricated charges destroyed the ISRO team ‘s morale. Apparently, the transfer of the blueprints to India had soon became known to the CIA, which then orchestrated the espionage scandal that led to Narayanan’s arrest. However, Indian scientists could finally make the breakthrough in mastering the cryogenic engine technology that ensured a place for India in the world's elite cryogenic club. This could not have been possible without the precious support extended by Russian scientists. Space has remained one of the strongest pillars of the Indo-Russian strategic partnership in recent years. During Russian PresidentVladimir Putin’s visit to India in December 2004, two space-related bilateral agreements – the Inter-governmental Umbrella Agreement on Cooperation in Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes and the Inter Space Agency Agreement on Cooperation in the Russian Satellite Navigation System GLONASS - were signed. Read more at

Space Oddity: The legends of the Baikonur Cosmodrome CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1

Space records instead of sports records

Up until the very last moment the construction workers were told that they were building a stadium.

“Palm trees” in the desert When the Soviet Union announced that it had successfully put a man into space, Western governments were taken completely by surprise. There was huge international interest in the new Soviet space centre. When General Charles de Gaulle paid a visit to Moscow in 1966, the Soviet Union and France signed an agreement on cooperation in peaceful space exploration. That is when the government in Moscow decided to give the French delegation a glimpse of the place from where Soviet spacecraft were being launched into orbit.

On June 25, 1966, the town of Leninsk, 45 km from Baikonur, turned into Zvezdograd (Star City) for just one day.


Elaborate secrecy measures were used throughout the entire project. All construction materials were brought to Tyuratam by railway in passenger cars, which were unloaded in the middle of the night. Even the construction workers at the site were not allowed to know the purpose of the project. Up until the very last moment they were told that they were building a stadium. Questions such as "Why build a stadium in the middle of a desert?" were strictly discouraged. It is also said that when workers were excavating the foundations of the Gagarin’s Start launch pad, they found an ancient fire pit buried 35 metres underground. Archeologists dated it back to 10,00035,000 BC.

Korolev took the discovery as a good omen and was later quoted as saying: “People lived here before us. This means that the place will be lucky for us, too.”It is also said that he collected a piece of coal from the fire pit and carried it with him in a matchbox for luck.

The Baikonur Cosmodrome is one of the symbols of the space age.

The operation to prepare for the visit by foreign dignitaries was codenamed Palm Tree, and was overseen by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev himself. On June 25, 1966, the town of Leninsk, which lies 45 km (28 miles) from Baikonur, turned into Zvezdograd (Star City) for just

one day. The entire city was cleaned and polished to a shine; roads were resurfaced, fences were repainted, and every building got a facelift. The visit by the French was timed to coincide with the launch of a Vostok rocket carrying a Kosmos-series satellite. Eyewitnesses say de Gaulle was very impressed, and his son, watching the Vostok lift off through binoculars, kept repeating,“Colossale! Colossale!" According to official records, there has been a total of four “Palm Tree" operations in the history of Baikonur. The last such event was held in 1970, in preparation for the arrival of another French president, Georges Pompidou. But there may have been more palm trees in the Kazakh steppe – who knows what other secrets one of the Soviet Union’s most secretive places might reveal in the future?





Reading Modern Russian writers follow in the tradition of Lermontov and Tolstoy by exploring the theme of war in the Caucasus

At the limits: Literature on the front lines RBTH presents five contemporary authors who have written about the Caucasus, each with military experience and their own individual views on duty, violence and the casualties of war. PHOEBE TAPLIN

Military clashes in the Caucasus during the last two decades have spawned several moving Russian novels and memoirs. Zakhar Prilepin’s 2005 novel Pathologies drew on his own experience to depict a terrified, naïve paramilitary commander in Chechnya; German Sadulayev contributed another perspective soon after in his novel I am a Chechen!; Arkady Babchenko’s One Soldier’s War in Chechnya depicts a brutal and confusing conflict. His unsparing descriptions of drunken beatings and bullying within the Russian army are particularly harrowing. The year 2013 saw publication in English of Mikail Eldin’s extraordinary new memoir, The Sky Wept Fire. Eldin is a Chechen journalist who joined the fight for independence and was later captured and tortured. He charts the very personal journey from young writer to veteran freedom fighter without sentimentality or heroism. “It is only possible to write beautifully about war if you have never witnessed it from within,” he said in the preface; “This is not a seductive story of war for the adventurous or the romantic.”



Authors including Mikhail Lermontov and Lev Tolstoy have celebrated the ambivalent beauty and bravery of the Caucasus region for centuries. Prilepin (pictured) is no exception.

la, telling the story of two Russian soldiers gradually bonding with their Chechen prisoner and guide. Makanin’s story begins with a periphrasis from Dostoevsky: “The soldiers probably did not know that beauty will save the world, but … in the mountains they sensed the beauty all too well — it frightened them.” Babchenko felt compelled to volunteer for further active service in Chechnya, sucked back into the nightmare. In his memoir, conscripts are forced to dig their own graves on “a sunny June day, full of the intoxicating aromas of the steppe, … too beautiful for death.” Elsewhere, his dark humor emphasises the soldiers’ suffering; the soft pages of a medical dictionary find a new use during an outbreak of dysentery, “the last disease that this fine medical reference book diagnosed,” Babchenko remarks drily.

Captives of the Caucasus The Sky Wept Fire has a haunting and defiant lyricism nonetheless. During the battle of Grozny in 1999, Eldin describes the“bones of ruined buildings”and likens the city to a mortally wounded animal, weeping“tears of smoke.”For Babchenko, the Chechen steppe has absorbed fear “like sweat" which “hangs over the place like fog,”while Sadulayev’s Chechnya is a romanticised landscape, full of lilac and cherry blossom and flocks of migrating swallows. Authors like Mikhail Lermontov have celebrated the ambivalent beauty and bravery of this region for centuries. Alexander Pushkin’s narrative poem The Prisoner of the Caucasus was inspired by the landscape, which he saw as “a new Parnassus.” Leo Tolstoy’s story of the same name was the basis for a wildly popular 1990s film, directed by Sergei Bodrov. More recently, Alexey Uchitel’s 2008 movie Captive draws on Vladimir Makanin’s 1990s novel-

Across the precipice of fear The corrosive, galvanising power of violence is a recurring theme. Babchenko sees war stripping off “everything that’s affected and superficial” to expose “the core, the

From pacifist to patriot "I don’t know if the attitude towards the Chechen War is changing in Russian society. Personally, it’s changing for me," says writer Andrei Gelasimov. "When I wrote Thirst, I was working at university and wrote about my students that were going to war at the time. But back then, I had the firm conviction that we should immediately end everything. I was a conscientious

pacifist. But now, 10 years have passed, and I see what’s happening in Russia… We somehow presented ourselves in France with Zakhar Prilepin, but they gave us the cold shoulder. Zakhar stood up to this and said, “You want us to apologise for Chechnya? That won’t happen!” And I raised my hand and said, “I agree. Excuse us, but the Caucasus will remain Russian."

real you,”but it is also so soul-destroying that“no one returns from the war.” Eldin agrees: “There are no heroes… In war, a man becomes the person he truly is.”Meanwhile, Prilepin says that “War … exaggerates the traits a person already has.” Combining scenes of war with peacetime tales, Sin is Prilepin’s only book available so far in English (although Sankya, the story of a young revolutionary, is due out in February). In his stories, Prilepin’s namesake Zakharka goes through some of the experiences

the author himself had when he worked as a journalist and a special police squad commander in Chechnya. Towards the end of Sin, Prilepin’s subtle narrative strategy becomes clear; he shows us that life is composed of moments of emotional connection: family love at the dacha, anger outside a nightclub, yearning for home from the front line:“I love my land terribly. I love it horribly and immorally, not regretting anything… But what is spreading out under my feet – is that my land?”In a prose-poem


S.G.: But maybe the changes are more subtle, more in the mentality and attitude of the people.

Dolce & Gabbana: Beauty is in the Russian DNA

This is not your first visit to Moscow. What changes have you noticed? Stefano Gabbana: We came to Moscow to celebrate women and their beauty, which for us is encapsulated in the Dolce&Gabbana Beauty World. Russian women love to be beautiful and they care a lot about their personal appearance. Domenico Dolce: We have always loved Moscow’s peculiar energy. The city itself hasn’t changed much since our last visit in 2011.


On a recent visit to Moscow, designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana talked with RBTH about Russian women, beauty, and the similarities and differences between Russia and Italy.

Domenico Dolce (left): 'Russian beauty is elegance, it is not an artificial, but a natural one.'

Of course Russians think that Russian women are among the most beautiful in the world. I think we all agree that despite all the changes, Russian women are still among the most beautiful. How do you understand the phenomenon of Russian beauty? D.D.: I think it has historical reasons. Under communism, the beauty was kept in the dark, as there were not enough quality clothes and make-up, so now this beauty that was hidden for a long time is being revealed. At the same time, in the West, women seem less interested in their beauty than they used to be. But in our homeland, the Mediterranean, a lot of women work, have children, clean the house – they organise everything. And these women don't lose their femininity. In Italy, women are like Anna Magnani, Sophia Loren – very strong. I love Russian women, because they are very feminine too. And in this respect Russia has much in common with Sicily and Italy.

Sin by Zakhar Prilepin, 2012

The Sky Wept Fire by Mikail Eldin. Translated by Anna Gunin, 2013.

What would you say about the way Russian women dress? D.D.: They do it beautifully. It's in their DNA. I love when they cross their legs. Russians crossing legs look so elegant! And what about Russian men? S.G.: The process of changing is much more difficult for men. And for Russians especially, because they were isolated from fashion during the Soviet period. But now they are dressing in a more stylish way. Russian people are buying more and more stylish and expensive clothes now. What perspectives do you see for the Russian luxury market? D.D.: It has been a wonderful market for Dolce&Gabbana for a long time and we are lucky that women in Russia have such beautiful bodies, it's incredible. Russian women love beauty. Russian beauty is elegance, it is not an artificial, but a natural one. Moreover we are lucky that Russian men love beautiful women. Women are like icons for them, I think. I like their atti-

from the penultimate chapter, the narrator obsessively returns to this idea:“My Dostoevsky homeland… Fierce dogs have torn your guts out”or“Hello motherland! We are your herd. We are your cattle and your flock.” Babchenko also describes the soldiers as animals “herded into this war and killed by the hundred.” He emphasises the lost youth and innocence of the conscripts “because to die at the age of eighteen is a terrifying prospect.” German Sadulayev’s fragmented meditation has a simple message:“We have to conquer evil, to rise above hatred.” Eldin steps back occasionally from“human bodies ripped apart” or feral dogs feeding on fresh corpses to reflect on the struggle “to remain a human being.”When Eldin writes about torture, during an almost-unreadable section called From the Wheel of Time into the Circle of Pain, full of needles under fingernails and nights of recorded screaming, he switches to the second person. This forces the reader to share his experiences, both physical (“Naked wires are attached to your fingers and toes”) and psychological (“Here begins your tightrope journey across the precipice”). Anna Gunin, who also translated I am a Chechen!, worked from an unedited, unpublished manuscript of The Sky Wept Fire. She told RBTH:“I think the more fresh and original a work is, the more you have to rely on creative inspiration to translate it. The Sky Wept Fire was hugely difficult to translate, but also immensely rewarding.” Despite the horrors they have seen, these writers are determined to struggle with language and describe the indescribable. Babchenko describes returning soldiers for whom“there were no voices of authority, and there was no God”while Sadulayev concludes that“if there is a Heaven, there is no short cut.” Tolstoy’s Hadji Murad began and ended with the image of a crimson thistle, crushed by a cartwheel but “risen again,” refusing to surrender. Russia’s contemporary writers continue this tradition of resistance and survival, from Makanin’s mountainous meditations to Prilepin’s attempts to redefine his homeland. Literature becomes an essential record and memorial. It serves to mourn the dead and tell their stories, to acknowledge complexity and to explore the desperate limits of humanity.

tude. It has a Mediterranean style to it. How do you feel about style "a la Russe"? Have you ever had plans to create something in the Russian style? S.G.: We feel that Italians and Russians are very similar deep inside. So there’s no real need to create something Russian, it would look like a caricature, don’t you think? It’s best to remain true to one’s DNA, especially today when everything is changing so fast – you might end up having no identity. D.D.: Besides, if you look at Italian traditions and heritage, there are so many things in common with Russia. Think of our last collection, which featured mosaics on the dresses. They could have been taken from a Russian cathedral, but they came from Palermo and you couldn’t tell the difference. S.G.: Also, for the next Winter Collection we were inspired by a fairytale world, which is a universal world, Italian as much as Russian. Interview conducted for RBTH by Inna Fedorova





Destinations Haven’t been to the largest country in the world yet? Time to go!

6 stunning reasons to visit Russia this year From the boiling geysers of the volcanic Kamchatka peninsula in the east to the two great capitals and medieval legacy of the country's western heartlands, the diversity of Russia is striking. JONATHAN HOEFLER LOREMASER

The location is also a UNESCO-listed Heritage Site. Even Hollywood director James Cameron was won over by the charm of the region. He ventured more than once to the bottom of Lake Baikal in exploratory missions before shooting his movies Titanic and Avatar.


The Valley of Geysers One of the largest geyser fields in the world, the Valley of Geysers in Kamchatka in the Russian Far East is known as a part of the “Volcanoes of Kamchatka" UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every year only several thousand lucky people have a chance to visit it because of its remote location and reserve status. In 2007 the valley suffered from a massive mudflow which buried about half of the geysers. But by 2013 a new landslide had restored most of them, even increasing the number of geysers. “Firstling”,the first geyser to be discovered in the valley in 1941, throws a stream of boiling water directly into the river nearby, while “The Giant” shoots out 30 tonnes of water a minute in a column that reaches the height of a 20-storey building.“Triple”throws out water from three different holes at the same time.

Lake Baikal Lake Baikal is a world inhabited by thousands of species of birds, animals, plants, fish and microorganisms, many of which are not found in any other stretch of water in the world. At 25 million years old, Baikal is the oldest lake in the world, and is also the deepest, measuring 1,642 m at its deepest point. It's no slouch in the size department either, with a surface area as large as Belgium – it would take several months, at normal walking speed, to walk around it. So thick is the ice when the lake freezes that during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904, railway lines were laid over it, successfully supporting 65 steam engines and 2,300 loaded wagons.

Golden Ring Lying within striking distance from Moscow, the Golden Ring is a treasure trove for history buffs seeking to discover the country's Slavic roots. Lying in a picturesque region of meadows, forest and placid lakes, the route runs through the medieval towns of Ancient Rus,


UNESCO-listed KIzhi Island embodies the beauty of the country's medieval wooden architecture. which have preserved some unique monuments of early Russian history and culture: churches with wintry onion domes, monasteries and historic buildings of wood and stone. There are about a dozen ancient cities in the Golden Ring, three of which - Yaroslavl, Vladimir and Suzdal - are on the UNESCO list.


Two capitals It is hard to say something new about the two Russian capitals. Strikingly different and both extremely magnetic, they often contradict each other. For instance, St. Petersburg isn’t a city – it’s a legend, a marvellous city whose beauty gives Paris a run for its money. People come here to admire the magnificent palace facades, the faded old courtyards, the imperial residences in the countryside and the Aurora cruiser. The city is famed for its bascule bridges, the State Hermitage Museum, the Gulf of Finland, the white nights of June and


July, the assassination of Rasputin, and the lion statues on Palace Embankment. The Russian capital, like Russia itself, is astounding in its vast scale. Moscow is Europe’s largest city, with the world’s deepest-lying metro system, one of the world’s largest Orthodox churches, and the world’s largest university building. The mirror-glass windows of skyscrapers are reflected in the golden onion-domes of the ancient cathedrals, and an excursion around the Boulevard Ring Road is like taking a trip through time – Soviet-era Constructivist buildings stand cheekby-jowl with Empire-era and Classical buildings. Meanwhile, the city's restaurants and bars teem with diners and revellers around the clock.

Kizhi island


The Valley of Geysers in Kamchatka (1), Siberia's majestic Lake Baikal (2), sunrise over one of the Golden Ring's ancient churches (3), the Summer Garden in the former Imperial capital of St. Petersburg (4), the UNESCO-listed ensemble of wooden church architecture on Kizhi Island (5), the vast pit of the Mir diamond mine in eastern Siberia (6).

Don’t miss a trip to the breathtaking, UNESCO-listed Kizhi Island. For most Russians, it embodies the beauty of the country's medieval wooden architecture.The most familiar landmark is the 22domed Church of the Transfiguration, with its gables silhouetted above Kizhi’s grassy shore. There have been churches on Kizhi for centuries, built using logs of scots pine, roofed with spruce


wood planks and topped with a cascade of aspen-covered domes. Traditional building methods involve no nails at all, but simply close-fitting notched logs.

Mir mine A former open pit diamond mine located in eastern Siberia. It is so big that it is forbidden for helicopters to pass the airspace above the mine as they may be sucked in by the downward air flow. With a depth of 525 metres and 1,200 metres in diameter, the Mir mine is the second largest excavated hole in the world. The mine was closed in 2004, almost 50 years after the start of mining operations. All this time the mining was held in extremely harsh Siberian conditions, with winters lasting more than half a year and an eternal permafrost that meant that all the buildings of the nearby town of Mirny had to be constructed on piles to prevent them from sinking into the ground. The temperatures were cold enough to freeze oil and shatter steel, and at night the entire mine had to be covered to prevent the machinery from freezing. But even under these tough conditions, the mine produced over 10 million carats' worth of diamonds per year.

Yachting A strong tailwind, the northern sky and good travel companions can turn a simple yachting trip into an unforgettable adventure

Slipping slowly through the waterways of old Russia A yachting voyage is traditionally perceived as a luxury vacation – but one RBTH reporter ventured out to discover what yachting on a budget in Russia means. IVAN DEMENTIEVSKY SPECIAL TO RBTH

The Ivankovo Reservoir, the socalled Moscow Sea, with an area of 32,000, is located to the north of Russia's capital. As spring sets in, water sports enthusiasts, including yachtsmen, come to its shores. Basically, this is a place beginners earn their stripes – one should go to the north to find real adventure. If you look at a map of the western part of Russia you cannot even imagine where you can go if you take the Moscow Sea as a starting point – there are only small

rivers and lakes mixed up with marshes everywhere. However, if you take a closer look, you will notice that there are locks between the rivers, via which a yacht can sail from Moscow all the way to the White Sea in the Arctic Circle. Having mapped the route (it turned out to be well known to my yachtsmen companions), we made several “sorties” away from the main line. For example, we visited Lake Beloye, on the shores of which the impregnable walls of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery are located. Yachts hover silently above the mirror of the lake in the evening. When the wind dies down and the sun is about to touch the horizon of the water surface – this is a beautiful and amazing view. Beloye Lake is a great place to stop, you can spend

the night here, visit the museum in the morning, and take a walk around the monastery (which is one of Russia's cultural heritage sites). Passing through the locks also proved to be an interesting experience. According to the rules, priority in passing the locks is given to ships with passengers, then to tankers and dry cargo carriers, and only then to micro-class yachts. If you are lucky enough, you can “slip” through the lock within half an hour, if not – you can wait an entire day, and you can never tell in advance. That is why you should plan your yachting voyage with an ample reserve of time. Where the network of small rivers finally flows into the huge Lake Onega, a new stage of the journey

The further north you sail, the greater the sense of adventure.

begins. You can feel a different wave and a different wind immediately: The coastline goes beyond the horizon at once, and soon it may seem to you that the yacht is lost somewhere in the vast expanses of the ocean. You should carefully navigate on such large bodies of water, and keep an eye on the weather conditions, as squally winds can turn the quiet Onega into a cauldron of furiously raging waves within half an hour. It is advisable not to lose sight of the coastline. It is hard to get used to Onega, it is never the same – you may be forcing your way through a wall of rain for an entire day, but the sun will set in calm water in the evening – and that is the charm of yachting voyages. The only pity is that all good things come to an end

quickly, just when you have started to get used to a pretty hard life in a yacht, and are starting to have fun, the moorings of Petrozavodsk can be seen in the distance. The old harbour there has seen better days, and could have been abandoned but for the yachts that must have a place to be moored. Teams of experienced sailors part here, at the old pier: Some will go home by train, while others will stay for another week to catch the wind with their sails. The route runs through Moscow – Tver – Kimry – Rybinsk – Rybinsk Reservoir – Cherepovets – Lake Kubenskoye – Lake Beloye (the Kirillo-Belozersky Museum Reserve is on its shores) – White Sea – Baltic Canal – Lake Onega – Petrozavodsk





really existed in Russia. Those who came and worked for the benefit of the country, and adopted Russian values – they were Russian. This is a very important point. Russia is fundamentally different from all Western countries, with the exception of the United States, of course. It’s possible to speak of a multinational empire, but it would be more apt to use the words “multicultural” or “multi-ethnic”. It’s a pure melting pot, and the melting pot is also the basis of American society. Nonetheless, the melting pot came earlier in Russia. It was the continuation of a tradition founded by the Romans, who created their empire along the same lines. In America it was much easier to create a multiethnic society there were no serious conflicts other than those with the Native Americans, who were quickly sidelined. But Russia was a country that many called home, with local and national cultures and tribes who fought among themselves. Russia reconciled these groups to each other, as the Roman Empire had done in its time. Russia used the military as an assimilating force, which created a power-

Pavel Kuzenkov HISTORIAN


ver the three hundred years of its reign, the Romanov dynasty transformed Russia from a medieval backwater into a European power. At the beginning of the 17th century, Russia was more Asian than European. This was hardly a surprise: Ever since falling under the Mongol yoke in the 13th century, the country had clearly gravitated toward the east. But the Romanovs left behind a European country with a European system of values. Although Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich began the process, it was his son, Peter the Great, who first opened the “window to Europe”. But the converse was no less important - that Europe gained access to Russia. Our country would never have achieved the status of empire had hundreds of thousands of Europeans not poured in. Europe’s elite came en masse: scientists, officials, musicians and engineers. I’m going to say something subversive: A Russian nation has never



Ever since the days of Ivan the Terrible, Russia has conducted a unique experiment to create a multi-faith symbiosis. ful common ground. First of all, this was thanks to the European organisation of the army. Peter’s project to Europeanise Russia and militarise the empire created the conditions for assimilation. The Tsar exerted control over all of these nations for their own benefit.

A particular challenge was the integration of the Muslim population into a Christian state, which was unique in world history. In the Roman Empire, Byzantium was never integrated, despite hopes to the contrary. Such an attempt also failed in Spain, and the Muslims were expelled. Only in Russia was integration successful, although it was achieved with great difficulty. History shows that there are only two paths – colonisation, or if that is not successful, an agreement to divide and live apart. Ever since the days of Ivan the Terrible, Russia has conducted a unique experiment, an attempt at not just a mul-




s U.S.-Russia tensions over Ukraine and Crimea refuse to die down, it's important to realise that these tensions largely result from the media spin on real and imagined conflicts among the Ukrainian people. The advantage of the Western media over Russian President Vladimir Putin is huge, because Putin’s influence is confined mostly to within Russia's borders. The first and most important spin put on the situation was to portray the situation in Ukraine as a conflict between Ukraine and Russia, not among culturally, ethnically, linguistically and religiously diverse people in Ukraine, as former U.S. ambassador Jack Matlock has convincingly argued. For several weeks I watched, on a wide range of TV channels – from Russian channels to EuroNews as an originally peaceful protest on the Maidan in Kiev gradually turned more and more violent as rocks and Molotov cocktails were thrown at police. The more concessionsViktorYanukovych made, including the

If the U.S., the EU, Russia, or other CIS members or the UN, have a role to play, it must be as a mediator.


offer to Arseniy Yatsenyuk to join the Ukrainian government as prime minister, the more violent the Maidan became. Finally, right after the compromise accord between the Maidan coalition and Yanukovych was signed – in the presence of the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland and Russia's human rights ombudsmanVladimir Lukin – the violence did not abate, as one would have expected. Instead the situation got worse.


Yanukovych was forced to accept virtually all the demands of the Maidan, including a return to the 2004 Constitution and the calling of presidential elections before his term expired. The protesters in the Maidan had every reason to celebrate, instead the violentce continued and dozens were killed. This turn of events was very difficult to understand, until the conversation between the EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Catherine Ashton and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet surfaced. The conversation cited opposition figure Olga Bogomolets saying that the leaders of the Maidan were not interested in discovering the source of the snipers on the Maidan because the violence helped the opposition movement. Thus the opposition, instead of trying to unify this nation already divided by ethnic and religious loyalties, drove a wedge between western Ukraine, which is mostly Catholic or Eastern Catholic and southern and eastern Ukraine, which is mostly Orthodox. Some of these Ukrainians in the south and east are ethnic Russians, but most of them identify as Ukrainians who regard Russian as their native language.


ticultural, but a multi-faith symbiosis. The symbiosis was sufficiently organic that Muslim princes occupied very high positions in the Russian government. And when the Russian army went into battle, a priest, mullah, rabbi and Lutheran minister would deliver blessings. With a few exceptions, the experiment was a success and Russia never experienced domestic religious wars. The end of the empire was frightening, but the reasons were neither ethnic nor religious. In 1991 Russia could have disintegrated into separate states, as did the Soviet Union, but this did not

This division was felt most painfully by the Russian ethnic majority in Crimea. Because they were afraid for their autonomous status under a new government headed by Maidan leaders, they made the decision to hold a referendum that could give the region a chance to retain its autonomy as part of Russia. Had the opposition honored the Feb. 21 agreement and retained Yanukovych as president until the May 25 special election, the situation in Crimea would not have destabilised. The grab for power in Kiev triggered efforts to secure the safety and well-being of the Crimean people. If outside powers, including the United States, the EU, Russia, other members of the CIS or the United Nations, have a role to play, it must now be as a mediator and peace-maker between these divided segments of the Ukrainian nation. These outside forces should show the same tactfulness, sensitivity, common sense, persistence and patience that they have shown in respect to Northern Ireland, Quebec, the Basque people and Scotland. So far, it looks as if the Western supporters of Ukraine are applying a double standard. W. George Krasnow is a former head of the Russian program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, California. Now based in Washington, he runs the Russian-American Goodwill Association promoting better relations between the two countries

happen. Ethnic and religious differences were an order of magnitude less significant than social and civilisational issues. The Russian Empire broke apart in a sweeping paradigm shift, leaving a new nation in its place, just as Italy stands upon the foundations of ancient Rome and Greece on that of the Greek City States. The author is a historian and the academic director of the “Orthodox Russia: The Romanovs”exhibition now being held at St. Petersburg’s Lenexpo exhibition centre. We thank the exhibition organisers for their help with this article.


4 h 201 Marc ly h t n Mo o Mem

4 h 201 Marc rly te Quar t repor

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Sport At the end of the Sochi Paralympic Games, the host team came in at the top of the medals table

Record-breaking success for Russia The Sochi Winter Paralympic Games were attended by a record 547 athletes from 45 countries. The closing ceremony was watched by more than 2 billion people all over the world.




With 80 medals, including 30 golds, Team Russia took top honours at the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi. This total set a new record for medals won by host nations. The previous record of 70 medals was set by Austria at its home Winter Paralympic Games in 1984. Pavel Rozhkov, first vice president of the Russian Paralympic Committee and a member of the executive committee of the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS), said: "This is a fantastic result for our team. We very much hoped to be at the top of the medal table, but did not expect to get quite so many medals. At world championships, we do indeed lead in many events, but the Paralympics is an event on a different scale altogether. There was a danger that the athletes could have burned themselves out. I think a huge part of this success is down to our coaches, who managed to prepare the athletes to be on top form exactly at the time of the Sochi games." The second place in the overall medal count went to Germany, who took the most medals at the previous Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver. This time


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

around, German athletes won 15 medals (nine gold, five silver and one bronze). The third place went to Canada, with 16 medals (seven gold, two silver and seven bronze). Ukraine 's team gave a very strong performance too, winning 25 medals (five gold, nine silver, and 11 bronze). "Before the start of the Paralympics, the Ukrainian team considered withdrawing from



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

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

the Games but in the end decided against it. That was a great victory in itself, since the athletes had spent four years waiting for the Paralympic Games. There was a certain tension, but it did not affect our contacts. We lived close to each other, talked to each other, shared impressions, supported each other," Rozhkov said.

Heroes of the Paralympics The biggest number of medals were awarded in alpine skiing. Russia and Germany won six medals each in the discipline. Germany's Anna Schaffelhuber, 21, who won five skiing medals, became one of the main heroines of the Sochi Games. "This is an incredible success for me,” Schaffelhuber said.“I felt great here. I really

Traditions The most widespread traditions and stereotypes linked to Russian hospitality

Visiting Russians at home: leave your shoes and misconceptions at the door Foreigners often associate Russia with everlasting cold and dark. But what kind of welcome awaits you if visit a Russian's home?

Odd Russian habits in foreigners' eyes Taking their shoes off after entering a house or apartment. ● The lack of any form of address such as “sir” or “madam,” and the speed with which they move to familiar forms of address. ● The abundance of food served: if you’re invited for a cup of tea, it’s best not to eat beforehand. ● Never throwing anything away and hanging on to a lot of stuff they no longer appear to need. ● Talking loudly. ●


Openhearted, trustworthy and hospitable are just a few of the adjectives foreigners use when sharing their impressions of Russia and Russians.The majority agree, however, that your first trip might not go well if you don’t know at least one Russian-speaking person in Russia who can act as your guide for a few days. Making friends with Russians can be tricky: despite their openheartedness and willingness to help at any time, the Russians are a closed people and might only call someone a friend after associating with them for many years. If, even so, you are fortunate enough to be asked round to someone’s home,



Make sure you bring a cake or sweets to have with tea.

be sure to do your homework: visiting is a ritual in itself. If a Russian decides to ask you to tea, the invitation will probably go something like this: “So, around 5 or 6, whenever you like.

Can you make Saturday? No? Ok, so let’s make it Sunday. I don’t mind either way.”Russians do not have the concept of tea at five p.m. or family lunch on Sunday. They’re used to fitting in with what the

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Your Russian friend may keep you talking until late into the night, offering you food and drink all the while.


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

liked it in Sochi: the opening and closing ceremonies, the ski slopes. Conditions for Paralympians were simply great here.We had no problems with moving between facilities or at the Olympic Village. I would also like to thank volunteers for their support." Russia's Roman Petushkov beat Schaffelhuber by one medal, becoming the first ever athlete to win

other person wants and expect that person to do the same. Make sure you have a present for your host — something like a cake or sweets to have with the tea. If they have children, it’s worth buying each child a little treat, something to eat or play with (you don’t want the children to be a nuisance during the visit). Russians tend not to smile. It’s not because they are discontented or angry with someone. It’s just that Russians have a thousand ways of smiling that not every foreigner can recognise. So rest assured, your Russian acquaintance is pleased to see you! What strikes most foreigners first is the Russian tradition of taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s home. Your hosts will most probably have several pairs of slippers especially for visitors. No doubt, you will then be shown around the whole house and into every room. Don’t be surprised if at end of your“tour”you are asked to stay in the kitchen — that’s where Russians usually eat, drink tea, do the cooking and the washing up, everything basically that involves food. As rule, the dining room is only used on high days and holidays. Your hosts are likely to have set the table before you arrive. Set-


six gold medals at the same Paralympics. He won three gold medals in biathlon and three in crosscountry skiing. "It is very difficult to put my emotions into words. I won Russia's first gold in Sochi and it helped me to build on that success. The games were conducted at a very high level. Sochi has become a place where disabled people can feel like equal and fully-fledged members of society. This is more precious than any victories," Petushkov said. On the last day of the Games, fans were treated to a gripping sledge hockey final, which the hosts lost to the US 0:1. The Russian sledge hockey squad is an example of how a strong team can be created in just a few years. A mere three years ago, the team simply did not exist, and at its first official tournament it was beaten 0-60. Now, this team has exceeded expectations – and performed better than Russia’s Olympic hockey team.

Just a start Rozhkov is confident that the Russian team’s success in the Paralympics will lead to more interest in the development of sports for the disabled. "We hope that our team's success and the wide media coverage the Games have received will attract more children with disabilities to sport and that our team will keep expanding,” Rozhkov said. "After the Winter Paralympics in Turin, we launched special programmes to assist disabled people. I am confident that Paralympic sport in Russia will continue to develop."

ting the table Russian-style means making several types of salad, having any hot dishes ready and cutting up appetisers. Most probably, your acquaintance will keep reminding you not to stand on ceremony and to have some more, which is why there’s no point eating before you go. Be prepared for lengthy conversations about life, politics, Mrs. soand-so next door, the children, destiny and Dostoyevsky, everything and anything under the sun. Russians love to talk. It’s great if you can keep the conversation going and even debate the suggested topic – Russians love lengthy discussions. Don’t wait for your Russian friend to suggest it might be time to go home, either. They may keep you talking until late into the night, offering you food and drink all the while, and then ask you to stay over. Keep an eye on the time! When you do manage to persuade your host to let you go, don’t forget to say thank you for a lovely evening and to promise that you’re looking forward to them coming to visit you. As for how to make them welcome and what to expect of them—well, now you know!

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24 September

Russia beyond the headlines  

Special supplement distributed with Gulf News News from Russia