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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

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Politics & Society The Kremlin’s priorities in Ukraine Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gives Russia’s perspective in an exclusive interview P.02

Culture The latest Russian drama A new anthology highlights the best of modern Russian theater in translation P.05

Feature Baseball in Moscow? Russia has its own boys of summer P.06

MARK BOYARSKY

HOT RHETORIC, CHILLY WAR? R

elations between the U.S. and Russia deteriorated in 2014 at a rate few would have predicted, as divisions over the civil war in Ukraine escalated into tit-for-tat rounds of economic sanctions. But is it a new Cold War? Political observers – and politicians – are divided on the question. “No, it isn’t a new Cold War,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in July, as tensions over Ukraine ratcheted up. “What it is, is a very specific issue related to Russia’s unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path.” But U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said the Cold War is back. Asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley if U.S-Russia relations have returned to “Cold War levels,” Feinstein, a Democrat from California, gave an unambiguous, “Yes.” In March, the U.S. polling agency Gallup found that 50 percent of Americans agreed with the statement, “the U.S. and Russia are heading back toward a Cold War,” while 43 percent disagreed.

No nukes To be sure, this time officials in Moscow and Washington aren’t about to break out the launch codes and start firing nuclear missiles over the Berlin Wall. If this is a new Cold War, at least no one thinks the U.S. and Russia might end up confronting each other directly in a hot one. In other respects, however, the political squabbling has clearly reached levels not seen since the days of the Soviet Union. The U.S. has accused Russia of providing military support to rebels in areas of eastern Ukraine with large populations of ethnic Russians, a charge the Kremlin has denied. As a result, the U.S. and Europe have slapped Russia with escalating rounds of sanctions. The measures target broad sectors of the economy like energy and finance, as well as high-ranking individuals with ties to the government and key Russian companies like state-run oil producer Rosneft. In July, the U.S. Commerce Department said it would

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Politicians and analysts on the future of U.S.-Russia relations block the export of equipment to Russia that could be used for finding and producing crude oil in difficult-to-access Russian reserves, such as Arctic deepwater and shale oil. Russia, one of the world’s key energy producers, relies on exports on oil and natural gas to support its flagging economy. Obama also suspended credits that encourage exports to Russia. Moscow responded by restricting imports of U.S. and European agricultural products into Russia’s burgeoning retail sector. Food products like French cheese, American poultry and Norwegian smoked salmon have been banned for a year. Same thing, only different “Are we at a moment similar to the Cold War? My answer is yes, and no,” said Michael McFaul, Obama’s former ambassador to Moscow, at a conference in Aspen, Colorado, in July. “You have to go pre-Gorbachev to remember a time when tensions were as high as they are,” said McFaul. “Never even in the Cold War did we have the kind of sanctions we have now.” But McFaul, who stepped down from his position as America’s top diplomat in Moscow in February, added that there are key differences between today’s tensions and those of the Cold War era. For one thing, two sides aren’t engaged in an ideological struggle between capitalism and socialism, he said. What’s more, Russia can no longer count on its former socialist allies in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Other political observers said they think the comparison doesn’t hold up. “It’s a good headline, but it’s not an accurate reflection of either what the Cold War was or what we are seeing today,” RAND Corporation Senior International Policy Analyst Olga Oliker told China’s Xinhua news agency. “The Cold War was a conflict that lasted decades in which the United States and the Soviet Union were basically fighting over the fate of the world. It involved the entire planet,” she said. Public opinion In the midst of all these tensions, American opinions about Russia have plummeted, the Gallup polling agency found. “Putin and Russia score the highest unfavorable ratings – 63 percent and 60 percent, respectively – that Gallup has recorded for them in the past two decades,” the agency said in a recent release. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s domestic ratings have soared to their highest numbers in years. Putin’s approval rating jumped 29 points from 2013 to 2014, reaching 83 percent, on the back of his aggressive handling of the standoff over Ukraine, according to Gallup. Gallup also found that Russians have “record-level confidence in the country’s military (78 percent), their national government (64 percent), and honesty of elections (39 percent).” Meanwhile, another poll found that most Russians hadn’t noticed any impact from the sanctions in their day-to-day lives, at least as of mid-August. The All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) found in a recent survey that 92 percent of respondents said Western sanctions hadn’t impacted them. Only about 4 percent said they had noticed price increases. Although smaller numbers said they had either lost a job with a foreign company or had a credit card blocked. ■ DAVID MILLER SPECIAL TO RBTH

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Politics & Society P2 // rbth.com // September 3, 2014

The Perm-36 labor camp held political prisoners from 1946-1988. It became a museum in 1996.

NEWS IN BRIEF

Uncertain future for McDonald’s in Russia

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LORI/LEGION MEDIA

Erasing History? The city of Perm has often been called one of Russia’s most progressive towns, boasting a bevy of museums and cultural centers. So it was perhaps unsurprising that Russia’s only preserved labor camp, dedicated to preserving the history of the infamous Soviet-era network of prison camps known as the Gulag, was established here in 1996. Historians differ over the precise figures, but millions of prisoners passed through the Gulag during from the 1930s until the end of the Soviet Union. The term “Gulag” was introduced to the western world by exiled author and Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose 1973 book, “The Gulag Archipelago,” compared the camps to a chain of islands scattered through the Soviet Union’s vast, isolated interior. But now, human rights groups and history buffs say Perm is upending its reputation as a center for cultural renaissance after cutbacks shuttered the museum, kown as the Memorial Center of the History of Political Repression Perm-36. The memorial had encompassed all of the enormous territory of a former penal colony in the Perm Territory, where from 1946 onward those convicted of “dangerous state crimes” served out their sentences. The Perm-36 museum, founded by the private Russian human rights organization Memorial, was a unique site, according to Tatyana Margolina, Commissioner for Human Rights in the Perm Territory. While it existed, “this was an example of successful cooperation between the administration and private social organizations,” Margolina said. The museum became famous across Russia through its annual festival, Pilorama, which attracted leading musicians, artists, actors and human rights workers from throughout the country.

Closure of Gulag museum raises concerns of whitewashing the past IN FIGURES

18 years is how long the Perm-36 museum existed. The labor camp for political prisoners operated for 42 years.

Changes in personnel and policy Many attributed the recent cultural developments in Perm to former governor Oleg Chirkunov, a man who earned a reputation as a progressive and a patron of the arts. Under Chirkunov’s leadership, many festivals were established and funds were generously provided for the arts. However, Chirkunov was replaced by Viktor Basargin in 2012, and cultural and educational projects began to be curtailed. The Pilorama human rights festival had its funding eliminated and it stopped operating altogether. Now it is the museum’s turn.

This year, the museum’s administrators, Viktor Shmirov and Tatyana Kursina, were fired. In their place, an official from the Perm Ministry of Culture, Natalya Semakova, who had no prior relationship to the museum, was named as director. In July, after a series of unsuccessful attempts to restore the previous level of cooperation between the regional government and the NGOs, the NGO Perm-36, which owns the archival material on display in the museum, officially announced that it was terminating cooperation with the museum. It is currently preparing to collect and remove all of its property, which is literally all of the museum’s collections. Meanwhile, the regional administration is reassuring the public that the work of the museum will continue. Sergei Malenko, the Director of the Department of Civil and Special Programs in the Administration of the Governor of the Perm Territory, said the museum will not be closed permanently. “Exhibitions about the history of the Gulag in the Soviet Union and the history of the Gulag in the Perm Territory will be set up,” said Malenko, adding that the museum would feature a large-scale exhibition of the history of political repression during the Soviet period, with a section dedicated to the Romanov dynasty. However, Arseny Roginsky, the Chairman of the Board of the international society Memorial and one of the museum’s founders, expressed dissatisfaction. “The Administration of the Perm Territory accuses our non-commercial organization of pestering them for money. It’s all nonsense... It’s just that the state has decided to take control over public organizations, especially in such a sensitive area as the history of the country,” Roginsky said, joking bitterly that the new museum may decide to hire former guards and inform visitors about how bravely the security forces guarded the prisoners. ■DMITRY ROMENDIK RBTH

Several McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow have been closed ifor 90 days, including the iconic first McDonald’s in the country and one located just below the Kremlin walls. The official reason for the closures is that the restaurants have failed to observe sanitary norms introduced by government health monitoring agency Rospotrebnadzor. McDonald’s branches throughout the country are being subjected to sanitary checks, and restaurants have also been closed in Stavropol and Yekaterinburg. READ THE FULL STORY at rbth.com/39261 Pussy Riot Goes to Washington

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Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are to appear as guest stars in the TV series House of Cards. According to the Baltimore City Paper, two sources close to the group producing the TV

show said that Tolokonnikova and Alekhina have taken part in shooting and will appear in a Season 3 episode. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina appeared on an episode of The Colbert Report in February during a visit to New York.

Russia to get a new low-cost carrier? Russian national airline Aeroflot said it won’t give up on its plans to create a subsidiary aimed at budget travel. On Aug. 24, airline head Vitaly Savelyev said that Aeroflot was developing a new company with the goal of having it in the air by the end of October. Aeroflot was forced to suspend the operations of its low-cost Dobrolet brand, which began flying only this spring, after it was subjected to EU sanctions.

READ THE FULL STORY at rbth.com/39225

Lavrov: Situation in Ukraine is “catastrophic” In an exclusive interview with RBTH, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the highest priority for the international community negotiating over Ukraine must be an unconditional ceasefire to end the suffering of civilians. He also warned that trying to settle disputes by imposing unilateral sanctions threatens international peace and stability. PHOTOSHOT/VOSTOCK-PHOTO

There has been much talk of a new Cold War in relations between the West and Russia, with the United States and the European Union having imposed economic sanctions. How can Russia respond? 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 United States, EU and some other countries has been balanced and in line with the rights and obligations of Russia under international treaties, including the World Trade Organization. The cost in human life of this conflict has already been high and tens of thousands of people have been displaced because of the fighting. How do you view the humanitarian situation in Ukraine? The humanitarian situation in the Lugansk

and Donetsk regions of Ukraine is catastrophic and continues to deteriorate. And it is not only our view. This assessment is widely shared in the United Nations, including the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and in the Council of Europe.More than 2,000 people have been killed and more than 5,000 wounded, many of them children. There is an acute shortage of food and medicine and growing risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases. More than 200,000 people in Lugansk are deprived of electricity, drinking water and means of communication. A lot of people have fled the area of conflict. Since April 1, nearly 775,000 Ukrainian citizens entered

the Russian territory, and 190,000 Ukrainians applied for a refugee status in Russia. Temporary shelters have been put up in our country to accommodate refugees. Under these circumstances it is crucial to ensure the immediate supply of humanitarian aid to the people of southeastern Ukraine. Humanitarian issues must bring together all people who act in good faith trying to alleviate the suffering of people in dire need. ■VIKTOR LEBEDEV RBTH

READ THE FULL STORY at rbth.ru/39255

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Business rbth.com // September 3, 2014 // P3

IN FIGURES

$306.9 million was the value of U.S. poultry exports to Russia in 2013. Russia accounts for roughly 7 percent of U.S. poultry exports. It is the second-biggest buyer of U.S. chicken after Mexico. PHOTOSHOT/VOSTOCK-PHOTO

Sanctions Hit Poultry Trade Russia’s one-year ban on agricultural imports prompts U.S. chicken farmers to seek out new markets Call it the Chicken War. Russia, the secondleading market for U.S. poultry sales, has barred American birds from the nation’s grocery aisles for a year in retaliation for Western economic sanctions against the country’s financial and energy industries. Chicken has long been one of the most important trade items between the two former Cold War adversaries, which have relatively small amounts of trade. Today, Russia accounts for some 7 percent of U.S. poultry exports. The ban sent U.S. vendors scrambling to secure new markets and prompted Russian retailers to look elsewhere for supplies. Yet industry experts said the move has less impact today than it would have had in years past, when Russia imported as much as 40 percent of U.S. poultry exports. “If this had happened five, 10 or 15 years ago, it would have been disastrous for our industry,” Jim Sumner, president of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council, said in an interview broadcast on CNN. “But we have diversified so much since then.” Russian industry experts said the move will likely have a limited impact on the country’s

U.S. chicken exports to Russia since 1993

NATALIA MIKHAYLENKO

SOURCE: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

consumers as well. Russian farmers have won a greater share of domestic sales over the past few years by emphasizing the higher quality of refrigerated chicken meat over frozen imports, which are easier to transport from abroad. In 2000, Russia relied on imports for about half of its chicken consumption. That figure has since fallen to 10 percent, according to Musheg Mamikoyan, Head of the Russian Meat Union. Russian chicken farmers, likewise, pledged to make up for any shortfall. “Dependence on American chicken meat is insignificant,” said Alexander Kostikov, communications director of the Cherkizovo Group, one of Russia’s major poultry and pork producers. Kostikov said Russia currently produces about four million tons of poultry annually for a market that consumes about 4.4 million tons. The country imports roughly 360,000 tons annually, out of which 100,000 tons come from the U.S., according to Kostikov. Broadening sanctions The ban on U.S. chickens is part of a spiraling international dispute over The unrest in Ukraine, in which Europe and the U.S. have sought to inflict economic penalties on Russia. Moscow, meanwhile, has struck back with its own measures. On Aug. 7, the Russian government introduced an embargo on agricultural products imported from the EU, the U.S., Norway, Canada and other countries that have imposed sanctions against Russia, impacting a total of about 10 percent of Russia’s $40 billion worth

4.4 million tons is how much poultry Russia consumes annually. Russia produces 4 million tons of poultry and imports 360,000 tons, out of which 100,000 tons are supplied by the U.S. of agricultural imports. For American producers, the embargo first and foremost concerns chicken. Russia has put temporary limitations on U.S. poultry exports in the past, including during what was at the time dubbed the “Poultry War” of 2002, when Russia temporarily cut U.S. poultry imports in response to American steel tariffs. Ilya Balakirev, chief analyst at the UFS invesment company, said that new investments in capacity have raised the output of Russia’s chicken farmers to the point where the country should be able to produce enough chicken meat for domestic demand. Balakirev also pointed out that the reduction in supply can be offset by an increase in imports from other countries, such as Brazil, which is a significant supplier of chicken meat to Russia, with approximately 10 percent of the market. Other major suppliers include Belorussia and Kazakhstan, from which Russian receives 15-20 percent of its poultry imports. Authorities in Moscow have likewise allowed Turkish firms to increase dairy exports to Russia. The U.S. and Europe began introducing sanctions against Russia following allegations that Moscow has been giving military support to rebels in eastern Ukraine and massing troops near Ukraine’s border. The Kremlin denied the charges, while accusing western countries of supporting a coup in Ukraine last year that ousted the democratically elected president, Viktor Yanukovych. ■ALEXEY LOSSAN RBTH

PARTNER-GENERATED CONTENT

Nuclear power still a topic for cooperation between governments

that the Russian nuclear industry is not afraid of open competition in compliance with business rules. According to Kirienko, those who can offer a more advanced project, better technology and a better price while prioritizing security should win tenders and new foreign commissions. However, Russian-built nuclear units are in demand by energy providers around the world. One of the reasons because of the numerous security features of Russian nuclear plant designs. After Sept. 11, 2001, strong double-containment walls capable of withstanding collision with a heavy aircraft were installed at Russian nuclear power plants and Russian-designed nuclear power plants in other countries, including the Tianwan nuclear power plant in China. Along with an outer protective dome, a “melt trap” is installed on Russian-designed plants under the base of the reactor. The melt trap guarantees

Russia’s state atomic energy company Rosatom has continued its cooperation with Ukraine despite the adverse political situation between Moscow and Kiev. that molten nuclear fuel will not breach the reactor compartment, even under extreme circumstances, such as those that resulted in the 1979 partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor at the Three Mile Island nuclear power station near Middletown, Pa. All Russian and Russian-designed power plants also have backup systems and protective barriers that can withstand conditions created by natural disasters, such as the earthquake and tsunami that knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan in March 2011, according to nuclear scientist Vladimir Asmolov, who is identified on Rosatom’s website as a member of the company’s Scientific and Technical Board. Today Rosatom is building 72 power units around the world, including new construction and replacing older reactors, and considering expanding to Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South Africa. ■HENRY KENNETT SPECIAL TO RBTH

Building the future: work goes on for Rosatom’s international partnerships despite the political climate.

Plans for nuclear plants in Finland move forward Despite sanctions against Russia by the European Union and other countries, Russia is still preparing to contribute to the construction of the Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant near Pyhajoki in Finland. “Work is being carried out as scheduled at the regular pace and there are no obstacles at the moment,” said spokeswoman Tiina Tigerstedt of Finnish nuclear energy company Fennovoima, to Russia’s Interfax news agency. The road leading to the plant platform is under construction, and work on the plant itself will begin in 2018, Tigerstedt said. “We are happy about the cooperation with Rosatom. This is a reliable and important investor,” Tigerstedt said. Fennovoima and Rosatom Overseas signed a contract Dec. 21, 2013, to build another nuclear plant.

PRESS PHOTO

Although the crisis in Ukraine in recent months has disrupted relations and programs between Russia and the United States, as well as Russia and other nations, international collaboration has stayed strong when it comes to nuclear power. Guided by business interests and international cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, nuclear scientists around the world are doing their best to work together in a difficult political climate. This is not the first time cooperation around nuclear power has trumped political conflict. In 1993 the Russian and U.S. governments signed an agreement crafted by Russian and American nuclear experts to convert highly enriched uranium from Russian nuclear weapons into fuel for American nuclear power plants. The program, known as Megatons to Megawatts, or HEU-LEU, concluded in December 2013. During the program, 500 tons of weapons-grade uranium was converted into 15,000 tons of low enriched uranium. Megatons to Megawatts proved what can be achieved when political and business interests work together and set a precedent for responsibility, discipline and mutual respect even on the brink of nuclear war. This precedent still shapes international relations around nuclear power today. In mid-August, the Hungarian Paks Nuclear Power Plant delivered 30 damaged fuel assemblies (holders with uranium rods) weighing up to 275 pounds each to the Mayak nuclear plant in Russia. The operation was possible thanks to Russia’s expert assessment and Ukraine’s permission to transport the shipment through its territory despite the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Paks chief executive Istvam Hamvas told Hungarian news agency Magyar Tavirati Iroda (MTI). The European Atomic Energy Council agreed to the transportation of the irradiated nuclear fuel, which proceeded in compliance with International Atomic Energy Agency regulations, Hamvas told MTI. Additionally, Russia’s state atomic energy company, Rosatom, has continued regular sales of nuclear fuel to Ukraine’s sole nuclear plant operator, Energoatom, through its subsidiary TVEL. Sales totaled almost $114 million in the first quarter of 2014 and more than $165 million in the 2nd quarter. Energoatom also buys fuel from Westinghouse Electric Sweden AB, and in April it was announced that Energoatom and Westinghouse had agreed to extend their contract until 2020. Rosatom chief executive Sergei Kirienko has said

© RIA NOVOSTI

Russia’s nuclear power agency continues to work with partners around the globe

Expansion of Hungarian nuclear facility expected The Russian government has announced it is ready to issue long-term credit to build two nuclear energy units with Russian VVER-1200 reactors at the Paks Nuclear Power Plant in Hungary, a move that would allow construction to begin on the project, which was approved by the Hungarian parliament in 2009. According to Hungarian newspaper Nepszabadsag, the project may receive an $18.3 billion investment from Russia. The decision to move

ahead with Russian energy units makes sense from a technical as well as a practical standpoint, according to Sergei Pikin, director of Russia’s Energy Development Fund. “The Paks acting reactors and the ones suggested for construction are very similar,” Pikin said. “The extension of the acting nuclear plant by equipping it with reactors of a different type, and therefore the subsequent staff retraining and supply rearrangement would be a very costly thing to do.”


Comment & Analysis P4 // rbth.com // September 3, 2014

HELLO, OLD ENEMY, HOW NICE TO HAVE YOU BACK

IORSH

I

t now seems as if the two former Cold War adversaries – the U.S. and Russia – have been on a path to confrontation ever since the return of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency. Observers in both Russia and the U.S. warn of a new Cold War and caution about the danger of its escalation into a military conflict. Before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States defined itself through the Soviet “other.” American officials saw their country’s values as incomparably superior to those of the Soviet Union, and its interests as incomparably more legitimate than Soviet ones. The comparison was both a method of gaining knowledge and the essence of establishing the identity of the U.S. and the U.S.-led “free world” relative to that of the Soviet Union. America was the land of freedom and law, whereas the Soviet state was the quintessentially oppressive, evil empire that sought to dominate its neighbors through force. The United States therefore continued the European tradition of viewing Russia as the mirror image of the West. Such a perception has shaped the minds of Europeans ever since Russia emerged as an independent power. As the historian David Foglesong wrote, ever since the late 19th century, influential circles in the United States have viewed Russia as their “dark double” – disrespectful of religious freedoms and property rights. The Bolshevik revolution in 1917 and the Cold War in the 20th century served to strengthen such perceptions of Russia in the West. After the Cold War, as Russia was going through a painful transition from communism, U.S. elites were failing the test of inventing a new national identity of their own free of negative comparisons with the former enemy. For a short period of time, it seemed that the United States would rebuild its relations with a new Russia and

ANDREI TSYGANKOV SPECIAL TO RUSSIA DIRECT

Russians have historically viewed being a great power and a strong state as necessities of survival. the two nations would re-define themselves as partners jointly facing threats of terrorism, nuclear proliferation and regional instability. However, the United States continued to view Russia as a potential threat and promoted neo-liberal economic policies and NATO-centered security institutions in Europe and Eurasia. The post-Cold War imbalance of power served to exacerbate the problem. But Russians have historically viewed being a great power and a strong state as necessities of survival. As painful as it was, Russia completed its transition from communism by rebuilding, not abandoning, traditional perceptions and institutions. Although it is not a Communist-style or Tsarist-style autocracy, the new Russian system is a type of the strong ruling system that has governed the country for centuries. What Russia wants from the world is recognition of its right to rebuild a system of a strong state, to preserve

THE POLLS Russian views on the crisis in Ukraine On Aug. 1-4, the Levada Center asked 1,600 Russians if they believed Russia is interfering in Ukraine, and if it should.

its status as that of a great power and to advance its national interests in Eurasia and the adjacent regions. This Russian identity is a historically familiar one, and it is sustainable as long as it allows room for the identities and worldviews of other powers. Increasingly, Russia’s identity is accepted by the group of BRICS and others members of the international system, as they aspire to develop global institutions free of Western domination. In reading American media and statements from major players in the U.S. political class, it is hard to not have the impression that the United States’ identity is still dependent on Russia for confirming the exceptionalism of American values. Washington needs to cast Moscow in an imperialist role in order to showcase America’s way of governing around the globe through economic incentives and soft power. To American elites, Russia makes the perfect public enemy because no other country has been able to challenge U.S. values and interests as vigorously and persistently as Russia. The perception of Russia as the enemy can be sustained in the U.S. because of three main reasons: the lack of knowledge about Russia among ordinary Americans; the tenacity of special interest lobbyists in confronting Russia; and a focus on domestic interests. Americans remain poorly informed about Russian realities, and their views remain heavily dependent on how U.S.-Russia relations are presented by the media and politicians. Rather than being a “rational choice by well-informed citizens” – political scientist Joseph Schumpeter’s definition of democracy – it is increasingly necessary to speak of politically minded elites shaping views of a poorly informed public. When politicians like Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) want to explain to Americans about the “authoritarian” and “imperialist” nature of the Kremlin, they have easy access to the media. In the United States, there are also influential segments of the political class who may differ in their agendas and ethnic roots, but who nonetheless converge in viewing Russia as the most important threat to the West. Additionally, the American political system is excessively responsive to lobbyists and other pressures from the political class. Suffice it to recall how politicians pushed through the controversial Magnitsky Act, which was presented as a way to punish the Kremlin for human rights violations but in reality was designed as another stick against Russia following the repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which was necessary after Russia’s accession to the W.T.O. Although President Barack Obama did not initially support the Magnitsky Act and hoped to resolve issues with Putin differently, he signed it – most likely because he did not want the issue to become a controversial domestic issue. In this context, those in the U.S. who resist the inclination to punish Russia risk being labeled the Kremlin’s “stooges.” In the battle for national identity, any attempts at transforming how Russia is perceived in the world also risk changing how America is perceived in the world. Andrei P. Tsygankov is a professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at San Francisco State University.

READ THE FULL TEXT at russia-direct.org

NATALIA MIKHAYLENKO

The poll showed that Russians are divided over the issue of Ukraine. In addition to differences on whether Russia should be involved in the ongoing conflict there, the poll asked how important being involved in Ukraine is. Fifty-five percent

of Russians believe that the Russian government should concentrate first of all on domestic issues. However, 31 percent think that focusing on Ukraine is more important than domestic concerns because of its geopolitical significance.

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September 2014 Quarterly Report

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WHY I REFUSE TO UNDERSTAND THE WAR IN UKRAINE OLGA ALLYONOVA OGONYOK

NATALIA MIKHAYLENKO

I

do not understand why Russians are crossing the border to fight in a foreign country. I do not understand why Ukraine fires artillery into its own towns. I do not understand why no one in the world is demonstrating against the war in eastern Ukraine. Why aren’t Russians demanding that the border be closed and the passage of militia member stopped? Why aren’t Ukrainians demanding that the shelling of towns be ceased? I do not understand this war and I do not want to understand it. I’ve started avoiding discussion about the war in social networks. These discussions only involve people trying to prove that they are right and others wrong. This is human nature. The rightness of one position must be proven in order to justify someone else’s pain and suffering. If someone posts news that a Ukrainian military plane has been shot down, comments will be posted arguing that the Ukranians themselves are to blame for firing on civilian towns. If someone else posts a picture of a town that has been shelled, then comments will say that the “terrorists and separatists” are to blame for taking over this city and the Ukrainians are just establishing order. And if yet a third person writes, “People, stop, try to empathize with the other’s

By trying to defend one position or another on social media, we have already shown that we are involved in this conflict.

THIS PULL-OUT IS PRODUCED AND PUBLISHED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA (RUSSIA) AND DID NOT INVOLVE THE NEWS OR EDITORIAL DEPARTMENTS OF THE WASHINGTON POST WEB ADDRESS HTTP://RBTH.COM E-MAIL US@RBTH.COM TEL. +7 (495) 775 3114 FAX +7 (495) 988 9213 ADDRESS 24 PRAVDY STR., BLDG. 4, FLOOR 7, MOSCOW, RUSSIA, 125 993. EVGENY ABOV PUBLISHER PAVEL GOLUB EDITOR IN CHIEF LARA MCCOY EXECUTIVE EDITOR, WESTERN HEMISPHERE ELENA BOBROVA EDITOR, U.S. EDITIONS GREG WALTERS GUEST EDITOR OLGA GUITCHOUNTS U.S.

suffering,” this person will immediately be asked whose side he is on. Even obvious acts of caring and sympathy have become fair game for arguments on social media. When a Muscovite placed a bouquet of flowers at the Dutch Embassy after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with the words “Forgive Us” on it, the networks lit up. Some commented that such words incorrectly implied that Russia was to blame for the tragedy when no Russian involvement had been proven. Others argued that this anonymous person was right

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to place the blame for the crash at Russia’s feet. This was the reaction to one person’s expression of guilt for simply being alive while those who had been on the flight were not. Such questions and accusations and arguments are, of course, not fair. But whenever people take up arms, fairness ends. During war, no one is right and no one is to blame. The Ukrainian soldiers who have died in the planes shot down by pro-autonomy militias were just carrying out orders. Their wives and children, who will not see them again, are victims of this war as much as the people living in the towns that are shelled by Ukrainian forces are victims of this war. No one is to blame, but we are all involved. By trying to defend one position or another on social media, we have already shown that we are involved in this conflict. Many Russians thought that we could watch this conflict from afar – debate and discuss it, then draw our own conclusions and go about our lives. But we cannot. The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 proved that this war is greater than the people actually fighting. It is greater than the Russian citizen who thinks that he must help the ethnic Russians in the Donbass by leaving his family, his home and his job; it is greater than the woman from Lugansk who leaves her child with her parents and puts on a military uniform in order to defend her motherland; it is greater than the man from Lviv who went to Kiev to protest on the Maidan or those who died in the trade union building in Odessa.

ALEXANDER GORBENKO CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD. PAVEL NEGOITSA GENERAL DIRECTOR VLADISLAV FRONIN CHIEF EDITOR ANY COPYING, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS PUBLICATION, OTHER THAN FOR PERSONAL USE, WITHOUT THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA IS PROHIBITED. TO OBTAIN PERMISSION TO REPRINT OR COPY AN ARTICLE OR PHOTO, PLEASE PHONE +7 (495) 775 3114 OR E-MAIL US@RBTH.COM RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS AND PHOTOS.

This war is just the latest example proving that the world community, which for decades has tried to develop mechanisms for preventing armed conflicts, cannot really do anything to stop them. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine prove as much. It’s easy to find someone to blame – whether it be Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic or Dzhokhar Dudayev – but this person will only be a villain for one side and only a scapegoat for the conflict as a whole. When men take up arms, it no longer matter what their motives are. Killing others can only be considered evil. There is a film in which the protagonist, a priest, says, “The Bible says ‘do not kill.’ And there is no asterisk next to this word, no footnote indicating that the precept refers only to particular situations. Just do not kill, that’s it.” Evil can be countered only with goodwill. It cannot be fought with weapons and it cannot be fought by arguing online. People who want to fight against the war should do so by helping refugees and others who need help, by donating money or clothes, or even just by praying for them and an end for this conflict. Some people say that while there is more good than evil in the world, we will survive. But if humanity does not survive, we will all be responsible. We will be responsible for letting the weapons of evil, whether they are guns or words in social networks, triumph. Olga Allyonova is a journalist and special correspondent for Kommersant and the author of the book Chechnya is Near.

LETTERS FROM READERS, GUEST COLUMNS AND CARTOONS LABELED “VIEWPOINT” OR APPEARING ON THE “COMMENT & ANALYSIS” PAGE OF THIS SUPPLEMENT ARE SELECTED TO REPRESENT A BROAD RANGE OF VIEWS, AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENT THOSE OF THE EDITORS OF RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES OR ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA. PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR TO US@RBTH.COM


Culture rbth.com // September 3, 2014 // P5

Russian theater, with an American accent A collection of contemporary Russian plays aims to bridge the cultural divide

play “Scapegoats,” which, on one hand encompasses all the distinctive, topical themes of “new drama,” but does so in the context of the great Russian literary tradition. In my opinion, “new drama” and contemporary Russian drama are not the same thing. “New drama,” for all its importance, is just one part of the contemporary drama scene.

An English-language survey of 12 Russian plays, “Real and Phantom Pains: An Anthology of New Russian Drama,” has just been released in the U.S. In this interview, the book’s American editor, long-time Moscow theater critic John Freedman, says these plays may help shed light on modern life in R u s sia as the two countries seem to grow farther apart.

How did you decide which plays to choose? I chose plays without which I couldn’t imagine Russian theater existing for the last 14 years. Russian drama experienced a true golden age through-

PHOTOXPRESS

Who is this book’s target audience? I want theaters, directors and actors to take notice of Russian drama. I wouldn’t want it just to be studied in universities. I want these plays to be produced and to enter the repertories of American theaters. Aside from that, I think the book will also interest people who want to get a feel for contemporary Russian reality. Everyone reads and admires Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, but few people understand what is going on in Russia now. Foreign stores sell books by Pelevin and Sorokin, but this obviously isn’t enough. An anthology of plays is an ideal option. A play is short, like a small epic poem. You can breeze through it in 30 or 40 minutes. All the plays are very different and about different things, but taken as a whole they give a multifaceted picture of modern Russia. There are also personal motives behind this book. I’ve lived in Russia for 25 years and I consider myself a Muscovite. Rationally and factually speaking I’m from America, but my heart has long belonged to Russia. These two countries presently find themselves in a very difficult, tense period, one full of discord. So for me it’s especially important to remind people of Russia’s rich culture, and, in so doing, perhaps to bring Russia a bit closer to America, and America a bit closer to Russia. Let’s just say this is my small contribution to the fight against the political madness we see these days.

READ RUSSIA

John Feedman and his wife, Russian actress Oksana Mysina.

HIS STORY John Freedman is the author or editor of nine books about Russian theater. He has translated approximately 60 Russian plays into English, many of which have been published or produced in the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia and South Africa. He has worked especially closely with Breaking String Theater in Austin, TX, and Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, MA. His play “Dancing, Not Dead” won the Internationalists Global Playwriting Contest in 2011. He has lived in Moscow since 1988 and is the founding theater critic of the English-language daily The Moscow Times.

out the 2000s. I am convinced, for instance, that the history of Russian drama is impossible without Olga Mukhina. Her play “Flying,” which is in the collection, was the first play about the reality of a new social class in Russia: office workers. The play has

been staged frequently in the United States, Europe and the Russian provinces, yet in Moscow it has not received the attention it deserves. It goes without saying that this list must include Maxim Kurochkin’s “Kitchen” and Pavel Pryazkho’s “Panties”– these are milestone works of “new drama.” And Vasily Sigarev is extremely popular in Europe and America. I would hazard to say that for many in the world today Sigarev is Russian drama. For my collection I chose “Phantom Pains,” maybe not his most famous play, but it is as harsh and compelling as anything he has written. I think it has every chance of being staged in the U.S. On the whole, I think the anthology gives a fairly precise picture of what has happened over the period that it covers. Nearly all the authors in your book are well-known and acknowledged leaders of “new drama” in Russia, with the exception of Maxim Osipov. Osipov is a rising star. I guarantee that you’ll be hearing his name a lot. He’s a doctor by training, like Chekhov, Bulgakov and Veresaev. He didn’t start writing and publishing stories until he was over 40, and he was immediately successful. I included his

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 $84 and cover sites outside the city center, 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 viewing platform. www.visitrussia.com 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.

The plays of the “new drama” focus on Russian reality. Were you able to make the texts understandable to the English-speaking reader? I can only answer for the eight plays I translated myself (the other four were translated by friends and colleagues, who did an outstanding job). For one thing, I speak the language fluently and I know well the reality of Russian life. My wife, the actress Oksana Mysina, is always by my side and willing to help if necessary. I know all the authors in the collection and it is easy enough for me to ask them for clarifications at any time. However, there are always problems in translation. There may be something I understand myself, but which needs a small explanation or an expanded translation in order for American readers to make sense of it. Sometimes it’s a matter of choosing a creative equivalent. For example, in Osipov’s “Scapegoat,” the hero quotes the romance “Farewell, Happiness, My Life,” which was famously sung by [Russian bass Fyodor] Chaliapin. I replaced this line with a quote from Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bye-Bye, Love,” a song virtually every American knows well. I tried to make things comfortable in places for Western readers so that they wouldn’t be put off by unfamiliar or unexpected actions, situations or turns of phrase. You want to draw spectators in, rather than scare them off. At the same time, of course, you can’t go too far with American details. It’s a tightrope walk. You must preserve the spirit of the original. In your opinion, what is the “new drama”? Russian drama of the last few years is rich in treatments of difficult social problems. Each author is immersed in his or her own theme, but together the works reveal a broad panorama of the real and phantom pains of Russian society. In some way or another all the authors are trying to answer two questions: “Who am I?” and “Where am I?” After the fall of the Soviet Union, a flood of complex questions burst forth. Who am I? Soviet or Russian? How will I live in the new conditions? Compared to America and Europe, life in Russia is catastrophically unstable. It constantly provokes new questions that need to be answered.

Tales of survival from women of the Gulag PHOEBE TAPLIN SPECIAL TO RBTH

Memoirs by women prisoners of the Gulag are generally less well known than such classics as Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago,” but they give readers a new and unforgettable glimpse into a terrifying historical era. Accounts of life in the Soviet labor camps known as the Gulag encompass rape and prostitution, dead babies and brutal interrogations. But besides the many horrors, there are also surprising and inspiring tales of love and friendship, resilience and resourcefulness. These extremes are shown in vivid and unforgettable detail in books written by women who survived the labor camps. Tamara Petkevich spent seven years in labor camps. In her autobiographical “Memoir of a Gulag Actress” she mentions a former official in the security services, known then as the NKVD, who ended up in prison. “The bloodiest page of our history had firmly projected itself onto the aggravated consciousness of this functionary,” writes Petkevich. Eugenia Ginzburg, a professor in Kazan, about 600 miles from Moscow, spent 18 years in the Soviet prison camp system. Her memoir, “Into the Whirlwind,” describes the mundane details that underline the horror, like washing her bra over the slop bucket, or darning it with fishbone needles “extracted from the evening stew.” 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 a couple known as Lev and Sveta after Lev is imprisoned. Their 1,500 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.” Petkevich, who became an actress first with a theater ensemble collective that 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.” Earlier this year, the cult UK independent publisher Persephone Books brought out a stylish new edition of Ginzburg’s “Into the Whirlwind.” For Nicola Beauman, founder of Persephone, Ginzburg’s memoir “should have a place next to other classics.’”

READ THE FULL TEXT at rbth.com/37841

LITERATURE Read our updated literature section!

■NIKOLAY KORNATSKY IZVESTIA

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 a 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. www.en.mosguides.ru/ moscow/night

rbth.com/literature

TOURS BY LOCALS The Moscow branch of Tours by Locals offers a variety of night tours of the capital for groups (up to $ 240 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. www.toursbylocals.com/ night-moscow

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 kilometer” and visit Khitrovka, the center of crime in early 20th-century Moscow. Adult tickets are $33. www.city-discovery.com/ moscow

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 $23 and are valid for 24 hours. www.city-sightseeing.com

All of these tours are conducted in English, but guided tours in other languages are available upon request

T R AV E L 2 M O S C O W. C O M


Feature P6 // rbth.com // September 3, 2014

The great Russian pastime?

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Bob Protexter PSYCHOLOGIST, FOUNDER OF RUSSIAN INTERNATIONAL BASEBALL

"

I was 21 years old in the early summer of 1988. During the summer I was working in an ice cream factory to my home town of Sioux City, Iowa, and I was also reading a lot about baseball being started in the Soviet Union. It came to me that I’m going to go coach baseball in Russia.”

Valery Varinsky BASEBALL COACH; TOOK PART IN THE FIRST SOVIET BASEBALLTOURNAMENT IN 1987

"

Our team, 12 people, traveled from Moscow by train. We did not really know what our uniforms should be like. My team had rugby vests on, fencing pants and some odd caps on our heads.”

Aleksei Rzhevsky PITCHER AND FIRST BASEMAN WITH THE MOSCOW GREEN SOX

" MARK BOYARSKY

Baseball has struggled in Russia, but is showing signs of life among the nation’s youth Take me out to the what? The all-American sport of baseball has few fans among the Russians, who have long favored soccer or hockey. Yet the game has its own history here, and its own minority set of hardcore fans. Ever since the International Olympic Committee got the ball rolling in the 1980s by deciding to include baseball in the Summer Games, a small but dedicated group of Russian fans has stayed true to the sport. Today, amid support from athletic programs and the Russian Baseball Federation, green shoots of interest – and talent – are springing up among the nation’s youth. Winds of change The Soviet Union, keen to showcase the country’s sporting prowess at the Olympics, needed foreign coaches to teach its athletes how to play. One of those who made the trip was Bob Protexter, an Iowa native who would eventually found and become the president of Russian International Baseball. “I was 21 years old in early summer of 1988 and I had just completed my third year of university studies, playing baseball at NCAA

teams in Texas and Iowa,” Protexter said. “During the summer, I was working in an ice cream factory in my home town of Sioux City, Iowa, and I was also reading a lot about baseball being started in the Soviet Union. It came to me that I’m going to go coach baseball in Russia. And that was it.” Protexter saw Soviet players for the first time that same year when, for the first time in history, a Soviet baseball team arrived in the United States. Playing in Baltimore, a team from the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology (MKhTI) took on the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays. In March 1990, Protexter started a new chapter of his life as the coach of the MKhTI team: “We traveled all around the Soviet Union for tournaments and in a very serious team meeting on the first trip of the year in a hotel in Tiraspol, Moldova, the players talked about their want to call the team the Moscow Red Square Devils. It was a consensus that using Red Square and Devils would be unacceptable in Moscow so the team became to be known as the Moscow Red Devils and as MKhTI at the same time, interchangeably,” he said. The year before the U.S. visit, the first Soviet baseball tournament was held in Kiev. “The year was 1987, spring,” said Valery Varinsky, who coached the teams at the Moscow Aviation Institute and the People’s Friendship University. “Our team, 12 people, traveled from Moscow by train. We did not really know what our uniforms should be like. My team had rugby vests on, fencing pants and some odd caps on our heads.” Interest in baseball waned almost as quickly as it had begun, when the sport was eliminated from the Olympic Games in 2005. Today Russian baseball receives little financial support. Alexei Rzhevsky, who pitches and plays first

MARK BOYARSKY

Moscow’s Green Sox are regulars in the Russian championship games.

Buying a good bat is the most expensive part of joining a baseball team in Moscow.

IN FIGURES

$400 is about how much it costs to provide a uniform, bat and shoes for a young baseball player in Moscow. Training programs are usually free, however.

Since 1992, 11 Russian players have gone on to have careers in Major League Baseball.

base for the Moscow Green Sox, said that Russian baseball players have to really love the sport. “We pay membership fees, buy our uniforms. I pay my own money to take part in the Russian championship.” Yet it isn’t a truly national championship. Eight teams regularly participate in the Russian championship series, all of which are based in central Russia, mostly in Moscow. There are also leagues in the Far East and the Urals, but the leagues are not connected. Rzhevsky thinks this is unfortunate. “If the regular Russian championship covered a bigger geographic area, one could expect a dramatic improvement in the players’ skills in a couple of years’ time,” he said. Back to the future The situation looks brighter for younger players, however. Sports schools start training new baseball players as early as 6 or 7, and the Russian Baseball Federation provides a stipend for the most promising players until they turn 18.

The Russian championship is kind of one thing, in Moscow. But at the same time there are several others. There is also Far East baseball and Urals baseball, but these three leagues are not connected. If the regular Russian championship covered a bigger geographic area, one could expect a dramatic improvement in the players’ skills.”

“Now our kids are becoming European champions at 12, because they come into the sport quite early,” said Alexander Nizov a coach at the Balashikha sports school in the Moscow Region. “As in many other sports, coaches are coming into usual elementary schools and talking about baseball there. There is another way. Parents find out about our sport via the Internet and bring their kids [to us]. Adults see that baseball isn’t that injury-prone as football or hockey. Also this sport demands the use of your brains and helps kids develop physically.” Baseball training programs in sports schools in Moscow are usually free, although it costs about $400 to provide a new player with a uniform, shoes and a good bat. Unlike in Soviet times, today’s Russian players can easily travel abroad and train with foreign teams and coaches. Since 1992, 11 Russian players have gone on to teams in Major League Baseball. “Any young talented athlete has prospects and a chance to become part of the sporting elite, all the more so if they play baseball. And it does not matter if they come from Russia or anywhere else,” said Nikolai Gervasov, the head coach of the Russian national baseball teams. Bob Protexter lives in the U.S. and travels to Moscow frequently. He believes that Russian baseball could experience a renaissance if it were reintroduced into the Olympics. “Many hope with the new president of the IOC [International Olympic Committee], Thomas Bach, that there may be an opening to be reinstated this year and then baseball could return in the baseball crazy country of Japan [which will host the 2020 Games in Tokyo]. As we say in America; we are keeping our fingers crossed!” Protexter said. ■ANNA BOYKO SPECIAL TO RBTH

CUISINE A LA RUSSE

Ingredients: 8 medium-sized crisp apples • juice of one lemon • 45 ml (3 Tbsp) of ground ginger • 45 ml (3 Tbsp) of ground cloves • 45 ml (3 Tbsp) of ground cinnamon • 120 ml (½ cup) of brown sugar • 60 ml (¼ cup) of sweet butter, cubed into small pieces • 60 ml (¼ cup) of applejack, cider, calvados, rum, or cognac • 120 ml (½ cup) of dried cherries • 120 ml (½ cup) of dried apples • 120 ml (½ cup) of chopped walnuts • 60 ml (¼ cup) of candied ginger, chopped

RUSSIA IN APPLE TIME

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heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This is an important hinge in the cycle of the life of Christ: a moment of transition and change, as well as glorification and fulfillment. What better time of the year to celebrate it than at the transitional moment between seasons that is harvest time? It is easy to see how the two holidays became fused into one festival. Yablochniy Spas is preceded by “Wet” or “Honey” Spas, the zenith of the beekeeping calendar. It is followed by “Nut” Spas, which marks the appropriate time in European Russia to harvest local nuts. On these occasions, the harvested food is brought to church to be blessed, special recipes are dusted off and a fair-like atmosphere pervades. This is the time of year for pressing both apples and honey into popular Russian distilled beverages such as medovukha and kvass. In honor of Yablochny Spas, as well as Honey Spas and Nut Spas, I thought it appropriate to tweak an old favorite and combine these three flavors in one. Nothing says “it’s fall” quite like the smell of baked apples wafting from the oven. This simple but hugely satisfying dish is the ultimate comfort food, but I find that apples need to be livened up with more intense flavors. I played around with some of apples’ natural allies and came up with a winning combination of pungent, tart and sweet.

Read mora at rbth.com and your favorite mobile reader

Instructions: 1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Adjust the rack to the middle of the oven. Line a shallow baking dish with parchment paper. 2. Process the dry ingredients, alcohol, and the butter

LORI/LEGION-MEDIA

Although apple season has just started, the world’s most iconic fruit has been making headlines all summer. In July, Russian lawmakers placed a ban on apple imports from Poland, which was widely interpreted as a traditional wrist-slap for Poland’s cozying up to NATO over Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine. The ban represents a major setback for Polish apple growers, who export almost a third of their annual crop (worth $400 million) to Russia. In early August, apple fans suffered another blow as the Kremlin banned all produce from countries that had imposed economic sanctions on Russia. The timing could not be worse in view of the fact that Russia’s most apple-centric holiday — Yablochny Spas (Apple Savior) — took place on August 19. Fused with the Christian celebration of the Transfiguration of Jesus, this lively and colorful harvest festival has roots that predate Christianity, centered on giving thanks for the bounty of the late summer harvest. In the Christian tradition, Transfiguration celebrates the pivotal moment when Jesus reveals himself as the son of God to the apostles Peter, James and John on the summit of Mount Tabor in the presence of the prophets Moses and Elijiah. The Gospel of Matthew reports: “And lo a voice from

Take a new look at the Urals in our photo blog! rbth.com/ postindustrial_urals

JENNIFER EREMEEVA SPECIAL TO RBTH

together in a food processor, fitted with a steel blade. Pulse 5 times to combine. Set aside. 3. Use a small and very sharp knife to carefully core the apple, creating a conical cavity that is wider at the top than it is down in the base. Take care to remove all of the apple seeds, but keep the bottom of the apple intact. 4. Brush lemon juice over the exposed skin of the apple to prevent it from going brown. 5. Fill the cavity of each apple with a heaping portion of the filling. 6. Add a scant ½ inch of water to the bottom of the pan. 7. Cook for 35-45 minutes, uncovered, but baste the surface of the apples with the accumulated liquid 3 or 4 times during this time. This will create a lovely caramelized coating to the apples. To check if the apples are done, insert the tip of a sharp knife into the surface. It should go in easily and smoothly. Note that cooking times can vary significantly due to both the size and the type of apple you use. 8. Serve warm. This dish pairs beautifully with both whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. Jennifer Eremeeva is an American author and humorist based in Moscow. She is the author of “Lenin Lives Next Door: Marriage, Martinis and Mayhem in Moscow.”

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