Wednesday, November 5, 2014
A paid supplement to
RÜDY WAKS /CORBIS OUTLINE/ALL OVER PRESS
As the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaches (Nov. 9), Maxim Korshunov of RBTH sat down with Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and last president of the Soviet Union, to discuss the historic rapprochement between East and West and the prospects of a new Cold War.
Politics & Society Can educational and cultural exchanges be saved?
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 GDR [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 GDR, not to let our troops leave their garrisons under any circumstances. I am confident to this day that it was the right decision.
Science Ongoing U.S.-Russian medical advancements Sanctions have yet to affect major U.S.-Russian medical and scientific collaborations. P3
Feature Little Russia in D.C. Explore Russian cultural and culinary gems in the capital. P6
It fell to you to decide the fateful problem of global development. The international settlement of the German question, which involved major world powers and other nations, served as an example of the great responsibility and high quality of the politicians of that generation. You demonstrated that this is possible if one is guided – as you defined it – by “a new way of thinking.” How capable are modern world leaders of solving modern problems in a peaceful manner, and how have approaches to finding answers to geopolitical challenges changed in the past 25 years? German reunification was not an isolated event, but a part of the process of ending the Cold War. Perestroika and democratization in our country paved the way for it. Without these processes, Europe would have been split and in a “frozen” state for decades longer. And I’m sure that it would have been a degree of magnitude more difficult to get out of that state of affairs. What is the new way of thinking? It is recognizing that there are global threats – and at that time, it was primarily the threat of a nuclear conflict – which can
Russian President Vladimir Putin reveals his view on contemporary geopolitics rbth.com/40973
These programs are the standardbearers in international diplomacy, yet they face major cutbacks. P2
MIKHAIL GORBACHEV: I AM AGAINST ALL WALLS
Instagrammers explore the empty Bolshoi Theater and share their images rbth.com/40857
The first and last president of the Soviet Union spoke with RBTH about the past and how it should inform the present. only be removed by joint efforts. That means we need to build relations anew, conduct dialogue, seek paths to terminating the arms race. It means recognizing the freedom of choice for all peoples, while at the same time taking each others’ interests into account, building cooperation, and establishing ties, to make conflict and war impossible in Europe. These principles lie at the foundation of the Paris Charter (1990) for a new Europe – a vital political document signed by all the European countries, the U.S., and Canada. As a result, its provisions needed to be developed and solidified, structures needed to be created, preventive mechanisms needed to be established, as did cooperation mechanisms. For example, there was a proposal to create a security council for Europe. I don’t want to contrast that generation of leaders with the subsequent generation. But a fact remains a fact: It wasn’t done. And European development has been lopsided, which, it should be said, facilitated the weakening of Russia in the 1990s. Today we need to admit that there is a crisis in European (and global) politics. One of the reasons, albeit not the only reason, is a lack of desire on the part of our Western partners to take Russia’s point of view and legal interests in security into consideration. They paid lip service to applauding Russia, especially during the Yeltsin years, but in deeds they didn’t consider it. I am referring primarily to NATO expansion, missile defense plans, the West’s actions in regions of importance to Russia (Yugoslavia, Iraq, Georgia, Ukraine). They literally said, “This is none of your business.” As a result, an abscess formed and it burst. I would advise Western leaders to thoroughly analyze all of this, instead of accusing Russia of everything. They should remember the Europe we managed to create at the beginning of the 1990s and what it has unfortunately turned into in recent years. One of the key issues that has arisen in connection with the events in Ukraine is NATO expansion into the East. Do
H I S TO R Y
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Don’t miss our amazing long read on Russia, the USSR and the Great Game in Afghanistan rbth.com/40835
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 single Eastern European country raised the issue, not even 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-GDR after German reunification. Baker’s statement was made in that context, mentioned in our question. Kohl and [German Vice 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. 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.
■ MAXIM KORSHUNOV RBTH
Politics & Society P2 // rbth.com // November 5, 2014
Can exchanges survive cuts?
Fulbright scholar Margaret Williams, teaching at the American Corner in Khabarovsk. The political differences between Russia and the U.S. are hampering the impact of educational exchanges, argues Stepan Serdyukov, a Russian student who is pursuing his master’s degree in American Studies through another State Department sponsored exchange, the Fulbright Program. “It’s because all these programs were initially created to work in the other political reality, when partnership between two countries was top priority,” Serdyukov said. “Yet now, unfortunately,
IN HER OWN WORDS
Margaret Williams FULBRIGHT ENGLISH TEACHING ASSISTANT, 2011-2012, AT THE KHABAROVSK STATE ACADEMY OF ECONOMICS AND LAW
My initial apprehension about being placed in Khabarovsk for a year was like ‘what have I got myself into?’ But it was by far and away one of the most enriching opportunities of my life. When people express interest in applying to Fulbright, I strongly encourage them. Nothing ventured nothing gained.”
Electronic platforms for civil activism growing slowly but steadily in Russia Civil activity in Russia has found a new way to engage citizens online. Russians are petitioning the authorities via the Internet with greater and greater frequency, using special public platforms to address their concerns. Thanks to various websites aimed at gathering petitions, complaints and comments addressed to the government, in the past few months, civil society has achieved a series of significant successes. These include dismantling the Shukhov Tower in Moscow, closing the hazardous Ecolog waste incinerator plant, and saving an orphanage in the Saratov Region from being closed. These are just a few of the most widely publicized cases, however. Every day, online
communication is resolving thousands of ordinary Russians’ minor problems, according to statistics collected from the Yopolis and Angry Citizen civil e-platforms. Civil activists interviewed by RBTH agreed that there are two key problems when it comes to successfully transferring civil activity to the Internet. First, only 60 percent of the population has regular access to the internet. The second obstacle is not practical, but psychological: People simply do not believe that the authorities will read their comments. Red tape has also been an obstacle to public initiatives. Previously, if Russians wanted to address the government, they had to write a letter to a newspaper or a statement to official institutions, send the correspondence by mail, and wait for a response.
of the population in Russia has regular access to the internet.
READ THE FULL STORY at rbth.com/40477
these programs seem to be a sort of wistful anachronism.” Margaret Williams, a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant who served in Khabarovsk in Russia’s far east, applied for the program because she realized “the success of American foreign policy rested on the success of person-to person connections.” “People from other countries developing mutual understanding and respect on a individual level will lead to improving state relations,” Williams said. “Fulbright seemed like a good place to start that.” Regardless of the difficult times in U.S.-Russia relations, some experts agree that cultural diplomacy through educational exchange is still a possibility. Alexander Abashkin, of the School of Public Policy in the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy (RANEPA), has been working with international exchange programs for the past 20 years. His experience indicates that even as understanding falters between Russian and American politicians, it increases between U.S.-Russia academic communities. In an effort to provide uninterrupted access to Russian programs, Abashkin outlines RANEPA’s plan to create educational centers in neighboring countries. “We plan to move some of our educational programs with our American counterparts to other countries, for example to Latvia’s Riga, Lithuania’s Vilnius, or elsewhere,” Abashkin said. According to Abashkin, the U.S.-Russia “political divorce” has actually fueled interest toward Russia, and he is expecting a large cohort of students this summer. However, Abashkin offers another prediction.“There is a lack of understanding of Russia in the U.S., and without collaboration with Russian universities the situation will only get worse,” he said.
Russia founds Snowden media prize
Russian and American cultural and academic exchanges are being penalized in a time they are needed the most.
FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVES
Diplomatic differences between the U.S. and Russia are now threatening an innocent bystander: educational exchanges. These programs have become pawns in the growing game of tit-for-tat sanctions and fingerpointing, facing cancellation and major cutbacks. While newer programs in the increasingly relevant field of U.S.-Russia relations are thriving, a number of venerable programs are being cut. Among these are the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) educational program, from which the Kremlin withdrew in September. Although other cross-cultural education programs between Russia and the United States have closed down or lost funding, this influential program, which has brought 23,000 high school students from the former Soviet republics to study in the states— including more than 8,000 from Russia—was not on the radar to be eliminated. For more than two decades, FLEX has offered scholarships to high school students to travel and attend school while living with a host family in America for one year. FLEX was created as a form of “soft diplomacy,” meant to foster peace and understanding between the U.S. and countries of the former Soviet Union. FLEX’s closure was preceded by a series of ill omens amidst deteriorating U.S.-Russia relations. In April, Russia’s Justice Ministry ordered U.S. education NGO American Councils, which has implemented educational exchange programs for 40 years, to suspend its operations in Russia. American actions also affected exchanges. February saw the closing of the Moscow office of the Kennan Institute, an outlet that fosters U.S.-Russia academic exchange. Last year, the U.S. Congress announced the withdrawal of funding from the Title VIII Grant Program, which supports regional studies of Russia and former Soviet countries. These programs are touted as the first step toward bilateral partnerships and cultural diplomacy. By that logic ,they should be given precedence in funding and foreign policy decisions.
NEWS IN BRIEF
The newest prize in the Russian media community has been named after former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Offered by the Association of Electronic Communications, Internet project developer Notamedia, and radio station Ekho Moskvy, the prize will honor outstanding achievement in mass communications. Possible nominees include specialized electronic media and prominent media personalities. According to the press release, the award ceremony will take place in November. 2018 Russia World Cup preparations Russia has officially entered the “active phase” of its preparations for the 2018 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup. Three of 12 stadiums are done, with two already hosting games and further construction under way across the country. This October, FIFA
inspectors viewed half the sites and declared themselves satisfied at Russia’s progress. However, the size of the budget, officially reported at 660 billion rubles ($16 billion), is unclear – as it does not account for recent currency fluctuations or major infrastructure upgrades.
READ MORE NEWS at rbth.com/2018_world_cup Will VKontakte legalize its shared music? One of Russia’s largest internet companies, Mail.Ru Group, is trying to legalize music on all its platforms, including Russia’s largest social network, VKontakte. Mail.Ru Group has not yet reached an agreement with the largest foreign music rights holders. “Each major corporation has calculated on receiving $3.5 million a year from all of Mail.Ru’s projects, but the Russian company is only willing to pay that amount to the corporations together,” says a source from Russian business daily Vedomosti.
■PAVEL KOSHKIN RBTH
READ THE FULL STORY at rbth.com/40991
Things started looking up in 2010-2012, when civil political activity in Russia peaked. In 2010, Alexei Navalny, one of the leaders of the opposition movement, launched an Internet service called RosYama, where users could submit photographs of road defects and their location. The website offered to fill out a form on behalf of the complainant and dispatch the complaint to the State Traffic Safety Inspectorate. If the complaint was ignored, RosYama would redirect it to the general prosecutor’s office. Officials were forced to respond and take action to fix the problems.The success of RosYama inspired Navalny and his team of developers to create similar websites. Following in the footsteps of these successful projects, the government started using a similar platform, launching the Russian Civil Initiative in 2013. President Vladimir Putin said one of the Russian parliamentary chambers would consider any civil initiativethat garnered 100,000 votes on the website. Soon after, a similar resource opened specifically for Muscovites, and platforms are emerging in other regions and cities.
The Angry Citizen platform has even started turning a profit on the social activity of citizens. The technology on this site is available on a commercial basis to state entities and organizations. For example, the Russian presidential administration recently started using the Angry Citizen system’s tools to collect additional analytical information, said Dmitry Kokh, chief executive of the company Intellectual Social Systems, which is developing the project. Artyom Gerasimenko, an Internet activist and leader of the SocioBeg movement, said it does not matter which Internet platform a citizen uses, so long as it works. “State platforms achieve results more quickly for citizens’ requests because they are an administrative resource,” Gerasimenko told RBTH. “At the same time, social resources belonging to private companies are more dynamic, and they use interesting technology to attract citizens.” ■GALIYA IBRAGIMOVA RBTH
RUSSIAN EVENTS IN D.C. Ukraine, Russia and the West—The Way Forward Monday, Nov. 10 Copley Hall, Georgetown University, 3700 O St. N.W. This conference will take stock of the domestic situation in Ukraine, as well as its relationship with Russia and the West. Speakers will address how to handle the crises going forward and will also discuss future research and policy points. › georgetown.localist.com
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia Wednesday, Dec. 3 Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. N.W.
Doing Business with the Eurasia Economic Union Monday, Dec. 8 The Eurasia Center & The Eurasian Business Coalition, 4927 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Kiev-born and British-raised author Peter Pomerantsev will read from his new memoir, which chronicles his work as a producer in the Russian TV industry – specifically Putin’s Russian TV industry. › politics-prose.com
Russian Winter Festival Dec. 13-14 Hillwood Museum and Gardens 4155 Linnean Ave. N.W.
The Mariinsky Ballet, with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra Jan. 27 – Feb. 1 The Kennedy Center, 2700 F Street N.W.
The panels of the conference will focus on the launch of the Eurasia Economic Union set for Jan. 1, 2015, and what it means for new business opportunities within this region of the world.
Meet Grandfather Frost in a traditional Russian celebration of “Sviatki,” the festive winter season. Entertainment includes music by Samovar Russian Folk Music Ensemble, as well as fortune-telling and costumes and tours of the gardens.
On their 13th annual visit, the Mariinsky Ballet company of St. Petersburg will perform Hodson’s “Le sacre du printemps,” inspired by Nijinsky, Fokine’s “Le Spectre de la Rose” and “The Swan,” and Petipa’s “Paquita Grand Pas.”
WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF UKRAINE AND RUSSIA RELATIONS AFTER THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS? Read the latest news at rbth.com/ukraine
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Science rbth.com // November 5, 2014 // P3
BUSINESS IN BRIEF
What’s behind the plummeting ruble?
The desire and energy of Russian and U.S. scientists are what fuel cooperation between Russia and the United States in the field of medicine, which takes place mainly on a non-governmental level. Research centers, universities and associations forge collaboration agreements between themselves. Lately, the most important areas in this cooperation have been perinatal medicine, cardiac surgery and oncology. This year, scientists are planning to test a new joint vaccine based on a former cancer diagnostic technology that scientists at Arizona State University developed. The Russian-American Anti-Cancer Center, created in 2013 in the Altai Territory, is researching this method. Pre-clinical tests of the anti-cancer vaccine are showing good results, and scientists are planning to vaccinate laboratory dogs. Cancer diagnostic technology from Arizona to Siberia “We have now begun testing samples from patients with breast and lung cancer,” said Andrei Chapoval, director of the Russian-American Anti-Cancer Center. The Russian side includes scientists from Altai State University and the Altai Division of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences Oncology Faculty, as well as the Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The project uses a Russian scientific-experimental base and Arizona State University’s technology. Arizona State University professor Stephen Johnston developed the new method, immunosignaturing, which tracks immune reactions. Each disease provokes a response from the immune system, which shows whether a person is sick and what exactly the sickness is. To obtain an immunosignature, scientists place a drop of blood on a microchip the size of a microscope’s glass slide that contains 10,000 different amino acid sequences that react to the immune system cells in the blood. The method allows scientists to calculate the antibodies that develop in response to a certain amino acid sequence and to identify the disease before its clinical symptoms manifest, enabling the diagnosis of many kinds of diseases. The experiment in the U.S. has already diagnosed 1,500 people with various illnesses, including oncological ones. Siberian scientists expect to obtain a certificate to use peptide microchips by the end of this year,
meaning that in 2015, the diagnostic method may be available for patients in Russia. The idea to create the Russian-American Anti-Cancer Center was born in 2012 at the Barnaul International Conference on Nanotechnology, in which Russian scientists met representatives from Arizona State University. A year later, they signed a collaboration agreement. “I am impressed by the achievements that we have made thus far,” said Johnston, a director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute. “We have created a scientific research laboratory. It works; it brings results.” The laboratory is the first outside the United States, Johnston says. Its objective: to revolutionize disease diagnostics and bring the technology to the clinics.
This year, Russian scientists are planning to test a new joint vaccine based on a former cancer diagnostic technology developed by scientists at Arizona State University.
12 years ago, the Russian-American Medical Association (RAMA) was founded in Cleveland.
Recently Russian-American medicine cooperation has focused on perinatal medicine, cardiac surgery and oncology. How to reduce infant mortality Joint programs from various associations and regional hospitals are also less dependent on the political situation. For example, the Russian-American Medical Association (RAMA) has been operating in Russia’s regions since established in 2002, when it was established by surgeon Boris Vinogradsky. Vinogradsky had moved to America from Yaroslavl more than 20 years ago, and after long training and requalification, opened his own private surgical practice in Cleveland. Members’ contributions largely finance RAMA, whose objectives are to assist medical workers from Russia and the United States; help improve methods of taking care of the sick; support scientific research; and represent its interests in professional circles. Among RAMA’s members are more than 500 doctors from 40 American states. mostly Russian-speaking doctors working in the U.S. The association has already successfully completed a series of joint projects, including a 2013 agreement with the perinatal center in the Tomsk Region. Per the agreement, American doctors come to Tomsk twice a year on medical missions in which they examine patients and conduct master classes and seminars. In turn, Russian specialists gain practice in the United States as interns. According to head physician Igor Stepanov, infant mortality in the region, which is one of Russia’s best indicators, now occurs in 4.7 cases out of 1,000. The country’s average from January to June 2014, according to the Health Ministry, was 7.5 children out of 1,000 born. Vinogradsky admits that the American health system is not ideal, but thinks it has many advantages. “There are basic parameters that allow you to estimate any system,” Vinogradsky said. “And while in Russia infant mortality or trauma mortality is higher than in the U.S., the American approach will be better than the Russian one.” RAMA began its activity in Russia with projects in the Yaroslavl Region, Vinogradsky’s birthplace. The association collaborates with the Yaroslavl Regional Hospital in cardiology, and recently gave the hospital 10 heart valves developed and produced in the U.S. and $100,000 in supplies. American specialists are interested in such missions to develop their careers, including cardiovascular surgeon Jerry Durham. Visiting Yaroslavl for the first time, Durham told his Russian colleagues what he hoped to learn from them. “In Russia surgeons use certain operating techniques that American surgeons don’t,” Durham said.
ago the idea of creating the Russian-American AntiCancer Center in Siberia was born at the Barnaul International Conference on Nanotechnology.
■VICTORIA ZAVYALOVA RBTH
Preventing nuclear threats trumps political fray Russia and U.S. reaffirm nuclear security as priority over politics.
Despite strained relations, the United States and Russia are continuing to collaborate on a radioactive waste management program that has been in place for the past 15 years. At the opening of the VI ATOMEX 2014 International Forum of Nuclear Industry Suppliers in Moscow on Oct. 29, Sergei Kiriyenko, the general director of Russia’s state nuclear agency Rosatom, said that the sanctions against Russia have had no effect on the Russian nuclear industry and that all contracts with foreign partners are being carried out in full. “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. According to Kiriyenko, integration has reached such a high level that Rosatom currently owns 20 percent of U.S. uranium reserves. “We have been implementing the Megatons to Megawatts Program for the last 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, but we have not seen a single disruption in fuel supplies – not a single day’s delay – in 20 years,” Kiriyenko said. The United States has no intention of abandoning its collaboration with Russia to ensure nuclear security or cooperation in nuclear energy and research, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said at the 58th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in Vienna at the end of September. According to Moniz, everyone under-
U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz says that the U.S. has no intention of abandoning its cooperation with Russia in the field of nuclear energy.
A long history of cooperation 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 in-
to low-enriched uranium and later used as fuel for U.S. nuclear power plants. The program was successfully completed in January 2013.
stands that serious tensions have arisen between Russia and the United States. However, the two countries are continuing to work together on individual projects, according to Moniz, including a program focused on the highly enriched fuel intended for research reactors. The program exists from 1999, through it specialists from the United States and Russia are working to return spent nuclear fuel from research reactors to its country of origin so it does not spread illegally and end up in the hands of terrorists. Director of informational and analytical portal Nuclear.Ru Ilya Platonov said that the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s statement was meant to entrench the status quo. “The nuclear security issue is traditionally of extreme importance to the Americans, and in light of the growing tension in relations between the countries, it is highly important to note a consistent position. The program to export highly enriched fuel from research reactors is symbolic in that its end goal is to convert all reactors to low-enriched fuel,” Platonov said. He added that this is one of the key conditions of nuclear non-proliferation, because the higher the degree of enrichment, the closer the uranium is to being weaponsgrade. So far, more than 3,500 lbs. of spent and fresh highly enriched fuel have been removed. Russia and the United States plan to continue the program at least until 2016. The U.S. finances the entire program; Russia’s contribution is its unique experience and high technology. ■ANDREY REZNICHENKO SPECIAL TO RBTH
Loss of oil revenue eased by devaluation In the past three months, the price of oil has fallen 24 percent to $83 a barrel, down from $108.77 in June. This is the biggest decrease since the 2008 crisis, when the price dropped to a record $38.4 a barrel. Some Russian oil producers believe that if the price of oil falls much further, oil extraction will stop because it will no longer be profitable. Mikhail Kru-
tikhin, a partner at RusEnergy Consulting, estimates that in the next 10 years, the volume of Russian oil extraction will go down by 1520 percent. However, Krutikhin also thinks the government can preserve profitability for producers by lowering taxes on mineral extraction. As it is, oil producers are staying afloat partially thanks to the devaluation of the ruble.
Closure and investigation of McDonald’s restaurants across Russia
Joint programs in regional hospitals are less sensitive to geopolitical disagreements.
U.S.-Russia continue medical cooperation
The ruble has fallen by more than 25 percent against the dollar since January. The main reason is the continuing decline in oil prices, according to analysts, with a second factor being the lack of foreign capital flowing into Russia because of sanctions and geopolitical instability. In response to the falling ruble, the Russian Central Bank performed more than $5 billion worth of market interventions at the beginning of October. The regulator is selling dollars to support the ruble and reduce demand for foreign currency. There are some advantages to this situation, however: A weaker ruble and the resulting growth in the cost of imports provides Russian producers with more advantageous conditions, allowing Russian companies to better compete with foreign ones.
Ten of the iconic American fast-food restaurant’s locations in Russia have shut down, apparently been caught in the crossfire of economic sanctions. Russian consumer safety regulators are investigating almost half of Russia’s 440 McDonald’s locations, according to the company’s website. Regulators are citing violations of sanitary rules as reasons for closing the McDonald’s branches, but the timing of the inspections marks the shutdowns as a response to Western sanctions on Russia. McDonald’s arrived in 1990 as an early ambassador of Western culture to Soviet-era Russia. MORE ON ECONOMICS at rbth.com/business
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Comments & Analysis P4 // rbth.com // November 5, 2014
CAN THE LIBERAL ARTS MODEL THRIVE IN RUSSIA?
t was a late afternoon in June 2013, and I was in St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport, waiting to pick up my uncle for a little bonding time and tourism when I received a phone call. “Did you teach Pussy Riot lyrics?” “What?” I thought I had heard right, but this was an odd thing to ask. “Did you teach Pussy Riot lyrics?” Despite ambient noise and a bad connection, the question – posed by an administrator involved with international programs and foreign hires at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) in Moscow – came through with what seemed like gratuitous concern. The administrator wanted me to come to campus right that minute without even explaining the sitation until I said that I was more than 400 miles away. “Strictly speaking, no.” I fumbled for an answer. “I did allow a liberal Russian student to present on the trial, and she distributed lyrics as an aid to her presentation.” I had actually done more than passively approve the student’s topic. My American training had instilled me with the notion that the classroom was precisely the place to discuss controversial current events, and I had included Pussy Riot [a feminist punk-rock group known for protesting Putin in an Orthodox church] on the list of potential presentation topics for my English-language course, “Religion and Society: Contemporary Debates and their Historical Origins,” part of the first-year curriculum for the Master’s Program in Change Management. While the administrator didn’t know whether there would be consequences, I insisted that if RANEPA really wanted me to implement the kinds of Western pedagogical methods I thought I’d been hired to implement, with an emphasis on critical thinking, then it couldn’t
CHRISTOPHER A. STROOP SPECIAL TO RBTH
The Russian university system’s strengths lie in the breadth and systematic nature of its programs. ban this kind of material from classroom discussion. The administrator seemed to accept that, and the minor scandal blew over. While there are limits to what can be discussed in a Russian classroom – I categorically refuse to touch Ukraine – many of my colleagues at RANEPA, including the abovementioned administrator, have from the very beginning of my time here given me the sense that they value my contributions to both pedagogy and research. Although my first year was marked by misunderstandings and a lack of clarity about my place within the university, by my second academic year, I was better integrated into the liberal arts curriculum and reform initiatives associated with RANEPA’s School of Public Policy. Under the visionary leadership of university scholars and administrators, along with the world-renowned cultural histori-
an Andrei Zorin, and with the support of RANEPA’s rector, Vladimir Mau, the School of Public Policy is attempting to construct something like an Anglo-American style liberal arts college within RANEPA, complete with small seminars devoted to the Great Books and a modicum of student choice over courses taken. While this is all very progressive, the Russian classroom remains a challenging place for the realization of these ideals. For the most part, students at RANEPA still take most of their classes in a single group, with the schedule for their group simply dictated to them – the typical Russian university experience. The students have far more assigned subjects than they can possibly keep up with, meaning an instructor generally can’t assign more than 20-30 pages of reading per class. This, and the length of the classes, makes it difficult to sustain discussion-based teaching. Many Russian classes follow a “two pairs” (dve pary) system of academic hours, meaning two pairs of 90-minute units. That’s right—many classes last three hours, and nothing is shorter than one para. The Russian university system’s strengths lie in the breadth and systematic nature of its programs, but the daunting number of subjects and lack of choice foster a culture of truancy. Students frequently don’t show up to classes that don’t interest them. The flattering flip side of this is that you may attract groupies of a sort, unofficial auditors who prefer your class to the one they’re supposed to be attending at the same time. You end up wondering if you should feel guilty over your implicit complicity in their class-cutting. Furthermore, the Russian school system is still based primarily on rote learning, and often unselfconscious plagiarism is second nature to many students. As I have learned over time, there are ways to adapt. Three-hour classes can be divided into lecturing, in-class exercises, and discussion of the text, which often still requires considerable structure and hand-holding. Fortunately, the administrators in charge of our liberal arts and Great Books programming are supportive and helpful in strategizing about how to pursue the goals of a liberal arts education in a Russian environment. For example, this August, the directors of the Humanities Department met with me and a talented Russian instructor prior to the beginning of our teaching a Great Books module on Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” a massive tome the students couldn’t possibly be expected to read in its entirety over five classes. We discussed effective ways of structuring the module and decided to assign whole chapters rather than shorter excerpts, and we instructors were given permission to increase the usual tiny reading load allotted for any individual course. By and large, my students kept up. Furthermore – thanks, I assume, to me hitting them over the head with my explicit grading rubric and clearly demonstrating that I meant it – most of them also did reasonably well with the presentations I assigned them, avoiding plagiarism, which had been a huge problem for me in some previous courses. While the discussions were not always as active and student-centered as I would have liked them to be, I saw many students improve in their ability to assess texts critically, from their own perspective. I’m proud of that progress, just as I am to be a part of reform efforts in Russian higher education.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Inclusion of Afrodescendants Allow me to express my deep appreciation as an Afro-Latino for your inclusion of the article “A Search For Equality That Led to Russia” Oct. 1. It is very important for the Washington Post readership to become aware of the role that Afro-Americans and Africans have played in the development of Russia in various spheres. Once again, thank you, and I will alerting my many friends (who are not afraid of what Russia represents) in order to share the great news with them. Roland Emerson Roebuck, Washington D.C.
A broader concept needed to save Baikal I read with interest the article titled, “Saving Siberia’s crown jewel: State program aims to clean up Lake Baikal.” Many people in and out of the local and national government want to do the right thing. I do not think a patchwork of solutions [will work] without
a broader concept of how a system should be implemented to finally end all the pollution flowing into the lake. Using innovative and modern technology, this could be accomplished. Dennis F. Miller Washington D.C.
CO N V E RT I N G M O N O LO G U E S I N TO D I A LO G U E
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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.
Become a guest contributor to Russia Direct for three months! Russia Direct is accepting submissions for its third Student Essay Contest – “The present and future of people-to-people exchanges between Russia and the United States”. Application deadline is Nov. 9. Contest winner will have a chance to publish material at the RD site.
Christopher A. Stroop (Stanford University, Ph.D.) is a senior lecturer at RANEPA and editor of its English-language journal, State, Religion and Church: srch.ranepa.ru.
CAN RUSSIA AND NATO AGREE TO DISAGREE? ANDREY SUSHENTSOV SPECIAL TO RBTH
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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
The Ukrainian crisis is just the latest example of this failure of the Russian Federation and the West to create a post-Cold War world order. only to East Germany or to Eastern Europe generally. According to the personal notes of U.S. Secretary of State James 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.
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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
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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 GDR, 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 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. Andrey Sushentsov is an associate professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and a Valdai Club fellow.
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Culture rbth.com // November 5, 2014 // P5
Vladimir Lande’s Musical Bridge
Erofeev’s tragic 5-act satire revisited
In conducting, he connects Russian and American audiences.
PHOEBE TAPLIN SPECIAL TO RBTH
LANDE ON TOUR
Bruno Nasta, jazz violinist and personnel director of the National Gallery of Art Orchestra who has worked with Lande for 25 years, describes his conducting style as “sensitive and caring in his interpretation of the music.” He added, “Vladimir permits a lot of freedom to the musicians to interpret, but adds what he needs to get what he wants out of a piece. Technically he’s one of the best I’ve seen. He has so much charisma from the podium, and the instrumentalists can sense it.” In 2009, Lande organized the Contemporary American Music Festival in Washington, D.C. From 2009 to 2010, he led the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra in a tour through Europe, and brought the orchestra to the United States in 2011 to perform with the National Gallery of Art Orchestra. Combining the orchestras in performance allowed him to see how Russian and American musicians communicate, he said.
Despite Lande’s ability to connect people through music, he has not been immune to the effects of the crisis in Ukraine. “It was very fun to watch the musicians work together and how they relate to one another and communicate, ask each other questions, and agree or disagree,” Lande said. Lande captivated Russian audiences in October 2014 when the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra traveled to three Russian cities performing American composer George Gershwin’s “American in Paris,” “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Porgy and Bess.” “Gershwin’s music is something that gives Russian audiences both experiences at the same time: they hear very lyrical, almost Russian-like melodies and lyrical harmonies,” Lande said. “Russians react positively when they feel that an artist really loves the character and puts their heart into it and makes it their creation.” Kevin Short, an American bass-baritone who traveled with Lande on the tour, called the con-
Nov. 29 and 30 The Nutcracker with the Donetsk Ballet, Ballet Caliente, and COSMIC Symphony in Huntingtown, Maryland. January 2015 Tour in the U.S. with the Saint Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra. In program: Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich. Jan. 11 Concert at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. certs “a vivid display that music is the most unifying language we humans possess.” Despite Lande’s ability to connect people through music, he has not been immune to the effects of the crisis in Ukraine. At a concert in the spring, a few audience members accused him of playing for Ukrainians who were attacked by Russians. “I told them that I play for all people who are suffering. They turned around and marched out,” Lande said. “It was a small incident, but it showed that they related the music to their own experiences. Music can reach everyone’s soul, and relate to everyone’s emotional shades and colors.” Feeling that speaking to the audience is as important as performing, Lande gives lectures before performances and takes every opportunity to educate the audience about what he is playing. He wants artists to take a lead role in seeking to understand how the world should work and creating a space for dialogue. He also sees opportunities for the arts to transcend political tensions between Washington and Moscow. “Multicultural fluency is one of Vladimir’s strongest attributes,” said Lande’s colleague, Bob Lord. “His experiences growing up in Russia and subsequently flourishing musically on a worldwide stage have made him a highly effective ambassador for Russian culture. We’re all a product of our times, but Vladimir’s view extends far into the past and, I believe, far into the future as well.”
Conductor, oboist and pianist Vladimir Lande has made a name for himself playing beautiful music in his native Russia and adopted United States. But that’s not all he’s doing. He is also working to connect the two countries in new and meaningful ways through music education and dynamic performances. His accomplishments on the world stage have shaped him as a dynamic individual with unique perspectives on the arts and on the natures of Americans and Russians. A native of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Lande comes from five generations of musicians. His mother taught him to play the piano as a 5-yearold. At the age of 14, he began to learn the oboe. “I especially liked the sound of the oboist in the Leningrad Philharmonic. The sound was so beautiful, and I really wanted to sound the same,” Lande told Carol Reynolds, a specialist in music education and Russian music, in an interview. As a second-year student at the Leningrad State Conservatory, Lande was invited to audition for the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. He played with the orchestra from 1984 to 1989, performing with leading musicians under the direction of legendary conductors such as Yevgeny Mravinsky and Valery Gergiev. The environment “influenced me greatly from the very beginning,” Lande told Reynolds. “Being so young, being surrounded by the most professional and charismatic players of that time in the orchestra, conductors like Mravinsky were like gods.” In 1989, Lande left the Soviet Union for the United States. Because he had listened to American jazz music in Russia, when he came to the U.S., “the approach to music was not so dramatically new or different from what I grew up listening to,” he said. Lande began to perform in several American orchestras and was readily accepted thanks to his talent with the oboe. In 2004, Lande conducted the opening concert of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, and in 2006, he made his debut with the Baltimore Opera Orchestra. The same year, at the invitation of a Russian colleague, he began to work closely with the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra. Today, he performs in both the United States and Russia, dividing his time between them and engaging with both countries. He is the principal guest conductor at the National Gallery of Art Orchestra and the Washington Soloists Chamber Orchestra in D.C.
TITLE: “WALPURGIS NIGHT” AUTHOR: VENEDIKT EROFEEV PUBLISHER: YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS
t’s hard to imagine a much bleaker play than Venedikt Erofeev’s “Walpurgis Night.” Alcoholic Lev Gurevich is admitted to a Soviet psychiatric hospital where the patients are abused. He seduces a nurse and steals some alcohol, and the patients celebrate, only to find they have actually drunk poison and suffer a final, fatal liberation. This is the simple story behind Erofeev’s extraordinary five-act tragedy that is by turns comic and macabre, shocking and satirical. The play is now available in a brand-new version translated by Marian Schwartz, with her usual virtuoso mastery of postmodern stylistics. In 1969, Erofeev wrote a novel about a drunken intellectual riding a commuter train from Moscow to Petushki. Translated as “Moscow to the End of the Line,” “Moscow-Petushki” or “Moscow Stations,” this stream-of-consciousness existential symphony, unpublished in the Soviet Union until 1989, secured the writer’s reputation. “Walpurgis Night,” Erofeev’s only play, was first published abroad in 1985. The same rich allusive patchwork runs throughout, with references to everything
from the Bible to Pushkin’s retelling of Don Juan. Walpurgis Night is May Day Eve, as Gurevich tells the other patients: “Since the 8th century, this night has always been marked by something terrifying and wonderworking.” In Ward 3, where Gurevich ends up, as in Chekhov’s “Ward 6” (also a mental asylum), boundaries between madness and sanity blur. The patients, like those in Solzhenitsyn’s “Cancer Ward,” symbolize different outlooks. Gurevich’s incarcerated companions include an ideologue, an idealist, a melancholy romantic and a satanic sexual mystic. Disturbing undercurrents of maniacal music and of sadism run through Erofeev’s drama, from nurses spitting in patients’ faces to nightmarish spurting syringes. Gurevich often talks in verse. One of the doctors complains about his “Shakespearean iambs” and tells him ironically: “You’re … not on stage.” Many of the lines are neither pentameters nor especially iambic, but closer to the portentous, cryptic doggerel of King Lear’s Fool, suiting Gurevich’s character as a lord of misrule. The play’s complex, interlocking themes range from anti-Semitism to the metaphysical nature of time. Above all, “Walpurgis Night” is a compelling commentary on the Soviet condition: “I’ve / Worn a straitjacket since I was born,” says Gurevich.
LITERATURE Read our updated literature section! rbth.com/literature
■CATHERINE TRAINOR SPECIAL TO RBTH
Recalling the land of unlimited possibilites ALEXANDER POTEMKIN SPECIAL TO RBTH
The American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation will honor author’s 100-year-old contribution to U.S.-Russian relations.
Have you ever wanted to live in Moscow? Want to check if you’re ready for the experience? Take our short quiz and find out what kind of to Muscovite you might be.
Quiz participants will also be entered in a drawing to win a prize from the Moscow City Committee on Tourism and the Hotel Industry.
ne hundred years ago, in the November 1914 issue of NationGeographic Magazine, journalist Gilbert H. Grosvenor came forward with a bright milestone in U.S.-Russian relations: 100 pages of text and photos giving readers an idea of Russia’s geography, history, economy and traditions, of its beliefs and aspirations. Titled “Young Russia: The Land of Unlimited Possibilities,” the piece has since become famous in Russia. Nov. 19, the AmericanRussian Cultural Cooperation Foundation (ARCCF) in D.C. will honor its author’s grandson, Gilbert M. Grosvenor, honorary President of the National Geographic Society, for the magazine’s and his grandfather’s contribution to U.S.-Russian cultural cooperation. With a slow majesty resembling the Volga River, Grosvenor begins: “Russia is not a state; it is a world…” Russia’s resources are inexhaustible, according to the traveler, who believes this land is capable of feeding half the world. His photographs are mostly of people. The magazine issue does not have any portraits of the czar or his family; just numerous photographs of industrialists, mer-
chants, peasants and artisans. With his impressions, the author in a way echoed the prediction of Alexis De Tocqueville, who had written in the 1830s: “There are at the present time two great nations in the world ... the Russians and the Americans... Their starting-point is different, and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.” With such promotion, the magazine could not but stir Americans’ interest in Russia, which could only expect a flow of curious tourists and farsighted businessmen. But the world stage darkened. World War II snuffed out the hopes of many nations. The chance to realize Grosvenor’s hopes to develop U.S.-Russian relations was lost. But National Geographic itself has not lost interest in Russia. Since 1914, more than 100 articles about the country have appeared on its pages. Today the magazine is also published in Russian with a circulation of 29,000. Alexander Potemkin was the last Soviet cultural attaché, and is now the executive director of the ARCCF.
Feature P6 // rbth.com // November 5, 2014
Allow RBTH to guide you on a scavenger hunt of Russian haunts in the nation’s capital.
Russia’s footprints through Washington
The Russian Cultural Center is housed in a 19th century mansion, early occupants of which owned the Hope Diamond and the Washington Post
1. The ambassador’s residence was previously the embassy for the Russian Empire, the USSR and modern day Russia 2. Space room in the the Russian Cultural Center 3. Modern kitsch at Mari Vanna’s D.C. location.
Cultural centers, churches, borscht joints, and diplomatic hot spots – the trail of Russian sights to see in D.C. is almost as long as the history between America and Russia. The Russian footprint in D.C. may not be as prominent as in New York City, but the nation’s capital has its share of significant must-see locations for any Russophile. Despite a low population of Russians living in D.C. proper, diplomatic exchanges and a plethora of Russian studies programs at D.C.-based universities ensure that many places in Washington cater to those with a Russian bent. The capital is home to the Russian Embassy, as well as the former embassy of the Soviet Union, which is now the residence of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Built in 1912 at 1125th 16th Street, N.W., for the widow of famous American entrepreneur George Pullman, this three-story mansion was the most expensive in Washington, at $360,000. Incidentally, Mrs. Pullman never actually lived there. Russian Emperor Nicholas II bought the building in 1913 for $350,000. In the hundred years of its existence, the mansion on 16th Street has served the Russian Empire, the USSR, and the Russian Federation. In 1994, Russia’s diplomatic mission officially moved to 2650 Wisconsin Ave, N.W. Near the Russian Embassy stands the St. Nicholas Cathedral (3500 Massachusetts Ave, N.W.), the cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America. Sunday and religious holiday services take place in three languages: Church Slavonic, English and Georgian. On some weekends, a market goes up next to the church, offering samplings of Russian, Ukrainian and Georgian foods. Another of Washington’s prominent Orthodox churches is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (4001 17th Street, N.W.). Built in the Moscow-Yaroslavl style, the red brick churche is decorated with bright tiles and colorful frescos, rare for Russian churches abroad. It is part of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR). The cathedral boasts a library with a large collection of books from members of the Russian nobility that fled the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Revolution. Some of their descendants still attend services there today. The Russian Cultural Center, the official
Sunday and religious holiday services at the St. Nicholas Cathedral are held in three languages: Church Slavonic, English and Georgian. home of Russian culture in the U.S., is located at 1825 Phelps Place N.W. Founded 15 years ago as part of a bilateral agreement between Russia and the U.S., the center resides in a cozy, three-story, 19th century mansion whose early occupants owned the Hope Diamond and the Washington Post. The Russian Cultural Center regularly organizes exhibitions of Russian and American artists. Two clubs function within the Center: the scientific group and the discussion group. The center also offers Russian language courses and conducts seminars dedicated to Russian linguistics. Oleg Zhiganov, director of the center, says his appointment has been an honor as well as a challenge. “The difficult starting conditions, including the negative informational background enveloping Russia today, surely have an influence on our work,” Zhiganov says. “On the other hand, I believe that it is precisely now that a new ‘window of opportunity’ will open to stimulate a mutually advantageous cooperation in the cultural-humanistic field.” The center frequently organizes events that attract large audiences of Americans who admire Russian art, according to Zhiganov. Next year’s main event: a series of celebrations honoring the 70th anniversary of the World War II victory. In May 2014, after a 10-month construction period, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at 2700 F Street N.W. opened the Russian Lounge at the Opera House. Designed to emphasize Russia’s cultural contributions beyond nesting dolls and dancing bears, the sleek lounge is available to visit on organized tours. For Russian culture seekers who love music, the Russian chamber music ensemble, headed by Vera Danchenko-Stern, has been playing Russian romances in the U.S. for nine years. On Dec. 5, the ensemble will perform a concert dedicated entirely to the music of Peter Tchaikovsky at the Austrian Embassy. Another point of Russian interest in Washington is American University, which specializes in the conservation and development of Russian culture in the United States. The university’s history department created the Initiative for Russian Culture, which organizes Russian art exhibitions, seminars
and roundtables in Washington. In 2012, the initiative supported the creation of the Leo Tolstoy monument, which was placed in the university gardens at 4400 Massachusetts Ave N.W. To encounter another famous author, widely considered the father of all Russian poetry and literature, Russian literary enthusiasts can find on the corner of 22nd Street and H Street N.W. a bronze Alexander Pushkin. Crafted by sculptor Alexander Bourganov, the Russian bard stands on the campus of the George Washington University, erected in 2000 as a literary exchange with Moscow. In turn, Moscow later received a statue of the American poet, Walt Whitman. After exploring the historical, religious and cultural Russian “dostopremachatel’nosti,” a long word that means ‘sights worth seeing,’ Russian foodies have three main choices of restaurants. Russia House (1800 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) claims to have the largest collection of vodkas in the U.S. Rus-Uz (1000 N. Randolph St. Arlington, Virginia) promotes a unique blend of Russian and Uzbek cuisines, and also caters. However, Washington’s most famous Russian restaurant, Mari Vanna (1141 Connecticut Ave N.W.), is certainly the place to end your tour of Russian offerings. This eclectic eatery provides visitors not only a wide array of national dishes, but also an enjoyable if unusual Russian atmosphere.To get a sense of the inside, imagine if your Russian grandmother hired a team of hipster decorators who previously worked at Anthropologie. In October, the restaurant added Ukrainian and Uzbek dishes to the menu and enlarged the choice of vegetarian options. On top of that, famous Russian habitués such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Washington Capitols’ star, Alexander Ovechkin, sometimes visit at the restaurant. Ovechkin celebrated his birthday there in September. If you cannot go to Russia (or Brighton Beach), but want to experience Russian life, Washington has plenty to offer those who are newly interested in Russian culture as well as provide comfort to those who miss the art, food, and atmosphere of that vast, beautiful country. ■EKATERINA KOMAROVA SPECIAL TO RBTH
CUISINE A LA RUSSE calvados, apple jack, or apple cider • 750 (3 cups) of chicken broth • 500 ml (2 cups) of fresh carrot or pumpkin juice (or substitute more chicken broth) • 250 ml (1 cup) of heavy cream or coconut milk For garnish: Sage oil (sage leaves and olive oil mixed in a blender) for drizzling • 15 ml (1 Tbl) of black sesame seeds, toasted in a hot skillet • Raw cashew nuts - ground
ROASTED PUMPKIN AND SAGE SOUP
Instructions: 1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Celsius (450 Fahrenheit) and set to “roast” if your oven makes that distinction. 2. Line a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan with parchment paper. 3. Cut the pumpkin into wedges and use a sharp knife to remove the pulp and the seeds. 4. Drizzle olive oil on the pumpkin and carrot flesh
raw flesh so the natural sugars slowly caramelize, which boosts the flavor and depth. An injection of raw carrot or pumpkin juice is not mandatory, but does add a more concentrated flavor. I like to use coconut milk to finish the soup, because it helps create the velvety smooth texture thatmakes pumpkin soup so delectable. A careful selection of spices in the soup with the sage dominant and a nice fusion of garnishes at the end make for a hearty and satisfying soup that will ward off the immediate threat of oncoming winter.
Ingredients: 2 liters (8 cups) raw pumpkin or one small pumpkin approximately 1.5 − 2.2 kl (3-5 lbs) • 2 yellow onions, peeled and roughly chopped • 30 ml (2 Tbl) light brown sugar • 4 medium-sized carrots, peeled • 30 ml (2 Tbl) raw ginger, minced • Olive oil • Sea salt • Black pepper • 1 ml (½-tsp) of cayenne pepper • 5 ml (1 tsp) sweet paprika • 30 ml (2 Tbl) fresh sage, finely chopped • 15 ml (1 Tbl) fresh rosemary, finely chopped • 15 ml (1 Tbl) coriander seeds, toasted and pounded in a mortar and pestle • 10 ml (2 tsp) nutmeg • 80 ml (⅓-cup) of toasted hazelnuts, ground in a food processor fitted with a steel blade • 3 bay leaves • 2 cinnamon sticks • 80 ml (⅓-cup) of
Gardening is the only domestic skill I lack, but I managed to grow a bumper crop of sage this summer on my Moscow balcony. Sage is a great accompaniment to the entire root vegetable family, coaxing out the natural nutty notes. So when I came across the first crop of pumpkins, it was definitely time to transition to autumnal soup mode. The Russian word for pumpkin is “tykhva,” and it is an umbrella term for anything in the greater yellow and orange root vegetable family, including butternut and acorn squash. It is a popular autumnal ingredient thatappears in classic 19th century cuisine, enhancing milky and sweet soups and millet kasha. Packed with nutrients and surviving storage in a root cellar throughout the long Russian winters, pumpkins continue to sustain the peasant population in the countryside to this day. Pumpkin soup is a simple recipe, but too often it can end up watery and tasteless, or the chef overcompensates by bludgeoning the blandness with too much heat and overdoing the curry or the chili. A few extra steps and a few special ingredients can take pumpkin soup from blah to bling in less than two hours. When it comes to cooking pumpkin and butternut squash, as with beets, the best approach is to roast the
JENNIFER EREMEEVA SPECIAL TO RBTH
and generously season with salt and pepper. Place them on the cookie sheet and roast for 40 minutes, or until the flesh of the vegetables is soft and pliant. The tip of a small knife should go into the flesh easily. 5. Remove the pumpkin flesh from the tough outer skin and roughly chop into pieces. Set aside with the carrots. 6. Heat about 30 ml (2 Tbl) of olive oil in a heavybottomed Dutch oven. Sauté the onions over medium heat for three to four minutes. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the onions when they become translucent. Reduce heat and cover the pot. Cook for an additional five minutes, allowing the onions to slowly caramelize. 7. Add ginger and spices and cook through for two minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the heavy cream, bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 35 minutes. 8. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Add the heavy cream or coconut milk, then process the soup in batches in a blender or food processor until thoroughly combined and velvety smooth. 9. Serve the soup in warmed bowls, drizzle with the sage oil. Finish with toasted sesame seeds and crushed cashew nuts. Priyatnogo Appetita! Jennifer Eremeeva is an American writer who has called Moscow home for 20 years. She writes about Russian history, culture, humor and food at www.jennifereremeeva.com
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