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Special Report

Mikhail Gorbachev: “I am against all walls.”

Russian writers find American fans

The last Soviet leader on the Berlin Wall and Ukraine

Russian Literature Week comes to New York

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Politics & Society

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The New York Times Wednesday, November 19, 2014

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Money Government makes new attempt to stem the Russian national currency’s dramatic loss in value

NEWS IN BRIEF

Central Bank to Let Falling Ruble Float Freely

Government seizure of Bashneft deemed legal A Moscow arbitration court has ruled in favor of the Russian government in the seizure of oil company Bashneft. The Nov. 8 ruling said the seizure was legal because Bashneft was illegally privatized in the 1990s. The court dismissed the argument of majority shareholder AFK Sistema that the statute of limitations had expired. In a related decision, a local criminal court extended the house arrest of AFK Sistema owner Vladimir Yevtushenkov for an additional four months.

The Russian Central Bank has abandoned its defense of the ruble and declared that it will make no further interventions to prop up the rapidly weakening currency.

Russian bombers to begin patrols over Gulf of Mexico

ALEXEI LOSSAN RBTH

In a move reminiscent of Cold War days, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has announced plans for long-range bombers to make regular flight patrols over waters near North America, including the Gulf of Mexico. The Pentagon has played down the announcement, issuing a statement saying that every nation has the right to fly over international waters. The Russian move comes after NATO criticized Russia for conducting more frequent and complex flights over European airspace. Shoigu said that the flights over the Gulf of Mexico were intended, like flights over the Arctic and Russia’s far eastern borders, as practice for long-range operations.

Russia to help fight Ebola

The Russian ruble has lost more than 30 percent of its value against the dollar since the beginning of the year due to sanctions and geopolitical tensions over Ukraine.

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AFP/EASTNEWS

The Russian Central Bank has switched to a floating exchange rate policy for the national currency, the ruble. Under the new strategy, the Bank of Russia will no longer carry out full-scale currency interventions — for example, sell dollars on the Russian market. The regulator has set a cap for its daily dollar sales at $350 million, which, according to analysts, cannot influence the exchange rates. Previously, the Central Bank carried out interventions until the ruble rate stabilized. For example, in October, it spent some $29.3 billion to support the currency, and for nine days since late October, the bank was selling over $2 billion a day. The press service of the Russian Central Bank explained that the decision to stop unlimited currency interventions will prevent speculation against the ruble. “The Central Bank’s decision forms part of the strategy of switching to inflation targeting, with a floating rate of the national currency being part of it,”said Dmitry Bedenkov, head of research at IK Russ-Invest. At the same time, he added, the Central Bank has reserved the right to carry out interventions above the $350-million cap, should it feel there is a threat to stability. The introduction of daily limits on interventions at the boundaries of the currency corridors is intended to reduce pressure on the gold and foreign exchange reserves, according to Bedenkov. The Central Bank has attributed the drop in the ruble rate to the fall in oil prices and restricted access to external capital markets. According to the regulator, it will take the currency market a while to adapt to the new exchange rate policy mechanism, during which time the ruble may fluctuate in either direction.

Possible outcomes

currency, bypassing reserve ones. “For example, now in order to exchange rubles into Swiss francs or Mexican pesos, it is necessary to first convert them into U.S. dollars at the Central Bank rate and only then can the dollars be exchanged into pesos,”Soroko said. This results in an additional transaction, which increases costs makes the reserve currencies like the dollar and the euro all the more influential. According to Soroko, in the long term, the switch to a floa-

“The first outcomes of the ‘new strategy’ are simple: The ruble is hitting new lows as the Central Bank’s interventions in recent weeks considerably restrained the drive to sell,”said Anton Soroko, an analyst with the Finam investment holding company. However, he added, the decision also takes the ruble farther down the path toward becoming a freely convertible currency, which means it will be possible to exchange it into any other

ting exchange rate is good news for the Russian economy. Shortterm expectations, however, are not especially optimistic. “Firstly, free conversion means that the Central Bank will stop having an influence on the Russian national currency pricing, which in the end will increase volatility,” he said. However, the Central Bank has made it clear that in the event of a drastic and protracted fall by the ruble, it may revert to selling dollars on the market.

Russia will allocate around $20 million to help fund efforts to stop the spread of the Ebola virus, according to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. “Today, priority should be given to measures aimed at combating the outbreak caused by the Ebola virus. Russia will allocate around $20 million for these purposes. Specialists, medication and expendable materials have already been sent to affected districts. Medicines are being developed to prevent and treat this disease,” he said.

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Press Independent papers, websites and radio stations are subject to new regulations and scrutiny

Russian Media Faces Increased Pressure

REUTERS

Follow the latest news on the crisis in Ukraine on our website RBTH.COM/UKRAINE

Laws restricting foreign ownership of press outlets and limits on advertising pose new challenges for independent media in Russia. SAM SKOVE SPECIAL TO RBTH

We tailor our content to each of our platforms!

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On Nov. 10, the Russian press was full of news announcing the launch of Sputnik, a new website with a modern, Buzzfeed-like style intended to“combat the aggressive propaganda being fed to the world,” according to Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of Sputnik’s parent organization, state news agen-

Ekho Moskvy radio editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov.

cy Rossiya Segodnya. The launch of the website was just the latest in a series of well-funded expansions of Kremlin-backed media, even as Russia’s economy staggers under falling oil prices, capital flight and rising inflation. RT, the state-run international broadcaster formerly known as Russia Today, saw its 2015 budget unexpectedly upped by 41 percent in September to $400 million, Russian news agency RBC reported. Rossiya Segodnya’s 2015 budget, meanwhile, has tripled past original plans to 6.48 billion rubles ($170 million).

But as some state-owned media aimed at a foreign audience gain a larger bullhorn, wellrespected independent media within the country has found itself increasingly up against the ropes. In October, a bill to ban foreigners from owning more than 20 percent of any Russian media company was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. The legislation, which went from proposal to law in less than a month, will come into effect in February 2017. CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

SERGEY MIKHEEV / RG

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES Section sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia

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INTERVIEW MIKHAIL GORBACHEV

“I am Against All Walls” THE FIRST AND LAST PRESIDENT OF THE SOVIET UNION SPOKE TO RBTH ABOUT THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL AND THE FUTURE OF U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS As the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approached, RBTH sat down with Mikhail Gorbachev, the head of the Soviet Union at the time, to discuss the historic rapprochement between East and West and the prospects for a new Cold War.

DANIL GOLOVKIN

1989 is the year that the Berlin Wall fell, but that only happened in November. In the summer of that same year, at a press conference following your negotiations in Bonn with Chancellor [Helmut] Kohl, you were asked, “And what about the wall?” You answered, “Nothing under the sun is eternal. … The wall can disappear as soon as the conditions that gave birth to it no longer exist. I don’t see a big problem here.” How did you assume events would unfold back then? In the summer of 1989, neither Helmut Kohl nor I anticipated, of course, that everything would happen so fast. We didn’t expect the wall to come down in November. And by the way, we both admitted that later. I don’t claim to be a prophet. This happens in history: it accelerates its progress. It punishes those who are late. But it has an even harsher punishment for those who try to stand in its way. It would have been a big mistake

to hold onto the Iron Curtain.That is why we didn’t put any pressure on the government of the G.D.R. [German Democratic Republic – East Germany]. When events started to develop at a speed that no one expected, the Soviet leadership unanimously — and I want to stress “unanimously” — decided not to interfere in the internal processes that were under way in the G.D.R., not to let our troops leave their garrisons under any circumstances. I am confident to this day it was the right decision. One of the key issues that has arisen in connection with the events in Ukraine is NATO expansion into the East. Do you get the feeling that your Western partners lied to you when they were developing their future plans in Eastern Europe? Why didn’t you insist that the promises made to you — particularly U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s promise that NATO would not expand into the East — be legally encoded? I will quote Baker: “NATO will not move one inch further east.” The topic of “NATO expansion” was not discussed at all, and it wasn’t brought up in those years. I say this with full responsibility. Not a singe Eastern European country raised the issue, not even

Independent Media Outlets Face Increased Pressure CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1

The law will lead to the “lowering of editorial standards and a cutback in the pluralism of opinions,”said Andrei Richter, a journalism professor at Moscow State University. Foreign media companies, by virtue of their position outside Russia, are typically less vulnerable to state pressure. Many independent analysts believe the ruling is targeted at business newspaperVedomosti, which is jointly owned by U.S. company Dow Jones, British firm the Financial Times Group, and Finnish media conglomerate Sanoma. According to a report by Bloomberg news, Putin allies plan on buying the paper once its foreign owners are forced to sell.

No matter the reason, Richter noted that such laws are simply “the general policy of the last three years” — a period that has seen increasing restrictions on the Internet and civil rights after demonstrations against election fraud erupted in December 2011.

Mounting Pressure The experience of news organizations without foreign backers, meanwhile, has shown what may be in store for Vedomosti should the Kremlin or Kremlin-friendly owners come in. This month, state media holding Gazprom Media dismissed a journalist at opposition-minded radio station Ekho Moskvy over a tweet. When venerable editorin-chief Alexei Venidiktov protested, arguing that the station’s

staff members could only be fired with his consent, Gazprom Media head Mikhail Lesin threatened to fire the long-time editor if he did not agree to the decision, Lesin told news agency RBC.

Foreign media companies, by virtue of their position outside Russia, are less vulnerable to pressure. While Venidiktov has yet to be fired, he has not discounted the possibility. Ownership by Kremlin allies, meanwhile, may be just as bad. Also in November, the editor-inchief of business daily Kommersant, which is now owned by

Kremlin-friendly billionaire Alisher Usmanov, announced his departure shortly after the publication of an article alleging that Igor Sechin, head of oil major Rosneft, had secretly pitched counter-sanction ideas to the Kremlin. While Kommersant’s editor called the rumors surrounding his exit “conspiracy theories,” in 2011 the editor of the paper’s Vlast magazine, Maxim Kovalsky, was fired for a picture that was deemed disrespectful towards Putin. All of this, according to media researcher Vasily Gatov, fits into a clear pattern in which the Kremlin seeks to control public opinion by exerting leverage on the media companies it owns. And if the Kremlin cannot buy

RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES IS AN INTERNATIONAL MEDIA PROJECT SPONSORED BY RUSSIAN DAILY NEWSPAPER ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA. ITS PRODUCTION DOES NOT INVOLVE THE REPORTING OR EDITING STAFF OF THE NEW YORK TIMES. RBTH IS FUNDED THROUGH A COMBINATION OF ADVERTISING AND SPONSORSHIP TOGETHER WITH SUBSIDIES FROM RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. RBTH’S EDITORIAL VOICE IS INDEPENDENT. ITS OBJECTIVE IS TO PRESENT, THROUGH QUALITY CONTENT, A RANGE OF PERSPECTIVES ABOUT RUSSIA AND RUSSIA’S PLACE IN THE WORLD. PUBLISHED SINCE 2007, RBTH IS COMMITTED TO MAINTAINING THE HIGHEST EDITORIAL STANDARDS AND TO SHOWCASING THE BEST OF RUSSIAN JOURNALISM AND THE BEST WRITING ABOUT RUSSIA. IN DOING SO, WE BELIEVE THAT WE ARE FILLING AN IMPORTANT GAP IN INTERNATIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE. PLEASE E-MAIL US@RBTH.COM IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS ABOUT OUR OWNERSHIP OR EDITORIAL STRUCTURE. RBTH PUBLISHES 28 SUPPLEMENTS IN 23 COUNTRIES WITH A COMBINED READERSHIP OF 33 MILLION AND MAINTAINS 19 WEBSITES IN 16 LANGUAGES.

after the Warsaw Pact was terminated in 1991. Western leaders didn’t bring it up, either. Another issue we brought up was discussed: making sure that NATO’s military structures would not advance and that additional armed forces from the alliance would not be deployed on the territory of the then-G.D.R. after German reunification. Baker’s statement was made in that context, mentioned in our question. Kohl and [GermanVice Chancellor Hans-Dietrich] Genscher talked about it. Everything that could have been and needed to be done to solidify that political obligation was done. And fulfilled.The agreement on a final settlement with Germany said that no new military structures would be created in the eastern part of the country; no additional troops would be deployed; no weapons of mass destruction would be placed there. It has been obeyed all these years. So don’t portray Gorbachev and the then-Soviet authorities as naïve people who were wrapped around the West’s finger. If there was naïveté, it was later, when the issue arose. Russia did not object at the beginning. The decision for the U.S. and its allies to expand NATO into the East was decisively made in

1993. I called this a big mistake from the very beginning. It was definitely a violation of the spirit of the statements and assurances made to us in 1990. With regards to Germany, they were legally enshrined and are obeyed.

a media outlet, then it “creates the conditions that will bust it,” Gatov said. A host of other Russian news outlets that are not owned by foreigners but still independent from Kremlin-friendly oligarchs have seen themselves targeted, chiefly on charges of extremism. In March, the editor-in-chief of liberal-leaning news website Lenta.ru was fired shortly after publishing a link to an interview with Ukrainian nationalist lead-

launched a new site, Meduza, from offices in Riga, Latvia. Dozhd TV, a cable station often critical of the Kremlin, saw its advertising pulled after broadcasting a poll on whether the Soviet Union was right to defend Leningrad during World War II given the millions of Russian lives lost in the siege. Following a hastily put-together law that bans paid advertising on cable television starting in 2015, the slick cable channel now looks to have few options left to remain viable.

The Kremlin’s aims may be more cynical than correcting what is, in its view, a skewed media landscape.

To what end?

er Dmitry Yarosh. Many of the outlet’s journalists subsequently left in protest over the decision, writing in a mass letter of resignation that “in the last several years the space for free journalism in Russia has dramatically diminished.” The staff has since

Ukraine is planning to build a wall on the border with Russia. Why do you think it happened that the Russian and Ukrainian peoples suddenly fell out and now might be divided not only by a political, but also a physical wall? The answer to that question is very simple: I am against all walls. Let’s hope that those who are planning such a “construction” come to their senses. I don’t think our peoples will fall out. We are too close in all respects. There aren’t any insurmountable problems or differences between us. But a lot will depend on the intelligentsia and the media. If they work to separate us, contrive to exacerbate our conflicts and quarrels, there will be trouble. The examples are well known. And so I urge the intelligentsia to act responsibly. Prepared by Maxim Korshunov

Read the full interview at rbth.com/40673

According to Robert Ortung, assistant director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, the Kremlin’s aims may be more cynical than correcting what is, in its view, a skewed media landscape. By“eliminating the discussion of all possible alternatives”to the government line, the Kremlin can thus ensure most Russians’ passivity, Ortung said.

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Energy Officials say agreement in place since 1999 not at risk

ANDREY REZNICHENKO SPECIAL TO RBTH

Despite recent announcements that Russia will reduce its involvement in a joint project with the United States to secure nuclear materials in Russia, the two countries will continue to cooperate on radioactive-waste management projects in third countries. In mid-November, Sergei Kiriyenko, the general director of Russia’s state nuclear agency Rosatom told U.S. officials that no new nuclear security efforts in Russia were planned in 2015, despite more than 20 year of cooperation to secure nuclear material on Russian soil However, Russian energy projects continue and cooperation between the two countries on securing nuclear waste from third countries does not seem to be at risk. At the opening of the VI ATOMEX 2014 International Forum of Nuclear Industry Suppliers in Moscow on Oct. 29,Kirieynko made clear that the current political climate was not affecting cooperation between the Russian nuclear industry and its foreign partners, and that all current contracts were being carried out as planned. “The Russian nuclear industry is not a target of the sanctions. That goes for both individuals and corporations,” Kiriyenko said. He had previously noted that Rosatom has long-term, mutually beneficial relations with American nuclear players that are much stronger than any political disagreements.

Russia and the United States signed the 20-year intergovernmental Megatons to Megawatts Agreement — also known as the Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase Agreement — on Feb. 18, 1993. Under this agreement, 500 tons of highly enriched Russian weapons-grade uranium was converted into lowenriched uranium and later used as fuel for U.S. nuclear power plants. The program was successfully completed in January 2013.

The U.S. and Russia will continue to cooperate on radioactive-waste management projects in third countries. The first batch of highly enriched fresh fuel was removed in 2002 from the Vinca Research Institute near Belgrade. The program is entirely financed by the United States; Russia’s contribution is in its unique experience.

Where things stand Since 1999, Russia and the U.S have worked together on a a program to return highly enriched fuel provided by the U.S. or Russia from nuclear power plants in several countries to its country of origin. The goal of the program is to secure spent nuclear fuel, which could be used to create nuclear weapons, out of the hands of terrorists or rogue states. The program was the result of intensive joint consultations between Russia, the U.S., and the I.A.E.A.. When the agreement was reached, the general director of the I.A.E.A. sent a let-

The U.S. and Russia have worked together to dispose of spent nuclear fuel since 1999.

ter to 15 countries that house Russian-made research reactors, requesting their participation in the program and asking that they return the highly enriched fuel to Russia. Similar letters were sent out to countries with research reactors built using American technology, from which the Americans were to remove the highly enriched uranium. The first batch of highly enriched fresh fuel was removed in 2002 from the Vinca Research Institute outside Belgrade, Serbia. Fuel was removed from Romania soon after. So far, more than 3,500 pounds of spent and fresh highly enriched fuel have successfully been returned. The program is entirely financed by the U.S., with the exception of cases when fuel is removed from countries with higher incomes, for example Germany.n In all other cases, the American side has paid for the operations in their entirety, from preparing the fuel to licensing shipments to delivering the fuel to Russia. Russia’s contribution is its unique experience and high technology. The project will continue until 2016 under the current agreement.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Ernest Moniz

Sergey Kiriyenko

U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY, SPEAKING AT THE 58TH INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY (I.A.E.A.) GENERAL CONFERENCE IN VIENNA AT THE END OF SEPTEMBER.

GENERAL DIRECTOR OF ROSATOM , SPEAKING AT THE OPENING OF THE VI ATOMEX 2014 INTERNATIONAL FORUM OF NUCLEAR INDUSTRY SUPPLIERS IN MOSCOW ON OCT. 29.

TASS

A long history of cooperation

“We have been implementing the Megatons to Megawatts Program for the past 20 years, in which Russian fuel has met half the needs of U.S. nuclear power plants. We’ve had better and worse times during that time,” Kiriyenko said,“but we have not seen a single disruption in fuel supplies — not a single day’s delay — in 20 years.” The Megatons to Megawatts program, which lasted from 1993 to 2013, turned 500 tons of Russia’s highly enriched, weaponsgrade uranium into nuclear fuel that was subsequently used in U.S. nuclear power plants. The U.S., for its part, has said that despite tensions, it hopes to continue to work with Russia to ensure nuclear security and to cooperate on developing new technologies for nuclear energy. Speaking at the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) conference in Vienna in September, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said that although everyone understands that serious tensions have arisen between Russia and the U.S., the two countries are continuing to work together on individual projects, involving nuclear security.

PHOTOSHOT/VOSTOCK-PHOTO

Joint projects between the U.S. and Russia to dispose of waste from nuclear power plants in third countries remain in place in spite of the political climate.

AP

Nuclear Waste Program to Continue in Third Countries

"

"

All of us understand that there are serious tensions in the relationship between Russia and the United States; however, we continue cooperation on specific projects, first of all in ensuring nuclear safety.”

The Russian nuclear industry is not a target of the sanctions. That goes for both individuals and corporations. We have been implementing the Megatons to Megawatts Program for the last 20 years.”

Rankings A new report from Transparency International surprisingly puts some Russian state companies ahead of U.S. majors What’s behind the rating

Gazprom Tops Google in Ranking Russian state-owned oil and gas companies Rosneft and Gazprom have risen to higher positions in a corporate transparency rating than Google and Apple.

How transparent are the world’s largest companies?

ALEXEI LOSSAN RBTH

Russian success “Contrary to public expectations, Google and Apple consistently occupy positions close to the bottom of the list,” said Ilya Balakirev, chief analyst at UFS invesment company. Nevertheless, experts say that in recent years, corporate trans-

NATALIA MIKHAYLENKO

In a report issued by Transparency International, Russia’s stateowned energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom have risen above American I.T. giants Google and Apple in a ranking that measures anticorruption practices, disclosure of financial holdings and financial operations abroad. In the survey of 124 transnational corporations, the top slot was awarded to the Italian company Eni (7.3 points), followed by the U.K.’s Vodafone (6.7 points) and Norway’s Statoil (6.6 points). Among Russian companies, the best ranking belongs to Rosneft (in 46th place, with 4.2 points). Gazprom’s ranking is a bit lower: 78th, with 3.5 points, while Russia’s biggest retail bank, Sberbank, with 1.5 points, is close to the bottom of the list. The Russian companies outperformed some of the world’s biggest names, including Apple (2.7 points) and Google (2.2 points).

SOURCE: TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL

Russia up 30 places in Doing Business The World Bank has presented its annual Doing Business Ranking, which ranks countries around the world in terms of attractive business regulations. This year, Russia came in at 62nd, between Greece at 61 and Moldova at 63, and 30 places higher than last year. This year’s sudden leap up the ranking, however, is mainly a result of a new calculation method. For the first time, the ranking included criteria on the availability of loans, bankruptcy procedures and the protection of minority shareholders. Had this year’s method been applied last year, Russia would have risen only two points.

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Among the main obstacles to doing business in Russia is still the low level of investor protection and barriers in trade operations and construction. However, the World Bank noted that reforms carried out in 2013–2014 — which simplified the registration of enterprises (including the cancelation of mandatory prepayment of authorized capital) and the registration of property (including the reduction of periods for providing government services) — helped improve Russia’s position. Each country’s rank is based on a survey of companies (there are 10,200 respondents) using 10 parameters.

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parency of Russian companies, including those with state ownership, has actually increased. “That is a result of consistent efforts to improve corporate governance and develop relations,” said Dmitry Bedenkov, head of research at Russ-Invest, “and comes against the backdrop of an overall improvement in corporate governance.” In particular, he said, Russian companies have broadly adopted the practice of presentations and conference calls at the end of reporting periods. “Of the other criteria that were not directly used when compiling the rating, one could mention improved dividend practices by public companies in Russia, which increasingly reflect long-

Get ready for the holidays with the Soviet Diet! Find out how in our blog. rbth.com/russian_kitchen/ soviet_diet

term strategic targets in relations with shareholders,” Bedenkov added. Although Russian companies have made considerable progress in transparency issues, Ilya Balakirev pointed out that disclosure continues to be rather onesided, as companies are happy to release revenues but reluctant to share information on costs. “This has a negative impact on how companies are perceived by the market, with Gazprom being a classic example. It seems to generate huge cashflows but its cost structure is not always transparent enough, making it practically impossible to follow the company’s capital expenditure from the point of view of efficiency,” Balakirev said.

Transparency International’s rating of transparency in corporate reporting assesses companies in three areas: transparency of organizational structure, information on anticorruption programs and detailed reporting at country level. “As a rule, Russian companies score high in terms of organizational structure transparency, not bad in terms of itemized reporting but are far less impressive in terms of anticorruption activities,”said Balakirev.“Whereas the situation with the I.T. giants is somewhat different: they have a less transparent structure and often fail to provide a countryby-country breakdown of costs.” As expected, positions at the bottom of the list were taken by Chinese state banks Bank of China, Bank of Communications, and Agricultural Bank of China. Japanese automotive firm Honda was also at the bottom. Overall, according to Transparency International, about threequarters of the ranked companies do not disclose their taxes paid abroad and nearly half of them do not publish any information on revenues earned in foreign countries. In particular, none of the world’s major high-tech companies — including Amazon, Apple, Google and IBM — disclose even the full list of countries where they operate or financial figures on their operations in those jurisdictions. For example, in September 2014, U.S. tech firm Hewlett-Packard admitted that it was guilty of bribery in Russia, Poland and Mexico and agreed to pay $108 million to the U.S. authorities to have the probe closed.

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

MOST READ Irina Prokhorova: “Russia Needs Support for Its

Book Culture Instead of Missiles and Oil” rbth.com/41165

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Literature Questions of self-identification permeate the work of four Russian-American writers, all of whom published new books this year

A Long-Distance Romance: Émigré Writers and Russia Four Russian-born writers talk about how the emigrant experience has affected their writing and how they feel about the country they (sort of) left.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Boris Fishman

"

It’s strange because on one hand I feel very connected to Russia culturally, but, on the other hand, it represents everything I want to get away from. But there are certain sensual details, like the smell of the metro, which is just incredible … ”

DIANA BRUK SPECIAL TO RBTH

Lara Vapnyar

"

When I was in Russia, I was considered Jewish. Then, in America, I was considered Russian. Now, in Russia, I’m considered American. So, I’m always an outsider, but then, of course, that’s good for writing, because it makes you more aware of your surroundings.”

Ksenia Melnik

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“I moved from Magadan [a remote region in Russia’s Far East], where I was born, to Alaska at the age of 15, so by the time I got to college in upstate New York, people almost lumped the two places together and thought it was cool to have such an exotic heritage.”

EASTNEWS

“I moved from a place that had too little choice to a place that had too much,” said Boris Fishman, speaking of the Soviet Union, where he was born, and the United States, where he was raised. Third-wave Russian emigrant writers, particularly those who are now constructing a canon of Russian-American literature, often tend to describe Russia and the U.S. as mirror-images, and themselves as eternal outsiders of two diametrically opposed worlds. “When I was in Russia, I was considered Jewish.Then, in America, I was considered Russian. Now, in Russia, I’m considered American,”said LaraVapnyar,“So, I’m always an outsider, but then, of course, that’s good for writing, because it makes you more aware of your surroundings.” This identity complex is famously common among immigrants, since immigration is, in essence, a fluctuating state of dualities and constantly feuding contradictions. While it may take its toll psychologically, there’s no doubt that the inherent angst of these contradictions makes it great fodder for fiction. As Gary Shteyngart put it, “Tension is good for writing, and immigrant life provides a great deal of tension. If had to choose between being a miserable genius like Dostoevsky or a happy average Joe, I’d rather be happy, but, you know, you have to work with what you’ve been given.” For Fishman, who moved from Minsk to New York City at the age of nine, one typical immigrant issue was that, because he picked up English with a child’s ease, he immediately became “the American,”and, ergo, the one in charge of handling adult responsibilities. “I was arguing with Nynex [a now-defunct telephone company] over 10 cents at seven years old,” Fishman said, shaking his head and laughing as he reminisced about the absurd frugality of immigrant life. Yet it was precisely one of those tasks — writing restitution documents for his grandmother, who survived the Holocaust— that inspired his debut novel,“A Replacement Life” (June 2014). The book centers around a young writer trying to break free of his meager Russian immigrant existence who is pulled back into it when he’s forced to forge restitution documents for other Russian Jews, exploring the ethical ambiguities of these survival tactics with sharp cultural observations and philosophical musings. Fishman’s attitude about Russia itself is also laced with a distinctly Russian-American ambivalence. “It’s strange because on one hand I feel very connected

Gary Shteyngart emigrated to the United States in 1979 and became famous for his satirical books.

to Russia culturally, but, on the other hand, it represents everything I want to get away from,” he said.“But there are certain sensual details, like the smell of the metro, which are just incredible.” Shteyngart shares this olfactory nostalgia:“Everybody always talks about the metro! But it’s true, that smell of burning rubber and electricity, it’s like nothing else.” Shteyngart, who published his first novel to enormous accolades in 2002, paved the way to mainstream literature for other Russian-American writers. But he made another seminal move this year with the publication of“Little Failure” (January 2014), a memoir of growing up as a Russian immigrant in 1980s Brooklyn written with poignant humor and heartbreaking accuracy. Unlike Shteyngart and Fishman, Kseniya Melnik moved to the U.S. as a teenager, which she believes spared her from the identity crisis or social stigma experienced by many of those who had immigrated here as children. Instead of navigating issues of identity, Melnik’s debut short story collection, “Snow in May” (May 2014), captures the extraordinary poetry of everyday life in the country she left behind. Unsurprisingly, many of her pieces are set in the Soviet era, because in a society in which people had few material joys, little things that we take for granted, like a crate of bananas or an imported silk dress, become infused with poetic significance.

“I only became fascinated with writing about Russia after I left, but even now, I try to emphasize that I’m not ‘writing about Russia,’ but rather my Russia, the one inside my mind.” Like Melnik’s Russia, LaraVapnyar’s Russia is often a fusion of autobiographical fact and lyric fantasy. Her recent novel, “The Smell of Pine” (May 2014), is about a woman in the midst of a midlife crisis recalling her sexual awakening as a young camp counselor one Soviet summer. Vapnyar was inspired to write the book when her 16-year old daughter gave her a quiz from her sexual education class, and she realized the total lack of sexual schooling in the Soviet Union left her ill-equipped to answer the quiz questions. Like Fishman and Shteyngart, Melnik and Vapnyar distance themselves from Russia politically, but feel a rush of tenderness for certain poetic details. ForVapnyar, it is the “smell of zemlyanika [wild strawberries] in the forest, when the grass is soft, and they’ve warmed from the sun, and before you even bend over you can already feel their fresh aroma.” Today’s new generation of Russian-American writers seems set to continue in the great tradition set by Nabokov: using literature as a haven for their own unique, personal Russias, which politics can never tarnish or take away. Read the full story at rbth.com/39159

DO YOU KNOW ANY RUSSIAN WRITERS BEYOND TOLSTOY AND DOSTOEVSKY? DISCOVER THE BEST OF NEW RUSSIAN WRITING IN ENGLISH WITH RBTH LITERATURE!

Read our exclusive interviews with authors, translators and experts and reviews of the best new Russian literature. Don’t miss our coverage of Russian Literature Week in New York, Dec. 1-5

Food Western authors discover the delights of Russian cuisine

Gastronomic Goodwill: Beyond Borscht For many foreign guests to Russia, the national cuisine reveals treasures and curiosities that extend far beyond its bestknown delicacies. RANDIANNE LEYSHON RBTH

Russians are often shocked by how little Americans know about Russian national cuisine. But foreigners who are willing to dive into Russian cupboards inevitably find a complex set of ingredients for soups, salads, grilled meats and marinated vegetables. Those who have yet to visit the country can learn about typical Russian cooking through the musings of travel writers as well as cookbooks that attempt to bring these foreign flavors to American palates. “Classic Russian cuisine is virtually unknown in the United States, apart from vodka and caviar, those enduring ambassadors of goodwill,” Anne Volokh states in the beginning of her famous cookbook, “The Art of Russian Cuisine,” first published in 1989. Volokh’s solution to this culinary dilemma is to make her recipes as approachable as possible, while also introducing readers to classic dishes that may scare off newcomers to Russian cooking, such as Herring Under a Fur Coat—a layered salad with herring, beets, potatoes and carrots.

The taste of hospitality From George Kennan, who in 1868 wrote from snow-bound camps in the Far East where he survived on reindeer, tea and the hospitality of his native hosts, to John Steinbeck, who traveled to Russia in 1947, foreign visitors in the 20th century were curious about what the Russians consumed for their “daily bread.” More recently, American Ian Frazier and British writer Colin Thubron have written travelogues about their journeys across postSoviet Russia that include their dietary discoveries. A few recur-

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SURPRISES IN THE TYPICAL RUSSIAN DIET

ring trends appear in all these works. Among them: Russians are some of the most hospitable hosts, and in their enthusiasm, will often encourage guests to eat more than is comfortable. Steinbeck writes, “We ate far too much. We ate the little cherry cakes and honey until our eyes popped.”

Odd but pleasing Another agreed-upon conclusion by Western authors is that Russian food is an eclectic mix of ingredients, whichVolokh attributes to a“unique result of climate, geography and native genius.”The

Americans tend to envision Russian tables massively covered in borscht, caviar and vodka. Another agreed-upon conclusion by Western authors is that Russian food is an eclectic mix of ingredients. knack Russians have for combining ingredients is often odd but pleasing to visitors. Kennan, who traveled to Russia on an expedition for a telegraph company, responded positively to the new dishes he faced: “A curious native dish of sour milk, baked curds and sweet cream, covered with powdered sugar and cinnamon, is worthy of being placed upon a civilized table.” Frazier, however, had a harder time coming to terms with the “native genius”cooking style. On his cross-country trip, Frazier’s guide made him a lunch of“freshly baked black raisin bread on top of which he put chunks of canned mackerel dripping with oil and garnished with peeled cloves of garlic cut in half ... my stomach hesitated. I ate it all,

Dill. Many foreigners are amazed by the amount of dill and parsley involved in Russian cooking. These herbs appear in everything — from soups and salads, to meat and vegetables, especially potatoes.

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however, and then washed it down with tinny-tasting canned orange juice from Georgia — in retrospect, another mistake.” Frazier, it should be noted, was the only author that included five entries in his index for food poisoning.

Cuisine for a big country Russian cuisine is an expression of the ways the population came to terms with the available resources. The use of smoked fish from the north, tea from the east, buckwheat from the south and potatoes from the west reflect the country’s vast geography.Volokh also comments on the extraordinarily large number of fish and mushroom dishes, which are in part due to the Orthodox Church’s dietary restrictions. Orthodox believers maintain a limited diet for about 250 fasting days per year. These are the forces that shape Russian recipes.

National non-alcoholic drink Another irrefutable fact is this: traveling to Russia will increase your tea consumption. Kennan, who spent most of his trip in Kamchatka and was often snowbound, writes:“I managed to pass away the day by drinking tea eight or 10 times simply as an amusement.”Volokh calls this steeped brew Russia’s “national nonalcoholic drink.” In their respective books, Kennan mentions teadrinking 55 times, Frazier 40 times, Steinbeck 18 times and Thubron 14 times. Despite gastronomic differences, Western authors are generally in awe of the hospitality and kitchen creativity of their Russian hosts and travel companions. John Reed, an American journalist and socialist who witnessed the 1917 October Revolution, wrote about his first trip to Russia: “Russian ideas are the most exhilarating … Russian food and drink are to me the best, and Russians themselves are, perhaps, the most interesting human beings that exist.”

Mayonnaise. Nearly every Russians salad require this ingredient. The reasons behind its inclusion are not so clear. Some historians link the added fat to the need to survive the long cold winters.

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Pickling. Russia has a rich tradition of pickling vegetables in order to preserve them through the colder months. Typical Russian dishes include pickled tomatoes, cucumbers and many different types of mushrooms.

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Translation Newly available memoir reveals writer’s inner world

A new version of Vasily Grossman’s “An Armenian Sketchbook” was included in the shortlist for this year’s Read Russia Prize for translation. GEORGY MANAEV RBTH

A new translation of “An Armenian Sketchbook,” an account of a trip Russian writerVasily Grossman made to Armenia in the early 1960s, by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler, was one of the nominees for this year’s Read Russia Prize. Although the Chandlers did not win the prize, which recognizes the best translations of Russian literature into foreign languages, the publicity surrounding the work brought new interest to the life and writing of Grossman (1905–1964) in the year marking the 50th anniversary of his death. “An Armenian Sketchbook,” a short memoir written in early 1962, was not published during Grossman’s lifetime, but Robert Chandler said that the work offers a rare glimpse into the writer’s inner world. “There is not a lot of reliable information about Grossman’s life,” Chandler said, adding that the account of the two months Grossman spent in Armenia in late 1961 is the writer’s only autobiographical work. “From it we get a clear sense

of Grossman’s sense of humor, of his reluctance to take himself too seriously and of his constant curiosity about other people.” “An Armenian Sketchbook also features what Chandler describes as“vivid evocations”of the country’s barren landscape, “lucid, witty discussions of nationalism,” a description of a village wedding, and “several unforgettable pages about a night when Grossman thought he was dying.”

Grossman, who was a war correspondent, filed reports from the front in Stalingrad, Kursk and Berlin. Honesty banned Grossman was little-known to foreign audiences until 2011, when the BBC produced a dramatic mini-series based on his epic novel of Stalingrad,“Life and Fate”(1959). After the show aired, the novel itself, which was first translated into English by Robert Chandler in 1985, became a huge success in the U.K., even topping Amazon’s bestseller list at one point. He was not particularly well known to Russian audiences, either.“Life and Fate” was banned in the Soviet Union for being“anti-Soviet.”One possible explana-

tion for the ban is its unprecedented honesty about World War II. Grossman, who was a war correspondent for the Red Army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda, filed reports from the front in Stalingrad, Kursk and Berlin. He was one of the first journalists to report on the Nazi concentration camps, filing a report from the liberation of Treblinka. Due to this experience, even his fictionalized account of war did not adhere to the positive, patriotic formula of most Soviet writing of the time. Grossman’s novel “The People Immortal” (1943), which was published in English in 1944 as “No Beautiful Nights,” was among the first accounts of the Soviet Union during the war. “Vasily Grossman was a man of unusual courage, both physically and morally,” said Robert Chandler.“He spent longer than any other Soviet journalist in the thick of the fighting on the right bank of the Volga, in the ruins being fought over building by building and even room by room. And then, within months of the Soviet victory at Stalingrad, he was writing some of the first articles and stories published in any language about the Shoah. His mother — to whom he later dedicated“Life and Fate”— was one of the 12,000 Jews shot by the Nazis in a massacre outside the town of Berdichev.”

PRESS PHOTO

Vasily Grossman: From Stalingrad to Armenia to the West Vasily Grossman as a war correspondent in Germany, March 1945.

RUSSIAN LITERATURE WEEK

Learn more about Russian writers The film “Vasily Grossman: I Understood That I Had Died” (2014) by Elena Yakovich, which tells the story of the writer’s life, is scheduled to be shown as part of Russian LIterature Week, which will take place in New York Dec. 1–5. The event involves a series of panel discussions, roundtables and film screenings related to Russian literature. During the week, leading authors, publishers and translators will pre-

Grossman managed to get a commission to translate an Armenian novel, despite not reading Armenian.

side over events debating the best new Russian writing, the future of Russian literature online and how to take a new look at the classics. Participants include PEN World Voices co-founder Esther Allen, translator Marian Schwartz, Columbia University’s Ronald Meyer and translator Antonina W. Bouis. For the latest schedule of events, visit readrussia.org/russianliteratureweek.

In Mandelstam’s footsteps Grossman’s first novel about the Battle of Stalingrad, “For a Just Cause (1956),” was heavily edited, but was eventually published. Despite the censorship, the book was widely panned in the Soviet press.“Life and Fate”was intended as a sequel to this novel, but in 1961, the manuscript was con-

fiscated from the author by the K.G.B. It was later smuggled to Europe by Grossman’s friends and published after his death, first in Switzerland in 1980. In the Soviet Union, it was released only in 1988, during perestroika. After “Life and Fate” was banned, Soviet publishers stopped printing all of Grossman’s books. In search of any kind of income, Grossman managed to get a commission to translate an Armenian novel — despite not being able to read Armenian — and went to that country just like another Russian writer, Osip Mandelstam, had done 30 years earlier, also in a quest to escape the wrath of the Soviet authorities. It was during this trip that Grossman created the series of nonfiction sketches and stories that later became“An Armenian Sketchbook.” It turned out to be one of his last works — Grossman died of cancer in Moscow in 1964. The Armenian book was also published posthumously in the Soviet Union, in 1967.

Trends Publishers experiment with new cover designs in order to attract buyers to the classics

Classic Literature Gets a Facelift Russia’s market for printed books remains strong, but sales of classic literature are struggling. Some publishers hope new designs will boost their titles.

While an edition of “Anna Karenina” featuring Keira Knightly proved popular, Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Great Gatsby” ranked lower than other editions.

TATYANA TROFIMOVA SPECIAL TO RBTH

While the market for e-books in Russia continues to grow, it still accounts for less than 1 percent of the total book market. However, even in this seemingly robust market for printed books, the market share of classic literature is falling off. The most popular books in Russia last year included “Fifty Shades of Grey” and a collection of the lives of Orthodox saints. The only classic at the top of the list was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” which had just been made into a popular film. While publishers working in most genres would look at the situation and consider new ways to market their works, publishing houses that specialize in classic literature have generally continued with a conservative approach to the look and feel of their products. Russia’s three biggest publish-

ers, AST, Eksmo and Azbuka, all publish a classic literature series. Although Azbuka was the first to publish a series of classic works with paperback covers, making their books cheaper and more accessible, the publishing house, like its competitors, adheres to the adage that classics must be illustrated by classics. The cover of these books usually shows a portrait of the author or a picture from the era in which the book was written. Publishers that are willing to branch out in their cover choices, however, often see positive re-

sults. After the 2013 release of Carlo Carlei’s“Romeo and Juliet,”the edition with images from the film on the cover sold more than 15,000 copies, while the same book with a more traditional cover sold only 7,000 copies.There was a similar trend for sales of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” after the 2012 screen adaptation. Actress Keira Knightly, who starred in the title role, appeared on the cover of Azbuka’s special edition, part of its new series “Watch the film — read the book!” “Stores begin displaying these books in V.I.P. areas and the cus-

From Russia’s main Christmas tree and chime bells on Red Square to the holiday cheer ringing in Moscow’s pedestrian zones, RBTH tells you where to have New Year’s Eve fun in the capital.

tomer, who has already seen the film, comes across precisely these books,”said Yekaterina Alexeeva, director of Eksmo’s Classical Literature and Poetry Section. Tying book sales to film adaptations has its limitations, however, since not every classic will be made or remade into a feature film. Additionally, the tactic doesn’t always work. According to trade publication ProBooks. ru, there were four different editions of “The Great Gatsby” in the list of Russia’s Top 50 fiction books by sales for 2013. The most popular edition among readers

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

was Azbuka’s traditional one with William Orpen’s 1912 painting “Café Royal” on the cover (19th place). This edition was followed by Eksmo’s version with a colorful image of Jay Gatsby from Jack Clayton’s 1974 forgotten screen adaptation (23rd place). The edition featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby came in 31st.

Manga Pushkin Publishers who are looking for ways to promote more consistent sales have had to branch out even further to attract readers, especially younger ones. Eksmo’s series of classics for schoolchildren is the most ambitious in Russian publishing today. Its editions of Shakespeare’s“Romeo and Juliet,” Pushkin’s“The Captain’s Daughter”and Alexander Grin’s“Scarlet Sails”feature covers designed in the style of Japanese manga comics. “We knew from the very beginning that our readership is small,”said Tatyana Suvorova, director of Eksmo’s Young Adult Section, “and that the buyer in this case is not the parents or grandparents. Such a design would not attract them. We want-

ed to attract the attention of the adolescent and show him the topicality of the classics through the design.” According to an Eksmo representative, sales from this series were the same as those from the series with the normal design, but these numbers can already be considered a success, since the targeted readership is smaller in quantity and in purchasing power. Despite reader reviews showing that young people bought the books with the manga-style covers, Eksmo recently decided to discontinue the series. The reason behind the decision could be that the publishers have put their focus on attracting and holding older, more conservative readers, who are more likely to by printed books. A study last year by Digital Parenting Russia found that half of Russian kids between 7 and 15 read books on e-readers and that only one in five kids who read on an electronic device has purchased an e-book. According to Russian state publishing agency Rospechat, the pirated book market in Russia has more than 100,000 titles on offer while only 60,000 titles are available legally.

The New Year of your dreams: At Red Square, let yourself go.... Start your day walking along the extravagantly decorated halls of the GUM shopping mall, plunge into the festive atmosphere and buy your souvenirs. Later, come out into the frosty air where the bright lights of Russia’s main Christmas tree, the cheerful holiday lighting of St. Basil’s Cathedral, fireworks, and an enthusiastic “Hurrah!” from thousands of people in the crowd all make for an unforgettable beginning of the New Year. Hint: after finding the right spot on Red Square, you can record a video message in front of the bell tower, as President Vladimir Putin does, and send it to your friends and relatives who are celebrating the New Year across the world. Pedestrian streets: Fairy-tale atmosphere, carnival parade As early as the middle of December, pedestrian streets in the center of Moscow — the Arbat, Kamergersky Lane, Nikolskaya Street, Stoleshnikov Lane — are transformed into fairytales come to life. Concerts, souvenir and food markets, mulled wine, and hot food make these streets a great place to visit at night or at noon. On New Year ’s Eve, these streets in the capital will be just as packed as Red Square. Shopping, entertainment and frosty fun at outdoor markets You can celebrate the New Year in full swing in the center of Moscow at holiday markets. Wooden huts feature pop-up shops selling Russian shawls and scarves, laquered trays, and gingerbread await guests, along with restaurants selling mulled wine, crepes, toys other items from different cities in Russia and around the world. In these markets, you might even run into famous characters from Russian folklore — Emelya and his famous portable oven, gnomes, angles and of course the hosts of Russia’s most important holiday, Grandfather Frost and Snegurochka. Moscow skating rinks: Romantic settings, cosy cafes on ice For those who want their New Year celebrations to be more active, skating rinks will be set up all over Moscow. Glide through Red Square to the sound of chimes, drink champagne, eat tangerines, and see which Russian celebrities visit the square with their families. The skating rink in the middle of a wooded area at the Hermitage Garden is considered to be the most romantic, while the rink at Gorky Park (the largest skating rink in Europe) has the most cosy cafes on ice. Moscow ponds also turn into skating rinks in the winter — you can skate at the legendary Patriarch’s Ponds or at Chistiye Prudy. Park yourself in parks: Good time for children and adults Every year, parks in Moscow put together programs for children and adults, including light shows, performances based on old Soviet holiday musicals and Christmas ornament workshops. Kolomenskoye Park offers horseback rides, Sokolniki hosts snowman building contests and Grandfather Frost with Snegurochka can be found at every park in Moscow.


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RUSSIA AND NATO Andrei Sushentsov SPECIAL TO RBTH

he debate over European security turns on the different ways Russia and the West interpret NATO’s expansion. These interpretations, for their part, are rooted in the different ways the parties view the end of the Cold War. According to Russian leaders, the Cold War ended as a result of the joint efforts of the Soviet Union and the United States in the late 1980s to move from a relationship based on confrontation to one focused on cooperation. After the agreed-upon end to confrontation, the Russians expected the sides would jointly determine the future of the areas where their interests overlapped, primarily European security. The main issue to be decided was the future of NATO, which had been established as a counterbalance to the Soviet Union. In the late 1980s, during talks on the future of Germany, the subject of how German reunification would affect NATO was frequently discussed. As part of the discussions, the Soviet Union agreed not to oppose German reunification and NATO member states agreed not to deploy the alliance’s military infrastructure in East Germany — an agreement they honor still. However, there was much debate as to whether the agreement not to expand eastward would apply only to East Germany or to Eastern Europe generally. According to the personal notes of U.S. Secretary of State James

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Baker, the subject was discussed in a conversation with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow in February 1990. But Baker’s notes are inconclusive as to how the parties left the issue. What can be said is that despite the fact that the Soviet Union was clear in its adamant opposition to NATO enlargement, no agreement guaranteeing that there would be no expansion was signed. During the discussions in 1989– 1990, the issue did not come up because the Warsaw Pact was still in place. However, starting in 1991, the Soviet Union lost control over the events in Central and Eastern Europe. Communist governments fell, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, and the West had no impetus to engage in any negotiations or agreements with Moscow. Motivation to negotiate with Moscow further decreased with the breakup of the Soviet Union. Under Boris Yeltsin, Russia not only set aside Soviet demands for guarantees that NATO would not expand, but even toyed with the idea of joining the alliance itself. In 1990,Yeltsin, then chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet, wrote:“In what appears to be almost a mockery of our four and a bit years of perestroika, in a matter of days, the G.D.R.,

Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria made such a leap from the past towards a normal, humane, civilized society that it is no longer clear if we shall ever be able to catch up with them.”These words explain why Russia was so tolerant of former Warsaw Pact members’ aspirations to join NATO. For their part, members of the North Atlantic Alliance perceived the situation as a clear victory, and put forward a program to turn the bloc into a universal security organization. In this context, Russia lost its status as an equal partner and became, as far as NATO was concerned, just another country that the alliance would deal with on its own terms. From these beginnings grew profound imbalances in European security, which caused ongoing disagreements between Russia and NATO starting from the mid-1990s. Over time, omissions and reticence led to a complete breakdown of understanding between the parties. In effect, the West failed to create a coherent and purposeful policy for working with Russia. It was customary to believe that Moscow was moving toward the West, and therefore the West could not do Russia any harm by acting unilaterally. While the goal of this policy was not to ignore

Does Russia need Democracy? IN SEPTEMBER, THE ANALYTICAL LEVADA CENTER ASKED MORE THAN 1,6OO PEOPLE IN 46 RUSSIAN REGIONS TO GIVE THEIR OPINION ABOUT DEMOCRACY AS A POLITICAL SYSTEM FOR RUSSIA.

Moscow’s interests, in practice, that was exactly what it did. This approach did not change, even after the first serious disagreements between Russia and NATO erupted during the conflicts in the Balkans. At that time, the West acted unilaterally on its own interpretations of how to ensure European security, which included expanding NATO and deploying U.S. missiles in eastern Europe. When Russia balked at these moves, Washington and Brussels responded that Russia could also take whatever steps it felt were necessary. The West was not concerned with the corresponding steps Russia was taking to strengthen its own security because it believed that Moscow was not an adversary and did not represent a credible threat. The widely held belief was that while Russia wanted equal partnership, it was not an equal partner. A divergence of interests prompted Russia to reassess its priorities in its relations with the West. Moscow’s hopes to establish a new world order on equal terms with all parties remained unfulfilled. On numerous occasions, the United States and NATO unilaterally used force in conflicts. Russia’s independent foreign policy, aimed at ensuring its own interests, met with increasing criticism in the West. The Ukrainian crisis is just the latest example of Russia and the West’s failure create a post–Cold War world order. To prevent future conflicts in Europe, Russia and the West should agree on new rules of engagement, both in Europe and in the rest of the world.

NATALIA MIKHAYLENKO

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Russia Direct is a forum for experts and senior decision-makers from Russia and abroad to discuss, debate and understand issues in geopolitical relations from a sophisticated vantage point.

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Take a look back and glance ahead to the new challenges facing Moscow DOWNLOAD TODAY! $5.99 Written by the most prominent international and Russian experts, this guidebook highlights some of the major trends considered by Russian policymakers over the past year.

Andrey Sushentsov is an associate professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and aValdai Club fellow.

Why the G-20 still matters to the Russian Federation NOVEMBER 2014 MONTHLY MEMO The G-20, which recently met in Brisbane, Australia, is facing important questions about its ability to address the financial and economic needs of nonmember nations. Are G-20 nations like Russia and China willing to challenge the core underpinnings of the global financial system?

TATIANA PERELYGINA

THE LESSONS OF GLOBALIZATION Michael Slobodchikoff RUSSIA DIRECT

he current crisis in Ukraine has highlighted one of the problems of globalization: It is no longer possible to punish key trading partners as an instrument of foreign policy without calling into question the fundamental principles that created the current global economic system. As Western nations began to impose sanctions against Russia, they not only punished Russia for its actions in relation to Ukraine, but also punished themselves. As a result of globalization, economies are too tightly linked to make economic sanctions viable — a fact that Western leaders are just now beginning to realize. Recently, in an interview with The Economist, U.S. President Barack Obama said that Russia is only a regional power that does

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not produce anything. In fact, he said, people are not flocking to Russia for a chance at a better life. While the second part of his comment is not true — there are many from the post-Soviet states flocking to Russia for a chance at a better life — the fact remains that Russia lags in production compared to Western European states. This is a holdover from the Soviet era, when the state focused on military rather than consumer production. From that perspective, U.S. policymakers conjectured that economic sanctions would have a far bigger impact on Russia than on Western Europe. And, yet, over the past 25 years, Russia has increasingly integrated into the global economic order. During the perestroika years, a new class of Russian small business entrepreneurs developed. These “shuttle traders” would go to Turkey and other countries and then return to Russia to sell con-

sumer goods in local markets. As Russia’s economy gradually caught up to the West, Russia began to import consumer goods from Western Europe. German electronics, automobiles and other products became status symbols

Russia produced natural resources, while it also became a major importer of luxury products. for Russians, as they strove to improve their quality of life. What was not available during Soviet times became widely available to Russians — providing, of course, that they had the money to pay for such luxuries. In fact, these items were not only available in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also became widely available throughout Russia. For example, even in the regions, it

was possible to purchase European luxury goods such as BMW and Mercedes cars. Luxury goods were not the only things Russia imported from abroad. Consumers could now purchase agricultural products such as real Parmesan cheese and Chilean and French wines. The problem was that, by relying on these imports, Russians stopped producing their own consumer goods. Russians seemed to prefer imported goods to their own manufactured goods, and it became more and more difficult to find Russian manufactured goods. In short, it became much more efficient to rely on imported goods than to foster the creation of the nation’s domestic producers. Russia produced natural resources and became a major player in energy, while it also became a major importer of luxury products and manufactured goods. In short, Russia became a typical member of the globalized world economy, in which states specialize in industries and sectors where they have a natural competitive advantage. However, despite the fact that sanctions would have a negative impact globally, the United States and the European Union have leveled multiple rounds of sanctions against Russia since March 2014, while Russia first leveled targeted sanctions against indi-

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viduals in the United States and then sanctions against agricultural imports from a number of countries. While Russian policy makers have argued that these sanctions will boost domestic agricultural production in the long term, in the short term there are deficits of certain goods. Also, prices have risen for agricultural goods in Russia because, due to globalization, it has become more efficient for Russians to buy agricultural products from abroad than produce them at home. In June 2014, Russia filed a

Sanctions imposed by the West and the counter-sanctions applied by Russia end up hurting everyone. complaint with the World Trade Organization (W.T.O.) about the sanctions. It argued that sanctions have violated W.T.O. rules. In contrast, the E.U. has filed many complaints against Russia with the W.T.O., arguing that Russia levies unfair tariffs on European exports to Russia. Now, the W.T.O. finds itself in the unique position of determining the fate of globalization. If it rules in favor of the E.U. over Russia, then Russia may withdraw

from the W.T.O. and accelerate the trend towards what Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center has recently referred to as “bipolar globalization.” In other words, if the W.T.O. rules in favor of the E.U., Russia will have even more incentive to cooperate with China and to challenge the system that the United States and the E.U. support. If the W.T.O. rules in favor of the Russian complaint against sanctions, then Russia would not leave the W.T.O., but would be left with uncooperative trading partners in Europe and the United States. While Russia does not have the power to directly challenge U.S. hegemony, the current crisis has placed the country in the unique position of presenting an alternate ideology for global trade and governance. It is not yet clear how the Ukrainian crisis will be resolved, but it is in the interests of both Russia and the United States to see it resolved and relations improved to the point that cooperation can resume. If it continues, both sides will only end up hurting each other economically, and causing additional turmoil in the established geopolitical system. Michael Slobodchikoff is a lecturer in the political science department at Troy University in Troy, Ala.

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The Arts

RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

MOST READ Andrey Zvyagintsev on Art-House Film, Spirituality and

the Rule of Law rbth.com/40933

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Flim The director of “Stalingrad” prepares to take on a different kind of epic tale

BEHIND THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE

Mr. Bondarchuk Goes to Hollywood

Words for Foods to Impress Your Thanksgiving Guests

WILLIAM MOORE

REUTERS

SPECIAL TO RBTH

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1) “Stalingrad,” a classic Hollywoodstyle blockbuster (2013), was Russia’s first film shot in Imax 3D. 2) “Ninth Company” (2005) an Afghanistan war drama. 3) “Inhabited Island: The Battle” (2009) is a sci-fi epic.

HIS STORY

Fyodor Bondarchuk NATIONALITY: RUSSIAN AGE: 47 STUDIED: CINEMATOGRAPHY

Bondarchuk was born in Moscow to actress Irina Skobtseva and Academy Award–winning director Sergei Bondarchuk. He graduated from the Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in 1991. He made his debut as an actor in 1986 and began working as an assistant director in 1987 while still a student. In 1990, he became one of the first Russian producers of music videos and in the 2000s, he also made a name for himself as a popular TVhost. He has directed eight films and played more then 50 roles.

Bondarchuk makes no apologies. “I hear the comments: It’s not a war drama, it’s more about advertising and entertainment. But that was my idea!” he told Salon. “We have no comics or superheroes. We have no history of creating something like that, no examples to draw on. This is the attempt to create that kind of new genre.” Comic book heroics have dominated U.S. cinema for years, so Bondarchuk’s style would seem to makes him a natural fit. “We’re in talks to have the same camera crew and visual effects studio from ‘Stalingrad’ … on ‘The Odyssey,’”Bondarchuk told Russian daily Izvestiya. The filmmaker will be looking

Peter Kuznik and I have just finished a 12-hour long documentary series,“Untold History of the United States.” We’ve sold “Untold History” in many countries. I am happy that after much effort, we managed to release the book and the television series in Russia. Russians have a completely different point of view on the First and the Second World Wars. Americans don’t understand a lot of the history of these wars, and we deal with that in the book. The book addresses such controversial issues as the Cold War and U.S.-Soviet relations. The crisis in Ukraine is at the end of this long history. I am very interested in the history of these

relations between the two countries, and it is a very large and complex issue.

On NATO expansion NATO was finished after the end of the Cold War; there were no reasons for the western alliance to continue. It was a defensive alliance to protect Western Europe; it has since become an offensive alliance that incorporated Eastern Europe and is putting a missile shield near the border with Russia.

CORBIS/ALLOVERPRESS

“In My Opinion, Russia Is a Natural Ally of the United States”

On his new documentary

any Russian sayings have their roots in words for foods. The berries with the most positive connotation in Russian are the raspberry and the cherry. When life is good, Russians say: “It’s not a life, its a raspberry” (Ne zhizn, a malina — не жизнь, а малина). The word“cranberry”is used to denote boastful and implausible tales, cock-and-bull stories. The expression razvesistaya klyukva (развесистая клюква, literally “drooping cranberry”) means blatant propaganda. When a place is packed with people, you can say yabloku negdye upast (яблоку негде упасть,“there isn’t room for an apple to fall”). The expression “apple of discord”,which originates in Greek mythology, is used in Russian too (yabloko razdora, яблоко раздора). Meanwhile, the pear features in a traditional children’s riddle: Visit grusha — nelzya skushat (Висит груша — нельзя скушать,“What is a pear hanging, but you can’t eat it”)? The answer is a light bulb, although light bulbs now often come in shapes other than that of a pear. Pumpkin and turnip are often used in Russian to mean the head. If somebody hits you on the head, you could say that you have poluchil po tykve (получил по тыкве, “received one to the pumpkin”). The expression chesat repu (чесать репу, “to scratch the turnip”), meanwhile, means to think hard to resolve a complex problem. In another, older, meaning, a turnip stood for something simple, elementary and primitive. Hence the expression proshche parenoi repy (проще пареной репы, “simpler than boiled turnip”). The word for “cabbage”

Read the full interview at rbth.com/40225

to repeat the success of the last Russian director to make it big in Hollywood, Timur Bekmambetov—while avoiding his failure. In 2008, Bekmambetov was tapped to direct the Angelina Jolie action film“Wanted.”It was a box office smash, grossing more than $340 million worldwide. But Bekmambetov followed it with a bomb, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,”which grossed only $37 million in the U.S. on a budget of $69 million. Bondarchuk clearly has the confidence to take his latest highstakes challenge. Asked by The Guardian to talk about his fans, Bondarchuk declined. “The haters are the more interesting bunch.”

flict is, but I think many Americans don’t understand the Russian point of view at all. They think that Russia wants to aggrandize itself, that Putin wants to revive the past. In my opinion, Putin has a defensive position, protecting the core geopolitical interests of the Russian state. And Putin has a right to do so, just as the leader of any other country has. It is the United States that is invasive and pushing constantly at the limits of Russian patience.

On sanctions On Ukraine and Crimea The situation in Ukraine was the last test. Western institutions — the European Union, NATO, the I.M.F. — would like to have influence, run and control Ukraine. I do not think that’s great for Russia. I understand what the con-

Bringing Snowden to the big screen Stone is currently working on a feature film about Edward Snowden, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role. The plot is based on two books: one written by Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who has handled Snowden’s affairs since he

(капуста, kapusta) is a slang word for money in Russian. Cabbage also features in the phrase that is used to explain to small children where babies come from (they are found in a cabbage patch). Onion features in the expression gore lukovoe (горе луковое), denoting somebody who is unlucky, clumsy, disorganized. The word “potato” is used to describe a bulbous nose (nos kartoshkoi, нос картошкой). Corn is present in the word kukuruznik (кукурузник), denoting a light agricultural aircraft. The same word was used to refer to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who saw corn as a solution to the country’s food problem and initiated a campaign of sowing corn all over the country (a popular slogan of the time was:“Corn is the queen of the fields”). Peas feature in several fixed phrases too. For example, the Russian equivalent of the expression: “You might as well talk to a brick wall” is kak ob stenku gorokh (как об стенку горох). Peas are also somewhat mysteriously present in the phrase shut gorokhoviy (шут гороховый), which is used to describe somebody whom you consider to be a buffoon. If you want to stress that something happened a very long time ago, you can say that it happened pri Tsare Gorokhe (при царе Горохе, “during the reign of Tsar Pea”). Beans feature in the expression ostatsya na bobakh (остаться на бобах), meaning: to be left with nothing. Nuts are used in the expression dat na orekhi (дать на орехи), meaning: to scold, severely criticize somebody. The Russian equivalent of “to reap the fruits of” is pozhinat plodi (пожинать плоды). So, have plenty of raspberry and do take care of your pumpkins! Learn more about Russian names and their origins at rbth.com/double_agents

LITERATURE Read our updated literature section! rbth.com/literature

BIBLIOPHILE

Instead, Bondarchuk takes cues from his early years as a music video director. “Every time, I am trying to break the rules, at least as the conservative people see them,” Bondarchuk told Salon.com. His brand of iconoclasm has paid off big.“Stalingrad”garnered $55 million domestically and another $11 million in China. Still, it divided Russian critics with its hyper-saturated, digitally enhanced visual style and what some called shallow storytelling. Said Lenta.ru critic Sergei Obolonkov: “It’s sad that out of a desire to simultaneously entertain and frighten,‘Stalingrad’ became a movie about playing war for 12-year-olds.”

INTERVIEW OLIVER STONE

In a wide-ranging interview with Russian daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the controversial American filmmaker gave his views on EastWest relations and the Ukraine crisis.

SPECIAL TO RBTH

M

Warner Brothers has hired largerthan-life Russian director Fyodor Bondarchuk to direct a new adaptation of a larger-than-life story — “The Odyssey.”

Being the son of a giant of 20thcentury cinema might leave a modern filmmaker with the occasional crisis of confidence. If Fyodor Bondarchuk has this problem, he hides it well. “Fools — fools or haters,” the Russian director said of his critics during an interview on the Russian talk show “Temporarily Available” late last year. Impeccable in a three-piece suit, Bondarchuk interrupted the interview multiple times to field personal cell phone calls while the show’s hosts looked on in amazement. Bondarchuk, 47, may be all but unknown in the United States, but he’s one of the most dominant — and self-assured — figures in post-Soviet film. Together with dozens of starring roles as an actor, Bondarchuk has directed two of the highest-grossing Russian films of all time: the Afghan war drama “Ninth Company”(2005) and the World War II spectacle “Stalingrad” (2013), Russia’s first film shot in Imax 3D. And with his latest project, his profile in the U.S. is likely to rise fast: Warner Brothers hired Bondarchuk this year to direct an adaptation of Homer’s “Odyssey.” A taste for epics seems to run in the family. Bondarchuk is the son of the legendary Soviet filmmaker Sergei Bondarchuk, who wrote, directed and starred in the 1967 film adaptation of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. “I’m afraid to talk about some kind of mystical correspondences, but there’s a huge number of them … with the life and work of my father,” Bondarchuk said on “Temporarily Available.” Both directed his first film at the age of 38. Both raised eyebrows with production budgets that shattered Russian records — Sergei with his “War and Peace,” Fyodor with both his sci-fi epic “The Inhabited Island”(2008) and “Stalingrad.”And both men have been among the few Russian directors to break into Hollywood. The younger Bondarchuk hasn’t matched his father’s Oscar yet, but he had his first shot with “Stalingrad,”which Russia chose as its submission to the 2014 Academy Awards. The film failed to make the Academy’s short list of nominees for Best Foreign Picture — perhaps in part because of the shock of just how “Hollywood” it was. “Stalingrad”is a world away from the art-house fare of Russian directors better known on the festival circuit, such as Andrei Zvyagintsev (“The Return,”“Elena,” “Leviathan”) and Aleksandr Sokurov (“Russian Ark,”“Faust”).

Alexey Mikheev

07

arrived in Russia, and the second by Luke Harding, a journalist for the British paper The Guardian. Stone recently met with Snowden in Moscow to discuss the project. Shooting is scheduled to begin in the first months of 2015.

It’s a shame. We are hurting Russia; hurting ourselves. Russia will find new partners in the East and Eurasia. They just signed new trade agreement with China. Russia will go on with or without sanctions. It’s a shame, but that’s the U.S. style of doing things.They squeeze through the economy; through the media. You need patience to fight the dragon. I think Putin knows this; he is a very smart man. He already has experience like this. After 9/11, Putin was the first guy to call Bush. Russia had its own problems with the Chechen terrorists, and knew the power of Islamist terrorism. Therefore, in my opinion, Russia is a natural ally of the United States.

A Stilted Retelling of a Remarkable Life her in his strong arms”. She later tells him:“You’re my hero … Life will be wonderful!” and they SPECIAL TO RBTH quote Lermontov together. Christopher Culver’s energetic TITLE: ANDREI TARKOVSKY: translation grapples valiantly LIFE ON THE CROSS with the stilted dialogues, giving AUTHOR: LYUDMILA young Tarkovsky some amusing, BOYADZHIEVA slightly anachronistic teenage PUBLISHER: GLAGOSLAV slang: “cool kicks”,“whoa, man.” he metaphor underlying At film school, Tarkovsky first anLyudmila Boyadzhieva’s nounces his plans for a new kind fictionalized biography is of provocatively realist cinemathe image of revered Rus- tography: “Let them crucify me”. sian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky His friend Andron responds: “A as Christ. With his messianic ap- life on the cross!” Symbolically proach to creativity (“for me this scene takes place on Sparmaking films is a moral activity,” row Hills, Moscow’s best-known she quotes him saying) and his viewpoint. Boyadzhieva’s lumpy ideological persecution by the prose is a steaming casserole of Soviet authorities, Tarkovsky is cultural references. ripe for hagiography. “A Life on the Cross” devotes Boyadzhieva does not flinch a chapter to each of Tarkovsky’s from portraying his human films, analyzing their slow catafailings, too.Tarkovsky may have logue of self-referential allusions, been a genius and cinematic recurring motifs and portentous pioneer, but clearly he could also images. Boyadzhieva continues be a very annoying man. He was to recreate the director’s life at misogynistic (“a woman does the time: the scandals surroundnot have her own inner world”), ing the bleak, miraculous“Andrei stubborn, insecure, naïve, irri- Rublev”; the homesickness betable, intolerant and “provoca- hind “Nostalghia”; or the desotively direct.”His observational late, otherworldly “Sacrifice,” skills, Boyadzhieva remarks shot in Sweden. Her imagery is dryly, lay more in “a refined variously biblical or bestial: Tarperception of the smallest man- kovsky is “baited”, trapped or ifestations of the outside world, driven “like a horse”. than in knowing how to relate There are moments of macabre to people.” beauty, from the hand of an ac“Tarkovsky’s seven-and-a- tress, “blood-stained with cranhalf films are a drop of some- berry juice,” to the Parisian white thing different in the ocean of roses on Tarkovsky’s wintry cofcommercial and simply bad cin- fin. He died aged 54 in 1986. Boyema … ” Boyadzhieva writes at adzhieva highlights his unique the start. But she herself finds cultural role and symbolic, globit harder to escape generic cli- al legacy. “He embodies the image chés. When Tarkovsky’s father, of the Russian artist for the West,” the poet Arseny, woos his future she writes, “and for Russia the wife Maria in a park, he “took image of the rejected messiah.” Phoebe Taplin

T


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Holidays Russian immigrants to the U.S. find ways to put their own stamp on this most traditional of festivals

American Thanksgiving Russian Style Residents of New York’s Brighton Beach neighborhood combine Russian traditions with their turkey and stuffing on the fourth Thursday in November.

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Walking down Brighton Beach Avenue on a Sunday afternoon in early November, the view can be quite dazzling at times. The shiny wrappers of Russian candy, neatly displayed on the high shelves of the local stores, reflect the gold, orange and burgundy of the harvest-themed decorations. A sign on the front of Russian restaurant National invites passersby to make a reservation for Thanksgiving. In New York, the Russian-speaking world has fully embraced the ultimate American holiday. These days it’s hard to find a Russian in New York who does not celebrate Thanksgiving. In particular, immigrants who arrived in the United States at the time of the Soviet Union have had some time to adjust to the holiday, gradually making it their own through a unique blend of Russian and American elements. “I don’t know what the American way is like,”said Karina, 25, who moved to the United States from St. Petersburg with her family at 2.“Yes, we eat turkey, but we eat Russian salad with our turkey.” To understand the “Russian way”to Thanksgiving, one has to look at the details. The food is, of course, central. Classic Russian staples, such as salads, herring and beets, usually are incorporated to enhance the traditionally turkey-centric menu. Naturally, vodka is part of the picture and so it’s the custom of making toasts throughout the dinner. “Toasts are so important to Rus-

ALAMY/LEGION MEDIA

CARLA SCARLETT SPECIAL TO RBTH

Russian restaurant Skovorodka features a Thanksgiving menu for those who don’t want to cook.

sian dinners because they are an opportunity to proclaim something and celebrate something,” Karina said.“Of course Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to raise the glass.” At her family’s Thanksgiving gatherings there is always a toast to the country they live in.“Every Thanksgiving is an opportunity for my family to mention how grateful they are to be in America,” Karina said. For Russians, Moldovans, Ukrainians and many others, the holiday is an opportunity to reflect on their journey from the Soviet Union.Yana Breban, 44, is the co-owner of Skovorodka, a Russian restaurant in Brighton Beach that was started by her parents, Boris and Julia. She was born in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, and came to New

York when she was 8. Her first experience with Thanksgiving was a meal organized by her school,“I was very surprised because I had never seen a turkey in its entirety before and I didn’t know what sweet potatoes were. They were foods that were new to me,”she said.“It was very eyeopening and different.” Thanksgiving is much more of an American experience to the newest Russian-speaking New Yorkers — especially those with no ties to the Soviet-era immigrant community. Hanna Fedziayeva, 30, moved to New York from Belarus 10 years ago, and currently works as a manager at the New York branch of Russian restaurant chain MariVanna. She has been hosting Thanksgiving dinners at her place for the past few years. Last year 27 people

showed up.“Nothing on our table is Russian at Thanksgiving,” she says. However, she and her friends indulge in some Russianness when it comes to their celebratory style. “Russians definitely party more,” she said. “We need to sing and dance — this is the Russian way.” Throughout the years, the tradition of Russian-American Thanksgiving has also grown into a business opportunity. This year Skovorodka plans to serve turkey with two types of stuffing and cranberry sauce, as well as pickled vegetables and fried potatoes with mushrooms. Tatiana, another Brighton Beach– based establishment, will treat its guests to flavors belonging both to the American and Russian tradition. The menu includes beef tongue, mushroom, fish dishes and pickles. In Manhattan, Mari Vanna will be serving Thanksgiving specials inspired by autumnal flavors, including a pumpkin-based triptych of latkes, soup and crème brûlée and a turkey. At Russian Tea Room, Israeli executive chef of Russian descent Marc Taxiera proposes a menu that promises “something for everyone,” from pelmeni [Russian dumplings] soup and chicken Kiev to turkey and stuffing.“We have been doing Thanksgiving since we opened,” Taxiera said, “and it has been growing in popularity every year.” During the holiday, customers are primarily Russian speakers, even though the occasional tourist or New Yorker might brave the unknown for a Russian Thanksgiving. But what makes Russians speakers in New York so keen on adding the holiday to their calendar? The key seems to be the opportunity to spend time with the people they love. “Family is big for us, and holidays are big for us,” said Alyona Levin, management administrator at Tatiana. Originally from Ukraine, she has been in the United States since 2001. Levin spent her first Thanksgiving with some friends. “The house was full of people — not just family, close friends,”she remembered.“Everybody got together to thank each other for being in each other’s lives.”

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Karina Ivanova MOVED TO THE UNITED STATES FROM ST. PETERSBURG WITH HER FAMILY AT 2

"

Every Thanksgiving is an opportunity for my family to mention how grateful they are to be in America. We eat turkey, but we eat Russian salad with our turkey. Toasts are so important to Russian dinners because they are an opportunity to proclaim something and celebrate something. Of course Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to raise the glass.”

Alyona Levin ORIGINALLY FROM UKRAINE, SHE HAS BEEN IN THE UNITED STATES SINCE 2001

"

Family is big for us, and holidays are big for us. The house was full of people — not just family, close friends … Everybody got together to thank each other for being in each other’s lives. It was (a) very good feeling to realize that the value of the family even in the United States is preserved.”

Yana Breban SHE WAS BORN IN UKRAINE AND CAME TO NEW YORK WHEN SHE WAS 8

"

I was very surprised because I had never seen a turkey in its entirety before and I didn’t know what sweet potatoes were. They were foods that were new to me. It was very eye-opening and different.”

Hanna Fedziayeva MOVED TO NEW YORK FROM BELARUS TEN YEARS AGO

"

Nothing on our table is Russian at Thanksgiving. Russians definitely party more. We need to sing and dance — this is the Russian way.”

DISCOVER RUSSIA TOGETHER Russia has produced many famous novelists and poets, and Russian students start learning their works early. Even in first grade, Russian kids read and memorize poems by Alexander Pushkin. One of the first poems they learn is the beginning of Pushkin’s novel in verse “Ruslan and Ludmila” — which was told to the poet by a cat! The text of this poem is in the blue bubble.

M A a ar me ny s e y ia a ric an er,” . Ki lso an d po wr s d o ch “ “T s i c r o W re re pu te “H our fifth ol, u hit asu ad lar rs “ ar se g su e F re To in ry e ra al an Is m Ru Po ver de ly g la S s tte yo . A in f ” in nd” aw n r.” e nd ou kn of rth ow s

Just like in the United States, Russian kids can borrow books from their local library with a library card. If you ever visit a Russian library, here are some words you might need to know.

Learn Russian! Library - библиотека(bib-lee-oh-teh-kah) Student - студент (stu-dyent) Reading – чтение (chte-nee-ah) Bookcase – стеллаж (stel-lazh) Glasses – очки (och-kee) Writer – писатель (pee-sah-tell) Poet – поет (poh-eht) Lamp - лампа (lam-pah)

15 s in rly s 7– Nea all kid en age y last r e f e o rv you half ia betw s. A su tting e s k Rus e-boo that g e is a d ic le read showe g dev ost e in up. M had r d a a e y e-re still ing own f grow ol kids r tabo o o t par ary sch puter bling, m i t s o n me re a c nt or ool stu a h re h c a s s p to th a gh ll hi . wi let early a ir own e n but had th ts den

NATALIA MIKHAYLENKO

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Person of the Month

Bibiloteka, glasses, Lermontov, library, ochki, poem, poet, Pushkin, student, Tolstoy, writer

Soviet children’s literature: creativify and ideology

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Can you find the following words? Words can be forwards, backwards or diagonal.

This year, fans of Russian literature marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of poet Mikhail Lermontov. He was born in Moscow on October 25, 1814, to a family descended from a Scottish émigré to Russia. Although Lermontov wrote many, many poems, he is best known for his novel “A Hero of Our Time.” Like another of Russia’s famous poets, Alexander Pushkin, Lermontov died young in a duel. He was 26 when he did. All but one volume of Lermontov’s poems were published after his death.

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