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Even without war, no certain way forward

American folk music finds fans in Moscow

Russia can’t escape a sticky situation in Ukraine

Where to hear country and bluegrass in the capital





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The New York Times Wednesday, May 21, 2014

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Economy International business leaders torn about attending this year’s St. Petersburg Economic Forum

Forum to Open Amid Sanctions and Boycotts

Gazprom beats Apple to top global ranking Gazprom has become the world’s biggest public company in terms of Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization); its Ebitda grew by 22 percent in 2013 to reach 2.01 billion rubles ($61.4 billion). The energy major rose two places from last year’s rankings. It is followed by Petrochina ($57.78 billion), ExxonMobil ($57.48 billion), and Apple ($55.76 billion). Experts attribute Gazprom’s rise to record-high demand for gas supplies in Europe.


Bolshoi announces new season and tour schedule

The Bolshoi Theater has announced its 2014–2015 season, which will include stops in NewYork. The Bolshoi ballet will perform “Swan Lake,”“Don Quixote” and “Spartacus” in New York from July 12 to 27. The Bolshoi season in Moscow, which will open in late September, will include five full-length operas and and three ballets. A new staging of “Carmen” will be directed by the head director of the RussianYouth Theater, Alexei Borodin, and a ballet based on“Hamlet”will be choreographedby Radu Poklitaru, who choreographed the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Olympics. This is the first full season for general directorVladimir Urin. © RIA NOVOSTI

Russian experts admit the boycott of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum is a damaging blow, but will it affect real cooperation? ANNA KUCHMA RBTH

The annual St. Petersbug International Economic Forum will open tomorrow despite the decision by many chief executives of major multinationals not to par-

ticipate in this year’s event amid the ongoing conflict over Ukraine. U.S. government officials reportedly personally asked C.E.O.s of U.S. firms to withdraw from the meeting, which Russia had for several years been building up as a summer version of the World Economic Forum in Davos. In an interview with the Rossiya 24 television channel, Deputy Economic Minister Sergei Belyakov said that forum organizers

had received numerous cancellations from previously confirmed participants. “For us, this is certainly a loss, an unpleasant surprise,” Belyakov said. “But we were prepared for this.” The number of attendees at the 2014 forum is expected to be approximately 40 percent lower than at last year’s forum. American attendance is expected to drop by more than 50 percent. Among the companies that are

Many international companies that canceled visits by C.E.O.s comrpomised by sending lowerranking representatives.

sending regional representatives instead of higher-ranking business leaders to the forum are PepsiCo, the Coca-Cola Company, Alcoa, ConocoPhilips, Bain & Co. and Goldman Sachs. Others, including Caterpillar, Boeing and Boston Consulting Group will decide about their participation in the forum at the last minute, depending on on developments. CONTINUED ON PAGE 3

G.P.S. suspended in Russia Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has announced that work on 19 ground stations for the G.P.S. system on Russian territory will be suspended from June 1. These stations will be shut down completely if negotiations on the placement of signal calibration stations for Russia’s Glonass navigation system in the United States are not completed by May 31. In a post on his Twitter account, however, Rogozin assured G.P.S. users that the suspension of G.P.S. stations in Russia will not affect the quality of the signal received.


Improving the quality of life for Russians with disabilities was a focus for the government leading up to the Paralympic Games. Will the initiatives continue? MAXIM KIREYEV SPECIAL TO RBTH


The success of the Russian Paralympic team in the recent Winter Paralympic Games and the stateof-the-art facilities built for the Games in Sochi could give the impression that today’s Russia is doing a lot to integrate disabled people into society. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Now that the fanfare over Sochi has abated, people with special needs and their advocates fear that the progress made leading up to the Games will stagnate, and improving life for Russians with disabilities will slip from the agenda of government officials.

A nationwide study conducted by Human Rights Watch of Russians with a range of disabilities revealed legitimate concerns and frustrations with both state and society. The infrastructure in Russian cities poses an insurmountable obstacle for many people with physical impairments, and it is especially hard for disabled people to find work. When they do, they tend to be employed in specially created jobs that often only enhance their isolation, according to the study. Moreover, medical facilities and doctors are insufficiently prepared to treat special needs. According to Human Rights Watch experts, most of the problems Russia faces today in caring for people with disabilities are rooted in the Soviet past.“At that time, the state guaranteed material assistance, but rather

than being integrated into society, recipients could be deliberately isolated,”the study authors wrote. During the Soviet era, many people with disabilities were institutionalized, permanently excluding them from society. At the same time, the authorities regarded self-organization among the disabled as borderline dissidence. In 1978, after a work accident left Valery Fefelov confined to a wheelchair, he founded the Soviet Union’s first association championing the rights of people with disabilities. This resulted in years of harassment by the intelligence services, searches and a smear campaign in the press, until Fefelov finally emigrated under K.G.B. pressure to West Germany. CONTINUED ON PAGES 4-5

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Politics & Society

RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES Section sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia

MOST READ Prosecutor General Launches New Wave of N.G.O.


Foreigners While Western expats have expressed concern over a new language law for work permits, Central Asians are the likely target

Immigrants Face Language Test Some facts about Russia’s immigrants

the Russian Orthodox Church — offer classes for free.


Immigrants in Russia


The vast majority of immigrants to Russia are from former Soviet republics, primarily the countries of Central Asia. Last year, only 2.5 million of Russia’s approximately 11 million foreign residents came from countries that had not been part of the Soviet Union. Most of these immigrants are employed in low-skilled labor: 29 per-

cent work in construction and 19 percent work for Russia’s housing services agency, doing jobs such as street sweeping. More than 80 percent of them live on salaries of less than 30,000 rubles ($857) per month. Only 6 percent of immigrants have some kind of higher education, and 25 percent did not finish high school.


swering questions from Duma deputies. However, any foreigner who does not qualify for the exemption, including language teachers or freelancers, will also have to provide the certificate. The new law is in some ways an upgrade of a law that went into effect on Dec. 1, 2012. That law required all foreigners employed in the housing, commerce and service sectors to prove a basic working knowledge of Russian. By January 2014, more than 18,000 workers had obtained the language certificates required under that law. There are currently 190 testing centers in Russia and abroad that are approved to issue the required Russian language certificates. As of November 2013, 253 language courses for migrants were available in Russia. Seventy-nine of these — 67 operated by the migration service and 12 run by

A new law will require all applicants for work permits in Russia to pass a language exam.

A new law that will go into effect in January requires immigrants applying for work or residency permit to prove they know Russian language and culture. IVAN CHERNOV VZGLYAD

Last month President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring foreigners who apply for work visas or residency permits in Russia to prove working knowledge of Russian language, culture and political processes by submitting a special educational certificate. The new law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. The law applies to all foreign nationals applying for a residence permit, a temporary residence permit or a work permit, with the exception of a special category of highly skilled professionals whose qualifications are defined by law. Foreign students currently enrolled at ac-

credited Russian universities will also be exempt along with people under 18 or over 60 or anyone who graduated from a high school in the Soviet Union before 1991; Russian language was a compulsory subject in Soviet high schools.

Any foreigner who does not qualify for an exemption will have to provide the educational certificate. The bill is intended to “facilitate the cultural and linguistic adaptation of foreign citizens in Russia,” according to Lyudmila Bokova, a member of the Federation Council, Russia’s equivalent of the Senate. The educational certificate, which can be obtained only from an official institution included on

a list of organizations authorized to conduct exams in the subjects, will be good for five years. Immigrants who have already been issued residence permits will be required to meet the educational requirements when applying for the permit’s renewal. The exemptions to the bill suggest that it is aimed at immigrants from Central Asia, who perform much of the manual labor in major Russian cities. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said as much in his annual report to the State Duma on the work of the government. “Foreign citizens who come to work in such unskilled workplaces, they are necessary to us, but they have to be adapted for life in Russia.They have to speak Russian. And this is not the problem of the Federal Migration Service. It is task of other government institutions to deal with these issues,” Medvedev said when an-


of those immigrating to Russia move to the central administrative region, which is the region around Moscow. Twenty-two percent move to the Urals or Siberia.


of immigrants to Russia are men. According to the Federal Migration Service, 20 percent of them speak little or no Russian.


million people moved to Russia from Uzbekistan last year, the largest number from any single country. Only 1.1 million people moved to Russia from the entire E.U.

According to a September 2013 report from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, more people immigrate to Russia ever year than to any other country in the world except the United States. At the time of the report, the U.N. counted 11 million immigrants living in Russia. Out of these, 23 percent were citizens of Uzbekistan and 10 percent were citizens of Tajikistan. According to the Federal Migration Service, only 1.5 million of them are working legally. This does not mean that the other 9.5 million people are living in the country illegally. Many come on tourist or business visas, which do not allow holders to work, and then work anyway. According to the Federal Migration Service, 38 percent of foreigners who move to Russia are between 18–29 and do not intend to stay in the country in the long term. The vast majority are men. Approximately 20 percent know very little or no Russian. Muhammadnazar Mirzoda, the chairman of the Somonien Association of Friendship between the Russian and Tajik Peoples and honorary consul of Tajikistan in St. Petersburg, said that he supports the law since the isolation of some immigrants is bad for the Tajik community as a whole. “There really are a lot of immigrants who do not speak Russian. We run into problems when we need to draw up and sign documents for them,” Mirzoda said. He added that Tajikistan still uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which should make learning Russian easier for Tajik immigrants. Mirzoda supports the creation of a large network of language education centers in Russia that would function with support from consulates of former Soviet republics, as well the establishment of cultural centers, which could provide a support system for immigrants struggling in Russia. Reporting from RIA Novosti and Kommersant was used in this report.

Journalism Russian media outlets find themselves in the crosshairs after list is published

For each Siberian winter, there is a Black Sea summer

Independent Media Fill an Important Niche, but Worry About the Future A comment from President Putin may give Dozhd TV a new lease on life, but other media outlets feel targeted after appearing on a list calling them “anti-Russian.” ALEXEI EREMENKO SPECIAL TO RBTH


During President Vladimir Putin’s annual televised call-in show, in which he takes questions submitted by people across the country, the Russian leader promised that authorities will stop pressuring the liberal TV channel Dozhd. Dozhd, whose name in Russian means“Rain”is now hoping to get picked up again by the cable providers that dropped it at the beginning of the year after it aired a controversial poll about the Siege of Leningrad. But the future remains uncertain for Russian media outlets that don’t take the Kremlin line. Over the last five months, several major Russian media outlets with views ranging from moderately liberal to open opposition to the government have been threatened with closure or reorganized. The first to fall was news agency RIA Novosti, which had been known in recent years for its relatively balanced coverage despite being a state agency. In December 2013, Putin signed a decree dismissing former executive director Svetlana Mironyuk, who had led the agency for 10 years. A similar thing happened at two other independent media outlets

— radio station Ekho Moskvy and Russia’s largest online news portal, In February 2014 the management of Gazprom-Media, which owns Ekho Moskvy, decided to dismiss executive director Yury Fedutinov, and the next month, businessman Alexander Mamut, co-owner of the media giant Rambler, which includes, fired the chief editor of the site, Galina Timchenko. After Timchenko’s ousting, most of the editorial staff chose to leave in solidarity with her. In late March, the pro-Kremlin website compiled a list of 20 media outlets that are threatened with closure

because of their supposed antiRussian stances. The list was created by assessing how many times the outlets used keywords associated with opposition positions, such as calling Russia’s actions regarding Crimea an “annexation.” Representatives from publications on the Politonline list are nervous about the future of their work. Nadezhda Prusenkova, a spokesperson for the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, said: “It’s not possible that everyone is feeling the pressure but us; it is suspicious and even a bit awkward.” Nikolai Uskov, the editor of the website of Snob.Ru said that he

Russians on mass media objectivity


For each frantic metropolis, there is a peaceful village

feels a lot of uncertainty about the future, even for a publication such as his that is not associated with the opposition, but has an audience that generally fits the opposition’s demographic.“I don’t think that something bad will happen to, but really ... anything can happen,”Uskov said. He admits to engaging in selfcensorship, which could provide some protection, but he added that writers will not be forbidden to express their opinions.

Armed with a mouse In size, the liberal media, which is mainly concentrated on the Internet, can hardly compete with the state. According to a poll conducted by the All-Russian Center for Researching the Mass Media in 2013, the main source of information for Russians remains TV. About 60 percent of people get their news from TV channels, most of which are controlled by state agencies. Only 23 percent of Russians get their information online. The liberal media in Russia takes pride in the quality of its audience. “These are cosmopolitan Russians... and the humanitarianminded intelligentsia,”said media analyst Ivan Zasursky, a professor at the Moscow State University School of Journalism, when describing the readership of independent Russian media. According to him, these people travel frequently, making them a significant factor in the political life of the country. Those who read media that support the opposition in Russia in any case are not going away, no matter how serious their problems are, and will most likely find a replacement if their usual sources are censored or disappear, say analysts from the media industry. “The needs of niche groups will remain,” said Uskov, “and they must be met.”






MOST READ Which Foreign Brands Have Captured the Hearts of


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Manufacturing Firms pull back on production

The falling ruble has caused imports to increase, leading foreign car firms to suspend or back off operations involving Russian partners. ALEXEI LOSSAN RBTH

Several leading foreign automakers, including Ford, Renault and Fiat, have made the decision in recent weeks to roll back their production in Russia. One of the main reasons cited for the move is the falling ruble, which has lost 10 percent of its value against the dollar, leading to higher costs for foreign parts. The action by car manufacturers is symptomatic of a growing tendency toward fiscal caution among both businesses and individuals in Russia, with many taking steps to shield their assets from risk as the Russian economy continues to suffer from the geopolitical crisis in Ukraine.

Costs going up Stanislav Savinov, a research analyst with the investment company UFS, said that the decline of the ruble has affected the de-

cisions not only of investors but also companies. “Interest in the dollar has really grown, not only among the population, but also for businesses,”Savinov said.“The outflow of capital for the first quarter of 2014, according to the Central Bank, is estimated at $50 billion, which is comparable to the figure for all of 2013.” According to the analyst, a weakened ruble has made imports more expensive. In particular, relative prices for components for factories, machinery and equipment have increased. In April 2014, the Ford Sollers factory near St. Petersburg, a joint venture between Ford and Russia’s Sollers car company, made the decision to suspend production until June, when the plant will switch to a single-shift operation for the summer; the company also plans to cut about 700 employees.The management cited depreciation of the ruble along with the slowing of consumer demand as reasons for the move. A deal for France’s Renault LCV and Italy’s Fiat to assemble commercial vehicles at the Mo-


Automakers Rethink Joint Ventures in Russia In April, the Ford Sollers factory near St. Petersburg suspended production until June, when it will reopen on a reduced schedule.


10% is how much the ruble has depreciated against the dollar since the beginning of the year. A weakened ruble has increased production costs.

4% was how much retail trade grew in Russia in the spring, despite international sanctions and the complicated political situation.

savtoZiLa plant in Moscow is also on the rocks. Renault has already suspended negotiations, citing the depreciation of the ruble against the euro, and although Fiat remains at the table, discussions are moving very slowly.

Buy local? The depreciation of the ruble is creating subsidies for domestic producers. However, as VasilyYakimkin, associate professor at the School of Finance and Banking of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, pointed out, this is a double-edged sword since in today’s globalized economy, major international companies also create additional production for Russian firms.

Forum Opens in Petersburg CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1

Earlier, citing anonymous sources, Bloomberg reported that U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and senior adviser to President Barack Obama Valerie Jarrett made personal phone calls to those expected to attend the forum and informed them that their going to St. Petersburg “would not provide a very good signal.”

Lack of participation a blow Russian experts concede that the large-scale boycott will damage the image of the forum and threatens to undermine the importance of the event. Vladimir Klimanov, an expert at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, said that the St. Petersburg Forum was designed as a meeting place for high-level participants and that in recent years has become a landmark platform for deal-making and discussion. Billions of dollars worth of deals have been signed on the sidelines of the meeting, and ideas and statements voiced at the forum have provided an impetus for domestic initiatives. “Certainly, this boycott of the forum by the heads of the largest companies truly deprives the forum of its original raison d’etre,”said Klimanov.“There will not be any discussions and exchanges of views at the highest levels. This is likely to have an impact on investment decisions.” Maxim Shein, chief strategist at the BCS Financial Group, also noted that the absence of C.E.O.s from foreign companies would make the forum less effective. “Certainly there will be fewer contacts and agreements. This is




I would not say that these refusals that have been announced will significantly affect the operation of the forum. Furthermore, we must bear in mind that all major deals are prepared well in advance, and the forum itself serves only as a place of final execution. We are confident that these temporary problems will not have any significant impact on the development of partnerships with our European and overseas counterparts.

something that the U.S. government needs to think about, because business will be the first to suffer. The Russian side will also lose a lot, seeing that the Americans are our chief partners in many areas,”said Shein.“How-

Russian experts concede the boycott is a blow to the forum’s image and may undermine this year’s event. ever, that which is happening now does not mean that economic ties will be completely severed. This needs to be looked at as a new stage, as a push for the development of business relations at another level.” In his interview with Rossiya 24, Deputy Economic Minister Belyakov’s comments echoed Shein’s words. The official assured people that Russia“would

“If the components are supplied by foreign partners, the depreciation of the ruble increases the cost of production. In Russia, imported materials and components products are widely used in production,”Yakimkin said. Given that Russian plants are usually buying new technology in foreign currencies, the depreciation of the ruble also makes it difficult for them to upgrade their machinery and equipment. “In particular, this is what happened with a line of supply of components to the automotive industry from abroad. Therefore, some assembly was suspended, and the workers were sent on unpaid leave,”Yakimkin said. Despite this, the depreciation of the ruble has helped domestic


Spief 2014: The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

A brief history of the forum The first St. Petersburg International Economic Forum was held in 1997 under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of C.I.S. Member States. It remained primarily a regional gathering until the early 2000s, when its administration shifted to Russian governmental structures. Since 2006, Russia’s minister for economic development has been the chair of the forum’s organizing committee. The first forum had 1,500 attendees from 50 countries, and the governments of Russia and Belarus signed a series of agreements worth 500 billion rubles. By comparison, the 2013 forum, the biggest to date,

had 7,190 delegates from 87 countries. More than 100 contracts with a total value of 9.6 trillion rubles were signed at the event. Today, participation is by invitation only, but those who would like to attend can apply for an invitation online. Despite the lower attendance projected for this year’s forum, organizers are planning an extensive program, including such topics as “Smart Immigration Strategies for Global Development,” “Nurturing Growth Clusters in Russian Regions,” and “The Private Sector’s Role in Russia’s Evolving Health Care Future.”

not close its economy for those who refused to attend the forum.” Nevertheless, he stressed that,“to a greater extent, we will be developing cooperation with those companies that do come, those with whom we will have direct contact.” Forum watchers, including Shein, are betting on more contracts to be signed with Asian partners, something Maxim Shein does not exclude. “It is possible that this year at the forum, Gazprom will sign a major agreement with China,” Shein said in an interview.

in advance of the forum, and the forum itself serves only as a place of final execution,” said Alexander Ivlev, managing partner at Ernst & Young Russia. “I would not say that these refusals that have been announced will significantly affect the operation of the forum. In some cases, there are replacements — representatives on the level of members of boards of directors will be coming. Therefore, contracts that organizations planned to sign will likely be signed.” Ivlev also said that the integration of Russia into the global economy makes it difficult to imagine that major multinationals will pull out of Russia altogether. “We are confident that these temporary problems will not have any significant impact on the development of partnerships with overseas counterparts. International investors are not leaving the Russian market,” Ivlev said.

Done deals still done Meanwhile, the Russian branch of accounting firm Ernst &Young does not believe that the refusal by many chief executives to participate in the forum will lead to the collapse of agreements that have already been concluded. “We must bear in mind that all major deals are prepared well

industry, according to the Federal State Statistics Service. In March, Russian industry grew by 1.4 percent. Anton Soroko, an analyst for the investment holding company Finam, said that these results were in line with projections. “These data agreed with our expectations that in March and April this indicator will grow by supporting exporters from the perspective of a weakened ruble,” Soroko said. Additionally, according to Soroko, in March retail trade in the country rose by 4 percent, despite international sanctions. Neverthless, a recent report from the Finance Ministry said that the Russian economy went into recession in the second quarter of the year.


he opening line from Charles Dickens’s“Tale of Two Cities”may be an unusual tagline for this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (Spief), but it does capture something of the uncertainty of the times in which we find ourselves. The forum comes at a moment when Russia’s place in the international economic community has rarely been subject to wider scrutiny. The geopolitical developments around the on-going crisis in Ukraine will, at the very least, color many of the conversations and debates at the forum, making it both a challenging time to host the event, but also an exceptionally interesting one. Over the last few years, Spief has established itself as a major platform at which Russia engages with the international business community. The scale and sophistication of the forum has developed significantly, with the content improving in terms of the quality and breadth of the topics covered and the stature of speakers attracted. As the Russian economy has grown, and Russia’s integration with the global economy increased, the level of interest in Russia as a market and as a market player have both expanded. Even though the forum is not exclusively about Russia, it is clearly designed to help put the country on the global economic map by providing it with a platform to both tell its story and seek to engage with and benefit from global thought leadership.


Strong economic ties and trade connections between global players bring many benefits. The greater economic integration of Europe over the last 70 years has certainly been a critical factor in overcoming a history of conflict across the continent. I think business has a role to play in shaping the agenda around regional and global political developments, helping to ensure the stable economic and political relations between countries that allow all parties to benefit from higher levels of investment, economic activity and, ultimately, greater prosperity for their citizens. Encouraging deeper economic ties is clearly a critical part of the mission statement for the forum, and a very worthy one. Although not officially on the agenda, Ukraine will inevitably be widely discussed. Hopefully we in the business community can be part of the process of moving toward a more positive future for that country. I do not believe that Russia has any interest in Ukraine being economically unsuccessful. If a more stable and prosperous Ukraine emerges from the current difficulties, one with better governance and stronger prospects for sustained economic growth, that will not only be great news for Ukrainians, but is also likely to have direct positive economic benefits for Russia as one of the country’s closest trading partners. David Gray is managing partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers Russia. Read the full version at




Special Report

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MOST READ Alpine Ski School Gives Children With Disabilities New Dreams

Integration Into Society a Work in Progress ITAR-TASS

signs; only two-thirds of public buildings are accessible for wheelchair users; and only a handful of subway stations are equipped with elevators. A plan for development calls for all public buildings to be fitted with ramps and all traffic lights equipped with sound signals for blind pedestrians by 2015, but while these initiatives sound promising, Russia has long had issues following through with such programs. Former chef Maxim Okolov, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been wheelchair-bound for five years, has taken it upon himself to hold the city government accountable. “I was just sick and tired of all the talk about how much was being done for the disabled,”said Okolov.“Most of it was a facade that achieved little.” Armed with his own camera, he regularly films himself testing municipal facilities or new ramps and walkways in a wheelchair and then posts the videos online. Okolov rarely manages to get out of his neigborhood in the south of the city because he cannot use his electric wheelchair in most of the subway stations — only the newer stations have lifts.“The most I could do was ride from one end of the line to the other,” he said. Equally absurd, noted Okolov, is the fact that while many buildings have ramps at the entrance, there are often steps from the entrance to the elevators, and many



There are 12.85 million people with physical disabilities in Russia out of a population of 143.5 million. Only 32 percent of the 2.5 million Russians with physical disabilities who are of working age are employed.


Fashion Interest grows in creating clothing specifically for people with limited mobility

Russian Designers Take on a New Challenge The niche market of fashion for people with disabilities is growing in Russia thanks to increased visability and the work of enterprising N.G.O.s. INNA FEDOROVA SPECIAL TO RBTH

A growing number of Russian designers are working on collections for people with disabilities. So far, their creations have included everyday outfits, children’s apparel and evening gowns for people in wheelchairs. The development is a significant change from the Soviet era, when people with disabilities were mostly institutionalized or kept at home. Today Russians with disabilities are more visible, thanks to changes in urban infrastructure and the work of N.G.O.s that advocate integration. Oksana Liventsova, a designer who has created a clothing collection for people with cerebral palsy, said that there is a real demand for clothing designed especially for people with disabilities, and that more and more designers are interested in getting into this growing market. She noted, however, that designers should be sensitive to their clients.“What is important is to find a balance between the need to provide special conditions for sale and reasonable prices for products,” Liventsova said.

Getting a head start Many of the designers currently creating collections for people with disabilities were encouraged

Russians with disabilities are categorized according to a three-tier system based on their ability to work. The categories determine the level of federal benefits people with disabilities are able to receive.



Only half of the Russian capital’s buses have modern, low-floored designs and few train stations have elevators.

What Russians think about people with disabilities


By 2015, money will be disbursed for the renovation of public buildings and for new buses and trains.

elevators are too small for wheelchairs. Maria Gendeleva, a universal design expert working for Perspektiva, an N.G.O. that advocates for people with disabilities, also criticizes the implementation of many projects. According to Gendeleva, too little attention is paid during construction to how people will actually use the items being planned.“People with disabilities should be involved in the planning. Otherwise, many of these things will go unused,”Gendeleva said. Yanina Urusova from the organization Without Borders believes that only initiatives from the private sector will bring change. Founded in 2008 by German businessman Tobias Reisner, Without Borders seeks to provide a new perspective on disability issues among Russians. “Disabled people in Russia are still more likely to be treated with pity and perceived of as a social problem,”said Urusova.“Through its long-established policies, over the years the state raised many disabled people to play the role of supplicants.” She added that for the state, it is much easier to dole out money than to make the changes required to integrate people with disabilities into society, but her organization and others like it have a different perspective.“We want to convey a different, equally legitimate image,”she said, “and change the mindsets of people in both camps.” Without Borders was created to help professionals with disabilities such as lawyers, translators and programmers find good jobs. Since then, however, the organization has expanded and now also runs projects in fashion and art. “We created a fashion design competition that creates clothes that not only make life easier for people with various disabilities but look good too,”said Urusova. A particular source of pride is the“Acropolis”art project, which actively celebrates the beauty of a disabled person’s body. Said Urusova, “We want to change perceptions of these people, move away from pity and guilt and towards the recognition of them as complete and beautiful individuals.” Hosting the Paralympics in Sochi provided an opportunity for Russia to really show that it is willing to create the infrastructure needed to integrate people with disablities into society at large, said Denise Roza, director of Perspektiva. Apart from the adaptation of sports venues required for Paralympic events, universally friendly measures were extended to the broader city, including a number of walking paths and ramps. “We could go around Sochi easily, but other Russian cities should become accessible in the same way. There is still a lot to be done for Russians with disabilities across the country,” Roza said.


The situation has changed dramatically for Russians with disabilities since that time. Russia has ratified the United Nations 2012 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and also launched a $5.5 billion project for its implementation. By 2015, funds will be disbursed for renovation of public buildings and redesign of sidewalks and for new buses and trains. Additionally, websites for government agencies will be updated to provide information on programs for people with disabilities. With more than 16,000 wheelchair users, Moscow should be leading the way in developing infrastructure for Russians who have mobility challenges. According to official data, however, only half of the capital’s buses have modern, low-floored de-



Models show off the latest fashions designed especially for people with limited mobility.

to give the idea a try by the N.G.O. Without Borders, which in 2010 introduced a project called Couture Without Borders. The project, launched by Russian entrepreneur Yanina Urusova and the German founder of Without Borders, Tobias Reisner, helps professional fashion designers craft clothing for people whose physical challenges limit their ability to feel good in the kind of clothing available in regular stores. The first Couture Without Borders international design competition took place in 2011 and involved about 60 designers. Two years later, 80 designers participated in the event. This year, the project got an important boost; the Couture Without Borders fashion show took place as part of Mercedes-Benz Russian Fashion Week. In Moscow’s Manezh exhibition hall right outside the Kremlin, designers Daria Razumikhina, Masha Sharoyeva, Sabina Gorelik, Oksana Liventsova, Dima Neu, Svetlana Sarychev, Al-

This year, 122.6 million rubles will be allocated to help Russians with disabiliites find jobs as part of the Accessible Environment program. The money will be distributed via nonprofit organizations that work with the disabled.


According to a recent study by the online job site, 50 percent of Russian companies have staff with disabilities, however it was unclear if the survey was based on objective methodology or self-reporting.


bina Bikbulatova, Christina Wolf and Miguel Carval showed off their work. Razumikhina, whose collection featured striped sailor vests, brightly colored cardigans and spectacular ornamental skirts made of thick fabric that lays well and does not get caught in the wheels of wheelchairs noted that all people want to look good. “People with limited physical abilities want to dress up,”Razumikhina said. The designing duo of Dima Neu and Svetlana Sarycheva showed a line of sportswear for people with prosthetic arms and legs. One special feature of this collection is a voluminous bag that — in addition to functioning as a place to stash items — compensates for the absence of a symmetrical load on the spine due to the loss of an arm. Oksana Liventsova’s collection, called Odyssey, was created especially for people with cerebral palsy who have difficulties coordinating their movements. Her transformer models, in which some elements fit tightly and support the body while others create volume, come with comfortable easy-to-use zip fasteners and hooded collars. “To create industrial production-ready collections, we need entire experimental laboratories engaged in researching specialized techniques for fitting and various ways of using different

stiffeners to support the spine and other parts of the body. This requires an approach completely different to the normal one used when designing conventional clothes,” Liventsova said.

Creating fashion and jobs Another Russian organization that works on adapting fashion for people with disabilities is Ortmoda. Ortomoda staffers not only create fashion for people on disabilities, but also provide jobs for them. Maxim Katush, who is hearing-impaired, is responsible for the organization’s website. He recently started modeling modern menswear for young people designed by the Ortomoda team. Katush didn’t have the benefits of the models who graduate from Special Fashion, a modeling school for people with disabilities. The school held its first fashion show in the Siberian city of Tyumen in 2005. Today, in addition to training models, the Special Fashion project holds design contests for clothing adapted for people in wheelchairs and people with limited mobility who need the help of special walking aids such as canes and walkers. While these programs are small steps in the bigger picture of integrating Russians with disabilities into society, their existence is a positive sign for the future. The Couture Without Borders show is expecting to add more designers in 2015.



Special Report


MOST READ The First Step Is the Hardest for Visually Impaired Russians

Section sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia


Education An N.G.O. helps schoolchildren learn how to relate to people with disabilities through Lessons of Kindness

Activists Work to Change Attitudes Through Education For more than 15 years, a local nonprofit has given Moscow schoolchildren the opportunity to communicate with people with disabilities and understand more about their lives. ANNA FEFELOVA






We are trying to free children from hate and anger. Will we succeed? I do not know, but I do hope that at least we plant the first seeds.”

Inclusive education in Russia

According to Perspektiva’s director Denise Roza, inclusive education is mutual process. Her organization works to change attitudes on a personal level. By introducing successful people with disabilities to others, Perspektiva hopes to make people without disabilities comfortable working and going to school with those who do. Perspektiva also hopes that other Russians with disabilities will be inspired through their efforts. Training sessions on disability awareness, called “lessons of kindness,” have been part of Perspektiva’s program for more than 15 years. “I remember teachers telling me how kids were so excited to meet our trainers who are wheelchair users in front of the school and help them up the flight of steps because there were no ramps then,” Roza said.”


17 years is how long the N.G.O. Perspektiva has been operating in Russia fighting against stereotypes and seeking the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society.

By the third lesson, the children were more prepared for Zaykin and Kuleshova’s questions about the obstacles people with disabilities face and how they might be overcome. After a discussion, the students played a game called We Are Different. Going to the blackboard in pairs, they listed the differences among their fellow classmates, such as different hair or eye color or personality traits. The goal of the game is to show the children that although everyone is different, these differences do not prevent them from working together or being friends. The lesson ended with a series of short videos, including the story of how a Korean musician, who has no hands, achieved great success, and how

Julia Kuleshova and Alexander Zaykin oversee a kindess lesson at Moscow’s Metropolitan State Gymnasium (Branch No. 3).

a man who has both a vision and hearing impairment became a distinguished professor at one of Moscow’s leading universities. After the lesson, the children said they had learned about “courtesy”and“helping each other,”and one student said she realized“you can be friends with anyone.”

A long-term project Perspektiva has been fighting stereotypes and working for the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Russian society for more than 17 years and has been teaching Lessons of Kindness for more than 15, but Zaykin and Kulesova are fairly recent additions to the program. Kulesova is a psychologist and sees her work with Perspektiva as an outgrowth of her profession. Zaykin taught history in secondary schools for 15 years and is glad to continue working with children. “This is something that is needed not just by us, but by the schools. It shows children that people with disabilities are the same as all people, and they can communicate and make friends with them,” Zaykin said. This year, 20 schools in Moscow are participating in the program, and other organizations are teaching similar classes across Russia, including in the Khabarovsk Territory in the Far East and in the North Caucasus Republics of Chechnya and North Ossetia. This is the fifth year Perspektiva has worked with Metropolitan State Gymnasium (Branch No. 3). The school’s social worker, Irina Zakharova, said that the results of the lessons are noticaeable. After the lessons, Zakharova said, students’ attitudes change; they become kinder, more tolerant and have learned to have compassion for others. School principal Zhanna Shinkarkina said she didn’t know how effective the lessons were in the long term, but she was hopeful:“We are trying to free children from hate and anger. Will we succeed? I do not know, but I do hope that at least we plant the first seeds.”


Changing Attitudes to Change Lives When did you first visit Russia? I came here in 1984 to study Russian. But then I didn’t stay. I did a kind of semester abroad for four months in the Pushkin Institute of Foreign Languages. It was a very exciting time and I loved being here. I didn’t spend much time in the dorm and was always out meeting my new friends. As soon as left, I set a goal to come back. I returned in 1986-1987 when I came to study as a graduate student, writing my thesis on social linguistics. What led you to establish the Perspektiva organization? I later came back to the U.S., continued my studies in Texas, and in May 1989 I got a call from the same program I studied through [American Councils of Teachers of Russian] and they asked me if I would like to become a resident director for students coming to Russia. In 1994, after working some time in business, I realized that I wanted to do something in the non-profit sector, which was just beginning to develop here. The World Institute on Disability (W.I.D). was looking for someone to set up and be in charge of their office in Moscow and, I suppose it was destined to be. Two days after contacting them, I had an interview and they hired me. At that time I didn’t have much experience working with people with disabilities. My disabled colleagues from W.I.D often traveled to Russia to share their experiences with Russians with disabilities, and I learned a lot from them. In 1997, the funding for our pro-

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A native of Chicago, Roza is a graduate of Knox College and the University of Texas at Austin. During her years in Russia, Roza has been an advocate for people with disabilities, focusing not only on institutions, but on making people-topeople connections.


In a recent series of lessons at Metropolitan State Gymnasium (Branch No. 3) in Moscow, a group of second-grade students met Alexander Zaykin, who is visually impaired, and Julia Kuleshova, who has problems with her speech and hands. The students listenened attentively while the pair spoke. One girl asked Zaykin:“What do you see with your eyes? Something black?”He replied,“No, on the contrary, something bright, a light fog. Did you ever watch the film ‘The Hedgehog in the Fog?’”,referring to a famous Russian cartoon in an attempt to give the girl a reference point. Zaykin and Kuleshova then explained to the children how to correctly refer to people with disabilities, using terms such as — “a person with a visual impairment” instead of “blind”, and “people with disabilities”instead of “invalids.” The students then played a game called Imitation, in which volunteers from the class had to do a series of tasks, including walking around the classroom wearing a blindfold and finding a toy following only the instructions of a classmate; hopping around on one leg; and fastening and unfastening buttons using only one hand. The tasks are not easy. When one boy was struggling with a difficult task, he blurted out:“It is easier to die.” The Perspektiva specialists hope that through these experiences, children will begin to understand the barriers that people with disabilities face in their daily lives. The second session began with the game called Get a Job. Children were divided into three teams and asked to make a list of professions that persons with disabilities can have. The first team made a list for a person with a speech or hearing impairment and included the professions of racecar driver, acrobat and pilot. The second team listed professions for a person without no arms. They wrote down manager, teacher and figure skater. The third team selected professions for a person with a visual impairment, naming massage therapist, psychologist and machine operator. During the subsequent discussions, these lists were adjusted as Zaykin and Kuleshova explained to the children the cases where the professions they listed were suitable and where they were not. Zaykin then demonstrated his “talking phone” and explained how people who are visually impaired can read, write and use a telephone and computer. He also explained how he writes in Braille and a special map he uses. When at the beginning of the lesson they were asked whether people with disabilities could work, the students’ opinions were divided. By the end of the class, however, they agreed that everyone should be able to find a suitable job and live a full life.

Zhanna Shinkarkina


What is a kindness lesson?


This is something that is needed not just by us, but by the schools. It shows children that people with disabilities are the same as all people, and they can communicate and make friends with them.”


For more than 15 years, an N.G.O. called Perspektiva has helped Russian schoolchildren learn to related to people with disabilities through a program of disability awareness training called Lessons of Kindness. Perspektiva employees and volunteers have developed programs for students at every grade level consisting of a series of three lessons held on consecutive weeks. The lessons are taught for free in any school that requests them. Since the beginning of the current school year, more than 2,000 students have attended kindness lessons.

grams [for the W.I.D office] was ending. We knew about it in advance, and together with my Russian colleagues, I decided to set up a non-profit organization called Perspektiva. It was February 1997. Has the attitude toward people with disabilities changed dramatically during the past 17 years? Yes, of course it has changed. One of our goals was getting youth involved, giving them a strong education and good jobs. Attitudes can’t change until people are part of the community. Until a person communicates with someone who is disabled, he/she 1) knows nothing about them 2) and feels uncomfortable because of the stereotypes that he/she lives with. We try to bring this message all the time — that disabled people live interesting lives or can potentially once there is accessibility. If they have opportunities, the environment is right, they can live a life like everyone else.

Can you say that your proposals are met now with more understanding from the government, society, business? I see an openness and curiosity that didn’t exist five or six years ago. More employers contact us to hire disabled people; more volunteers would like to take part in our activities. We provided recommendations for the legislation on inclusive education, which went into force in September 2013. Even media coverage of disabilities issues and terminology has changed over 15 past years from negative to correct. What events do you have planned for the rest of the year? We are holding our 7th annual disability film festival in November, which we hold every two years; we usually show 80 films from 25 countries. In the fall we will hold a competition for the best inclusive school in Russia. Interview prepared by Elena Bobrova

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES Section sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia

MOST READ In Ukraine, Yanukovich Opened Pandora’s box


ll the signs are that a military invasion of Ukraine’s restive eastern provinces by Russian forces is not in the cards. The likeliest scenario is that Moscow will allow Kiev to gradually claw back control of the east, though a prolonged crisis in relations with the West remains unavoidable. The armed clashes of the past several weeks have made it clear that the pro-Russian rebels have only a very small core of people with real combat training. An important role in that core group, it would appear, belongs to Russian nationalists with real combat experience behind them, but their attitude to the Russian state is ambiguous, to say the least. The man leading the armed militia in Slavyansk, Igor GirkinStrelkov, judging by data available so far and by his own statements on Internet forums, adheres to rather radical nationalist views. He likes the current ruling regime in Russia no more than do the participants in opposition protests in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square. His image is further enhanced by the richness of biographical details he himself has made public, including information on where he did his military service and his involvement with the historical re-enactment movement. Strelkov is, most likely, a retired low-rank officer with a special-purpose F.S.B. unit with some aspirations and ideas on“how to rebuild Russia.”This is not such an uncommon type among former security officers in Russia. People like this often choose to be in the center of events, but official bureaucracy does not like dealing with them. There is nobody in southeast Ukraine who looks anything like the well-trained and impressive-



ly equipped men in uniforms without insignia who were deployed to Crimea ahead of the referendum there. The small combat core of the rebels have rather modest armaments. Moreover,

Moscow does not want to get involved in a conflict that could be potentially destructive for its economy. there is nothing solid to indicate that these armaments came from post-Soviet Russia. The shoulder-fired air defense system that was used in the first days of fighting was most probably seized by the rebels when they disarmed units of Ukraine’s

25th Airborne Brigade. In Soviet times, each airborne company was supposed to have four portable air defense systems, and it is at least possible that today’s regulations in the Ukrainian armed forces are not that different. The fact that since the first day of heavy fighting the system has not been used again confirms that it was booty, most probably the sole such system seized, with few munitions. The role the Russian secret services play in the drama unfolding in southeast Ukraine consists of no more than watching the situation and, perhaps, maintaining contacts with individual militia leaders. Russia intends to sit and watch Kiev suppress the rebellion in the southeast. There are probably two reasons for this. The first is the fear of

economic sanctions that the U.S. and Germany have threatened to impose in the event of any military intervention. The second is that Moscow does not want to get involved in a conflict that

Russia, the E.U. and the U.S. will inevitably be drawn into all new domestic Ukrainian upheavals. could be potentially destructive for its economy over large territories with large economic problems and a predominantly Ukrainian population whose sentiments are far from uniform, in which Russia has never been particularly interested.

Georgy Bovt GAZETA.RU

he immense gulf of mutual distrust and suspicion that has characterized relations between Russia and the U.S. in recent years has been laid bare by the degree of misunderstanding acknowledged experts from both sides have shown in their attitudes toward the other during the Ukrainian crisis. Why do we appear to know each other less well than during the Cold War? One of the most foolish views that has been voiced recently in discussions of U.S.-Russian relations is a judgement that we are alike. Almost comparable in its foolishness is the contraposition of our supposed spirituality and their supposed lack of spirituality. In light of today’s flashes of mutual hatred, it seems that it is only by coincidence that we have thus far not had cause to fight each other directly. For decades, relations between the two countries were friendly, except during the Cold War. Taking this into consideration, the following words, spoken in the mid-19th century, are even more surprising:“There are today two great nations in the world which, having started from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: These are the Russians and the AngloAmericans. To attain their aims, America relies on personal inter-


Readers respond to March supplement

topics available for those studying the Soviet Union was immensely broad, and students willingly signed up for such courses, which were generously funded. Most importantly, the U.S. administration listened to its experts. The breakup of the Soviet state meant the collapse of Russians studies as well. The money, stu-

The civilizational abyss between Russia and the U.S. is now much deeper than it was even during the Cold War. dents and university positions have gone. Why engage in the study of a country that “lost” the Cold War? The fashion for Sovietology was at first replaced with Sinology, and now with Arabic and Islamic studies. All of this can be said about American studies at Russian universities as well. No newspaper column would be long enough to list the vast array of American myths about Russia and vice versa. When it comes to the misunderstanding of U.S. politics by Russian politicians, the toughest nut to crack is the powerful idealistic missionary component in U.S. politics. And that the sup-

port of N.G.O.s from the U.S. side is not always for the sake of formenting revolutions. There is just as much misunderstanding among the American political class, for example, as to what Ukraine means for Russia. There are only three or four people among Russia’s political newsmakers who have at least a fair idea of the role of Congress is (and how it works), as well as the role of the judiciary and the press in U.S. politics. In the U.S. establishment, about the same number of people have at least an approximate understanding of the power of people’s sentiments in Russia, which cannot be gauged by the number of people who attend mass protests. We know each other less well than we did before, and in fact we have no desire to know each other better. However, it is not worth taking this to the point where history will force us into mutual understanding when we are already in the trenches of a nuclear war. It is time to stop, to look closely at each other, and to come to our senses. Georgy Bovt is a columnist and political analyst.

Re: How Crimea’s Past Complicates its Future I actually care a lot about Russian culture, and have studied the language, history and literature. I’ve studied its place and role in the evolution of ancient beginnings of modern civilization. Ukraine is indeed where it started. But cultures don’t ever own property … Cultures are living relationships between people, and may or may not seem to take responsibility for themselves, or be responsive to the rest of world society. It’s entirely up to them individually what they themselves choose to do. The problem is that to most people, probably even you, false stories don’t earn respect. JESSIE ROSE NEW YORK

Re: A New Yorker’s Guide to Moscow on the Hudson I was so excited to see the beautiful article in the NewYork Times about Russia and Russian culture. I think it’s great that you have a paper because it gives us a chance to really read and see how beautiful Russian culture is. HAVA ARIFI NEW YORK

Re: More Flowers, Little Power I loved the article about Int’l Women’s Day, a holiday dear to my heart, celebration of which I try to propagate in the U.S. Interesting to learn the most common viewpoint toward feminism there — nice journalistic contrast. I picked up the paper to try to get more insight into the Crimean situation. ANN SCHNEIDER


May 2014 Quarterly report

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia became a net exporter of brainpower. This RD Quarterly examines the leading factors behind the “brain drain” and looks at Moscow’s strategy for a future “brain gain.” It also gives 10 specific recommendations on how Russia can become more attractive to top talent.

May 2014 Monthly memo

Read the full text at



Vasily Kashin is an expert with the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.


A RESOUNDING DEFEAT FOR THE ARMCHAIR EXPERTS est and gives free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of individuals.” This was written in the 1830s by Alexis de Tocqueville, the author of the canonical work Democracy in America. “Russia in a sense concentrates the whole power of the society in one man,” wrote de Tocqueville. “America has freedom as the principal means of action; Russia has servitude. Their points of departure are different and their paths are diverse; nevertheless, each seems called by some secret desire of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world.” I am citing de Tocqueville because the present-day complete failure of all post-Cold War developments is paradoxically taking place when globalization, it appears, has already irreversibly turned the world into a space open to all informational, financial and other winds. It seemed that this interdependence would become a guarantee that politicians would abstain from rash conduct in the international arena. But the civilizational abyss between us is now much deeper than it was even during the Cold War. This has been accompanied by the total helplessness of experts on both sides to understand each other. During the Soviet era, countryby-country studies of“the potential enemy” were widely represented at the university level in the United States. The choice of

At the moment, it appears that Ukrainian government forces, despite their poor organization, low morale and poor training, are slowly, with setbacks and losses, but surely closing the circle around the rebels. They will most probably regain control over those territories in time to make it possible to conduct a presidential election on May 25 with at least a semblance of legality. It would however be erroneous to interpret this as a sign that an end to the Ukrainian crisis is in sight. A military operation, conducted by poorly trained troops and with support of paramilitary nationalist groups, cannot but cause anger among the population. The tragic events in Odessa will only make this anger worse. This is a powerful time bomb planted

under Ukrainian statehood for generations to come, and the prospects of that statehood were unclear as it was. After Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown, Ukraine reaped all the possible evils of a revolution without its only possible benefit: a change of political elite. All the visible presidential candidates, includingYulia Tymoshenko, have a long history in Ukrainian power. At different times, all of them have been perceived as an epitome of local corruption. Ukraine is doomed to a long political crisis with a further radicalization of politics, with the factors of ethnicity, language and religion coming to the fore. Russia, the E.U. and the U.S. will inevitably be drawn into all new domestic Ukrainian upheavals. Given the mutual distrust their leaders have displayed, confrontation between them is set to continue. Furthermore, after Russia’s incorporation of Crimea, the U.S. has the important task of restoring its strongly undermined clout by punishing Russia, turning it into a rogue state. By refusing to intervene militarily in Ukraine’s southeast, Russia has not averted more severe sanctions, but has just bought some time to prepare for them by re-orienting economic, science, technology and other ties towards Asia and by putting import-replacement programs in place. It is for the sake of this that, for the next several weeks, Russian TV channels will be showing us how“the other side”in eastern Ukraine are gradually killing “ours”with the wholehearted approval of the U.S. president and the German chancellor. This spectacle will change Russian society, predetermining Russia’s political history for decades to come.


As relations between Russia and the U.S. worsen, the potential for a new space race is becoming more realistic. Read this monthly memo to find out which areas are key in U.S.Russia space cooperation and which of these might be strong enough to withstand the current atmosphere of mistrust.

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MOST READ Bringing the Wild West to Russia and Siberia to the U.S.

The Arts

RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES Section sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia



Music The number of American folk and country bands playing Moscow is growing

From plate to iPhone: Russian slang for personal electronics Alexey Mikheev SPECIAL TO RBTH

ver the past 60 years, the emergence of new communication devices has added to Russians’ everyday vocabulary, making slang out of ordinary words. Plate — In the early 1940s, every Soviet apartment was equipped with a“radiotochka,” which was basically a cross between a public loudspeaker and a radio. This radio broadcast just one government station, and during the war it was used to issue warnings. The radiotochka was a big black speaker, similar to a plate, and so Russians began to call it a “plate” (tarelka). The black plate became a defining symbol of the totalitarian era. Box — Today it is considered trendy to say “I don’t watch TV,” and it isn’t just intellectuals who call it simply a“box” (yashik), although those who use this dismissive term are usually up to date on the latest poular shows. Additionally, since the television is also a means for presenting the government’s view on current events, sometimes it is called a“zombie box”(zomboyashik). In the 1990s, another kind of box was introduced into Russian homes — the computer. The early Soviet-era computers, which occupied entire rooms in scientific research institutions, were called E.V.M.s, an abbreviation of electronic calculating machine (elektronnaya vichislitelnaya mashina), but this name is out of date.


Country Music Finds Fans in the Big City Traditional American music wasn’t banned in the Soviet era, which allowed a local fanbase to grow. Today, Russian bands are making this music their own. DARYANA ANTIPOVA

“People have always perceived it vividly because rhythm and mood are very clear to all people around the world,” Grigorieva said. “Today, there are about 30 bands playing different variants of country music in Russia.”


Over the past two years, the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers, R. Carlos Nakai, the Poor Mountain Boys, the Quebe Sisters Band and Modern Blues Masters all went on extensive tours of Russia.The tours — which were set up by the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission to introduce such traditional American music styles as CountryWestern, acapella, Native American flute, and bluegrass — didn’t just create new fans of these styles.The performers often found Russians who were intimately familiar with traditional American music. Unlike jazz, which was banned in the Soviet Union, American country and folk music was available in Russia, and some songs in these styles are even featured in the soundtracks to children’s cartoons. Larissa Grigorieva, the producer and director of the Country Bridge Festival, said that while the fan bases may not be large, this kind of music is easy to like.

Local color The Moscow-based Red Brick Boys Music Band, formed in 2009, is the heart of the Russian capital’s community of bluegrass fans. In addition to giving concerts, the band members also give lectures on the history and development of traditional music of the United States. Their presentations include stories about the origins of traditional American music and live performances of old and new bluegrass music, sea chanties and folk melodies. William McGuinness, a native of Yonkers, N.Y., who lives in Moscow for 3 years, is a Red Brick Boys fan. “I’ve been to concerts other than Red Brick Boys here, but they’ve mostly been popular music. I really love concerts in Moscow, but I wish more of my favorite bands came here!” The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is active in bringing folk, country and bluegrass groups to Moscow. Commenting on the Embassy’s cultural activities, Minister-Coun-


The Quebe Sisters Band performed at Moscow’s second festival of traditional American music.

Russian rock bands and that there is a lot of similarity between the storytelling of traditional American music and Russian bard singers. “I love folk music, but it’s more about the stories and I think Russia already has a very rich culture with bard music,”Taylor said. Few Moscow clubs consistently offer bands that play American-style music, although fans can seek out their favorite groups at a variety of venues in the capital. Members of local bands named at least seven clubs in Moscow where they play.

selor for Public Affairs Jeffrey Sexton said that the Embassy was bringing seven musical groups from New Orleans to participate in Moscow’s annual Usadba Jazz Festival in June.“This music will cover a wide range of styles, from jazz an blues, to Zydeco and gospel,” Sexton said. The Moscow group RawCats’88, which plays rock ’n’ roll, boogiewoogie, rockabilly and swing, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this

The role of history Music journalist Guru Ken said that country and American folk music didn’t suffer the same fate as jazz or rock because its fan base remained small. Ken noted that in the Soviet Union, the first folk music artist included in official airwaves playlists was Pete Seeger, whose politics were“ideologically close” to communism. Ken also pointed out that the most popular country music group in the Soviet Union was MashinaVremini (Time Machine), which worked within the state musical organizations, so there was no need for the authorities to ban this kind of music. “But even Mashina Vremeni’s country hits did not help popularity of country music in the Soviet and Russia. So far, it is quite an unobtrusive segment of Russian show business.”

The Moscow band Red Brick Boys gives concerts and lectures on the history of traditional American music. year. The RawCats repertoire includes covers of classic American hits of the 1950s through the 1970s, as well as their own compositions, stylized after that period of time. Organizer and lead singer Valery “Injun” Setkin said that he has played rhythm and blues since childhood.“My father brought vinyl records from abroad and I grew up with American music,” Setkin said. Daniel Taylor of the Far Cities band said that the influence of the blues can be heard in a lot of

The new generation of desktop computers were simply given the name of komps. Iron — A significant part of the computer lexicon in Russian has been directly borrowed from English, such as the word “user.” However, there are exceptions. Russians call software soft, but for hardware they use the word zhelezo (iron). The motherboard in Russian becomes mat (mother) and the keyboard (klaviatura in Russian) was given the female name Klava. If the computer has a glitch, Russians call it a glyuk, slang derived from the word for hallucination. Teapots — People who are unfamiliar with computer terms and life online are called teapots (chainiki). In one popular joke from the 1990s, an old lady complains,“These new rich people have really gone crazy. Yesterday in the store, one even bought a carpet for his mouse.” If a computer mouse lives on a carpet, a computer dog lives inside e-mail. Russians call the @ sign a dog (sobaka). And the word “email” itself sounds to a Russian like the word for soap (mylo). The phrase “throw it to me on the soap” means “send me the information by e-mail.” But the newest generation of electronic devices is no longer generating new names. The words notebook, iPhone and iPad have made their way into Russian virtually unchanged. However, tablet computers are called “planshet” from the French planchette. Learn more about Russian words and their origins at

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Ensembles New York’s Russian community shows off its heritage in folk music groups

Past Meets Present in Folk Music Russian-American folk groups in New York turn to songs, dances and instruments to pass their rich heritage down to the next generation and keep the traditions alive. DIANA BRUK SPECIAL TO RBTH


Russian folk songs, like all folk songs, were never new and never get old. Their origins are unknown, and yet their words are familiar to everyone. They are at their most beautiful when sung in harmony, as they traditionally were, thereby allowing the singers to bond through this shared expression. It was the communal aspect of this music that first drew Irina Zagornova, director of the New York–based Russian children’s folk group the Golden Rooster, to this genre. “I love Russian folk because even the sad songs have this lifeaffirming energy. Back in the day, women used to gather together at night and sing, and that was their way of healing one another, of showing that they all had the same problems and no one was alone. And then men tilling the field would sing to pass the time and unburden their troubles and

Golden Rooster performs traditional folk harmonies in New York.

show they were all in it together, as well,” Zagornova said. “These songs have been around for centuries, but because they’re about such universal, human issues, they’re still so relevant today.” Zagornova graduated from the prestigious Mussorsky Conservatory of Music in St. Petersburg, and when she immigrated to New York in 1994 with her husband Leonid, a bass balalaika player, she founded the Golden Rooster in order to pass these ancestral songs on to a new generation of

Russian-Americans. The ensemble performs a wide repertoire, including themed programs that illustrate traditional celebrations like weddings and Christmas. Another folk ensemble, Baryna, showcases a stunning display of Russian dances. In the group’s multicultural, live-music performances, peasants seemingly defy gravity while pirouetting through the air; Cossacks show off some truly impressive leg work; and bears become agile ballerinas. There’s a fair number of melan-

choly tunes as well, but director Mikhail Smirnov focuses mostly on the mirth: “Ninety-five percent of Russian folk songs are very depressing; the other 5 percent is the best party music, and it makes everybody have a drink.” The third Russian folk ensemble in New York, Russian Carnival, is largely orchestral, and its music enables listeners to truly appreciate the nuanced wonders of Russian folk instruments: the balalaika, the bayan, the bass balalaika and the domra. Led by domra player Tamara Volskaya, Russian Carnival often brings an innovative twist to familiar tunes. Despite the skill required to sing and play these tunes, Irina Zagornova said that feeling the music is just as important.“Russian folk music is very deeply emotional. That’s why, when performing, you really have to connect with the audience and convey every single thing that you’re feeling. It’s kind of like being in love: If you’re going to do it right, then you can’t hold anything back.” Read the full version and watch videos of the groups at

RBTH LITERATURE From May 29–31, you can find RBTH at Book Expo America. Visit booth #1748 and get the print version of the latest Voices of Read Russia, featuring the interviews with Russian writers, excerpts from new books and more!

The C.I.A. and the Meta-Story Behind “Doctor Zhivago” Phoebe Taplin SPECIAL TO RBTH


oris Pasternak’s novel “Doctor Zhivago” was a cultural battleground in the Cold War, and “The Zhivago Affair,” by Peter Finn and Petra Couvee, tells the story of this battle. The authors combine elements of a political thriller with an elegant summary of the cultural context. They have had unprecedented access to C.I.A. files, which show that the agency was involved in publishing a Russian edition of “Doctor Zhivago” and distributing it at the 1958 International Exposition in Brussels. One memo from the C.I.A.’s Soviet Russia Division chief outlines the propaganda value of “Pasternak’s humanistic message” expressed in the novel. “Doctor Zhivago,” for those who haven’t read Pasternak’s classic tale of love, war and art, offers a panoramic sweep of early 20th century Russian history. The eponymous hero is a doctor and a poet who falls in love with a married nurse. The soullessness of post-revolutionary society contrasts with Zhivago’s romantic affair and poetic legacy. The book’s focus on individualism and religion was at odds with the official doctrine of socialist realism. The Bolshevik revolution is not shown as “the cake with the cream on top,” as Pasternak wrote when he finished the manuscript. Pasternak’s life and times are freshly and vividly revisited in


the pages of “The Zhivago Affair,”from his formative Moscow years to the tear-jerking defiance of his unexpectedly crowded funeral. The narrative has an admirable pace and lightness, offering economical snapshots of Stalin’s “lupine malice” or the “drum beat of condemnation” that sounded against Pasternak in official journals and meetings. In 1956, Pasternak was one of Russia’s best-known poets and gave the manuscript of his first novel to an Italian journalist to pass on to publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, who helped “Zhivago” travel around the world. Feltrinelli’s 1957 edition was followed by versions of the novel in many languages, but it was banned in the Soviet Union. Pasternak’s relationship with the Soviet authorities was complicated. Stalin famously dismissed him as a “cloud dweller” but he survived the purges although his novel had been published abroad, which was enough to condemn other writers. Even after Stalin’s death, Pasternak was forced to refuse the Nobel Prize in Literature and forbidden to receive foreigners at his home. “The Zhivago Affair” joins a growing crowd of books illuminating the making of well-loved texts. From “Shakespeare in Love” to “Saving Mr Banks,” these meta-stories make great movies. With its cast of scheming Soviet bureaucrats, C.I.A. agents and doomed, warring poets, it is easy to imagine “The Zhivago Affair” as a Hollywood blockbuster, too. This book is a tribute to the power of stories in any society. The tales that nations construct about their own past, and the intervention of the state into literature and the media, are as topical now as ever.






MOST READ Nine Popular Soviet Children’s Games

Section sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia

Children Although summer camps have been an institution since Soviet times, today’s programs bear little resemblance to Pioneer training

More Than Songs Around a Campfire RBTH

In the Soviet era, as now, summer camps for children existed to give kids something to do during school holidays. The first camps were established in the 1920s by the initiative of the Russian division of the Red Cross. Under this initial program, students from the city traveled to camps in the country where members of the Pioneers — a sort of Communist scout program — of-

The website contains information on more than 800 summer programs of all types across Russia. fered help to local residents and taught classes for rural children. The first and most famous camp of this type was the Artek camp, which opened in 1925 in Crimea, and is still in operation today. By the end of the Soviet era, there were more than 40,000 children’s camps, which welcomed up to 10 million children every year. These camps mostly functioned under the sponsorship of major factories and enterprises and provided summer programs for children of factory workers. In the 1990s, however, most of these companies were on the verge of bankruptcy, and the camps were closed. In recent years, a new kind of children’s camp has opened to appeal to the rising Russian middle class, who can afford to send their kids on a two-week adventure where they will receive in-depth training on a variety of topics and a Michelin star chef will prepare their meals.

Room to grow According to Roman Grinchenko, an analyst with InvestCafe, this kind of camp has the greatest possibility of return on investment because there is so little competition. These projects could

pick up English,”Alissa said.“The atmosphere is so vibrant and full of fun. You get to have vocabulary games that involve running around outdoors, tearing cards from trees; you get to go for improvised hikes, getting kids to scribble ‘pinecone’ in their notepads as you come across one in the shade of the pine forests. And even though the English lessons were always the ‘boring part’ of the day (the kids get to go swimming, play volleyball and enact TV quizzes the rest of the time!), I think everybody had fun and loved the experience.” One significant obstacle to the development of camps in Russia is the complexity of the legislative regulation, said Galina Dekhtyar, a professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. In particular, there are laws regulating how many teachers should be in the camps, where camps can be built and even the type of lease agreement. Despite this, Finam analyst Maxim Klyagin said that the interest of investors in this segment in recent years has grown significantly. “A new factor of attractiveness is now, first of all, the emergence of a strong demand from consumers,” Klyagin said. “A relatively low price for comparable quality makes such trips quite attractive.” He especially sees room for growth in camps that cater to expat children and are aimed at helping them adapt to Russian language and culture. The main driver of growth in this market is the willingness of parents to spend money on their children. According to the Juvenile Products Manufacturer’s Association, Russian parents generally spend $1,000 per child per year. This is half what American parents spend, but the gap is rapidly shrinking. Last year, Russia became the largest market in Europe for children’s goods.

Hanging out with friends is as much a part of summer camp today (above) as it was during the Soviet era (side).

potentially also attract children from other countries.“Given the fact that at the moment the number of foreign customers is minimal, if we execute this project competently, we can expect to attract students from other countries,”Grinchenko said. Currently, most of the foreigners at Russian children’s camps are teachers, especially given that language camps — particularly those that focus on English — are extremely popular among Russian parents. The Orange children’s camp outside St. Petersburg offers English teaching jobs to young foreigners who want to spend a summer in Russia. The jobs pay only $700 for two weeks, but room and board are covered. London native Houssam Alissa taught English at a similar camp in 2013.“Language camps are a fantastic way for kids to



This July, a new camp for children is set to open in the town of Borodino outside Moscow. Called The Village, the project was created by prominent public figures, bloggers and journalists, including Philip Bakhtin, the former editor of the Russian edition of Esquire magazine. Every day, the program in the camp is dedicated to a specific form of art such as film, music or painting. The children will be fed by Anatoly Komm, the only Russian restaurateur to earn a Michelin star. The cost of a two-week trip to this camp for children is around 37,000 (about $1,000), and within days of opening its registration period, the camp received 3,000 applications. The financial backers of the project intend to open 25 more camps across Russia by 2018.They are planning to invest around 3.7 billion rubles (about $100 million) into each camp. According to investment firm Finam Holding, the number of children’s camps in Russia is growing by 10–15 percent per year.There is even a special search engine for camps based on the popular travel search website — The website contains information on more than 800 programs and allows parents to filter results by price, age, rating and theme. Themed camps are one of the hottest trends in the market. One camp, on the shore of the White Sea in Karelia, is dedicated to the study of nature of the Russian North. A camp with a special dance curriculum is located at Lake Seliger, about a four-hour drive from Moscow in the Tver Region.


Investors find that summer camps are big business in a country where members of the growing middle class are willing to spend more on their kids.


8.5 million



kids are expected to attend summer camp this year, up dramatically from 5.2 million last year.

summer camps will operate in Russia this year, including both sleepaway and day camps.

rubles (500$) is the average price of a summer camp session. Prices for language camps are higher.

DISCOVER RUSSIA TOGETHER After school ends in late May, many Russian children head to summer camp. Camps are usually located outside of cities, in the countryside or by the sea. The Black Sea is a popular location for summer camps, where children can swim, play games and do crafts with other kids from all over Russia. Many camps offer a wide range of activities, while others offer specialized programs for kids who want extra time practicing a particular sport or want to learn how to draw or cook. Language camps, particularly ones that teach English, are also popular.

It’s nearly summer, and like many American children, a growing number of Russian kids go to camp. Would you like to try going to a Russian summer camp? Your parents can find out more in our story just above.

Learn Russian! Children’s camp - детский лагерь (det-skee la-gehr) Friends - друзья (druz-yah) Disco – дискотека (dis-koh-tek-ah) Lake – озеро (o-zehr-ah) Bonfire – кoстёр (kahs-tyor) Guitar – гитара (geeh-tah-rah) Counselor – воспитатель (vohs-pee-tah-tehl)



One of the most memorable experiences of a Russian summer camp is the disco. Every night (or less frequently in some camps) everyone heads to the dance floor, where D.J.s are ready to play the most popular songs. For girls, one of the best parts of disco night is dressing up, sometimes borrowing their roommates’ clothes. For guys, it’s showing off the latest moves and trying to be the coolest guy at camp.

Person of the Month


Camp, counselor, disco, friends, games, guitar, nature, playground, pool, sea, soccer, swim.

For kids who live in cities, the best part of camp is getting to spend time outdoors.

Find out about more summer camp traditions at ITAR-TASS

Can you find the following words? Words are hidden backwards, forwards and diagonally.

Samantha Smith (1972-1985). In 1982, at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, 10-year-old Samantha Smith, a girl from Maine, wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yury Andropov asking if he intended to go to war with the United States. Andropov wrote back, telling her that the Soviet Union wanted peace, and invited her to visit his country. In the summer of 1983, Smith took Andropov up on his offer. She visited Moscow and Leningrad, and spent time at the most famous Soviet children’s camp, Artek.


RBTH for the New York Times  
RBTH for the New York Times  

Russia Beyond the Headlines supplement distributed with the New York Times in the U.S.