Thursday, September 18, 2014
Hundreds of thousands have fled Ukraineâ€™s combat zones P2-3
Baikal clean-up New programs address sources of lake's pollution P 12-13
Russia's refugee crisis MIKHAIL MORDASOV
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Distributed with The Sydney Morning Herald. Other distribution partners include: The New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, Le Figaro, La Repubblica, El Pais, Mainichi Shimbun, Gulf News.
When the empires were allies: Russia's role in World War I RUSSIA'S WAR EFFORT HAS BEEN OVERSHADOWED BY THE REVOLUTION
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TRIBUTE TO PHOTO-JOURNALIST KILLED IN UKRAINE rbth.com/39547
UKRAINE EXODUS HUNDREDS OF TEMPORARY CAMPS HAVE BEEN SET UP IN RUSSIA TO PROVIDE ACCOMMODATION FOR THE LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE FLED UKRAINE
In the Crimean village of Mazanka, a displaced persons' camp has been set up to deal with the massive influx from combat zones in Ukraine. DMITRI VOSTRIKOV SPECIAL TO RBTH
The camp was set up and is run by EMERCOM – Russia’s Emergency Control Ministry. It has served as a transit point and temporary shelter for thousands of people who have fled the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of south-eastern Ukraine, where violent conflict between government forces and separatist militias has prompted tens of thousands of families to abandon their homes. The plight of people living in these combat zones prompted Russia to dispatch a road convoy of humanitarian aid last month – a move which the government in Kiev scrutinised and delayed, speculating that the convoy was a Trojan horse. However, the situation was so bad that many inhabitants decided to seek asylum in Russia. By mid-August, more than 800 people were staying at the camp at Mazanka, and the flow of displaced persons was increasing daily. Buses were bringing people from the Crimean capital of Simferopol, just 10 kilometres away. Mazanka is one of about 900 camps that have been set up in Russia to house displaced persons from Ukraine, according to EMERCOM, as of September 4. “Our house isn’t far from the city of Teplogorsk, which was heavily bombed.We were just constantly frightened,” said Elmira Maltseva, a woman from the city of Stakhanov, in the Lugansk region. The towns are empty. “I decided to leave with my husband and two children. We crossed the [Russian] border at Izvarino into the Rostov region. And from there we took a bus to Crimea.”
ON UKRAINE: rbth.com/ukraine
Maltseva did not think she would return home soon, but hoped that one day she would. “When we were leaving, I covered our windows with tape,” she continued.“They used to do this in the Second World Wa r, s o t h a t w i n d ow s wouldn’t shatter from the blast waves.” The camp in Mazanka consists of small tents and a dormitory building. The building has toilets, showers and a kitchen but there are always queues. Although many homes had already been destroyed and
The people in the camp asked if their friends were still alive and their houses still standing. "When we were leaving, I covered our windows with tape," said Elvira Maltseva, from Lugansk. several people had lost friends or family, the people in the camp seemed optimistic, with only a few doubting that things would soon return to normal. “Here we’re given baby food, nappies and toothpaste,” said Ekaterina Gorelkina, from the city of Lisichansk, in the Lugansk region.“Sure, we want to go home, but it’s not possible right now. “There aren’t any people there anyway – there are only bombings. And the food that can be bought has become much more expensive. The conditions here are better than at home.” Men and women live separately at Mazanka: women in a dormitory, men in tents outside. The dormitory has big rooms which can house up to 20 people. Outside, there is a sandpit, where the young children were playing. New arrivals seemed diso-
riented at first, but they appeared to adjust quickly and immerse themselves in the daily routines: preparing food, washing clothes, cleaning and helping new arrivals. Artem Mamykin, from Teplogorsk, said: “We’ve already made friends. We talk to our neighbours, and they help us a lot. My wife was in the hospital with our child, and when people found out that we were refugees, they brought us things we needed, food and money.” I often heard people asking: “How’s everyone back home?” Contact with towns in the conflict zones had been sporadic, but the people staying at Mazanka gathered as much information as they could, particularly from the new arrivals who appeared each morning. They wanted to know if their friends were still alive and their houses still standing. The long route to Crimea through Russia’s Rostov region was considered by many to be the safest. The more direct route, through southern Ukraine, was thought to be dangerous. Those who travelled that route said that there were Ukrainian roadblocks, and some reported having bribes extorted from them. ‘‘A few times they tried taking us off the bus because we had a Russian exit permit,” Ekaterina said. She managed to get through paying only a very small bribe. Ekaterina was planning to stay for about week at Mazanka. And most people didn’t stay long before being flown by EMERCOM to other destinations in Russia. The Maltseva family were going to Kemerovo in western Siberia, 3545 kilometres from Moscow. “There’s no work back home,” Elmira said.“My sister closed her pharmacy, since all the supplies had stopped coming in. “All the store items have been bought up, only the most
N ‘WORLD O F A O THE BRINK TICAL LI MAJOR PO CRISIS’ /3 8 3 8 3 rbth .co m
expensive drugs remain.” Since the war began in south-eastern Ukraine, on April 15 – when Kiev launched its so-called antiterror operation – production in entire sectors of the economy has shut down. “Our region was very connected to Russia,” Maltseva continued. “All the factories functioned largely because of orders from Russia.“Looking at relations between the two countries now, no one knows how the regional economy will survive.” The costs associated with accommodating the influx of displaced persons from Ukraine is putting Russia’s federal budget under considerable pressure.
CAMPS A HAVEN AWAY FROM COMBAT ZONES
Donetsk Residents who remain in the war zone live in fear
“Everything changed when the bombs landed in our quarter” In the city of Donetsk, at the heart of the violent separatist conflict in Ukraine, bombings have been terrifying for the residents who remain there. PAUL DUVERNET SPECIAL TO RBTH
“I saw it start slowly, this war,”said Antonina Kharchenko, 62, sitting on a bench at the entrance to her building.“I even started to get used to the presence of armed men, empty streets and the sound of explosions at night. “But everything changed when the bombs landed in our quarter. And now I’m scared all the time.” Kharchenko’s neighbourhood had been fired on several times in the days before our conversation.“When the first shell exploded in our quarter, the militiamen [from the Donetsk People’s Repub-
lic] organised an evacuation,” she said. “But I didn’t want to leave. I don’t know where to go. All I have is my apartment. “Many of those who left have returned because they haven’t got any money.” The people of Donetsk know all the shelters closest to their homes. Lists of their locations were distributed and posted at the entrances of buildings. As the violent conflict intensified, fewer areas of Donetsk remained untouched by bombings. And in this area, between 10 and 20 shells were exploding each day - keeping residents in a state of fear. Mariya Krasnova, 21, is a regular at the Banana Cafe. Although she lives on the other side of the city, she takes refuge at the Donetsk cafe with her pro-autonomy
S NKO VISIT POROSHE EFUGEES R L; O P IU MAR IA ROM RUSS RETURN F 9 6 5 3 /3 rbth .co m
friends - a good half of whom have weapons on them. “I’m proud to have friends like this,” Krasnova told me. “This is my new family, because most of my relatives have stopped talking to me since the start of the conflict. “They live in other regions of Ukraine and have been misinformed by the media. They think I’m a terrorist. But we’re simply defending our territory.” Krasnova swears she will never leave Donetsk. But not all residents share her passionate sentiments. “I’m tired of this war,”said Vasyl Chorny, an electrician and a neighbour of Kharchenko’s. “At first, I supported the separatists. But now I just want everything to stop so that people can live like they did before. “We were promised that after the referendum [for the independence of Donbass, held on May 11] that the situation would improve, but the opposite has happened. “The people behind this conflict are quite unable to negotiate a solution. They won’t let us live in peace.”
FOR OPTIMISM CAUTIOUS DESPITE E, CEASEFIR REACHES B REPORTED 9 619 /3 rbth .co m
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RUSSIA'S GOALS IN EASTERN UKRAINE rbth.com/39557
People fleeing the war in eastern Ukraine make the best of life at displaced person camps.
Influx More than 800,000 people cross the borders
Russia faces refugee crisis
"We want peace in Ukraine"
UNHCR has been monitoring Russia's refugee crisis and has confirmed official data from Russia's Federal Migration Service on the enormity of the crisis.
Sergei Lavrov RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER
Refugees yes, citizens no ACCORDING TO THE LEVADA-CENTRE, RUSSIANS ARE SUPPORTIVE OF THEIR GOVERNMENT'S APPROACH TO ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM UKRAINE AND ARE WILLING TO GIVE THEM REFUGEE STATUS. BUT THEY ARE NOT SO UNANIMOUS ABOUT AUTOMATICALLY GIVING THESE PEOPLE CITIZENSHIP.
Earlier last month, the Russian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) confirmed official Russian data that nearly half a million Ukrainian citizens had fled Ukraine and crossed the border into Russia. UNHCR’s data was consistent with the numbers released by Russia’s Federal Migration Service (FMS), according to Galina Negrustuyeva, UNHCR’s spokesperson in Russia. “Our staff members have travelled to the border areas, and we have no reason not to trust the information from the FMS,”Negrustuyeva said on September 4. But according to FMS figures, the numbers of people crossing the border were going up fast. And as of August 30, it reported that Russia had about 814,000 new arrivals from Ukraine. The FMS said that out of those, however, only 55,261 had applied for refugee status. The quotas for asylum seekers in Moscow, St Petersburg and Rostov are full, so the newcomers will have to apply in other regions. They have some time, though, because Ukrainian citizens can stay in Russia visa-free for up to 90 days. This influx will mean that there will be high demand for Russia’s Voluntary Resettlement of Compatriots program – a federal program which offers ethnic Russians who are moving to
A human tide forces regions to declare a state of emergency.
Russia housing and financial assistance to cover the costs of their relocation. According to an FMS official statement, demand for the program has increased fivefold since the civil war started. “The number of
While asylum seekers are waiting for their applications to be processed, they can get temporary work. Ukrainian citizens who wish to obtain Russian citizenship is now seven times greater than before the war, and the number of people who want to obtain a residency permit is four times higher. For the most part, the people asking for help are residents of the Donetsk, Lugansk and Dnipropetrovsk regions.” The FMS also said that Ukrainian displaced persons had arrived in dozens of regions of Russia, and that some regions had declared a state of emergency because of the influx. Alexander Brod, di-
rector of an independent nonprofit organisation, the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, said that the fact that so few of the newcomers had applied for refugee status was likely to be related to poor levels of legal awareness among them. “It's easier to obtain refugee status now; the process takes three months,” Brod said.“The procedure has been simplified specifically for those who are arriving from the conflict zone. “Refugee status allows people to receive benefits, access social services, and obtain a work permit. Refugee status is issued for one year and may be extended.” He added that while asylum seekers are waiting for their applications to be processed, they can get temporary work at mobile employment services operating in the border regions. “Refugees will be able to find employment in the service sphere very quickly,” he said, adding that there were many jobs available in construction too.
Support Volunteers offer practical and emotional assistance
Newcomers given helping hand On the question of whether Russia should accept asylum seekers from south-eastern Ukraine, the majority of those polled responded positively, at 81 per cent, while only 12 per cent responded negatively. Regarding the issue of granting all refugees from the Ukraine Russian citizenship, however, only 21 per cent agreed that they should be given this as soon as possible. Forty per cent thought they should be granted citizenship only after their applications were carefully verified. And 31 per cent believed that refugees from the Ukraine should go through the same steps as anyone in terms of applying for citizenship, regardless of their historical ties to Russia.
In 2003, when sociologists asked Russians whether Russia should make it easier for ethnic Russians from former Soviet republics to attain citizenship, 78 per cent of those polled agreed that the process should be made easier for these migrants. Yet a more recent survey by the Levada Centre, which polled 1600 Russians from 46 different regions about the procedure for residents of other states to obtain Russian citizenship, had a different result. This time, only 23 per cent of respondents thought the process should be simplified and 56 per cent thought it should remain the same. In the Levada poll, 11 per cent said that the application process should be made more stringent.
While Russian migration staff are drowning in paperwork, dozens of community organisations are assisting newcomers in Moscow. LEONID MATVEYEV SPECIAL TO RBTH
The highest numbers of displaced persons from Ukraine have gone to the Crimea, Moscow and the Rostov region – near Russia’s border with Ukraine. Out of these three, Moscow has the biggest network of NGO and volunteer organisations to help support these newcomers. Stephen Wilson, a Scot who lives in Moscow with his Russian wife and family, set up a non-profit, volunteer organisation with four Russian human-rights activists. The or-
he downing of the Malaysian plane [flight MH17] is a shocking tragedy. Since it happened on July 17, we have been calling for an open and objective international investigation. Resolution 2166 adopted by the United Nations [UN] Security Council on July 21 provides for a full, thorough and independent investigation into the incident, in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines. Our stance is crystal clear: We want peace in Ukraine – something which can only be attained through broad national dialogue, in which all regions and all political forces of the country need to participate. This is what Russia, the US, the European Union (EU) and Ukraine agreed in Geneva on April 17. Attempts to settle crises by unilateral sanctions outside the framework of UN Security Council decisions threaten international peace and stability. Such attempts are counter-productive and contradict the norms and principles of international law. It is absolutely unacceptable to talk to Russia – or anyone for that matter – in the language of ultimatums and coercive measures. Our response to unilateral steps by the US, the EU and some other countries, has been balanced and in line with Russia's rights and obligations under international treaties, including the World Trade Organisation. Russia does not want to proceed along the road of escalation. We hope that the US, the EU, and others heed the voice of reason. Let me reiterate that Russia is fully committed to the international investigation [of flight MH17] in full compliance with Resolution 2166. We would like to see the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) take a more active role in the matter, and we believe that the UN and ICAO should co-ordinate international efforts to ensure early and convincing results in the investigation.We are determined to bring to justice all those who bear responsibility for these crimes. Humanitarian issues must bring together all people who act in good faith, trying to alleviate the suffering of people in dire need.
ganisation has been taking donations to help provide the newcomers with clothes, nappies, children’s toys, soap, toothpaste and other basics. It has also been offering mentorship and emotional support. “What we quickly discovered is that the refugees want help with applying for refugee status, getting work and of course, a place to stay if they’re not at a dacha [country house or cabin] or a hostel,” Wilson said. “What I think we really need to offer refugees is moral support and being generous with our time. I think it’s important to offer them friendship. “We’re working on the idea of one volunteer being assigned to help the needs of one family,” he said.
The idea is similar to the one of Big Brothers Big Sisters, an international mentoring program for children and young people around the globe who are facing adversity. “Some refugees are currently being refused registration by some local officials and being told they can’t work without propiskas (registration),”Wilson said, adding that Moscow’s migration services were encouraging these Ukrainians to move to other regions, where their services weren’t under so much strain. Wilson thought that the impact of the influx of this many people in need was being grossly underestimated.“The refugee problem is a real crisis,” he said.
Based on the interview available at rbth. com/39255
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SANCTIONS HIT US POULTRY INDUSTRY rbth.com/39501
FOOD IMPORT BAN RBTH LOOKS AT THE IMPACT OF THE WESTERN FOOD IMPORT EMBARGO THAT CAME AS A MEASURE TAKEN IN RESPONSE TO THE SANCTIONS IMPOSED ON RUSSIA BY SEVERAL COUNTRIES, INCLUDING AUSTRALIA.
While some Russian restaurants buy their food locally, many rely heavily on imported goods and are worried about how they will now find their produce. MARINA OBRAZKOVA RBTH
Last month, the Kremlin announced that it would be imposing an embargo on food imports from the European Union (EU), the US, Canada, Australia and Norway. The embargo, which came into force from August 7, was the Kremlin’s response to Western sanctions over Ukraine. As a result, Russians are now having to do without imported beef, pork, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, eggs and seafood. According to an August poll by WCIOM poll agency, 84 per cent of Russians supported the embargo and 80 per cent thought it would only help to develop Russia’s food industry. But some Russians are complaining about the products they won’t be able to buy and certain restaurants are likely to be hard hit by the embargo. Russia’s top chefs and restaurant managers are wondering how to make do without imported ingredients. For Italian and Russian restaurants, at least, it won’t be too difficult, since cheese and vegetables can easily be sourced locally in Russia.
Russia’s mozzarella Head chef and restaurateur Valentino Bontemli said that he had seen locally produced mozzarella and that it’s easy to source meat and vegetables locally. “Aside from seafood and parmesan, Russia has practically all the basic ingredients,” he said. “Sure, these products aren’t of the same quality that you’ll find in Italy, but what can you do? Chefs will have to be more creative.” Aram Mnatsakanov, owner
of Probka Family, an international cuisine chain in Moscow, is convinced he will still be able to feed his customers. “Restaurateurs have to live with concrete realities too. We’ll serve our customers the products available on the Russian market,”he said. Meanwhile, Alexander Kozhin, manager of the chain Cafe De Marko, believes that the sanctions will not be a big problem for restaurateurs. “We mainly work with domestic products. We won’t change our menu,” he said. “At the moment, we have everything we need.” And there are those who are even happy about the ban. “Restaurateurs will have it even better because, unfortunately, imported products are filled with pesticides and antibiotics,” said restaurant owner Sergei Osintsev.
New sources for seafood Restaurants whose main dishes are made from imported ingredients, however, are less optimistic. Sumosan, one
EMBARGO PROMPTS CHEFS TO BE MORE CREATIVE
Russia's food ban is due to last a year. Putin said that after that, foreign companies will find it hard to break back into the Russian market.
"We used to get our oysters, crab and tuna from California," said Tanya Mishina, restaurant director. Fortunately, pasta products, rice and vegetable oil aren't on the [bannedproducts] list.
of Moscow’s most famous Japanese restaurants, imports products from Japan and the US. While it doesn’t have any problems sourcing products from Japan, restaurant director Tanya Mishina said the ban on American products was of concern. “We used to get our oysters, crab and tuna from California,” she said. “And the high quality of our seafood is one of the things that made Sumosan famous. Now, we can only import Kaiso seaweed from the US.” Mishina said she thinks they will end up using Japanese and South Korean seafood instead, but that costs will be much higher. Ivan Shishkin, head chef
and co-owner of Delicatessen, Tapa de Comida, Cafe Buterbro and Dary Prirody, believes his restaurants will have a difficult time. “With meat, I won’t have any problems, since I haven’t bought any imported meat for a long time,” he said.“It didn’t have anything to do with politics; I started looking for goodquality domestic producers a long time ago – so I could check the produce. “But I rely heavily on [imported] nuts, fruit and vegetables, and dairy products.” Shishkin added that the ban on products made from the Finnish dairy company Valio will be “fatal” for him. He said Valio produces a Turkish yogurt that he had
sought for years.“I use it for a range of dishes,”he said.“It is a fantastic product and now it seems I’ll be deprived of it again. I’ll have to remove a couple of dishes from the menu because of this. And I don’t know what I’ll do without Parmesan. “Fortunately, pasta products, rice and vegetable oil aren’t on the [banned-products] list. And I hope they won't be banned. “Without olive oil, for example, I don’t think my restaurant would be able to function.” It is widely thought that the embargo will increase food prices. “The cost of [locally produced] products will rise,” Shishkin predicted.
Kaliningrad As food is being sourced from non-embargoed countries, prices are going up
Baltic exclave faces up to life without banned imports Since Moscow’s imposition of a food embargo, EU produce has been replaced by imports from the Balkans, South America and Belarus. ULYANA VYLEGZHANINA SPECIAL TO RBTH
Lying between Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad, Russia’s eхclave on the shores of the Baltic Sea, is far more dependent on European imports than the rest of Russia. According to official data, goods that fall under Russian sanctions amount to about 16 per cent of total imports into Kaliningrad.
But officials from the region’s government maintain that all of these products can be replaced by either Kaliningrad manufacturers or suppliers in countries not affected by the embargo. For example, 10 days after the introduction of the food ban, the exclave was supplied with apples and tomatoes from Serbia and grapes from Malaysia, said Svetlana Kumaneva, first deputy head of the Kaliningrad Region’s Customs House. She added that agreements have been signed with suppliers from Belarus, Turkey, Israel and
South American countries. The list of banned imports includes cheeses, of which few are produced in the region, and several types of fruit and vegetables that up until recently had been supplied largely by Poland and Lithuania. According to Nikolai Tsukanov, Kaliningrad’s governor, the present situation resulted from a systemic error. “We’ve always been vulnerable to food security as an exclave region,” he said at a meeting with retail chain and market leaders on August 21. “Retail chains have long
needed not to be beholden to Polish and Lithuanian supplies. We needed to build our own storage locations to hold reserves of fruit and vegetables.” As well, the fact that Russian customs and supervisory bodies recently tightened requirements for documentation to import fruit and vegetables has meant that cargo bound for Kaliningrad has regularly been held up. For example, between August 19 and 22 six vans with perishable products for the Vester store chain were stopped at Kaliningrad's INMAR tem-
porary storage repository. “New suppliers from Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia, Belarus and Israel, unlike the former contractors from the EU, are refusing to work without 100 per cent prepayment,” said Oleg Bolychev, chair of the board of directors of theVester group. Therefore, he said, it is possible that stores will see a temporary shortage of apples, pears, grapes, peaches, apricots, nectarines, pineapples, berries and exotic fruits. According to Bolychev, a number of suppliers have already raised retail prices.
RUSSIANS ON MCDONALD’S CLOSURES rbth.com/39261
Consumer affairs Watchdog targets fast-food giant
Sanctions not the cause of economic slowdown
New round strengthens sanctions
McDonald's under scrutiny
he sanctions that have been instituted in response to the Ukraine crisis were not the precursor to Russia and Europe’s economic problems. These began much earlier. Today the world is going through a global systemic crisis comparable to the crises of the 1930s and ’70s. The European economy, for example, has been characterised by low or zero growth for several years.
Russia is not in recession yet, but there has certainly been a significant slowdown Russia is not in recession yet, but there has certainly been a significant slowdown, and there are several reasons for this. First, many of the countries in the European Union (EU) – Russia’s main trading partner, accounting for more than 50 per cent of total trade – have experienced recession, so it would be strange to see growth in Russia. Second, there are cyclical reasons: following large capital investment in the leadup to the Sochi Olympics, there has been a decline in investment activity. Third, by 2008 Russia’s reserve of restorative growth had been exhausted. (After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s economy collapsed and it only recovered to previous levels in 2008). In 2009, due to the Global Financial Crisis, there was a significant decline in Russia’s economy, followed by a recov-
On September 10, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a bill on sanctions against Russia and submitted it to the parliament, according to the parliamentary website. The law gives Ukraine’s National Defence and Security Council the right to freeze assets; limit trade operations; fully or partially cancel the transit of resources, flights and freight transport through Ukraine; suspend economic and financial obligations and annul licences.The law also bars or restricts Russian sea vessels from entering Ukrainian waters or ports and Russian aircraft from entering its airspace. It also suspends cooperation in key areas.
Russia ignores Ukrainian move
Sanctions will not affect Russia’s stance on a peace settlement in Ukraine,Yury Ushakov, an aide to Russia’s president, told journalists on September 10. Commenting on the law on sanctions that Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko just signed, Ushakov said:“These sanctions will wield no influence on our principal approach to the crisis in the neighbouring state.”
EU approach angers Kremlin
McDonald’s, the first fastfood chain to open in USSR, is facing allegations by Russian authorities that it has violated sanitary and consumer rights regulations. ALEXEI LOSSAN RBTH
McDonald’s reported that Russian authorities were doing checks at its restaurants across the country. “Currently, checks on over 100 McDonald’s restaurants are being carried out simultaneously,”the company said on its website. The checks have already led to the temporary closure of 12 outlets: three in Moscow, one in the Moscow region, four in Krasnodar and two in Sochi. Restaurants inYekaterinburg and Stavropol have also been closed. “We are studying the essence of the complaints to decide what steps to take to ensure the swift reopening of our restaurants to visitors,” McDonald’s said. On August 20, Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s consumerrights watchdog, suspended the operations of three McDonald’s outlets in Moscow, including Russia’s very first McDonald’s, which opened in Pushkinskaya Square in 1990. In 2013, the outlet was among McDonald’s top 10 branches in Europe in terms of turnover and on its first day alone served more than 30,000 visitors, setting a world record in the history of the McDonald’s chain. This outlet and others were temporarily closed after Ros-
SPECIAL TO RBTH RG
potrebnadzor officials registered numerous violations of sanitary and consumer rights legislation. Among them were claims that McDonald’s cheese contained antibiotics, that the restaurants had misrepresented the calorie content of its meals and that coliform bacteria had been detected in its salads. McDonald’s has more than 430 branches in Russia, more than 100 of which are in Moscow. For many Russian consumers, McDonald’s is more than a fast food restaurant. Investcafe analyst Roman Grinchenko attributes McDonald’s popularity in Russia to its status as the first fast-food restaurant in the country. “An important fact to re-
Fast food may carry obesity warnings
Russian State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin said that Russia will retaliate against any additional sanctions that the European Union (EU) may impose. Naryshkin said that against the backdrop of a fragile armistice in Ukraine, “Brussels has thought up nothing better than declaring more antiRussian sanctions.” The EU could bear responsibility for disrupting the truce, he said.
McDonald's is the first and largest fast food chain in Russia.
member is that McDonald’s entered the Russian market at a time when our country was experiencing high demand for everything foreign,” Grinchenko said. Alexei Kozlov, chief analyst with investment company UFS, said: “The reason that McDonald’s was such a phenomenon was that it came to Russia at the right time, with reasonable prices, and in a completely untapped niche.” Rospotrebnadzor’s threats to ban sales of certain types of dishes at McDonald’s were unlikely to greatly damage the company’s reputation, said Semyon Nemtsov, an analyst at investment firm RussInvest. The Western media has interpreted the checks as pay back for Western sanctions against Russia.
Health Proposed bill seeks pictures of disease on packaging
Inspired by the success of recent anti-smoking campaigns, Russian deputies have introduced a draft bill aimed at tackling obesity.
Countries affected by the embargo
ery that for a short time supported moderate economic growth. But the main reason for the slowdown in Russia’s economic growth has been that the economic model for the 2000s, with its reliance on the steady expansion of demand, became exhausted. This was due to external circumstances - oil prices had stopped rising – and to internal reasons as well, with some economists saying that Russia was caught in the middle income trap, where it had lost its competitive edge, in part because of rising wages. Russia is now a country with high labour costs and relatively poor economic institutions. In per capita GDP, in recent years, Russia has only risen to the lower level of developed countries, while the quality of its institutions has remained at the level of a developing country. From an economic point of view, the change needed is simple: Russia needs to transition from a demand economy to a supply economy – with economic stability and predictable rules of the game, low inflation and taxes acceptable to stimulate production development. In the context of the conflict with Ukraine, it is important for Russia not to impose further sanctions on itself - a more effective strategy might be economic liberalisation. This could rovide the necessary modernisation for institutional growth. This was the path China took when faced with international sanctions following Tiananmen Square. China decisively strengthened economic reforms.This approach would give Russia the best chance of holding on to its most important achievement of the past 10 to 15 years: macroeconomic stability.
Fast-food packaging in Russia may soon carry graphic pictures of overweight people with captions warning about the health risks of obesity. A bill containing amendments to existing federal laws on advertising and consumer rights protection is being developed by Igor Lebedev, State Duma deputy speaker and head of the supreme council of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), and his fellow faction membersYaroslav Nilov and Andrei Sivtsov. Under the proposed bill,
owners of fast-food chains will have to mark their packaging with warnings that excessive and frequent consumption of fast food is harmful to one’s health. “The situation here is similar to the one with cigarettes: consumers should be warned of the dangers posed by fast food,” says a statement posted on the LDPR website. “That means that fast-food advertising and packaging should carry the relevant information.” In addition, the deputies propose that fast-food packaging should carry pictures showing the consequences of diseases that can be provoked by the frequent consumption of fast food. It is widely known that excessive consumption of fast food can lead to obesity, diabetes and other health conditions.
The deputies’ proposal follows a warning issued to McDonald’s in late June by Rospotrebnadzor, the Russian consumer-rights watchdog, over the quality of the American company’s hamburgers. Duma deputies subsequently proposed checking other fast-food chains operating in Russia, including KFC and Burger King. In a separate development, the Nizhny Novgorod Region branch of the Rospotrebnadzor filed a lawsuit with Moscow’s Tverskoi district court to oblige McDonald’s to provide genuine nutritional facts about its food. Rospotrebnadzor officials say they suspect the popular fast-food chain is understating the number of calories in its products. However, McDonald’s has defended its policy, with its Russian press service insisting that it “calculates the number of calories [in its products] based on methods approved by the Institute of Nutrition, under the Russian Academy of Sciences.”
THE BESLAN TRAGEDY 10 YEARS ON rbth.com/39439
Chebarkul Impact is still being felt
INTERVIEW OLGA ZAKHAROVA
The big meteorite that put a small town on the map The meteorite that fell near the Urals town of Chebarkul, in the Chelyabinsk region, has inspired the imagination of the locals and boosted the region as a tourist venue.
DARYA KEZINA SPECIAL TO RBTH
DIRECTOR TALKS ABOUT HOW IT WAS REBORN
Transformation brings park into the 21st century When Olga Zakharova took over as the director of Gorky Park in 2011 it was dilapidated and neglected. But after a revamp, the 120-hectare park in central Moscow is now attracting more than 15 million visitors a year. The idea for the redevelopment started in 2009, thanks to a joint initiative by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Moscow’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, businessman Roman Abramovich and the Strelka Institute, an educational institution specialising in urban design. The goal was to redevelop the Soviet park in a way that encouraged social interaction, leisure and economic development. It now hosts festivals, cultural events, exhibitions and yoga classes, and has beaches (on the Moscow River) and a range of recreational spaces. RBTH spoke to Olga Zakharova about how the park has changed and the principles that influenced how she’s gone about managing the redevelopment. What was Gorky Park like when you became the director three years ago? Olga Zakharova: The park used to be known as a place for drunken debauchery, a spot where people sat and drank beer, listened to old Soviet music, ate shwarma [Russian doner kebabs], and then went home. Back then, there weren’t any rentals or activities; just terrible food and amusement park rides.
Once avant garde, then neglected Gorky Park, which was designed by the Soviet avantgarde architect Konstantin Melnikov in the 1920s, was supposed to be a place for the Soviet public to relax and learn. Back then, it had a theatre and a cinema, and drew crowds of Muscovites in a city that had few places for entertainment. The park's pathetic state by the noughties was the result of corruption and more than a decade of under-investment. Plans to revive the park were first discussed in 2006, during Mayor Yury Luzhkov's term, but the plans were shelved until 2011.
The first time I came to Gorky Park, I’d been invited to a party. And I remember a big, bright monstrous white ferris wheel. To me, it looked like the entrance to hell. The second time I came here, I didn’t even realise I was in Gorky Park. I was in an area of it that had essentially been abandoned: a sad and lifeless forest. The only thing you could do there was walk your dog. But now Gorky Park is a city within a city.We have our own transport system, electricians, cleaners, landscapers and places to eat. If we were to close the gates, we would still live very well here. How did you manage to turn the image of the park around? It’s really difficult to break
The second wave of visitors was parents. And then the older generation started asking their children and grandchildren: “Where are you going?” What has influenced the way you manage the park? It’s been really important for us to have an international outlook in how we manage the park. Our management staff have visited parks around the world – Millennium Park in Chicago and High Line and Central Park in New York, for example – and I think we’ve taken the best aspects of each and adapted them to Gorky.While we’re always looking at how other parks operate, it’s also been important for us to come up with our own original ideas. So how is Gorky different from a typical European or American park? I think there are different mentalities in Europe and the US about communal spaces. In Europe, for example, it’s enough for people to just go for a walk, but we knew that wouldn’t work here. In a Russian park, there absolutely needs to be food, drink, sport and cultural events.
stereotypes with Muscovites, because everyone here already knows everything. It’s hard to impress Muscovites. When we sent out a survey about what people wanted to see in Gorky Park, almost 99 per cent responded “bring back the rides!” I think this was largely because people didn’t have an understanding of the potential of Gorky Park as a communal space. After the redevelopment was complete, which groups were the first to come? Young people and hipsters; they wanted to know what Gorky Park was about.Young people aren’t scared of trying new things. And they came to the conclusion that it was a cool place to be.
Gorky Park was radically redesigned as part of its revamp. Who helped with that? LDA design [a UK-based design, environment and sustainability consultancy] – the same company that did the Olympic Park in London – helped with our concept. For them, it was a new experience because it was their first time they had worked in Russia. They didn’t have an understanding of what a Russian park was really. Is it true that Gorky Park has its own brand of ice-cream? Yes, the park’s ice cream is our own. It has its own trademark taste, and is made in a factory outside of Moscow. Interview by Louise Dickson
On February 15, 2013 the world learned about the small town of Chebarkul in the Urals, 1700 kilometres east of Moscow. Just a few kilometres from the town, a meteorite fell into Lake Chebarkul. It was the largest space object to hit the Earth since the Tunguska meteorite fell on Siberia in 1908. After recovering from the initial shock of the impact, it seems that residents of Chebarkul are now celebrating the fact that meteorite fell near their town, and the event seems to have inspired a variety of creative projects. The town erected a monument in honour of the meteorite and it has been suggested that an image of a meteorite be added to the region’s coat of arms. The Chelyabinsk Region is also offering official meteorite souvenirs, and the administration has applied to Rospatent to trademark Chelyabinsk as Russia’s Meteor Capital. One example is a four-metre triptych by local artist Albert Rastyapin. In it Chelyabinsk residents are depicted as heroes at the moment of impact. The painting features rescue workers, people injured by broken windows, onlookers with phones and a half-naked man who ran onto the street after being woken up by the meteorite's impact. Another project involved a group of enthusiasts from the small film studio SC-Art, who this year began filming a science-fiction thriller about the meteorite. A low-budget feature film, it will give an alternative version of events on
the day a year and a half ago when the meteorite fell. Meanwhile in the virtual world, Twitter users created a micro-blog @Che_meteorit just a few hours after the meteorite fell. The first tweet was:“I’m destroyed. I’m lying all over the Urals.” Now“Chelyabinsk meteorite” has 1035 followers and still posts from time to time. The meteorite also inspired 14-year-old Chelyabinsk student Matvei Grevtsov to consider the global problem of alternative energy sources. His project managed to reach the final stages of Google’s international Science in Action competition. In the wake of the meteorite’s flight, the powerful airflow damaged many windows, and Grevtsov posited that the
The residents of Chebarkul are now celebrating the fact that the meteorite fell near their town enormous amount of pressure could have been used to generate electricity. Not surprisingly, since the meteor fell, tourism has flourished in the region. Previously, Chebarkul branded itself“the land of the Orenburg Cossacks”.However, tourist marketing campaigns are now largely about the meteorite. “A number of different inquiries are coming in from overseas – people wanting to organise individual visits or group tours to the site where the meteorite fell,” said Marina Alekseyeva, owner of Chelyabinsk travel agency Akbest Tour, in an interview with Ria Novosti. “Most of the inquiries are from Japanese; Russians aren’t showing any interest in these kinds of tours,” she added.
POLLS: MORE RUSSIANS SEE 1991 AS A TRAGEDY rbth.com/39129
Privacy The launch in Russia of the anonymous website Secret has resulted in surprising disclosures
Forget state secrets, let's talk sex
Russian PM discusses online restrictions
The anonymous website Secret aims to encourage WikiLeaks-style whistleblowing, but Russians prefer to use it for more personal disclosures. TONYA SAMSONOVA
Judging by his elevator selfie, Peter is about 30 years old. He works for Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and has an iPhone. His Instagram profile features shots of tiramisu and sushi. He also checks in at his FSB office headquarters at Moscow’s Lubyanka Square and posts pictures of its halls and rooms. His Foursquare profile has a photograph of a man lying face down on the floor, hands tied behind his back. The man’s left arm is broken. The photo is geotagged at a dormitory outside Moscow. Vladislav also works for state security, but he is an employee of the main intelligence directorate in the Ministry of Defence (GRU). He posts a selfie where he is standing next to the checkpoint at the entrance of the building where he works. He also posts pictures of his wife and his Toyota and makes no secret of the fact that he lives in Annino, in Moscow’s south, and that he goes to the pool on Fridays and is trying to lose weight. David Byttow, the creator of the anonymous network
© RIA NOVOSTI
SPECIAL TO RBTH
In Russia, Secret is mostly used by mid-level professionals in the creative spheres.
www.secret.ly believes that Russians do not fully understand internet anonymity. AndVladislav and Peter's online activities certainly suggest this is so. Given Russian nonchalance about online privacy, it is a little surprising that Secret, which went online in Russia at the end of May, has become so popular. The site allows users to make posts on an anonymous social network without having to worry about their identities being discovered. Could the site be the Rus-
sian answer to WikiLeaks? It doesn’t seem like it: so far, Russian speakers have not been using it as a whistleblowing tool but as a forum for posting about sex and failed relationships. “You think Russians are interested in Putin, Ukraine, Crimea and corruption? No, all they need is sex and cuddles,” wrote a disappointed Moscow journalist on the third day after the website’s launch. In San Francisco, Secret has become a place for gossip about the technology in-
dustry. In London, users post about neighbours who make more money than they do. Muscovites write about former lovers who turned out to be gay or slept with their best friend’s wives.They write about where to have sex in the office, and who the director of sales used to sleep with before she became the director of sales. Secret representatives say the service was not created so that people could publish graphic photos or gossip about each other. Two days after the launch of the site’s
Russian version, the company’s office in San Francisco hired two Russian-speaking employees to monitor posts. “We want the rules of our service to be understood by the international community, and we want people to be just as responsible about what they post in Russia as they are in the States,” said the company’s marketing director Sarahjane Sacchetti. When asked why he thinks Secret users in Russia have turned the service into a place for talking about their private lives, David Byttow said: “You tell me, because I have no idea.” One user, Lightning, said that Russian users don’t get enough opportunities to discuss their private lives. In Russia, she said, Facebook has become a platform for political statements, Twitter is used to discuss the news and discussions about work are reserved for in-person chats. “The internet doesn’t leave enough room for such discussions,”she said. “And your public image on social networks should show that you’re involved in politics and serious issues in the country.” Perhaps the content of the site is an indication of the frustrations of its audience. In Russia, Secret is mostly used by mid-level professionals in the creative spheres, many of whom seem frustrated by the state of Russia’s economy and political scene.
Internet New restrictions have largely been met with indifference in Russia
Bloggers shrug off a new attempt to control them A new law, which came into effect in August, subjects popular Russian bloggers to the same laws that apply to the mass media. ALEXANDER PLYUSHCHEV SPECIAL TO RBTH
Under the new law, Russian bloggers whose blogs receive more than 3000 visits a day are required to register with the government and disclose their full names and email addresses on their blogs. They are also required to verify information before publishing it and are banned from disclosing state secrets as well as spreading potentially libellous information. The law also opens bloggers up to prosecution for swearing and “extremism”. Speaking to Reuters, internet expert and blogger Anton Nossik claimed the Kremlin wanted to create a legal pretext to shut down inconven-
ient voices. The law is alarming Russia-watchers because blogging has been one of the primary ways opposition political figures have published their viewpoints. This is not the first time, however, that the government has passed laws threatening Russia’s vibrant blogging scene, only to have little if any effect. According to surveys, the majority of internet users in Russia – as well as the majority of Russians in general – are not particularly bothered by the new law. In fact, the Russian government’s efforts last summer to fight internet piracy generated far more discussion. The outcry over that law, which originally stated that users as well as owners of pirated content would be subject to legal action, resulted in the eventual passage of a less harsh version that only
blocks access to information that violates copyright. Attempts to combat online piracy in Russia are often resisted, as many say they believe in the freedom to share information, a concept that goes back to the dissident tradition of self-publishing (samizdat) in Soviet times.
The availability of pirated content has driven the popularity of Russia’s dominant social network, VKontakte (VK). VK began life as a Facebook clone, but the site has since taken on a life of its own. Much of VKontakte’s traffic was driven by the wealth of pirated music and films available on the site, most of which is curated by fan groups. VK has periodically tried to purge its pages of pirated content at the request of copyright holders. It has also signed deals with several
major copyright holders to provide licensed content on its site instead. But VK’s status as the most popular platform for exchanging free music and films is the main reason it still dominates Facebook in Russia. Russians, always chasing the latest online trend, are now flocking to Facebook.The site’s audience in Russia is increasing, in particular among the so-called creative classes: mid-career professionals who use it for social purposes and exchanging content from online media.
The most popular social media networks in Russia
In an interview with the business daily Vedomosti, Russia's prime minister Dmitry Medvedev talked about his view on internet censorship. “The internet is useful but it’s also a sphere of contradictory activity,”he said.“It can’t be strangled, but we should know what’s happening there.’ Medvedev added that Russia had recently introduced a number of restrictions on content about suicide, paedophilia and drug addiction, restrictions which he said he stood by.
Deputiesseekto keep data local
State Duma deputies want to speed up the introduction of a new law requiring all online companies, including social networks, to store the personal data of Russian users on Russian soil. The deputies argue that the bill, initially scheduled to come into force from September 2016, should start from January 2015 because of increasing national security concerns related to the Ukrainian crisis.
PM's Twitter account hacked On August 14, the Russian prime minister’s Twitter account was hacked. “I resign. I’m ashamed of the government’s actions. I'm sorry,” the hackers posted. That tweet was followed by posts saying that electricity would be switched off with various criticisms of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Medvedev’s Russian-language Twitter feed has more than 2.5 million followers. The hacker also wrote that Medvedev would be pursuing a new career as a freelance photographer. A Russian hacking collective has claimed responsibility for the attack.
LETTERS FROM RUSSIAN SOLDIERS IN WWI rbth.com/38779
CENTENARY WORLD WAR I BEFORE MAKING A SEPARATE PEACE IN 1917, THE RUSSIAN IMPERIAL ARMY MADE IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE ALLIED WAR EFFORT
REMEMBERING RUSSIA'S ROLE IN GREAT WAR SPECIAL TO RBTH
When thinking about Russia and the First World War, historians typically focus on the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which ended the war for Russia, the Russian Army’s poor performance and the role the war played in precipitating the October Revolution. But Serge Andolenko’s research instead examines the role Russia played in the Allied war effort. Russian-born Andolenko was a general as well as a military historian. He emigrated to France after the October Revolution, where he studied at the SaintCyr Military Academy. The general’s son, Pavel Andolenko, himself a former officer of the French Navy, talked to RBTH about his father’s research.
1914: The Marne According to Andolenko, the Russian Army was one of the best of its time. But it had two major problems: Russia’s size and its undeveloped economy. The empire was so vast that logistically it was difficult to maintain supply of weapons to the front. As well, Russia's economy, which was just starting to be impacted by modernisation, just wasn’t strong enough to withstand a lengthy global conflict. Nevertheless, despite these disadvantages, the Russian Army still managed to make an impact in the first two years of the war. On August 17, 1914 it launched an offensive against East Prussia, a region of the German province on the south-eastern
1915: Verdun Andolenko describes 1915 as“a Verdun before Verdun”. And it was in 1915 that the Russian army had to take on everything German industry was capable of producing. In 1915, Russian loss of life surpassed even that of 1914, and Russian industry proved itself quite unable to keep up with the demands of war. Russian soldiers were forced to pick up the weapons of their fallen comrades on the battlefield just to have something to fight with. Nevertheless, the war went on, with Russian soldiers using bayonets, knives and even fists. More than 1.4 million Russian soldiers were killed or wounded that year. But realising they couldn’t win on both fronts, the Germans offered Russia a separate peace treaty with a bonus: the Turkish straits and Constantinople. From the military point of view, the Russians themselves should have asked for an armistice, since they were com-
Instaweek: rbth.com/Multimedia/In pictures
pensating for their inferiority in equipment and weapons with heavy losses. But Tsar Nicholas II chose to reject the German offer.
1916: Russia recovers In 1916, Germany turned its attention back to the Western Front. The Russians used the short respite to supply and reequip their forces, later launching at least two major campaigns which would prove decisive for the final outcome of the war. The first of these was a June offensive led by General Alexei Brusilov in Bessarabia (a region that is part of modernday Moldova and Ukraine). It incapacitated two million enemy combatants. The second was led by General NikolaiYudenich, who defeated the Turks in the Caucasus mountains on Russia’s southern border and managed to reach the Euphrates River, in Turkey. The recovery of the Russian army brought new optimism to the Allies. Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s Minister of Munitions, noted “few episodes of the Great War are more surprising than the restoration, the replenishment and the gigantic effort of Russia in 1916”. At the beginning of 1917, many participants and observers of the conflict on both sides were convinced that the Russian army had already won the war, at least according to General Adolenko. “The Russian Army was not defeated; quite the opposite,” Pavel Andolenko said.
1917: Tsar abdicates In January, 1917, the Austrians began negotiating with the French, the British and the Italians about bringing the war to an end – a fact of which Tsar Nicholas II was not aware. Had the emperor
Baltic Coast. Russia agreed to undertake the offensive on France’s request, so that the French Army could focus on defending the German attack at the Marne, in north-eastern France. This offensive, which St Petersburg-based historianViktor Pravdyuk said was“fought for the sake of the allies,” ultimately cost Russia 100,000 men and ended with a defeat at the battle of Tannenberg. But at the start all seemed to be going well.The first Russian victories triggered panic at the German High Command – so much panic, in fact, that Germany pulled two corps and a cavalry division away from the Western Front to fight Russia. This was one of the reasons for the “miracle” at the Marne.
According to the late Russian-French historian Serge Andolenko, key aspects of Russia's involvement in World War I have been overlooked.
known, he likely would not have abdicated in March – an action that had a profound effect on the morale of the soldiers of the Russian Army. With no emperor, they did not know for whom they were fighting. After all, the motto of the Imperial Army was “Faith, Tsar and Fatherland”. An estimated 2 million
Russian soldiers died in World War I. Russian loss of life even surpassed French losses, which totalled about 1.4 million.“The French and Russian armies sacrificed the most for the victory, and we must keep in mind that the two armies fought in close cooperation throughout the war, each trying hard to relieve the other
and bearing the main strike of the enemy,” Pavel Andolenko said. At the end of the war, despite the Treaty of BrestLitovsk, French Marshal Ferdinand Foch wrote: “France was not erased from the map of Europe primarily owing to the courage of the Russian soldiers.”
HOW RUSSIA AND BRITAIN FOUGHT THE GERMAN NAVY rbth.com/39323
Estimated military casualties
WHEN EMPIRES WERE ALLIES
The forgotten stories of WWI's "Russian Anzacs" Elena Govor HISTORIAN
xamining the Anzac story from a Russian perspective poses challenges, as Russia was often considered an enemy of Australia. During WWI, however, Russia was an ally of the British Empire, and Russian-born servicemen were the largest national group of non-Anglo-Celtic origin in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF). More than 1000 Russian-born immigrants enlisted in the AIF, of whom more than 800 served overseas. The expression “Russian Anzacs”, which I use as an umbrella term for all these men, needs some clarifica-
Many "Russian" enlistees had been born in the Russian Empire but were not ethnically Russian
Exhibitions A museum dedicated to World War I opens near St Petersburg
New museum first of its kind in Russia Russia's first museum dedicated entirely to its involvement in World War I opened this summer in the town of Pushkin, near St Petersburg. IRINA KRUZHILINA, KATHERINE TERS SPECIAL TO RBTH
A new museum with a permanent exhibition called Russia in the Great War opened in August in the St Petersburg satellite town of Pushkin (also known as Tsarskoye Selo). The museum is housed in a striking heritage building called the Martial Chamber – a complex built in Russian Revival style as a military history museum during the final years of Tsar Nicholas II’s reign. Elena Tretyakova, widow of the brother of the founder of the Tretyakov Art Gallery in Moscow, was the museum’s founder, curator and one of its key patrons. The Martial Chamber’s
Great War Museum first opened in early 1917. But in 1919 it was closed down, and in the early years of Communist rule its exhibits were relocated or destroyed. In 2008, the building was transferred to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. This is a heritage trust which includes Catherine and Alexander’s palaces and the parks surrounding them, an area that contains more than 100 historic monuments. In preparation for the opening of the museum this year, the Martial Chamber had restoration works which took three years and cost $8 million. The museum’s collection includes clothing, military uniforms, weapons, photographs, portraits, and documents and correspondence from the period.
Probably the most striking exhibit is a model of a French Nieuport-17 fighter – a common fighter plane in WWI – which is suspended from the ceiling of one of the museum's halls. A black, yellow and white Imperial Coat of Arms flag is also part of the exhibition. Flags like this, which symbolise Imperial Russia, are a rarity these days.
Nieuport-17 is also part of the permanent exhibition
Few of them survived the Soviet period, because until World War II, being in possession of them was an offence punishable by execution. A very personal exhibit is a telegram sent by Tsar Nicholas II to German Kaiser Wilhelm II (who was his first cousin), shortly before the outbreak of hostilities. In the message, Nicholas reminded Wilhelm of their friendship, and affectionately signed the telegram “Nicky”. Ominous photographs of dogs and horses in gas masks stand out in the museum’s photo galleries. And gas masks themselves, which were developed in Russia by scientist Nikolai Zelinsky, are also on display. For further details about the museum and other attractions in Pushkin, go to tzar.ru. The town of Pushkin, just 24 kilometres from the centre of St Petersburg, is easy to get to by local train or minibus.
tion. The Russian Empire was a multinational state in which ethnic Russians comprised only half the population. And the composition of the “Russian” servicemen reflected this diversity. Many“Russian”enlistees had been born in the Russian Empire but were not ethnically Russian. What’s more, some of them had fled their native land because of religious persecution by the Russian state. But in the eyes of Australians and the Australian government, all these men were“Russian”despite their split allegiances and ethnic differences. The largest group among them, making up more than half, was of Baltic peoples: Finns, Latvians, Estonians, Baltic Germans and Lithuanians. Ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians and Poles (who had been coming to Australia in increasing numbers as labourers, canecutters and occasionally as political refugees) accounted for roughly 30 per cent. The remainder consisted of Jews, Ossetians from the Caucasus and Russian-born Western Europeans. Russian emigres had a range of reasons for enlisting in the AIF, including patriotic sentiments, pressure
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from the Russian consulate and even unemployment. Their acceptance into the famous Anzac brotherhood was often hard-won, and lack of English was one stumbling block. But it was in battles fought together that comradeship with their Australian mates was forged. Major Eliazar Margolin, a Jewish-Australian who grew up in Central Russia, never lost his thick Russian accent. While commanding the 16th Battalion in Gallipoli, Margolin fought tooth and nail for the lives of his“boys”,who lovingly dubbed him “Old Margy”– a recognition probably no less important to him than the official one acknowledging his bravery, his Distinguished Service Order. But new challenges faced Russian servicemen when Russia withdrew from the war after the 1917 Bolshevik coup. Peter Chirvin, from Sakhalin, fought at Gallipoli and on the Western front for four years, where he was wounded twice. Risking his life, he carried the wounded from the battlefield, for which he was awarded the Military Medal. He returned to Australia aboard the troopship Anchises in 1919, soon after the socalled Red Flag riots in Brisbane. When soldiers on board started abusing him, the only Russian around, as a dreaded“Bolshie”,their commanding officers knew about it but did nothing to intervene. What they regarded as“the usual teasing that most foreigners got”drove Chirvin to commit suicide aboard the ship. Integrating the Russian Anzacs into Australian life after the war was no easy process either. Australian women were the first to brave ethnic differences in marrying these strangers. But like many of their Australian mates, these men rarely told their families about their experiences at war. Sometimes their silence went deeper, with them not even telling their children about their background. In some cases, children only learned that their father had been born in the Russian Empire when they applied for a passport.This was the case for Pamela, daughter of Norman Myer, a lieutenant on the Western Front and heir of the Myer Emporium. These men had burnt their bridges with their homeland because they had no wish to be associated with the new Bolshevik Russia.
CEASEFIRE ONLY THE FIRST STEP
Fyodor Lukyanov COMMENTATOR
he ceasefire in the east of Ukraine is a longawaited step that has put an end to brutal and pointless bloodshed. However, it has not brought the sides closer to an agreed solution, and the political process ahead is likely to be very difficult. Post-ceasefire, the first stage, after exchanging prisoners, will be to fix who controls what and delineate areas of responsibility. Because in the eyes of international law the territory of Ukraine is under Kiev’s jurisdiction, while the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics do not have a recognised status, the agreement requires goodwill primarily from the Ukrainian side. Goodwill in this case implies the recognition that real control over part of the country has been lost, which is, of course, not easy and may trigger serious upheavals in Kiev. After the demarcation, there comes the question of control over the line of contact. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has been
TENSIONS CONTINUE IN THE CAUCASUS
involved in the political process from the very start. It would be logical for it to take on the monitoring function. To do that, it will need a mandate, so one can expect a heated debate at OSCE headquarters in Vienna as to the powers and make-up of the relevant mission. Next, talks about the status of the regions should begin. Needless to say, state-
without Donbass Ukraine has more chance of establishing a stable national statehood first arose even before the latest round of hostilities. So Kiev too may opt for freezing the situation. The authorities of the selfproclaimed republics now face the task of establishing administrative structures that should be grounded in some legitimacy. Therefore, there
Statements made for the benefit of the public usually appear rather uncompromising
Other frozen conflicts have shown it's very difficult to reinstate control that has been de facto lost
ments made for the benefit of the public appear rather uncompromising, while behind closed doors a more nuanced discussion is possible. Other frozen conflicts – be it in the Dniester region, in Abkhazia or in South Ossetia – have shown that it is very difficult to reinstate control that has been de facto lost. That is why, in order to secure Ukraine’s territorial integrity, extra efforts and a creative approach to autonomy rights are needed. In addition, the idea that
must be elections and, consequently, political parties taking part in them. At present, there are no striking leaders in eastern Ukraine who would enjoy unquestioned authority. As well, an autocratic model of governance is unlikely to go down well with the residents of the region. It seems likely that, as in other similar conflicts, the role of “veterans” (members and leaders of armed groups), will be significant. For instance, in Karabakh and Ab-
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khazia, elite military veterans from the conflict ended up exerting strong influence over the political leadership that emerged. Russia faces a difficult choice because moral and financial responsibility for the territories that have de facto separated from Ukraine lies with Moscow. Obviously, economic assistance in rebuilding Donbass will follow, but the lack of agreement on the status makes any investment there risky. An ideal scenario for Russia, it seems, would be a united Ukraine in which there is considerable autonomy for Donetsk and Lugansk, and guarantees ensuring their rights and freedoms. Furthermore, with these regions remaining part of Ukraine, it would create a certain lever of influence on domestic Ukrainian politics. However, such an agreement seems unlikely. As regards the European Union (EU), which has contributed to the crisis considerably, its priority task will probably be a search for partners in the task of rebuilding Ukraine. In other words, somebody to share the financial burden. Europe has realised that without Russia’s assistance, the task of restoring Ukraine will be unmanageable. So once the truce is signed the Europeans will be searching for ways of interacting with Moscow in order to reduce the economic pressure on Kiev. The outcome of that is not clear since at the same time the EU speaks of tougher sanctions against Russia, which clearly is not conducive to an atmosphere of mutual trust. The most destructive position will belong to the US, which views the Ukrainian crisis largely through the prism of its own strategic interests in Europe and the goal of containing Russia. The events of 2014 have shown that there are fundamental processes still continuing in the former Soviet Union. They will affect the borders and the national consciousness of different peoples as well as the geopolitical balance of powers. The fate of eastern Ukraine is just one piece of a big and complicated future picture, which at this stage we can only guess at. The author is chairman of the board of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council.
WELL, MR PUTIN, WHAT ABOUT WHATABOUTISM? Ivan Tsvetkov SPECIAL TO RUSSIA DIRECT
aving evolved steadily throughout the history of RussianUS relations, whataboutism – a propaganda tool deployed by Soviet politicians and journalists – has become the Kremlin’s favourite response to the moralism that has been increasingly characterising American foreign policy. So what is whataboutism? The term was originally coined by Edward Lucas, when he was writing for The Economist in 2008. He reminded readers of a ploy frequently used by Soviet propagandists who, in response to US criticisms, would simply come back with the question: “But what about you?” In doing so, Soviet leaders were able to shift discussions to other topics, such as racial discrimination or the war in Vietnam. In 2008 Lucas said that Russia was again increasingly resorting to whataboutism, citing a quote by Alexei Pushkov, head of the foreign-affairs committee in the State Duma, who said on Russian TV: “How can you accuse us of sabre-rattling when you yourselves are using such weapons in Iraq?” And since that time, reasoning in the spirit of whataboutism seems to have become one of the most irrefutable methods of debate in contemporary Russia. Certainly in Russian state media you would be hardpressed to find a commentator on the West who doesn’t spend a fair amount of airtime or column inches savouring the problems and foreign policy failures of the US and Europe. Russian state media’s English-language television station RT (formerly Russia Today) also frequently employs this tactic, which is why any crisis in the US always boosts RT’s ratings. After all, many people openly rejoice at the failures of the US. Whataboutism is also a fa-
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vourite rhetorical device of PresidentVladimir Putin and his speechwriters. From Putin's famous speech in Munich in 2007, at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy, to recent statements on the Ukraine crisis and Crimea, Putin has increasingly justified his controversial political steps by juxtaposing them with the behaviour of Washington and Brussels. How does one explain the resurgence of this old Soviet propaganda tool? After all, it is no secret that it has long been recognised as an absurd-
Have Russians ... lost the ability to see cheap propaganda tricks for what they are? ity – a primitive argument which avoids taking responsibility by simply changing the topic. Even in the USSR, people poked fun at the efforts of propagandists, joking that in response to a question from Washington about poor living conditions in Russia, Moscow’s reply would be: “But you lynch blacks.” But today in Russia, each new example of whataboutism is usually greeted with enthusiastic applause. So what happened? Have Russians, together with their political elites and intelligentsia, lost the ability to see cheap propaganda tricks for what they are? Or is something going on that is prompting Russians to prioritise external events over domestic disorder? Dr Ivan Tsvetkov is an associate professor at the School of International Relations at St Petersburg State University. He is an expert in US policy in the Asia Pacific Region, US history and contemporary US society.
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REASONS TO STUDY RUSSIAN
Sergei Tseytlin TRANSLATOR
anguage is fundamental in international diplomacy. After all, a slightly inaccurate translation can change the way one country views another, and a single misrepresentation of a concept can have drastic effects on negotiations and can significantly distort international perceptions. On Sunday August 31, PresidentVladimir Putin gave an interview on Russian television about the crisis in Ukraine. Part of his response included the following sentence: “We must immediately begin substantive, meaningful negotiations, not on technical questions, but on the political organisation of society and the gosudarstvennost of Ukraine’s south-east, to secure the unconditional legal interests of the people who live there.” I left the word in italics untranslated intentionally. The Russian word gosudarstvennost was translated by practically all English-language media as “statehood”. While this translation is not entirely incorrect, it is not precise, especially in the context in which Putin used it. In this way, translating the word as they did proved to be misleading. Gosudarstvennost is the noun form of the adjective gosudarstvennii (meaning “governmental” or “of the state or nation”), which in turn derives from the word gosudarstvo, meaning “government” or “state/nation”. In the two most quoted
20th-century Russian dictionaries (Ushakov and Ozhegov), as well as in the most popular 21st-century Yefremova dictionary, gosudarstvennost signifies a government or state system; a government or state organisation; or simply political order. In Russian, therefore, the word gosudarstvennost can mean two things: first, the organisation of a government, its effectiveness or viability – in short, governance; or second, the organisation of a state or nation and its statehood. The fact that this word does have two meanings prompted Russian journalists to ask the Kremlin to clarify Putin’s statement. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov then explained that Putin was not talking about the statehood of south-eastern Ukraine. He clarified that he was talking about inclusive negotiations, that would involve all parties in the conflict and take into consideration everyone’s interests, and that would lead to order in and the stabilisation of the region. This was something that Putin had already discussed with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as part of what Putin said had to be a peaceful solution to the crisis. Nevertheless, the Englishlanguage media chose to translate the word in this context as “statehood”, not as “governance”or as “governmental organisation”. Statehood means the status of being recognised as an independent nation. Therefore, by using the term to translate Putin’s words, the media conveyed the meaning
PRECISION IS LOST IN TRANSLATION
that Russia’s president was supporting independence for the Donbass – which he wasn’t. Even after Peskov clarified the matter, and that clarification was reported by the English-language media, headlines still read: “Putin talks about statehood for eastern Ukraine,” “Putin urges statehood talks on eastern Ukraine”,“Putin urges Kiev to enter statehood talks for south-east Ukraine” and so on. The NewYork Times called Putin’s expression “a vague and provocative turn of phrase”. But if it were meant to be vague and provocative, why would the presidential spokesman immediately clarify what had been said, making it perfectly clear that Putin had not meant state-
The Russian word gosudarstvennost was translated by English-language media as "statehood" Misunderstandings are common when information is translated from one language to another
hood in the sense of an independent state? Misunderstandings are common when information has been translated from one language to another. And the “Donbass statehood” issue is not the first case of a Western misreading of a Russian statement. To be fair, the Russian media, like the media elsewhere, also often comes out with inexact interpretations of statements. For the media, however, this was not such a major problem. Little slips like this will not have any effect on a publication’s image, readership or finances. It is the end-user, the seeker of accurate and untainted information, who has to bear the brunt of inexactness. It is the reader seeking truth who will have to settle for a half-truth or for an inaccu-
Tim Lewin BRITISH CONSUL
hen my father, British defence supremo Admiral Sir Terry Lewin, was asked in 1982 about the impending crisis with Argentina that dominated the days immediately before the invasion of the Falklands, his response was: “I cannot believe two civilised countries could settle such a difference by anything but negotiation.” How easily that could have
been repeated about Russia and Ukraine now. Much has been said about the origins of what is essentially a family dispute – most only marginally accurate. Sadly, the real truth, the human cost of the failure in relations between these neighbours, seems to have been buried by the propaganda snowstorm of apportioning guilt. As with most family disputes, resolution can only come from within, and so far, we see little genuine desire to restore any degree of crossborder harmony. Many in both countries still
find it hard to accept that Russia and Ukraine are no longer joined at the hip. But until this year, the borders between these countries remained open, families freely visited relatives on the other side of the border, trade was unhindered, and Russians invested in Ukraine. But unfortunately, political maturity has not blossomed, and this is the fundamental tragedy that is extending the agony for people whose lives are being destroyed daily. The old ties between eastern Ukraine and Russia cut both ways; stoking the sepa-
A FAMILY ARGUMENT THAT WILL END WITH EVERYONE A LOSER ration angst of the militants and also providing a lifeline for the main part of the population caught up in a war they do not support. According to the UN, 730,000 people have been displaced and have sought refuge in Russia. To escape the violence at home, some are staying with family, others with old friends. The rest are staying anywhere that will accept them.
Eventually this undeclared civil war will be resolved. It will fade to a footnote in the history of the break-up of the USSR. But at what price to the people? More than 2000 civilians have now been killed in eastern Ukraine – that could be up to 2000 families that will never forget this internecine madness. Homes, possessions and
rate understanding of a fact or situation. A reader may ask: is there an objective, impartial and completely trustworthy source of information? Where can we find out what was really said, and what was implied? But it seems that obtaining accurate information is a major challenge in international relations today. Sergei Tseytlin is a freelance writer and translator who was born in Moscow and grew up in New York. He has been living in Italy for the past 16 years. His stories and essays have been published in magazines in London, Moscow andVenice. His collection of stories The Venetian Notebook and Other Stories and his novel Bragadin have been published in Italy.
modest comforts have been destroyed, businesses damaged, the local economies ruined, in a pointless orgy of violence. There is no insurance; no one to help pick up the pieces. People who lived in these shattered little towns now live in tents, schools, stadiums, wherever they can find shelter. Not a problem while summer is still with us, but in 90 days, the cruelty of winter – remember Napoleon’s defeat – will return. Temperatures will drop to double figures below zero, and snow will cover everything. How will these people live under those conditions? This is a disaster from which there will be no winners. Tim Lewin is an organiser and consultant for major financial, cultural and arts projects in Russia and Ukraine. He is also Britain's Honorary Consul for development in Crimea
DOES RUSSIA HAVE ITS OWN LOCH NESS MONSTER? travel.rbth.com/129
CONSERVATION LAKE BAIKAL RUSSIA’S FEDERAL AND REGIONAL GOVERNMENTS ARE WORKING TO
NEW PROGRAM AIMS TO CLEAN UP THE LAKE GLEB FEDOROV RBTH
Marina Rachel, a young geologist from the US, found out from one of her teachers at Oberlin College, Ohio, where she graduated this year, that the Bolshaya Baikalskaya Tropa (Great Baikal Trail) environmental organisation was taking volunteers from all over the world. Rachel’s teacher helped her get a grant to go, and for the second month now, together with other Baikal conservationists, she has been working to improve walking tracks around the lake, as well as assisting in the development of ecological and cultural tourism. During the 11 years of Bolshaya Baikalskaya Tropa’s existence, the organisation has recruited nearly 5000 volunteer helpers from Russia and 30 other countries. They have built and repaired 600 kilometres of walking tracks and have implemented dozens of projects. These last on average for two weeks, and are not necessarily related directly to conservation. But the co-chair of the Baikalskaya Ekologicheskaya Volna (The Baikal Environmental Wave), Marina Rikhvanova, told RBTH that while thes volunteer programs are helpful, she doesn’t think they can significantly improve the lake’s ecological problems.
New federal program for Baikal Since 2010, Lake Baikal has become a major environmental project for the Russian government. In addition to the federal law on the protection of the lake in August 2012, a large-scale federal program called The Protec-
tion of Lake Baikal and the Socio-economic Development of the Baikal Nature Reserve for 2012-2020 was adopted. Under this program, there have been some encouraging initiatives. One example is that regulations are being adopted to limit pollution levels from cities surrounding Baikal. Another is that there will be a reassessment of major pollution sources that are affecting the lake. The results of environmental monitoring are also being published on the website baikalake.ru. There are also plans to build six plants for industrial-waste processing by 2020. These will help clean up about 80 per cent of the contaminated areas around the lake. Under the federal program this year, the Buryatia, Irkutsk and Zabaikal regions are being allocated $18.5 million) for Baikal-related projects. Buryatia will use its $8.5 million) to build a sewage treatment plant in Kiakhta and a solid waste landfill in the village of Zaigraevo. In the Irkutsk region, the sewage treatment plant on the Angara River will be repaired and a new sewage plant will be built in the town of Shelekhov.
The Baikal Paper and Pulp Mill (PPM) The biggest industrial polluter of Lake Baikal to date has been the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill (PPM). The mill was built on the shore of the lake in the 1960s, and according to Greenpeace-Russia’s website, it was outdated even back then. The problem was the mill’s production technology did not allow for the bleached pulp product, which happened to be the mill’s main product, to be produced without the intake of Baikal water. Until 2008, the PPM again was taking in 200,000 cubic metres of clean water per day and
releasing that water after it had been used in the processing. When the plant was forced to move to a closedwater cycle, however, production became unprofitable and was stopped. Since the PPM was a major employer in the town of Baikalsk, thousands of jobs were in jeopardy. The mill didn’t operate in 2009, but in January, 2010, Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened, allowing the mill to resume production using its old ecologically damaging technology. But water and soil samples from 2011 and 2012 once showed high levels of chemicals from where the mill was releasing water, so the plant was forced to close down and repurpose.
Now the main problem for the PPM is the 6 million tonnes of toxic sludge (lignin), which has accumulated on two of the mill’s sites since the 1960s. The lignin waste was not contained and now the groundwater where it was stored is contaminated. One of the landfills, the Sozansky, is 300 metres from Lake Baikal’s shoreline. Potential risks to the lake’s ecology are heightened by the fact that the mill is in a seismic zone. A plan for the disposal of the mill’s toxic waste is outlined as part of the federal program.
According to Rikhvanova, tonnes of liquid waste are dumped into the lake illegally, because “since from the time of the Soviet era, the settlements around the lake have had virtually no sewage treatment plants.” “If years ago, it was harmless, because the population around Lake Baikal was small, the problem grew due to the appearance of tourists and the construction of tourist facilities,” she said. There is one place, Chivirkuisky Bay, where 160 tonnes of faeces washes into the waters in summertime. This year, the pollution led to blooms of species of green algae (Spirogyra and Elodea Canadian) which are not typical for Baikal.
Untreated sewage The second biggest pollution source in Lake Baikal is untreated sewage.
Rikhvanova said that the lake has very few sewage plants for treating liquid waste, and that many just dump their waste into the lake or tributaries. This problem can, however, be overcome if all the projects that were announced in the federal program are able to be implemented, she said. As the site of the Environmental Monitoring of Lake Baikal website reports, even the water near spa resorts is being polluted, and pathogenic bacteria has been found in waste water from resorts. Marina Rachel will stay at Lake Baikal until December. And in her opinion, away from settlements, the lake’s water was so pure that she drank it.
Irkutsk Historic city is more than just a jumping-off point for trips to Lake Baikal
Plenty to see in the 'Paris of Siberia' Irkutsk is one of Siberia’s biggest cities. Considering its isolated location, it's a pretty cosmopolitan place, with plenty for visitors to see. ANNA GRIBKOVA SPECIAL TO RBTH
Pre-revolution, Irkutsk was called the “Paris of Siberia”. Aesthetically the comparison is a stretch, but it does highlight the fact that from the first half of the 19th century until 1917 the city was an important cultural and social centre for exiled elites in Siberia. As well as having its share of architectural and historical attractions (685 historical and cultural monuments, to be exact), Irkutsk is a jumping-off point for trips and tours to Lake Baikal.
A highlight of Irkutsk is the city’s wooden houses, made from pine or cedar logs, with intricate hand-carved window shutters and decorations. Most of these gingerbreadlike houses, which date back to the first half of the 19th century, are privately owned. In the city’s 130th district, a cluster of them has been given official heritage status and as part of a state initiative, the houses in it were restored in 2012. From Irkutsk, one of the most accessible tourist spots on Baikal is the village of Listvyanka, at the mouth of the Angara River, 60 kilometres to the south-east of the city. The road from Irkutsk to Listvyanka winds through scenic forest and takes about
The deepest lake in the world is going through hard times, in a large part because of the impact of tourism and the illegal dumping of sewage.
© RIA NOVOSTI
SOLVE THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS OF RUSSIA'S BIGGEST LAKE
Irkutsk was once the Siberian cultural centre for exiled elites.
90 minutes by bus. Listvyanka has B&Bs, restaurants and a fish market. It can get crowded and dirty in summer, but there are walking paths that will take you to the north of the village, where there are quieter and cleaner beaches. In summer in Listvyanka, you can rent mountain bikes, horses or take raft tours. While in winter, you can ski or try dog-sledding. On the road to Listvyanka,
50 kilometres out of Irkutsk, is the Taltsy Museum of Architecture and Ethnography – an outdoor museum that has more than 40 traditional dwellings and 8000 historical artefacts. Taltsy showcases traditional ways of life in Siberia, with a focus on indigenous Buryat culture. In the museum's cafe, you can also sample traditional delicacies such as stuffed pike and cowberry (lingonberry) tarts.
NEW HYPOTHESES ABOUT THE YAMAL PENINSULA HOLES
Most of the private houses around Baikal don't have a sewage system (1). The Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill is closed, but has contaminated soil near the lake (2). Ecologists regularly test water quality (3) and say that the water is still clean away from settlements. Illegal fishing of the endangered omul fish is also posing an ecological threat to Baikal (4).
NATURAL WONDER World's oldest and deepest freshwater lake is in a league of its own
The sun shines on the many faces of beautiful Baikal The unique geophysical and ecological features of Lake Baikal make it one of Russia's most remarkable natural sights. DARYA GONZALEZ RBTH
The wooden boat we’re on gently rocks on the lake’s waves. Overhead is a perfect azure sky, broken only by the sculpted wings of swallows. Peering over the side of the boat, I can see through 35 metres of crystal-clear water, which then runs into a darkness that is teeming with fish
and rare plants.You could be forgiven for thinking you were out at sea, if it were not for the conspicuous absence of a salty tang in the air. Locals say that Baikal’s water, which is rich in oxygen, has curative properties. But in winter, its surface becomes like heavy-duty glass. The ice is so thick that you can drive on it. During the 1904 RussoJapanese war, railway lines were laid over the lake and carried 65 steam engines and 2300 loaded wagons, . Lake Baikal is at the heart
MOSCOW BY NIGHT
AFTER SUNSET, THE RUSSIAN CAPITAL IS A DIFFERENT PLACE. COOL BREEZES DRIFT IN FROM THE RIVER AND THOUSANDS OF LIGHTS ILLUMINATE THE CITY’S MANY PARKS. TAKE ONE OF THESE NIGHTTIME TOURS TO SEE MOSCOW FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE.
VISIT RUSSIA The Visit Russia tour company offers night tours of Moscow by car or minivan with a personal guide. The three-hour tours are A$92 and cover sites outside the city centre, such as the Moscow City business district, as well as the capital’s best-known monuments. The tour includes a visit to Sparrow Hills and the main building of Moscow State University, where visitors can get an unforgettable look at the city from a special a viewing platform. visitrussia.com
of Asia, while sitting roughly on the same latitude as Moscow and London. It is 445 metres above sea level, while the lake's bottom descends to almost 1200 metres below sea level. Locked within the massif of the Baikal mountains, from north to south, the lake runs for 636 kilometres. If all the rivers on Earth were to flow into Baikal, it would take a year to fill it. Baikal is also a world unto itself, populated by an estimated 2600 species of plants, animals and microorganisms
CITY DISCOVERY For more adventurous travelers and lovers of urban legends, City Discovery offers a night walking tour through the secret tunnels of Metro-2, the KGB prison, and the infamous “middle of nowhere.” Participants will ride on a night tram, see Moscow’s “zero kilometre” and visit Khitrovka, the center of crime in early 20th-century Moscow. Adult tickets are A$36. city-discovery.com/ moscow
Two-thirds of local species cannot be found in any other body of water on the planet – two-thirds of them not found in any other body of water on the planet. Geophysicists estimate that Baikal was formed about 25-30 million years ago, which would make it the world’s oldest lake. But scientists have found no signs that the lake is deteriorating
with age, which leads them to hypothesise that Baikal may be a nascent ocean. The Verkhovik (the local name for the north wind) blows across the lake from the River Angara valley – a sign that warmer weather is on its way to the lake’s northern bank. But while the north shore is bathed in sunshine, when the Verkhovik is blowing, there will be storms in the south of Baikal. When this happens, the lake’s shoreline is lashed by almost four-metre waves, and brown bears abandon the
CITY SIGHTSEEING MOSCOW Moscow’s traffic jams are not severe after dark, making it easier to drive through the city streets on City Sightseeing Moscow’s “Moscow Never Sleeps” double-decker bus tour. Buses depart from Red Square every day between 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. The hour-long sightseeing trip is an excellent way to see the major sights of Moscow’s historic center. Adult tickets for the hop-on-hop-off tour are A$25 and are valid for 24 hours. city-sightseeing.com
All of these tours are in English, but tours in other languages are available upon request
TOURS BY LOCALS The Moscow branch of Tours by Locals offers a variety of night tours of the capital, for groups (up to A$265 for up to 8 people) or individuals. The average length of a trip is three hours, but the route is entirely dependent on the wishes of the participants. Every Tours by Locals guide is ready to offer a unique route through the city. toursbylocals.com/ night-moscow
shores to take refuge in the surrounding pinewood forests. Yet the Baikal region is one of the sunniest in the whole of Russia. The lakeside village of Bolshoe Goloustnoe, for example, clocks up 2583 hours of sunshine a year. Our helmsman says: “Baikal’s got many faces.You can’t see all of it on one trip. Some people remember it as peaceful and calm, while others think of the granite cliffs and waves the size of walls. “It’s a matter of luck. But locals say you’re lucky even if you only see Baikal once.”
MOSGUIDES Night Tours in Moscow from Mosguides offer a variety of routes and schedules. The participants themselves determine the duration of the tour and the company’s guides can book at table at a special restaurant or club in advance. Tours can be taken on foot, by car or by boat. Price and schedule of tours available upon request. en.mosguides.ru/ moscow/night
T R AV E L 2 M O S C O W. C O M
THE SHIFTING HISTORY OF BUDDHISTS IN RUSSIA rbth.com/39419
GULAG The moving stories of women's experiences in Soviet prison camps have been preserved in many memoirs
The experiences of female prisoners come under the spotlight in Women of the Gulag.
Women of Gulag shine a light on the dark side Memoirs by women prisoners of the Gulag are not very well known. But these stories give readers new glimpses into this unforgettable era in Soviet history. PHOEBE TAPLIN SPECIAL TO RBTH
Accounts of life in the labour camps across the Soviet Union include stories of rape and prostitution, dead babies and brutal interrogations. But besides the horrors, there are also surprising and inspiring tales of love and friendship, resilience and resourcefulness. These extremes are shown in vivid detail in books written by women who survived the labour camps. GULAG was originally an
acronym meaning Main Camp Administration, but it has come to mean the whole system of imprisonment and forced labour that Stalin expanded in 1929, and which grew until his death in 1953. Anne Applebaum, in her comprehensive book Gulag: A History, estimates that between these dates “some 18 million people passed through this massive system” with millions more compelled to migrate. Conditions were terrible; the death rate was high. But “in the end,” writes Applebaum, “statistics can never fully describe what happened.”We can only begin to comprehend the suffering behind the numbers by reading the accounts of survivors.
Tamara Petkevich spent seven years in labour camps. In her autobiographical Memoir of a Gulag Actress, she mentions a former NKVD (security services) official who ended up in prison.
Applebaum estimates that some 18 million people passed through the Gulag system. “The bloodiest page of our history had firmly projected itself onto the aggravated consciousness of this functionary,”Petkevich writes. He wanders about muttering deranged decrees for shootings, exile or the arrest of “all the
women of Moscow,” and finally runs amok with an axe, hacking off limbs as“streams of blood gushed everywhere”. A female doctor eventually stops him by asking in a commanding voice:“Where’s the verdict? When did the court confer?”This crazy episode functions as a metaphor for a senseless era. Eugenia Ginzburg, a professor in Kazan, spent 18 years in the Soviet prison camp system. Her memoir, Into the Whirlwind, describes the mundane details that underlie the horror – like washing her bra over the slop bucket, or darning it with fishbone needles “extracted from the evening’s stew”. As though it were nothing remarkable, she writes about
the moment when a peaceful, easygoing woman called Nadya collapses on the frozen ground, one“purple evening in Kolyma” in arctic Siberia. The guard prods her with his rifle and shouts at her to get up, until one of the prisoners points out that she is dead. Crushed by the dreary life in labour camps, some women found ways to exchange sexual favours with the camp officials for better food and living conditions. Doing this often resulted hostility from fellow prisoners. “His blue, frostbitten hands with their crooked fingers stretched out towards me,” writes Ginzburg. When she is offered money for sex, she comments wryly that she has previously encountered the question of prostitution only as a social problem or a theatrical device. The memoirists were mostly arrested for political reasons under the infamous Article 58 of the penal code – originally introduced in 1927 to sanction the arrest of those suspected of counterrevolutionary activities but which came to include a broader range of political crimes. Labelled as a“daughter of an enemy of the people,” the beautiful Petkevich was arrested in her early 20s in 1943. The target of frequent sexual assaults, she describes how mothers were separated from their children, and recalls one prisoner stripping herself naked and “cursing and swearing that she was pregnant again and that they had to let her stay.” The guards take her to the punishment block, “from where her screams reached us for a long time afterward.” Against all the odds, some of the stories that emerge from the Gulag transcend savagery. Orlando Figes, in his moving epistolary history Just Send Me Word, documented the relationship between Lev and Sveta after Lev is imprisoned. Sveta risked everything to visit Lev, and to send him life-saving necessities. Their 1500 letters to each
other are a tribute to the human spirit. The most famous Gulag friendship is that between Ariadna Efron, daughter of the poet Marina Tsvetaeva, and Ada Federolf, whose memoirs are published together in one volume called Unforced Labors. Efron wrote in a letter that her relationship with Federolf had “weathered the test of 10 years of living in conditions, the difficulty of which you, thankfully, can barely imagine.” Federolf describes her delight at meeting“Alya”again after a separation: “There it is, prisoners’ happiness, the happiness of simply meeting a person.” Several memoirs describe the use of coded tapping to communicate between cells. When Ginzburg finally decodes her neighbour’s patiently repeated “greetings” she can“sense his joy”through the stone slabs of the wall.
For Ginzberg, "there are no more fervent friendships than those made in prison." For Ginzburg,“there are no more fervent friendships than those made in prison”. Literature also became a lifeline. Ginzburg recites Russian poetry, composes and memorises her own poems. Petkevich, who became an actress, first with a theatre ensemble collective which toured the camps and eventually in the outside world, often comments on the power of art. The story she recites becomes“more powerful than my own suffering”. At a prison camp concert, “the entire hall was sobbing ... we had forgotten what music sounded like.” Applebaum writes about the crucial importance of understanding“the darker side of our own human nature”. Each story and memoir, she insists,“is a piece of the puzzle.” Without them, “we will wake up one day and realise that we do not know who we are.”
New ﬁlm honours Gulag women
million people – it is estimated – went through Russia's Gulag system, from 1929 to 1960 (although other estimates put the figure at 15 million). After 1960, the penal system was reformed.
1.5 million people are estimated to have died in the Gulag. The figure is approximate, as records were only released in the 1980s and contained contradictions.
Women were held in women camps, which sometimes were places near men camps.
Two years after completing a Kickstarter campaign to fund their documentary Women of the Gulag, director Marianna Yarovskaya and historian Paul Gregory are now finishing the film's production. Their idea grew out of Gregory’s seminar on totalitarian regimes at Stanford University. Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, which conducts interviews with the last Holocaust survivors, was discussed as part of the seminar, which gave Yarovskaya, an American of Russian descent, the idea of filming Gulag survivors. Yarovskaya said that thinking about the way the holocaust and its
victims are remembered, she realised that in Russia, despite the substantial impact the Gulag epoch had on Russian history, there was not a single major museum or monument to honour its victims in the centre of Moscow. Gregory brought to the project the idea of honing in on women Gulag victims and survivors. A professor of economics at the University of Houston, as well as the director of the Hoover Archives Workshop on Totalitarian Regimes, Gregory is the author of the book Women of the Gulag, which tells the stories of some of the same women that are in the film.
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Heritage President Putin floats the idea of rebuilding two medieval monasteries inside Moscow's most famous walls
Russian President Vladimir Putin is advocating demolishing a Soviet-era building in the Kremlin, and in its place, rebuilding two medieval monasteries. DMITRIY ROMENDIK RBTH EDITOR FOR CULTURE
The word Kremlin translates as ‘fortress,’ and Moscow's iconic Kremlin is a large complex, adjacent to Red Square, dating back to the twelfth century. The walls and towers of today's Kremlin were built from 1485 to 1516. Inside the fortress walls, there are five palaces and four cathedrals. Building 14 is a relatively recent addition to the Kremlin ensemble, and this might be why Putin recently suggested, rather than restoring the building, returning the site back to its original state by rebuilding two medieval monasteries that were there before the 1930s. “I’m not insisting,” Putin said. “It’s just an idea.” His idea has sparked debate about whether the project would damage the Kremlin’s architectural integrity and whether the monasteries could be properly rebuilt. Designed in 1934 by archi-
tect Ivan Rerberg, building number 14 replaced the Chudov and the Ascension monasteries, which were demolished in 1929 and 1930 respectively. Many religious buildings were demolished in Russia at that time, as part of the Soviet government’s efforts to remove Orthodox places of worship and religious iconography – which were thought to be incompatible with the ideology of the new state. Building 14 has had a short, but rich history. In the '30s, it housed a military college, and later the offices of the Secretariat of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. In 1991, then-president Mikhail Gorbachev allocated part of the building to Boris Yeltsin, who shortly after, was elected president of the Russian Federation. After that, it was used as office space for presidential staff. But in 2011, Putin initiated a renovation of the whole building, and the 500 staffers who worked there were moved to offices in another part of Moscow. Originally the move was going to be temporary, but now that is in doubt. In itself, the proposed dem-
Kremlin in line for a monastic makeover
Moscow's historic Kremlin, which dates to the twelfth century, is UNESCO World Heritage listed.
olition has not aroused any particular objections – after all, the building is not heritage listed. But some say that the overall appearance of the Kremlin – which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List – may suffer if it is demolished. Viktor Khrekov, a spokesperson for the Office of Presidential Affairs, said in early August that the decision to demolish the building had been put on hold and that an agreement with UNESCO would need to be negotiated for it to go ahead. Rustam Rakhmatullin, coordinator at Arhnadzor – a voluntary non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of historic monuments in Moscow – said this August he did not think there was enough information available for the monasteries
to be authentically rebuilt, citing the fact that the architectural plans had not been preserved, for example. The Chudov and Ascension monasteries were among Russia’s most ancient; they were founded in 1365 and 1386. However, they were destroyed and rebuilt several times, and t h e i r d e s i g n t h e re fo re changed over time. A number of architects have supported the idea of restoring the monasteries based on the many photographs that have been preserved. “This is totally realistic and there’s nothing difficult about it – after all, the resemblance doesn’t need to be perfect,” said Vice President of the Union of Architects of Moscow, Alexei Bavykin. Khrekov said that even if UNESCO approved the demolition of the building, con-
struction of the monasteries would not begin immediately: "If an agreement is reached with UNESCO, we’ll organise a discussion between experts from the Union of Architects, the organisations for the protection of monuments, and the Kremlin museum,”he said. There have also been discussions recently about opening up more of the Kremlin to the public. The idea has been proposed at a time when more bureaucrats have been moved to offices outside the complex. Currently, only the president, his protocol staff and Russia’s Federal Security Service work within the site. During the time of the Russian Empire, the Kremlin was open to the public, and former Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev also opened it for a while, from 1955.
According to the Kremlin’s news service, the mayor has suggested to Putin that the Kremlin's Spasskaya tower be opened to the public. This is the complex’s main tower, and it has a passage through the Kremlin’s eastern wall. Opening the tower would mean that visitors could freely walk around some of the Kremlin’s grounds. For many years, the public, however, have only been able to get inside the Kremlin through Kutafya tower. Kremlin Commandant Sergei Khlebnikov recently said that the section between the Borovitskaya and Tainitskaya towers would soon be open to the public, and that part of the Kremlin’s grounds would have its urban planning status changed from being a sensitive area to a tourist zone. This would obviously open up new heritage sites for visitors. Historically, the Kremlin was the residence of the Russian tsars until Peter the Great, when the capital was moved to the newly founded St Petersburg, in the north. After the revolution, though, the Kremlin again became the centre of government, and since then every head of state has had a residence in the Kremlin grounds. Putin is known for spending more of his time at his house outside Moscow, in Novo-Ogarevo, on the banks of the Moscow River. One little known fact about the Kremlin is that it has only been red since 1947, when Stalin ordered that its white paint be cleaned off. The Kremlin walls and towers were built using red bricks; it only started being painted white during the time of the Russian Empire.
KREMLIN SITES THAT WE'LL NEVER SEE Alexander II monument AGAIN This statue of Tsar Alexander II - who was also known as "Tsar Liberator" - was unveiled in 1898. It stood in the Kremlin Garden, under a small shelter, with a
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LORI/LEGION MEDIA (3)
hipped roof. The shelter also had mosaic portraits of past rulers of the Russian state. In 1918, the statue was removed by the Communists as a symbol of Imperial Russia, and has not been rebuilt.
The Church of the Annunciation in the Rye Yard The beautiful onion-domed Church of the Annunciation in the Rye Yard was rebuilt from 1730 to 1731. It was built in stone
and annexed to the rear of the Kremlin's Annunciation Tower, which served as the Kremlin’s belfry. The Soviet government demolished the church in 1933 and redeveloped the site.
The Small Nikolaevsky Palace This palace used to form the corner of the Kremlin where Ivanovsky Square intersects Spasskaya Street. Emperor Alexander II was born here
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in 1818. And in 1826, Tsar Nicholas I and poet Alexander Pushkin had a famous conversation here after Pushkin was brought back from exile. The palace was demolished in 1929.
The Church of the Saviour Founded in 1330, the Church of the Savior in the Pine Forest stood between the Grand Kremlin and Terem palaces. It was demolished by Stalin in 1932-
1933 to make way for an annex with buffets and smoking rooms for Communist Party congress delegates. The site is now occupied by a fivestorey extension to the Grand Kremlin Palace.
Tainitski Tower's machicolation The historical machicolations of Tainitski Tower were used to defend the Kremlin's gates, drinking well and underground passage.
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On the platform inside, cannons were installed and fired every day at noon, and on public holidays there were firework displays from here. It was demolished, however, in 1930.
THE SOVIET DIET COOKBOOK rbth.com/39519
Cooking Children who have found new homes in the US return to the recipes of Russia
Adopted kids given a taste of their country of birth
Adopted children enjoying their trips back to Russia, where they get the chance to learn about traditional cooking.
RBTH food writer Anna Kharzeeva describes her moving experiences teaching adopted Russian children who live in the US about traditional Russian cooking. ANNA KHARZEEVA SPECIAL TO RBTH
A year ago I was asked to run a cooking class for Russian children who have been adopted into American families. The children were coming back to Russia to learn something about their heritage. I was fascinated by the idea and found the experience of cooking with them very emotional, as I tried to imagine what their lives might have been like had they not been adopted. The children were mostly teenagers, but some were between 7 and 10 years old. To look at them, you would never have known they were Russian: they had American accents, smiles and attitudes. Some of them had Russian faces, but none could speak or read Russian. Adoptive families often find it difficult to maintain the language, even if the child is adopted at 7 or 8 years old. Some fam-
ilies are in rural areas, where Russian isn’t spoken anywhere nearby. Most of the children I taught had been adopted as babies, though, so English was their first language. This year, a new group arrived, and together we made some Russian food. This time I got to talk to them about their trips and the company that organises them, Adoptive Family Travel – The Ties Program. The company was started 20 years ago by Rebecca Piper, an adoptive mother of four who ran a tourist company. Piper received requests from within the adoptive community to organise tours for adoptive families, and that’s how the Ties program started. The program travels to 15 countries, including Russia, Romania, Guatemala and Ethiopia. Trips to Russia started a decade ago and since then some 60 to 80 families have made the journey. Some families meet the child’s birth family, almost everyone goes back to the orphanages they were adopted from and they all enjoy getting out and doing
typical tourist sightseeing. One family came back to an orphanage to see a picture that they had sent the director some eight years ago still framed on the director’s desk. Other families have found precious old photos of their children. Organiser of the trip Sarah Goth says 90 per cent of or-
port, both before and during the trip. Some of the families want to have ongoing relationships with their birth families and even create accounts in VKontakte (Russia’s answer to Facebook) to keep in touch, and use Google Translate to communicate. Some families had
Some of the families want to have ongoing relationships with their [Russian] birth families
The trips are usually pretty emotionally intense for the children and their parents
phanages greet the children very warmly and are excited to see the kids. She says the purpose of the trip is to show the children what life is like for Russian kids and to teach them about their birth country’s heritage, so they can have an informed sense of pride about the country they were born in. The trips are usually pretty emotionally intense for the children and their parents, and to help families cope the organisers have a psychologist specialising in working with adoptees to provide sup-
already been in contact for a few years before meeting in person. The Ties program helps these families nurture their relationships. I spoke to one of the families: Sarah and Mike McCarthy, from St. Louis, Missouri, who adopted 9-month-old twins from Moscow in 1999, and then a 15-month-old girl in 2004. The McCarthys hired a tutor to help their children learn some Russian before they came on the trip. And when Hannah, one of the twins, was in Russia, she decided she
wanted to continue learning the language. “We’ve always celebrated the kids’ Russian heritage,” Sarah said.“We have a lot of things from Russia at home. Every year we celebrate their adoption day – the day they arrived in the US. We usually cook a Russian meal (beef stroganoff and blinis with Nutella).” The family chose Russia because at the time that they decided to adopt, Mike’s brother had already adopted a little girl from Kaliningrad. “They had had such a great experience and...we thought it might be fun for our children to have cousins from the same heritage – that’s what led us to Russia, and the more we learned about it, the more we liked it and got comfortable with it.” When they came to Russia in 1999, it “was a scary adventure at first, but we had a really great experience – we were here for almost a month. We took a little trip to St Petersburg and we really fell in love with the country and the people.” Sarah’s cousin, Darren, also has an adopted Russian girl, Darya, who was roommates with Sarah’s youngest daughter Yelena – they decided to adopt children at the same time, and now Darya andYelena are second cousins. Hannah and Andrew, the 16-year-old McCarthy twins, told me they“love it here”and that they were considering getting an apartment in Moscow over summer. “Coming here every year for a week or longer would be great… when we each have children we’ll definitely bring them here,”Hannah said. Her favourite thing about Russia is the music, dancing and“the writers and the poets”. Andrew said that the strangest thing about Russia was that “nobody smiles on the streets… they’re still coming out of that Soviet era when nobody talks ... and people avoid eye contact.” They told me that they felt a connection to Russia as soon as they arrived here. “This is where we grew up,” Andrew said. “It's cool... and we love the ice cream!” Darya and Yelena, both 11, told me that they found Russia really fun and that they would like to come back one day and also learn the language.
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When Russia banned Polish apples, the fruit became the centrepiece of Polish online anti-Kremlin activism. JONATHAN HOEFLER, SPECIAL TO RBTH
Although the apple season has just started in Russia, the fruit has been making headlines all summer. In July, Russian lawmakers placed a ban on apple imports from Poland - something that was widely interpreted as a wrist slap for Poland’s support of NATO's opposition to Russia’s stance on Ukraine. The ban is a major setback for Polish growers, who have been exporting nearly a third of their annual crop (worth $432 million) to Russia. In early August, Russian apple lovers also suffered a blow when the Kremlin banned fresh produce from countries that had imposed economic sanctions on Russia.
Anti-Kremlin appleeating selfies go viral Meanwhile, the social-media manoeuvrings of Polish politicians, ambassadors and retailers, determined to save their country's apple-export industry, caught on in a big way. It seems that a tweet by Stanislaw Koziej, national security adviser to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, started the trend, when he posted:“Join the campaign to demonstrate what we're doing with the Russian embargo.” Hashtagged with #eatapples and #jedzjabłka (in Polish), popular tweets have been“eat apples to annoy Putin” and “an apple a day keeps Putin away”. In no time, anti-Kremlin apple-eating selfies became a hit, and the Huffington Post reported that “The Polish Are Using Apples To Give Putin The Finger.” These campaigns got even more attention when Poland's Ambassador to the US, Ryszard Schnepf, posted a YouTube video called “the #freedomapples appeal”, in which he urged Americans to lobby the US government to open its doors to Poland's“freedom apples”.
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Everyone in a stew over import bans on apples
The supplement was published on September 18th with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald