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Historic cruiser The Aurora once travelled to Siam and later triggered the Russian revolution P14




Security cooperation What Russia’s ambassador to Thailand thinks about bilateral security cooperation

Thursday, December 4, 2014

December 6-12, 2014

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In Brief

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PMs pledge to boost bilateral ties


Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev with Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.

FIFA 2018 RUSSIA TO SPEND $1 BILLION ON HOTELS Despite the unstable economic situation and a reduction in hotel revenues, international hotel chains will double their presence in Russia in the next few years, professional services firm Ernst & Young estimates, with the number of rooms belonging to foreign companies set to rise to 61,000 by 2020. However, only 50,000 rooms are estimated to be required to host the 2018 Fifa World Cup, which will be held in Russia in a number of cities.

Russia to help in the war on drugs




A representative office of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service, which is planned to open in Bangkok, will assist drug en-

forcement agencies in Southeast Asia, and in particular, the Narcotics Control Bureau of the Royal Thai Police.

auto spare parts, precious stones and jewellery, electrical equipment and preserved fruit. In 2013, about 1 million Russian tourists visited Thailand.

This was announced at the conclusion of a visit to Thailand by Federal Drug Control Service deputy director Oleg Safonov. The main focus of cooperation will be combating trafficking of illegal synthetic drugs. Furthermore, the agencies will exchange information about Russian and Thai citizens involved in trafficking illegal drugs. According to the UN Report on Drugs and Crime, Thailand is used by criminal organisations as a transit hub for trafficking methamphetamine drugs internationally, which are produced in Myanmar. In 2012, Thai police withdrew from circulation 95 million tablets of this narcotic. According to Thai police information, in 2014 already 40 Russian citizens have been arrested in criminal cases connected with narcotics.


Russia left without its Mistrals as France blocks delivery over Ukraine

Buddhist temple as a memorial In November, at a memorial centre dedicated to the Great Patriotic War of 19411945, a ceremony was held for the laying of the first stone of a Buddhist temple in Moscow. The temple will be dedicated to the memory of Buddhist warriors who died during World War II and will add to the architectural assembly, which already includes an Orthodox church, mosque and a synagogue. The timeline for the completion of construction has yet to be finalised. The second Buddhist temple will open in the northeast of Moscow.

International hotel operators to double presence in Russia by 2020



largest part of Russia’s exports to Thailand was oil and other energy products, metals and chemical fertilizers. Thailand exports to Russia automobiles and


and Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding on collaboration in the field of atomic energy. Bilateral trade at the end of 2013 had reached $4.666 billion. The


$1 bn

Moscow, which will host the World Cup final, must be able to provide 29,780 rooms and St Petersburg, which will host the semi-final, must have 14,410.

According to Marina Smirnova, expert from real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, the total cost of building all the hotels will reach more than $1 billion.




In a meeting with his Thai counterpart Prayut Chano-cha at the East Asia Summit in Myanmar last month, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that the turnover of goods between the two countries had increased 2.5 times over the last five years. Medvedev also highlighted that Thailand is extremely popular among Russian tourists. The Thai PM thanked Medvedev for the increase in the import of Thai agricultural products by Russia and expressed his hope that by 2016 bilateral trade will have reached $10 billion. The prime minister also invited Russian investors to participate in various projects in Thailand. The parties confirmed their preparedness to develop cooperation in trade, investment and tourism. Energy is another area which is considered a priority. In September, Russia

Russia has no intention of building a new Iron Curtain, says Putin RBTH.COM/41637

Russia building a system against cyber attacks

Russia, the USSR and Afghanistan — yesterday and today




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Museum Thai monarch’s gifts to Nicholas II, which are kept in St Petersburg, have survived two revolutions

Royal gifts in need of restoration Presents given by Thailand’s King Rama V are displayed at Kunstkamera Russia’s oldest museum which is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. GLEB FEDOROV

The Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which is the complete name for Kunstkamera, houses the following artefacts: Laostyle sabre, Siamese-style sabre, Malay kris with a blade of meteoric iron and official portraits of King Chulalongkorn and Queen SavangVattana.These items were given to Crown Prince Nicholas (the future emperor Nicholas II) during his visit to Siam on his Great Eastern Journey, which we wrote about in our October issue. The prince’s journey took place in 1890-91 and included Italy, Greece, Egypt, India, Ceylon, Singapore, Java, Siam, Vietnam and Japan. From Japan the prince travelled to Vladivostok, where he participated in work building the Trans-Siberian Railway and then travelled through Siberia and all through Russia to return to St Petersburg.

Visit to Siam As Sergei Trifonov, a senior lecturer at the Department for the Far East at St Petersburg State University, wrote in his book King Chulalongkorn in Russia, Nicholas spent five days in Siam from March 19 to 24, 1891. He was accompanied by Prince George of Greece and his retinue, as well as Prince Esper Ukhtomsky, who was tutor to Nicholas and later wrote a book about these travels. “The guests arrived at the mouth of Chao Phraya River on the cruiser Azov. Here the prince was greeted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Siam Prince Devavongse and the Minister of the Court Prince Silpakom. The guests were accommodated on the Royal Yacht Apollo and travelled up river to the walls of the royal palace”, wrote Tri-



Kunstkamera houses the following artefacts: Lao-style sabre, Siamese-style sabre, Malay kris with a blade of meteoric iron and the official portraits of King Chulalongkorn and Queen Savang Vattana.

Putin praises the museum President Vladimir Putin congratulated the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences on its 300th anniversary and called it one of the most interesting museums in all of Russia. He added that thanks to the tireless work of famous Russian scientists and researchers, and the hard work of many generations of employees, unique ethnographic, archaeological, and anthropological collections have been assembled which reflect the diversity of cultures all over the world.

The gifts survived the October Revolution and the fall of the Soviet Union

fonov. In the following days, Nicholas was shown the capital of Siam, the Grand Royal Palace, the Palace of the Second King, the Royal Country Residence, and was also awarded the highest order of Siam, the Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri. Nicholas was also shown the treasury of the Grand Palace, where, it appears, he was presented with gifts. In Esper Ukhtomsky’s book there is a list of items. Apart from those already named, Chulalongkorn gave Nicholas a huge pair of ivory tusks, candelabras in the form of birds on a pedestal, a vase supported by three birds, a dinner service on a gold tray, and also two baby elephants, a young panther, two white monkeys, numerous spotted birds and much more. Ukhtomsky wrote in his diary as they departed Siam: “You depart from Siam, as from a dear old friend”.

Gifts for Russia The treasures were carefully brought to Russia, and in 1894 were included in a large exhibition of gifts

made to Nicholas during his eastern tour. The exhibition took place at Tsarskoe Selo, and afterwards the gifts were sorted. So the Lao-style sabre, Siamesestyle sabre, Malay kris with a blade of meteoric iron and the portraits were taken to Kunstkamera for storage and the remaining gifts from King Rama V were sent to the Hermitage. The gifts have survived the October Revolution, the fall of the Soviet Union and Russia’s economic decline in the early 1990s, but despite the careful storage (the museum’s curators are extremely delicate in their work) time has not passed over the presents. The sabre’s case has cracks, the blades have darkened and the sheath of the Siamesestyle sabre has cracked. So the artefacts require restoration, which can only be entrusted to a highly skil– led specialist, able to return these valuables to their original appearance. The museum is unable to do this itself. “To carry out this restoration, we need highly skilled specialists and sig-

nificant resources,” doctor of historical sciences, Elena Ivanova, 80, told RBTH. Elena Ivanova is the person responsible for Thailand collections at Kunstkamera. She has studied Thailand’s ethnography for over 50 years. Despite vis-

The most famous section of the museum is its collection of anatomical rarities iting Thailand only once, she has written an entire series of works on Siam’s history and ethnography. One must observe that there has already been one successful attempt at restoring antiquities in Thailand. For St. Petersburg’s 300th anniversary, the statue of Buddha Maitreya, held at the St Petersburg Buddhist Temple, was restored in Thailand. The statue was given to the temple by King Rama VI Vajiravudh, for its opening shortly before the October Revolution.

First Russian museum This year, Kunstkamera celebrates its 300th anniversary. The museum was founded by Peter the Great in 1714 and became Russia’s first museum. The museum houses a unique collection of artefacts from former times, revealing the history and traditions of many cultures. The museum has departments studying the life and people from all over the world: North and South America, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Pacific. However, the most famous section of the museum is its collection of anatomical rarities and anomalies. The core of the collection was established by Peter himself, who gave instruction that everything strange and inexplicable should be brought to the museum, and he also spent significant sums on purchasing collections in Europe. The Kunstkamera building was completed after his death, and since the beginning of the 18th century has been the symbol of the Russian Academy of Sciences.



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Money Currency deal to bring Russia and China finance systems closer

Doing away with the dollar A new agreement allowing trade in national currencies could pose a challenge to the current global financial system. ALEXEI LOSSAN

Russia and China are planning a transition to making trade settlements in rubles and yuan, according to a statement Russian President Vladimir Putin made at the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit in Beijing. The move is intended to reduce the US dollar’s influence on the global energy market. “In the long-term, of course, settlements in rubles and yuan are very promising,” said Putin. “This will mean, if we transition to such a large-scale operation, that the influence of the dollar, say, in global energy, will objectively decline.” Shortly after Putin made the announcement, Russia’s largest bank — state retail banking giant Sberbank — began financing letters of credit in Chinese yuan and performed the first transac-



tions in yuan with one of Russia’s largest companies. The decision is just the latest move in increased cooperation between Russia and China. While Russia has long talked about the possibility of a pivot toward Asia, the country’s increasing isolation from Western countries has proved an important catalyst in the process. Analysts say that both Russia and China

will profit from closer ties, and the currency agreement is one indication. “It is a mutually beneficial idea for Russia and China to transition to making settlements in their national currencies during trade, and it is positive in terms of cooperation in the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] framework,” said Dmitry Bedenkov, head of the

analytical division at the investment company RussInvest. “First of all, it increases the diversification of currencies used by the two countries during settlements, which, given the high turbulence on the global financial market, could become another element of diversification.” Bedenkov added that this kind of currency diversification is especially impor-

tant for Russia because of the financial sanctions cur– rently imposed against it by the European Union and the US, which is preventing Russian banks from borrowing money to refinance their debt. Alexander Dorofeev, general director of the consulting company Arkaim, said the plan to gradually transition to settlements in national currencies was entirely realistic.“This has already been under way for several years because there are serious forces in the global financial elite that are interested in it,” Dorofeev said. He added that the US had a vested interest in preventing this transition, as it wants to preserve the dollar’s status as the primary global currency and the unit for international business transactions. “How this confrontation goes will depend on the speed of the transition, but the US’s ability to lobby for p ay m e n t s i n d o l l a r s everywhere is on the decline,”said Dorofeev. He said, Putin is the only world leader really promoting trade in national currencies, despite the fact that this process is already under way. The ruble-yuan pair has been traded on the Moscow and Shanghai stock exchanges since December 2010. China has restrictions in place on foreign exchange operations for Russian companies in yuan.

Clothing The government guarantees a share of the market from the state procurement order

Govt lures foreign brands to localise their production Foreign clothing brands are invited to localise their production in Russia, with new factories being offered long-term tax breaks. IGOR ROZIN RBTH

The Russian authorities have invited foreign clothing brands to localise their production in Russia, Deputy Industry and Trade

Minister Viktor Yevtukhov has said in an interview with the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper. Yevtukhov explained that state support programmes currently envisage subsidies for partially recovering the costs of materials, technical upgrades and new investment projects. New factories can also enjoy long-term tax breaks until



2025.The ministry also guarantees manufacturers who accept this invitation a share of the market from the state procurement order. “Since in the Soviet era Russia had a well-establi– shed textile industry, our country can occupy a certain niche between the expensive European segment and the so-called cheap Asian-made consumer

goods,” said Yevtukhov. One of the ways of achieving this goal, he explained, is to establish foreign manufacturers’ production facilities in Russia, as is the case with the automotive industry. “This is, of course, a task for the future,”he said.“Having said that, our textile factories already have a good basis to build on.” The drive to localise production in Russia may bring down prices for clothes made in Russia.“Consumer goods production requires a considerable safety margin in terms of prices. If in

terms of quality there are no issues, in terms of costs, we are still running behind [our] Asian competitors,” Yevtukhov said. He went on to add that in the mass segment it is important to establish relations with large retail chains and to develop sources of raw materials. As for external markets, there are more prospects there for high-tech Russian goods, such as technical textiles and nonwoven fabrics. Read full version at

IN BRIEF ‘Invest in Russia’ seminar IRINA VINOKUROVA

On November 20, 2014 a seminar“Investing in Russia”was held at Dusit Thani Hotel. The seminar was organised by the Thai-Russian Chamber of Commerce with the support of the Russian Embassy in Thailand and the Russian Trade representative office in Thailand. The objective of the seminar was to encourage more mutual investments between Thailand and Russia. The seminar focused on the trade relations and business prospects between the two countries. Impressed with the high interest show in the seminar by the audience, the Thai-Russian Chamber of Commerce promised to organise the next event in the beginning of the next year.

Ambassador tours plant The Russian ambassador to Thailand Kirill Barsky, along with the executive committee of the Thai-Russian Chamber of Commerce, visited the Korat region on November 26-27. They surveyed the full meat processing in the Korat chicken processing plant, which is considered one of the most technologically advanced integration complex. The Russian ambassador and the chamber members were impressed by what they saw. The visitors also talked with some of the workers as well as the complex management.

November Monthly Brief: What’s Next for the G-20

What’s Next for the G-20: The Experts Speak

December Monthly Brief: Year in Review

In this monthly report, RD experts examine the recent G-20 summit in Australia and consider what could be achieved by the participants. The memo takes a look at the role the G-20 can play in the creation of a new, multipolar world.

RD is now hosting regular Web conferences! See what the experts had to say about our November Monthly Brief and the results of the G-20 meeting in Australia. Then, sign up to participate in the next session.

Never before have post-Cold War relations between Russia and the United States been surrounded by such pessimism and uncertainty. Where do we go from here? What lessons should we come away with for the a new year?





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Strategy Meeting of PMs in Myanmar leads to closer cooperation in trade, security and anti-drugs measures

Thai-Russian relations to get strategic boost


On the sidelines of the recent East Asia Summit in Myanmar, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev met his Thai counterpart Prayuth Chan-o-cha. While the meeting primarily focused on investments and improving bilateral trade, relations between the countries are slowly starting to assume strategic significance. At the meeting, the Thai premier thanked Russia for importing more Thai agricultural products, an area that Russia has benefited from, given the sanctions Moscow has imposed on imports from the West. Reports from Myanmar indicate

that there was no discussion on the political situation in Thailand. The Kingdom has long been seen as one of America’s strongest allies in Southeast Asia, but Washington’s strong reaction to the declaration of martial law, that included cutting off US military aid, has left a small geopolitical vacuum. US Secretary of State John Kerry went to the extent of saying “there is no justification for this military coup”. The recent departure of US Ambassador Kristie Kenney means the top post in the American Embassy in Bangkok will not be fil– led for a few months. In the meantime, Russia has been making quick inroads into the Kingdom. Russian Ambassador to Thailand Kirill Barskiy told The Nation in a recent interview that he believes that

Anti-narcotics measures


Russia’s non-interference in Thai politics and its willingness to increase cooperation has been received well by Bangkok.

but these would be for civil aviation. Orient Thai Airlines ordered 12 SSJ100 Super Jets from Russia in 2010. The passenger aircraft are likely to be delivered in the next few months.

Thailand has agreed to purchase the Mi-17 helicopters from Russia.

all problems in the country need to be resolved in a democratic manner through peaceful dialogue within the constitutional and legal framework. “How this is achieved is in the hands of the people of Thailand. It is Russia’s national character to not interfere with other countries’ domestic affairs,” he said.

Defence and security Dating back to the days of the Cold War, Thailand has traditionally relied on the

West for its defence requirements, but there is an emerging trend where the country is looking to diversify its purchases. In 2011, Thailand purchased three Mi-17V-5 helicopters. This was followed up with an agreement to buy two more of these multi-role helicopters for around $40 million in October 2014. At last month’s Indo Defence 2014 arms expo in Jakarta, officials from Russia’s export agency Rosoboronexport said they

could sell several more of the multi-role helicopters to the Royal Thai Army’s air division. The agency is also keen to supply Thailand with Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters, which are operated by air forces in India, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Although Russia could not sell the fighters to Thailand in 2008, there is a likelihood of Bangkok looking to upgrade its air arsenal in 2015. Thailand is expected to receive its first Sukhoi jets,

An area of common concern for Russia and Thailand is the booming international drug trade. Studies showed that narcotics smuggled from the ‘Golden Triangle’ area, where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos intersect, managed to find their way to the Asian parts of Russia. In October, Oleg Safonov, the deputy director of the Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS) was in Bangkok for the 38th meeting of heads of National Drug Law Enforcement in the Asia-Pacific. He told reporters that the FDCS would open a representative office in the Kingdom and work with its counterparts in Southeast Asian countries to fight the drug menace. The anti-drug partnership comes in addition to cooperation against transnational crime, terrorism and closer cooperation between the Russia and Thai armies.

Missiles The Topol system is to be replaced

Fleet The work on new destroyer to start in 2015

Strategic forces to be equipped with Yars

‘Lord of the seas’ due by 2025

Some of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces divisions have already introduced the Yars missiles. YURI GAVRILOV ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA

The commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) has announced that its regiments and divisions are to be upgraded with new Yars nuclear weapon systems for stationary and mobile deployment to replace the famous Topol sys-

tem. The Yars system was developed based on the Topol but is much more powerful. Its missile, the RS-24, is superior in throwweight to the Topol’s RS-12 by more than 20 per cent. Although theYars carries not one warhead but three to four, the designers have succeeded in keeping the strategic missile’s range to greater than 6,200 miles. Its body and instrument compartment have been treated with a coating that


reduces the impact of various damaging factors, including a nuclear explosion. Furthermore, on launch, the missile can carry out a programmed manoeuvre. This helps it make a relatively safe passage through a nuclear cloud should an enemy attack the Yars’ position with a ballistic missile. According to experts, the breakthrough technological solutions used in creating the RS-24 guarantee the high survivability of the missile when overcoming any missile defence systems. Read full version at

The ship, the purpose of which is to establish supremacy on the open sea, is to be built by 2025. VLADIMIR SHCHERBAKOV SPECIAL TO RBTH

The Russian Defence Ministry confirmed the specifications for the design of a new destroyer, according to a report by Tass news agency in late October, referring to a highly placed source in the domestic defence industry. The programme for the creation of the vessel has


been assigned the code name“Leader.”Work on the Russian “lord of the seas” has been entrusted to the Northern Design Bureau, the creator of practically all of the major surface war– ships in the Russian fleet. Work on the design of“Leader” is scheduled to begin in 2015, but the construction of the first of the series of 12 ships – half a dozen for the Northern and Pacific fleets – is not expected before 2023-2025. However, five years ago the fleet command confir-

med that the construction of the destroyer would commence in 2012, while two years ago representatives of the United Shipbuilding Corporation mentioned 2016. The “Leader” programme is said not to have been included in the state armaments programme for 2020 and funds for the construction of destroyers may only be allocated within a shipbuilding programme planned until 2050. Read full version at




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Rankings Where do Russian educational institutions stand in the world?


Universities set ambitious goal to scale the top 100 A new government programme aims to propel five of the country’s universities into the world top 100 by 2020. GLEB FEDOROV RBTH

September saw the publication of the international QS World University Rankings for 2014, which this year included 21 Russian universities – six more than in 2013. Three Russian universities made the rating for the first time: the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (481-490), the Saratov National Research State University (601-650) and the National University of Science and Technology “MISIS” (701). For many Russian universities, international ratings are still a novelty, although in the past 10 years the country’s universities and government – after some hesitation and attempts to create their own international ratings system – have decided to start playing by international rules. The Russian universities made it into this year’s ratings thanks to the 5-100 Federal Programme of University Support, which includes the participation of 15 Russian universities. Its aim is for five Rus-

sian universities to feature in the international rating’s top 100 by 2020. Despite quantitative achievements, none of the Russian universities made it into the top 100 this year. The best result was obtained by the oldest university in Russia, the Lomon o s ov M o s c ow S t a t e University (MGU), which was assigned 114th place in the QS Ranking. So what is holding Russian universities back?

A question of quality? The most obvious conclusion might seem to be that Russian tertiary education is of a lower standard than the West. Representatives of Russian educational institutions interviewed by RBTH say this isn’t the case. They say the problem relates to the ratings’ evaluation process and how their criteria fit with Russia’s educational system. According to Alexei Okunev, rector of the Department of Higher Communications at the State University of Novosibirsk (328th in the QS Ranking): “The criteria of the international ratings reflect the Anglo-Saxon [tertiary education] model.” The director of the Ins-

titute of the Development of Education at the Higher School of Economics, Irina Abankina, says the problem is “the ratings evaluate only our bache-

Our universities are poorly represented on the Internet, which is why it’s very difficult to obtain the information necessary for the ratings evaluation lor programmes and our traditional specialitet [the Soviet five-year bachelor programme] and aspirantura [the Soviet three-year PhD programme] aren’t counted”. Most Russian universities (almost 80 per cent) switched to the bachelormaster system only in 2011. This means that the first wave of bachelor students who will continue to masters and PhD programmes will appear only in 2015 and 2016.

Over-specialisation The Higher School of Economics (VShE) in Moscow has been quite successful in the monetisation of education. The university,

one of the recognised leaders of humanitarian education in Russia today, was founded 25 years ago and operates according to the We s t e r n e d u c a t i o n a l model, with a large number of full-fee students. Yet the VShE also offers many subsidised places thanks to solid financial support from the state. Nevertheless, VShE occupies a modest 501-550th place in the QS Ranking. According to the scientific director of the VShE Education Institute, Isak Frumin, the low rating is because VShE is a specialised university, while the general QS Ranking targets comprehensive universities, which include medicine and natural sciences faculties. Frumin accuses the ratings of being “guilty of vague terms and numerous deficiencies”, though he deems them necessary since they provide institutions with a“proven model of the effectiveness of higher education”.

Language barrier The general lack of proficiency in English is a key factor as well. “Our universities are very poorly represented on the Internet, especially in the English language, which is why it’s very difficult to obtain the information necessary for the ratings evaluation,” Abankina says. She adds that the language barrier influences the score for academic publications, since in Russia it is customary to publish studies in Russian scientific journals. These publications don’t make it to international scientific databases used for the ratings. Abankina’s view is shared by Hong Kong professor of communication theory, Anthony Fung, who gave a talk to rectors of Russian universities at Moscow’s Skolkovo Innovation Centre this year on how to get into international university rankings. “Language is an important factor,” Fung said, addressing the issue of why Russian universities are under-represented. He said this meant “no international English publications, no international conferences, no international faculty members, and of course no reaching out”.

Ties Nizhny Novgorod initiative

Russian varsity to open Thai centre The rector of the Linguistics University of Nizhny Novgorod, Boris Zhigalev, told RBTH that the university plans to open a Thai culture centre. IRINA VINOKUROVA RBTH

Boris Zhigalev, rector of the Linguistics University of Nizhny Novgorod, said that the Thai culture centre will most likely be opened in 2015. By then, a Thai language instructor from Thammasat University is set to arrive in the city, and in the second semester of the school year an additional Thai-language programme is expected to be launched. “The project has support in Nizhny Novgorod from the local authorities as well as from the governor of Nizhny Novgorod region, Valery Shantsev, who is very favourable toward us and even said once that the Linguistics University is Ni-



The Linguistics University of Nizhny Novgorod.

zhny Novgorod’s calling card.”According to Zhigalev, the culture centre will be a place where people can get information about teacher-training programmes. “For example,Thai teachers of Russian, could also get grants to raise their qualifications.” RBTH reported in August that this year, the Linguistics University of Nizhny Novgorod and Thammasat University had signed a partnership agreement.

Thammasat Russian language centre

Growing interest In November, as part of the Academic Expo for the people, Thammasat University held an open day for final-year students from Bangkok schools. IRINA VINOKUROVA RBTH

Among the participants was the Department of Russian Language of Thammasat, whose stand was very popular. At the information stand not only could you obtain information about the curriculum, but also about Russia. Nutnicha Numdej is studying in the final year of Samutsakhonbura School and studies Russian on Saturdays.“When I finish school, I want to learn Russian at university – she shares her plans – and I know that in Thammasat we just have such a department. Of course, you must do many tests and they are

complicated, but I hope I get in. I really like the Russian people and language, and I want to study here.” At the Russian cuisine stand, Russian food could literally be tasted: Russian pancakes and the traditional Olivier salad were prepared by students in the department following real homemade recipes from Russia, which they learned from their Russian teacher, Professor Olga Zhilina. “Of course, we practised in the classroom,” says Zhilina. “I brought all the necessary ingredients, and the students’ task was to provide the stove and the pans. We had to do everything together. I wrote the recipe and explained what they should do and how. If something went wrong, I corrected them, but I wanted them to do everything by themselves from the beginning to the end.”



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Summit Participants take initiative

Thais make their mark at robotics Olympiad

Russian and Asean youth build new bridges GLEB FEDOROV RBTH

At the end of October, the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, hosted the 2nd Asean-Russia Youth Summit. If the objective of the first summit, which took place in Moscow in the spring 2013, was essential– ly a“meet and greet”for the young participants and an attempt to bridge the information gap, then the second summit was able to take a step forward, resulting in a number of specific solutions. For example, summit participants have come up with two hashtags, #aseanrussiatoday and #movingtogether,


The 2nd Asean-Russia Youth Summit came up with a number of specific solutions.

mation can be posted both from the Russian and Asean side,”said Natalia Biryukova, senior associate for international projects at Confideri. Biryukova took part in the business workshop at the summit. According to Biryukova, the portal should be aimed at increasing awareness of small and medium-sized businesses in Asean countries and Russia and contain information on the reg u l a t o ry f r a m e wo r k , business climate, and investment opportunities. According toVictor Sumsky, director of the Asean Centre, which, together with the Global Movement of Moderates was the organiser of the forum, “The summit was a success.

“There was a lot prepared for the participants at the first forum. And it was more dominated by events of this kind. This time, the emphasis was on the participants’ own member strength, their opinions and speeches. They mostly were the hosts of this summit,” Sumsky told RBTH. “As it was the first instalment of the summit in the Asean region, it was attended by a more inclusive range of students from the Asean region than the first one. Also, since it was held in Malaysia, a Muslim majority nation, discussions were also focused on the significant Muslim population in Asean and Russia by exploring an Islamic way of doing business between the two par-

ties in Islamic banking and financial instruments, the halal food and beverage industry,” Tan Sian Hoo, the co-chairperson of the Summit committee and head of programmes in the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation, told RBTH. The third summit will be held in 2015 in Russia. At present it is not known exactly where, but offers have already been made by Moscow and Vladivostok, at the Far Eastern Federal University. “I think we would do well to look at the final declaration and those important areas of discussion that are listed there, and make sure that we come to the third forum with these ideas developed in advance.”

Community The first Russian kindergarten Semitsvetik in Pattaya also welcomes Thai children

Preschooling in a Russian environment Pattaya is not only a favourite travel destination for Russians in Thailand, but also a city that has become home to thousands of Russian families. IRINA VINOKUROVA RBTH

The main concern of parents and society as a whole in any country and any culture is the health, upbringing, and education of children. That’s why national kindergartens, schools, and creative studios are more than just a business. The first Russian kindergarten in Pattaya, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in November 2014, has turned

into a real children’s centre, where kids are not just watched over by teachers, but also get a complete preschool education, all in a Russian language and cultural environment. Semitsvetik Preschool, named after a very touching and morally instructive modern Russian fairy tale about a magical flower that grants seven wishes, has become a symbol of childhood, creativity, and true friendship in Russia. For Irina Novikova, the founder and irreplaceable director of the preschool in Pattaya, it is also a labour of love and a great responsibility, because every day

mums and dads entrust her with what is most precious to them – their children. And Irina remembers each of the kids who went to Se-

talking with their friends at Semitsvetik. The Russian preschool has always been actively involved in the community. This year Se-

Semitsvetik was named after a very touching Russian fairy tale about a magical flower

The Russian expat community is noticeably becoming more active in Thailand

mitsvetik for even just one day over her five years of work. This is considering that almost a fifth of her pupils are children from Thai families whose parents want them to learn Russian from an early age, while

mitsvetik, along with other schools in Pattaya, participated for the third time in a concert at the annual Christmas fair held in Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, at which they brought holiday greetings to all the

young patients and orphans. The Russian expat community is noticeably becoming more active in Thailand every year. CTC International (Thailand), a Russian TV station, and Kuvshin Caucasian restaurant in Pattaya initiated and organised another charity event for orphaned children from the Children’s Home Foundation orphanage on November 29. The young guests were treated to an animated film, a special meal and generous gifts from Russian ambassador Kirill Barsky, Thai and Russian businessmen who took part in this event.


that will be used to promote all Russian-Asean activities and events on the Internet and social networks A channel was also launched on YouTube, where Russian and Asean country students are planning to post videos in their own national languages. An RBTH representative attended the media workshop, where, in addition to the above two ideas, a proposal was made to start building a network of alumni from Russian universities currently residing in Southeast Asian states through contacts via the Asean Centre’s Facebook page. “One of the main problems facing us [Russia and the Asean countries] is the lack of information we have about each other. We proposed the creation of an Internet portal, where infor-

The first World Robotics Olympiad held in Russia proved a major success for the Thai team of students.


Youngsters at the RussiaAsean Youth Summit in Malaysia have come up with two common hashtags and are preparing the launch of a business portal.


Thailand’s national team took first place in total number of medals at the World Robotics Olympiad for schoolchildren, which took place from November 21 to 23 in the Russian city of Sochi. The Thai students won six prizes, Russia won five, Malaysia three, and Taiwan won two. Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, China, USA, the Philippines and Japan won one prize each. Among the Thai national team’s wins, their victory in the soccer championship should be noted. The school students took the first and second places, leaving Russia in third place. In addition, the Thai team received a special LEGO Education award for their presentation of a unique robot masseur, designed to help combat muscle atrophy that occurs in astronauts, who spend much time in weightlessness. The competitions were held in four categories: regular, open, college and soccer. In the regular category and the College category, participants had to design a robot that performs a specific task. In an open competition, the young Olympians showed their projects on the given topic of space. The World Robot Olympiad is a robotics competition for students aged 10 to 18 years. It was first held in 2004 in Singapore. This year it was attended by more than 3,000 participants from 47 countries.




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Over the last few years, Russia has been proposing a common economic space between Lisbon and Vladivostok that would include the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) which comprises of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and comes into effect on January 1, 2015. Geopolitical tensions in Ukraine have, however, thrown a spanner in the works and ensured that such a space is unlikely to become a reality anytime in the near future. However another large trading partner, the Asean


Economic Community (AEC), which also comes into effect in 2015, could prove to be a long-term partner for the EAEU.

Eurasian Economic Union and Vietnam “The AEC’s blueprint calls for transforming ‘Asean into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour, and freer flow of capital,’ and this is similar to Vladimir Putin’s vision for the EAEU,” says Alina Jorayeva, a business consultant from Kazakhstan working in Kuala Lumpur. “The two new economic blocs could even work on a long-term roadmap for a free trade area, if you look at the complementarities.” Jorayeva adds that the on-going negotiations between Vietnam and the Customs Union (which becomes the EAEU in January 2015) are crucial in this respect. “Of course, negotiators from the EAEU would be wary of products from the AEC making a backdoor entry throughVietnam,”Jorayeva says, adding that this could actually be slowing down the negotiations that began in the first quarter of 2013. Vietnam is eager to finalise the negotiations with the EAEU as it looks to increase its bilateral trade turnover with Russia, which stands at $2.7 billion. At the 17th meeting of the Vietnam-Russia Intergovernmental Committee on Economic-Trade, Scientific-Technological Cooperation in August in Vladivostok, the sides agreed to conclude the talks for a free-trade agreement by early 2015. “A pact betweenVietnam and the EAEU would open the doors for Asean,” Jor-

ayeva says, adding that the blueprint would also have to be studied by AEC members to similarly ensure that products from the union do not escape existing Asean duties.

Areas of convergence The idea of a free-trade pact between the AEC and the EAEU looks feasible considering that the mem-

The AEC could prove to be a long-term partner for the Eurasian Union The EU may supply the AEC with oil, gas, automotives and spare parts, equipment Asean countries are better placed to supply agricultural products and seafood bers of the two areas are hardly competing in any areas. The EAEU is in a position to supply the AEC with oil and gas, automotives and spare parts, transport equipment and coal. Asean countries are better-placed to supply agricultural products and seafood. Food supplies assume primary importance given the current standoff between Russia and the West that had led the former to ban various food products from countries that placed sanctions on Moscow over its alleged role in the Ukraine crisis. The AEC would also be able to export electronics,

furniture and consumer durables to the Eurasian Union. “A free-trade agreement in the future is very much possible between the AEC and the Eurasian Economic Union but then Asean members may insist on an investment and services pact that would create conditions for easier labour movement,” says Ketan Jumani, a Manila-based labour consultant. “Countries like the Philippines have insisted on this provision in the agreement with Australia and New Zealand and resisted it with China and India, which are potential competitors,” he adds. Jorayeva argues that a free-trade agreement is workable even without a services and investment pact. “The market for food items, electronics and consumer durables is so large that this benefits Asean in a huge way,” she says. “There is also a strong possibility of Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Uzbekistan joining the EAEU and this may be an obstacle to a services agreement since the labour force from these countries directly compete with people from poorer Asean countries.” Even as it is, at the moment the EAEU comprises of 20 million square kilometres of territory, a population of around 170 million and a total GDP of about $2.2 trillion. This presents a huge market for the AEC. Asean already has free trade agreements in place with India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Besides Vietnam, the Eurasian Economic Union is looking at pacts with India and New Zealand, with a study group in place



The free-trade agreement between Vietnam and the Eurasian Economic Union could pave the way for greater economic engagement with Asean.





million sq km


Is the current Russia-Vietnam trade turnover.

Is the combined territory of the EAEU countries.

Is th GDP coun

Asean countries are well placed to supply with food.

with the former for a potential agreement. The first step for the Eurasian Economic Union to have a free trade agreement with Asean would be to enter talks as a trade partner.

Russian Far East and the China factor Analysts believe the Russian Far East could potentially become a major logistics and trans-shipment hub for products from the AEC destined for Central Russia and Europe. “It works both ways,” says Jumani. “Ports like Vladivostok could deliver LNG and oil from Siberia t o A s e a n ’s b o o m i n g economies, and at the same time take in products that could be sent by rail to Europe.” This was in fact one of the main ideas behind Russia’s decision to host the 2012 Apec Summit inVladivostok. There is also the China factor, with the country being a direct competitor to Asean in many products such as consumer durables and electronics. Since a free-trade agreement between China and the EAEU is not on the cards at the moment, over

resistance from Kazakhstan, preferential treatment for AEC products would undercut Beijing. “A sharp reduction in duties on the same items that China supplies and this cuts into their markets,” Jumani says. There are areas of convergence for the EAEU, China and AEC, with infrastructure development standing out. According to the Asian Development Bank, by 2020, Asean will need about $583 billion worth of investment in various forms for its infrastructure. As China finance and builds some of the bridges, roads and power plants in the region, the Eurasian Economic Union could ensure energy security for the AEC. A partnership between the EAEU and the Asean Economic Community would bring Russia closer to its goal of reducing its dependence on Europe and integrating its economy with the emerging powerhouses of Asia. A free trade area that stretches from Indonesia to St Petersburg would be unparalleled in size and dwarf any other such area both is size and population.



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ASEAN Moscow looking at its Soviet-era ally to build ties

Russia, Cambodia deepen bilateral engagement Despite the irritants, the relationship between the two countries looks set to grow in the foreseeable future, with Moscow looking to renew ties. AJAY KAMALAKARAN

What are the existing trade agreements?



he combined P of the EAEU ntries.

Asean has free-trade agreements in place with India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Besides Vietnam, the Eurasian Economic Union is looking

at pacts with India and New Zealand. The first step for the EEU to have a free-trade agreement with Asean would be to enter talks as a trade partner.


ASEAN + EAEU: Too Big to Succeed? Anton Tsvetov ANALYST


f we would try to imagine an institutional framework for cooperation between Asean and the Eurasian Econ o m i c U n i o n (EAEU), the sheer size of it would boggle our minds. An optimist would even see an avenue for this truly epic arrangement – the Customs Union’s FTA with Vietnam due to start functioning in 2015. Heralds of this exotic marriage enjoy calling Vietnam Russia’s ‘gate’ to Asean and, conversely,Vietnam Asean’s ‘gate’ to the Customs Union. Not to be a killjoy, but where the gates will be, a trapdoor would have been sufficient. Asean states amount to about 2 per cent of Russia’s foreign trade and a evidence for change in this proportion is weak. Though Russia can pro-

vide quite an array of goods that Southeast Asian states will readily consume, it is still not clear whether Moscow actually wants it. A spelled-out policy for Asean countries is yet to be outlined, leaving the pivot to the East skewed towards China for the time being.

Conceptual in nature, these matters lie in the realm of strategy and state-building Why bother withVietnam then? This widely advertised endeavour is most likely an experiment, an exercise in integration if you will. Vietnam’s exports are not strong enough to damage the Russian economy with a flood of competing produce, but such an FTA may serve as a lab for institutional, procedural and legal

instruments of economic integration. Exactly the kind of integration the Kremlin sees as a tool for gathering Eurasian states around itself. Does this mean EAEUAsean interaction via the Vietnam-Customs Union FTA will merely play into the hands of Russia’s ambitions? Not at all. If we take some perspective on Russia and the Asean states, we will see a whole range of fundamental issues all of them face. Among them are economic modernisation, infrastructure and connectivity, the middle-income trap and, political reform. Conceptual in nature, these matters lie in the realm of strategy and state-building and can be addressed. Anton Tsvetov is media and government relations manager at the Russian International Affairs Council, a Moscow-based foreign policy think tank.

Siem Reap’s chaotic Pub Street is the last place where one would expect to find Russian dumplings and beet-root soup, but the city that houses the Angkor Wat temple complex is increasingly catering to the needs of Russian visitors. A restaurant called Babushka (Russian for grandmother) is one of the more popular places to eat in the Cambodian city. Last year, 131,000 Russian tourists visited the Kingdom, according to the Russian Embassy in Phnom Penh. Among them was Olga Kalinina, a former student of Oriental Studies from Moscow, who has decided to settle down in the country. Her father worked as a diplomat in Cambodia in the days before the Khmer Rouge took over the country.“Civil war andVietnamese occupation set this country back by decades, but I see light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. Cambodia has a friendlier visa regime than Thailand, and business visas available on arrival can virtually be extended indefinitely, making the country an increasingly popular destination for Russians seeking warmer weather in the winter. This year, foundation stones were laid for Russian Orthodox Churches in Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. Bilateral trade between the countries, which established diplomatic relations in 1956, peaked in the early 1970s but was non-existent after the Khmer Rouge takeover. In an effort to revive trade ties, the countries established an Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific and Technological Cooperation, back in 1997, just before East Asian financial crisis and the Russian default. Momentum has only pic-



Babushka is a very popular restaurant in Siem Reap.

ked up in the last few years. As Moscow increasingly looks to engage the Asean group, Cambodia is a country that offers some advantages for Russian businesses. Around 8,000 Cambodians studied in Soviet and Russian universities on grants and scholarships, and a large number of them hold senior positions in the government. Russia’s Ambassador to Cambodia Dmitry Tsvetkov, who is fluent in Khmer, wrote in the Phnom Penh Post that bilateral trade between the countries touched $131 million in 2013, up from a paltry $10.8 million in 2006. Although there is an interest for Russian products in the country, distance and logistical problems come in the way. The countries are also exploring the establishment of direct air links. At the moment, Bangkok is the preferred transit hub, according to Kalinina, who is looking to bring more Russian travel groups to the country. Diplomatic sources tell RBTH that the Sergei Polonsky affair and Moscow’s growing ties with Vietnam are the main irritants that come in the way of greater engagement between the Russia and Cambodia. Polonsky, a 41-year-old businessman is wanted in Russia for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars in a real estate project. Earlier this year, the Cambodian Supreme Court refused turned down an appeal to extradite the former billionaire to Russia, citing a lack of an extradition treaty. The Russian busi-

nessman incidentally also faces trial in Cambodia for allegedly assaulting local boatmen. He denies both charges. Phnom Penh is also alarmed about Moscow’s growing ties with neighbouringVietnam, a country that had troops in Cambodia till 1989. “Many in the establishment here fear that theVietnamese still want to control us,” a Cambodian diplomat said off the record. “The country’s gaining of military strength, although aimed at China, makes us uncomfortable.” Moscow would have to play a balancing act in the region, given its increasing engagement with Beijing.





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he good news: Thailand and Russia intend to intensify cooperation in all areas. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-o-cha agreed to the terms during the November East Asia Summit. Let’s talk about two key areas – security and the fight against crime. The fact remains that the interests of our countries, as major regional “players”,coincide in many areas, including in the field of security. Here we have opportunities for cooperation, and we are already working on specific goals in practical terms. For example, in the framework of the East Asia Summit, Asia-Pacific region states are working together on a new security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region. This spring, representatives of the Thai side took active part in a workshop on the development of a framework of principles to strengthen regional security. This initiative was originally proposed by Russia, China and Brunei. Incidentally, at the recent summit in Myanmar, leaders of the participating EAS countries praised the work on security already being carried out and authorised it to be continued. An important element of the collective work of the regional community to strengthen security in the Asia-Pacific region is the cochairmanship of Russia and

Thailand in the Working Group on Military Medicine, which is held under the ADMM (Asean Defence Ministers Meeting ) plus dialogue partners format. An Asean Centre of Military Medicine is planned to be built in Bangkok, which will be headed in the first stage

Russia and Thailand share no conflict of interest or any military-political contradictions by representatives of Russia and Thailand. The significance of this project was emphasised by Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Prawit Wongsuwan during the Asean defence ministers’ meeting in Myanmar. Thailand and Russia are cooperating in the fight

against terrorism, especially at the Asean Regional Forum on Security. Highlevel Thai delegations regularly participate in international meetings, held by Security Council of the Russian Federation, attended by high-ranking representatives in charge of security issues. I would call the cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries one of the most promising areas in the complex of RussianThai relations.Why? First of all, Russia and Thailand share no conflict of interest or any military-political contradictions. In contrast, the armies of the two countries have a long tradition of friendly relations and mutual exchanges. It is a wellknown historical fact that the second son of King Rama V, Prince Chakrabon, studied at the St Petersburg Imperial Page Corps and the Russian General Staff Acad-

emy. It is noteworthy that during the meeting with Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister of Thailand spoke very flatteringly about weapons and military equipment of Russian production and confirmed Bangkok’s interest in the development of military ties.

Next year the Federal Drug Control Service is planning to open an office in Bangkok Russia and Thailand are effectively cooperating in the fight against transnational crime. An important part of this cooperation is the search, detention, and deportation of Russian citizens, hiding from the law in Thailand. Having realised that those criminals pose a threat to both countries, the Royal

Thai Police vigorously addressed the problem. Their commitment deserves our immense gratitude. Thanks to the friendly relations with the Kingdom’s immigration police, this year nine Russian criminals who were wanted by Interpol for criminal offences committed in the territory of the Russian Federation were detained and deported to their homeland. In October, the Royal Thai Police agreed to organise a special communications “hotline” between the Russian embassy and the headquarters of the Thai police in order to protect the legitimate rights and interests of Russian citizens, including those living in the tight quarters of Bangkok, as well as leisure travellers residing in remote areas of the capital. The hotline will allow the embassy to receive information about all incidents and emergencies with Russians. For example, in case of their arrest by the local police, we will learn about it and immediately understand the circumstances, and if necessary, come to the aid of our compatriots. And, of course, there are issues of drugs. Both Moscow and Bangkok are interested in establishing an active collaboration in the fight against drug trafficking. Our citizens, although not as often as citizens of other countries, sometimes fall into the hands of Thai law enforcement authorities for the smuggling and illegal possession of drugs. And in general, the problem is of a global dimension. This means that it is necessary







to coordinate actions to combat it. This year, at the end of October, the State Secretary deputy director of the Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS) of Russia, Oleg Safonov, made a working visit to Thailand. His meeting with the secretary-general of the Office of Narcotics Control Board, Permpong Chaovalit, deputy director-general of the Customs Department Pisal Chuentitom, and the deputy Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police Pongsapat Pongtyarenom confirmed their mutual interest in establishing practical cooperation. During the course of the meetings, specific issues were discussed, including the exchange of operational information and statistical data on the organisation of border controls. The Russian side has offered its services to the Thai partners in the training of narcotics police at the FDCS institutes. Much attention has been paid to the improvement of the legal framework of cooperation. The sides have agreed to sign two memorandums of cooperation – between the FDCS and the Royal Thai Police, and between the FDCS and the Narcotics Control Board. And one more thing: Next year, the FDCS is planning to open a regional office in Bangkok. Kirill Barsky is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Thailand.






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Sourat Rakhimbabaev EXPERT


he peak tourism season, which is impatiently awaited by many Thai companies, starts in December. No need to speak about the contribution of this sector to Thailand’s economy and how many job opportunities it creates for the local citizens. But the Thai business community and others have noted that major changes are necessary; changes in regard to labour legislation for foreigners who stay in Thailand to serve this sector and tourists from different countries. Let us take for example Russian tourists. According to information from the Tourism Authority of Thailand, 1.73 million Russian tourists visited Thailand last

year and this number may increase to 2 million this year. If we use a rule of thumb ratio of one tour guide per 1 000 tourists, then Thailand will need approximately 2,000 Thai tour guides for the 2 million Russian tourists in 2014. So, what is the problem? There are some countries, whose citizens often do not speak other foreign languages but only their national one, like Russians, or Korean, Chinese, Spanish and others. Unfortunately, there are only a few Thai tour guides who can speak Russian fluently in Thailand and as a result, Russians are hired to do the job. Moreover, most Russian tourists do not speak English and this eliminates the opportunity

to use Thai English-tour guides.The Thai tour guides profession is protected by law, and Russian tourguides are hired as standing ones. If the police shows up, then it is legal as you have a Thai tour guide sitting there, and the Russian tour-guide is acting as the translator. That problem has existed for many years and is under discussion every tourist season without any positive results. It is clear that the law was adopted in order to protect domestic tour guides. But it came into effect at a time when the number of tourists from Russia was about 200,000, about 10 times less than the numbers today. With this uncomfortable situation many tour operators find themselves in difficulty and express their frustrations, especially in Pattaya, where you will find



the most number of Russian tourists. How to find a solution to this problem that takes care of the interests of Russian tourists and Thai tour guides? I would like to make two suggestions: 1) Thai tour guides should be segmented according to language, for example, English, Russian, Chinese and Korean, etc. Each Thai tour guide of each particular language should obtain a language certificate issued by a reliable language or-

ganisation. There should be a serious consideration from the government or related organisation to sincerely help the Thai tour guides in this manner. Some incapable Thai tour guides may jeopardise the entire tourism industry in Thailand. 2) As an option, there may be a quota-system to allow a certain number of Russian ( Korean, Chinese) tour guides to work legally for a limited time to ease the situation, due to the fact that the Russian ( and other

foreign tour-guides) guides have already done this as a practice in Thailand at the moment. Anyway the business is still waiting for some positive steps from the labour department and without its cooperation, nothing can be achieved. Prof Sourat Rakhimbabaev is executive director of the Thai-Russian Chamber of Commerce, co-writer Dr Habil, vice president of the International Academy of Social Sciences.



s of 1 January 2015 the Eurasian Economic Union, consisting of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, will become operational. Russia and its partners consider the current integration not as an anti-crisis measure, but, first and foremost, as an instrument for extending the market, as a powerful driver for economic development. In 2010, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan formed the Customs Union, removing the customs borders between the countries, bringing in a common customs tariff, and applying common non-tariff regulation. This began the formation of a single economic space and a single market for goods. In 2012, the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) was established,

which is the single supranational regulatory body with sufficiently broad powers in the trade regulation sphere. Its scope includes questions of customs tariff and non-tariff regulation, customs administration, technical regulations, sanitary, veterinary and phytosanitary measures.The commission carries out anti-dumping, safeguard and countervailing investigations and when necessary introduces appropriate trade defence measures.The EEC develops trade regimes with other countries and provides unified approaches as part of the trade negotiations. As of 1 January 2015 the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) comes into force. This treaty does not only secure the key achievements of previous stages of integration, but also brings the integration to a new level. According to the Treaty, the Eura-

sian Union is vested international legal entity and can be a Party in international treaties. Also from 2015 we will begin to establish a single market for services within

tor no later than by 2025. We believe that this will give our market new impetus for attracting investment and expertise. Just as the formation of a single market for goods has cre-

As of January 1, 2015 the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union comes into force

The Asia-Pacific region is one of the key strategic areas for the Eurasian Economic Union

the territory of the union. Some sectors shall start functioning in a single market mode immediately, while in other sectors the single markets will be formed up in a few years’ period. In particular, in a time single markets shall be established for financial services, transport, telecommunications and construction. A task has been set for the establishment of a single supranational regulator in the financial services sec-

ated conditions for new joint ventures and localised production facilities aimed at the union’s common market. Finally, from January 2015, Armenia will be joining our organisation, having signed the treaty in Oct o b e r. Wo r k i s a l s o currently being undertaken to prepare for Kyrgyzstan’s accession. So the total volume of the Eurasian Union may be in excess of 180 million people.

As trade and economic cooperation developing the Customs Union adheres to a multi-vector approach: we are actively working with the European Union and countries from the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East. We are developing our relations with partners in Latin America. The Asia-Pacific region is one of the key strategic areas for the Customs Union’s activities. The share of Asia-Pacific countries in the Customs Union’s foreign trade in January-August 2014 exceeded 27%, and the trade turnover grew by 2% in comparison to the same period of the previous year. According to our statistics, the value of trade volumes with Thailand grew by 5.3%. While the role of political factors in global trade is increasing, the development of our own network of preferential agreements becomes as important for full and comprehensive involve-

ment in the global manufacturing and supply chain as membership to the WTO. In 2014, the decision was made to start work in the format of joint study groups looking into the feasibility of establishing free trade zones with India, Israel and Egypt. We also established dialogue on trade related issues with China. Though FTA negotiations with New Zealand and the countries of the European Free Trade Association were put on hold, we have achieved serious progress in Free Trade negotiations withVietnam. We hope that next year we will be able to complete them and sign an agreement that will regulate not only trade in goods but also trade in services, access to capital markets and investment and also participation in infrastructure projects. Andrei Slepnev is Minister for Trade, Eurasian Economic Commission.




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New Year Along with Christmas customs, there was belief in incantations, superstitions and even fortune-telling

Winter holiday traditions Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Russia are the main holidays and are filled with traditions linked to both Christianity and ancient Slavic beliefs. DMITRY KIKOT

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas in accordance with the Julian calendar, or“the old style”,as it is known in Russia. That calendar is about a fortnight behind the modern, Gregorian calendar. So while a majority of the Christian world is celebrating Christmas on December 25, Russians will wait until January 7. Yet, many centuries ago there was no time lag between the two calendars, and the Russian Christmas roughly coincided with the winter solstice, as in the rest of Europe. It is from those times that we can trace back some of today’s Christmas customs to some ancient traditions originating from the preChristian cult of the sun.



defiance of a ban imposed by the church – turned to fortune-telling.

Fortune-telling Harvest The most widespread traditions came from those ancestors who worked the land, and forecast the weather and harvest on the strength of the weather during the Christmas season. For example, white frost on Christmas means a good wheat harvest. A snowstorm on Christmas. Eve means that leaves will come out early. If Christmas is warm, spring will be cold. A snowstorm means there will be lots of bees in the summer. A starry sky means a good pea harvest. Lots of snow means a good buckwheat harvest. A dark Yuletide means milky cows, while a bright Yuletide means laying hens. But in order to get a more accurate picture of the upcoming year, peasants – in

The longest night of the year seemed an appropriate time for that, since, according to Slavic beliefs, it is on that day that evil spirits were at their most active and willingly came into contact with people. And although answers to the posed questions were expected to come from pucks, hobgoblins and house elves, the incantations were often addressed to Christ, the Holy Virgin and various saints. Fortune-telling could be about anything: Prosperity, good luck, marriage in the coming year and so on. So types of divination were most diverse too: from divination by dreams and various objects to real sorcery with animal sacrifices at crossroads. The variety was the grea-


A time for celebrations December 25th • Most of the Russians don’t celebrate the day, calling it the Catholic Christmas. Public holidays start around the 30th.

Fortune-telling could be about prosperity, luck, marriage in coming year and so on

December 31th • The New Year is the most important holiday for Russians and is traditionally the day for family reunions.

January 6th • It is called the Orthodox Christmas and along with the New Year marks the longest public holiday of the year.

test when it came to matrimonial divination, which was not at all surprising.

way of finding out what one’s future husband would be like went as follows: At midnight a girl had to go to the bathhouse with her head covered with her skirts and her buttocks left bare. She had to enter the bathhouse with her back first, saying,“A rich man, slap me on the bottom with your hairy hand.”If the hand that touched her was indeed hairy, that promised a rich husband; a hard hand with no hair promised a poor and harsh man, while a soft hand meant that the girl’s husband would be a mild

Wedding season

Christmas festivities last 12 days until the next big Orthodox church holiday, Epiphany

Among other things, Christmas marked the end of 40 days of fasting, during which weddings were forbidden, that is why Christmas was immediately followed by a church“wedding season”. So there was every reason to try and find out all the truth about one’s future husband during Christmas Eve fortune-telling. Perhaps the most bizarre

man. Along with pagan rites, Christmas was very much about Christian traditions too. On Christmas Eve, fasting was the strictest: it was forbidden to eat anything until the first star appeared in the sky and the food was very basic and meager, consisting just of millet porridge. That tradition went back to the star of Bethlehem, which announced Jesus Christ’s birth. To remember the gifts the shepherds brought to the manger where Jesus was born, some porridge and soaked grains are also left on hay under the icons in the house. Another tradition strongly associated with Christmas is alms-giving. That custom goes centuries back and has traditionally involved people from all classes, from the Tsar down. In the 16th to 17th centuries, the Tsar would personally visit prisons and alms-houses to give alms to their inmates on Christmas Eve. Knowing that the Tsar will be passing and giving out money, beggars would gather from all over Moscow to be there. The Christmas service in Russian Orthodox churches starts in the evening and lasts until early morning. When it is over, believers gather for a festive meal with their family and friends.Throughout the day, people’s houses are open to uninvited but no less welcome guests, including carol singers. Carols were always very popular in Russia. They are intended to celebrate the birth of Christ, and to wish happiness and prosperity to the host. In return, hosts – depending on how much they could afford – would reward carol singers either with money or with pies. It is said that even Peter the Great once accompanied carol singers to boyars’ and merchants’ houses to celebrate Christmas Day. Christmas festivities last 12 days — known as the Yuletide — until the next b i g c h u r c h h o l i d ay, Epiphany.

HOW TO RING IN THE NEW YEAR LIKE A RUSSIAN Salads must be served in basins, gifts go under the tree, and the Russian Santa Claus appears with his granddaughter instead of elves.

RBTH has compiled an hour-by-hour guide to celebrating New Year’s like a Russian.



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Winter How to beat the cold in Russia

In fact, Russians don’t wear shapkas with T-shirts, as shown in the Hollywood movie “Armageddon.” But the country is very rich in all kinds of shapkas; the range of materials, designs and images is almost endless.

Ushanka and treukh The most widely recognised Russian winter hat is“ushanka,”a thick and warm hat with earflaps. The design dates back to the 17th century, when someone invented the “treukh” (literally, “three ears”). The treukh is a round fur hat, usually made of sheepskin, with a broad flap at the back that covers the neck all the way to the shoulders, and two smaller earflaps. For added protection from the wind and freezing cold, the earflaps have straps that can be tied up under the chin. The treukh was especially popular in central and northern Russia, where winters are particularly damp and chilly. It may sound surprising, but winters in Siberia are actually less daunting than in Moscow: The Siberian temperatures are lower, but low humidity makes those temperatures feel less chilly and easier to bear. The modern ushanka design is relatively recent. After the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, units of the

Still in use Various Russian uniformed agencies continue to use the ushanka to this day, in various colour schemes (grey for the police, black for the Navy, etc.). The military uniform code requires that the earflaps always remain tied up at the top for extra decorum. The soldiers who have to spend long hours in bitter cold when they are out on patrol or guard duty have found a solution to this problem. They wear ushankas that are a couple of sizes too big for them; their heads completely drown in those hats, but at least it keeps their ears from freezing. The successful military design soon became a runaway success with civilian Soviet hatters. Most of the



Russian winter hats like ushankas and kabankas are widely used both by civil and military people.

Soviet men owned at least one such hat, made of fur, deerskin, beaver skin, or other materials.

The Cossack papakha

Petushok A rival design that emerged in the mid-1970 was the so called“petushok”(literally, cockerel). These tall and flat knitted hats look like a cockscomb, hence their name. Many were emblazoned with the word Sport, or decorated with fir-tree or reindeer patterns. Quite a few also had a pom-pom or a bobble at the top. The petushok design soon became so iconic that it was even made part of the Russian national team’s Olympic uniform at the Vancouver Games in 2010.

Kubanka Yet another popular Russian hat is the “kubanka,” so named after the south-



White Army, which fought for the tzar and were led by General Kolchak, were issued very practical hats called “Norvezhka” (literally, “Norwegian”). As the name implies, the design was invented by Norwegian conquerors of the North. Its main difference from the treukh is that the earflaps are much longer, so they can be tied up under the chin for extra warmth, or on top of the head to get them out of the way when it’s not too cold. The Red Army soon borrowed that successful design as well. During the period when Russia fought in World War II from 1941 to 1945, entire fur factories were pressed into making nothing but ushankas for the Red Army’s needs.


Russians know winter and how to dress when the wind bites, particularly when it comes to winter headgear.


Traditional hats help endure the biting chill

The winter hat of the Cossacks is called papakha. Shortly after the revolution of 1917, papakhas were removed from the new Red Army uniform because of their association with the tsarist regime and the fact that many Cossack regiments of the tsarist army fought against the Bolsheviks, but is in use today.

ern province of Kuban. The design arrived to Russia from Central Asia and the Caucasus; the Russian Cossacks in Kuban were the first to appreciate its merits. A classical kubanka (and its variation called papakha) is a round hat with a flat top, made of soft karakul lambskin. A kubanka made of long fur, such as black fox, was an extremely fashionable accessory coveted by every Soviet woman. It was made popular by the comedy“Irony of Fate,” which every Russian TV channel still feels obliged to run on more than one occasion every Christmas season, in honour of a longstanding tradition. The main heroine of the film sports a magnificent kubanka. Kubankas remain fashio-

nable to this day. Many Russian women have inherited them from their mothers, who often stored them on top of tall round jars, to keep the shape and avoid any damage to the fur. Kubankas can be worn with classical or flared overcoats in the 1960s style, so long as these coats don’t have a fur collar. A combination of a fur coat and a fur hat is considered a faux pas among Russian fashionistas, although nothing beats it for sheer warmth. Ushanka, meanwhile, isn’t giving up without a fight, either. In fact, it has made it into the winter collections of such famous brands as Paul Smith, Bally, and Ralph Lauren. The Chanel 2013-2014 collection also includes ushanka-like hats made of brightly coloured dyed fur.





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Aurora RBTH looks back at the history of the ship that fired the shot that supposedly began the Russian revolution people stormed the palace right after the shot. Thus, not only in the Soviet Union, but also around the world (the film was viewed worldwide), a legend was born that the shot began a new era in the history of mankind.

Triggering the revolution

The flag as a battle cry not to surrender

Aurora’s trip to Siam in 1911

The cruiser Aurora that supposedly began the revolution was towed out of St Petersburg to be overhauled. RBTH looks back at its history. SOFIA SAVINA SPECIAL TO RBTH

For decades, the cruiser Aurora has stood by Petrogradskaya Embankment in


central St Petersburg. A visit to the legend of the Russian fleet was an important part of any tourist itinerary, and during the Soviet period the ship held an almost religious standing as the most important symbol of the Bolshevik Revolution. However, visitors to the city today are in for a surprise: The cruiser’s mooring now stands empty. “But where is the ship?”tourists ask in bafflement. The answer is that it is no longer in the city at all: In September 2014, the ship sailed out of St Petersburg to be overhauled at a dock in Kronstadt (a naval base on an island in the Gulf of Finland), where it is undergoing planned maintenance. The Aurora was built almost 120 years ago. According to tradition, in Russia large ships were named by the tsar. Out of the names that were suggested - Varyag, Bogatyr, Boyarin, Polkan, Neptune - Nicholas II chose a female name. Aurora was the name of the Goddess of Dawn in Roman mythology.

attacked the ship as it was departing for the East in order to attack the Japanese Fleet during the Russo-Japanese War of 19041905. A Russian squadron mistook the Aurora’s silhouette for an enemy ship and decided to open fire, wounding two people - one of them, a chaplain - fatally. Soon after, the crew were joined by two new passengers. On the way to Japan, at one of the African ports, the sailors took aboard two crocodiles. Later, the ship’s doctor wrote in his memoirs how frightening it was sleeping on the cruiser:“We had to live with crocodiles, boa constrictors, lemurs, turtles and chameleons.” One of the crocodiles, it seems, not wishing to participate in the upcoming war, preferred to jump overboard and die. The second one chose a heroic death: It perished during the Battle of Tsushima on May 27– 28, 1905. Incidentally, the Aurora was one of only four Russian ships that escaped being sunk, captured or disarmed in the shattering for Russia - clash.

Crocodiles instead of a chaplain

A false symbol of the Revolution?

Surprisingly, the first to inflict damage on the cruiser were Russian forces, who

The Aurora is considered the principal symbol of the 1917 Revolution. According

to the popular account of the uprising, the cruiser fired a blank shot signaling the revolutionaries to storm the Winter Palace, the seat of the provisional government, which the Bolsheviks intended to overthrow. Igor Kudrin, president of the St Petersburg Submariners’ Club and adviser to the St Petersburg governor on the issue of the Aurora, is preparing a book on the updated history of the cruiser. Kudrin considers the following events to be authentic: On the eve of the revolution, the cruiser was undergoing maintenance; the Bolsheviks ordered the Aurora’s crew to close the bascule Nikolayevsky Bridge, which had been drawn by military cadets loyal to the provisional government; the Aurora carried out its assignment and dropped anchor not far from the bridge. At 21:45 the ship then fired the actual shot. Yet for Kudrin, the fact that the storming of the Winter Palace did not begin until midnight casts doubt on the official version of events. “It doesn’t happen like that: The signal is made but the soldiers run to execute the command only two hours later,” he says. A second version, according to an article that appeared in

the Pravda newspaper on October 29, 1917, says that the Aurora’s sailors were protesting because of unverified accusations. “The newspaper writes that the Aurora opened fire on the Winter Palace,”continues Kudrin.“But do the honourable reporters know that a shot from the Aurora would have taken down not only the Winter Palace, but all the streets around it? There was only one blank shot fired from a six-inch gun signalling for all the vessels on the Neva to be on the alert.”

How the Aurora became an actress Ten years later, thanks to a momentous event, the Aurora decisively became a symbol of the revolution. In 1927 the Communist Party management commissioned directors Sergei Einstein and Grigori Alexandrov to shoot the film October. Since the directors needed a vivid cinematic story, they decided to include the Aurora, which again, as it had 10 years earlier, positioned itself on the Neva and fired a blank shot towards the Winter Palace. The film was edited in such a way as to make the naïve viewer believe that the footage was documentary and that the mass of


In November 1911, Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich, emperor Alexander II’s grandson, arrived in Bangkok on board the cruiser Aurora to attend the coronation of Thailand’s King Rama VI.

During WWII the Aurora was anchored in Oranienbaum (a distant suburb of St Petersburg). In 1941, it was seriously damaged by German air raids and ran aground. Caught in that position until the Siege of Leningrad had been lifted, the cruiser was continuously damaged by artillery fire. Even when the crew and weapons were removed from the vessel, the Aurora did not lower its flag, which infuriated the Nazis and simultaneously inspired the defenders of Leningrad: While the Aurora stands, the city lives.

How the ship got its permanent address After the Siege of Leningrad was lifted, the city began building the Nakhimov Naval School, designed to educate young boys and youths – the children of the sailors who had perished during the war. However, more space was needed to house the children. It was then decided to moor the Aurora eternally by the waterfront in front of the Nakhimov Naval School building, where it could be used by the institution to accommodate its cadets. When the Nakhimov cadets were decisively moved ashore, the cruiser was transformed into a museum. Since then, the Aurora has been open to tourists: Anyone who wishes can go onto the deck of the ship, look into the sleeping compartments and see the cannon that fired the blank shot.

When will they bring the Aurora back? According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the cruiser will be returned to its former location in the summer of 2015, in time for the centenary of the October Revolution in 2017. Its exterior will be preserved, but the exhibits in the ship’s museum will change and may be dedicated to the evolution of shipbuilding and the Russian fleet.



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Jazz During the 1970s, a unique music movement emerged in the Soviet Union that captivated Western audiences © ALEKSANDR MAKAROV / RIA NOVOSTI

Striking a radically different note with new jazz VASILY SHUMOV SPECIAL TO RBTH

During the 1970s, a unique music movement emerged in the Soviet Union that captivated Western audiences. During the 1960s, the most sophisticated Soviet intellectuals embraced the music of the avant-garde composers John Cage and Pierre Boulez, as well as the avant-garde jazz of Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. Around this time, books were published about conceptual art and theatrical performances. These influences together engendered something original — new jazz. The ideologue of new jazz was the journalist and music critic Efim Barban, who, in the mid-1970s, released the samizdat book “Black Music, White Freedom”. “Its first edition,” says Barban“was printed on an offset duplicator with 70 copies. The number is telling. In the mid-1970s in

the USSR, less than 100 people were familiar with free [avant-garde] jazz. All these people k n e w e a ch o t h e r, although geographically disparate—fromVilnius to Novosibirsk, and from Arkhangelsk to Almaty. Free jazz was part of the musical underground, part of alternative culture.” Bringing new jazz to the West were Soviet emigrants from BBC Russian radio. Leo Feigin (pseudonym Alexey Leonidov) hosted a program on Soviet free jazz and released records by underground Soviet jazz artists under his own label, Leo Records. He was later to be joined by Efim Barban (pseudonym Gerald Wood) and Alexander Kan. Among the icons of the genre was the trio “GTC”: Vyacheslav Ganelin (piano), Vladimir Tarasov (drums) andVladimir Chekasin (vocals). They came together inVilnius in the early 1970s. Their music stood apart for virtuosic improvisations in various styles. I saw a concert by GTC in Moscow in the early ‘80s. Several hundred of the musical crowd typically attending underground rock con-


Over decades, Soviet musicians emulated Western discoveries and innovations in various genres. But new jazz is an exception to this rule.

The ideologue of new jazz was the journalist and music critic Efim Barban, who, in the mid1970s, released the samizdat book “Black Music, White Freedom.”

certs gathered at the cultural palace of the blind community. Back then, there was no separation between free jazz and rock, both being innovations enjoyed by students and intellectuals. The concert was held as part of “Jazz Subscription”—a sort of jazz awareness project where, over a year, various cultural palaces held jazz concerts, preceded by a talk from an official music scholar. GTC opened the way for a pantheon of musicians and represented the Soviet Union in the West as a country with its own jazz avant-garde. The Moscow journalist and musician Alexander Lipnitsky was the first in the Soviet Union to publish in the official newspaper “Soviet Culture” a positive article on the GTC trio, which cemented

the status of the then obscure GTC and helped them survive in challenging Soviet realities. A pithy expression was on everyone’s tongue: “Today he plays jazz, tomorrow he’ll sell the motherland!” A story emblematic of this regards Eddie Rosner, a widely popular musician and the first to play swing in the Soviet Union. In 1946, he was arrested by the NKVD and sentenced to 10 years in the Gulag, where he stayed until Stalin’s death in 1954. Any jazz musician could have shared Eddie’s fate. In 1948, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued an odious directive stigmatizing the formalist musical movement as “alien to the people,” jazz artists included. The threat of the Gulag loomed over musi-

cians playing “the wrong music”. This period of Soviet jazz history has been called“the time of straightening up the saxophones.”The jazz saxophone was proclaimed an enemy of Soviet society. In the 1970s, many leading musicians lacked professional status or were listed among the state philharmonics, which provided them neither concerts nor road tours. Melodia, the only Soviet recording company, released records by Soviet jazz artists only rarely. As a rule, these were compilations. Musicians waited years for solo records to be released, and some never were. Due to repression, musicians emigrated to the West as soon as possible. By the early 1990s, dozens of talented jazz artists had fled the country to Israel, Germany, France and the U.S. Another great innovator, besides GTC, was Sergey Kuriokhin (1954-1996). Initially a free-jazz pianist, he earned his greatest acclaim as the creator in 1984 of Pop-Mechanika (PM) — an avant-garde fusion of the most varied styles, from free-jazz, rock and variety, to theatrical absurd, plus happening and performance-art. Kuriokhin crafted his own conducting techniques, including jumps and nd leg waves. PM effectually and innonovatively merged various, us, often disparate kinds of music and theatre. Its memmbership varied from seveveral musicians to dozens. ns. Animals were even brought ght onstage. Alumni of PM inncluded musicians from m Leningrad’s leading groups ps of the 1980s — Aquarium, m, Kino and Auction.

Many famous jazz musicians participated in PM, as well, including Vladimir Chekasin (GTC), Sergey Letov, Igor Butman, Arkady Shilkloper and more. The Sergey Kuriokhin International Festival is held every year in St. Petersburg. Also operating today is the Sergey Kuriokhin Modern Arts Center, which represents and supports young, experimental, avant-garde musical projects. However, no geniuses or innovators of the caliber of GTC and Kuriokhin have emerged; this is now history. New jazz is a unique example of a vibrant musical phenomenon created by several talented enthusiasts at their own risk, defying the totalitarian system.

AVANT-GARDE JAZZ? BALALIKE IT! Our new audio-podcast devoted to contemporary Russian music, especially for those who suffer from unBEARable hunger for Russian culture.




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Tsars RBTH explores what did Russian tsars eat and other curious facts in the country’s gastronomic history from the northern Rhône – RBTH), sometimes Hungarian wine (sweet, Tokaj – RBTH). He never ate fish…”

Feasts fit for tsars and emperors

Taste of Enlightenment


Each of the Russian tsars and emperors brought new gastronomic specifics and dishes.

Ivan the Terrible was radical both in his politics and his cuisine. Peter the Great never ate fish. Empress Catherine the Great treated her guests to pheasants. ALEXEI DENISOV SPECIAL TO RBTH

The first Russian emperor, Peter the Great (1672-1725), was a man of modest tastes. One of his close associates, a mechanic and a sculptor, Andrey Nartov, recalled: “Peter the Great did not like any splendour, luxury or to be surrounded by many servants. … His food consisted of cabbage soup,

aspic, porridge, grilled [meat] with pickled cucumbers or lemons, corned beef, ham. He was particularly fond of Limburger cheese. All of the above was served by his chef Felten. Of vodkas, the tsar preferred anisette. His usual drink was kvass. At dinner, he drank Hermitage wine (red wine


How to make an Oliviye Oliviye is the most popular Russian salad that is traditionally made for the New Year. It is sometimes called “Winter Salad” because the ingredients are easily available during the winter months. 1. Boil potato, carrot, eggs. Peel it and cut into small cubes. The smaller you cut it, the better it will taste. 2. Cut the onion, cucumbers and boiled chicken into cubes

Culinary pragmatism


Little is known about meals that were served to Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584). According to Austrian envoy Sigismund von Herberstein, the author of “Notes on Muscovite Affairs”,the tsar was an incredibly hospitable host. “Lunch would last three or four hours,”von Herberstein wrote about meals at the tsar’s palace. “During my first mission to Russia, we even ate till after midnight… The tsar often treats his guests to food and drink…” A more detailed description of a royal meal can be found in a historical novel by Aleksei Tolstoy called “Prince Serebrenni”:“Once

the swans were eaten, servants, in pairs, left the chamber and returned with three hundred fried peacocks… The peacocks were followed by kulebyakas, chicken pies, meat and cheese pies, all possible varieties of blinis, pastries and fritters…” The next change of dishes was even more impressive: “The tables were laid first with meat jellies, followed by cranes with spicy herbs, marinated roosters with ginger, bone-free chicken, and duck with cucumbers. Then there came different soups and three varieties of ukhas.” The tsar treated his guests only to classical Russian dishes of the time. For example, a kulebyaka (coulibiac) is a traditional pie in the form of a thin pastry shell and a generous filling, often consisting of several ingredients.

as well. 3. Add boiled peas, salt, black pepper, dill and mix well with mayonnaise. Priyatnogo Appetita! (Bon Appétit)

Catherine the Great (17291796) had the reputation of one of the best educated women of her time and a proponent of the philosophy of European Enlightenment. In her later years, she developed as simple a taste in food as Peter the Great had. According to historians, her favourite dish was boiled beef with pickled cucumbers and sauce made of dried venison tongues. Of sweets, she preferred the famous Kolomna pastila (this classical Russian dessert is made of whipped fruit puree that is later dried following a special recipe). When entertained by her favourite, Count Potemkin, who had a dozen foreign cooks working for him, the empress was particularly impressed by “bombs a la Sardanapal” prepared by a French chef. The dish consisted of cutlets made of minced game meat. However, during official meals the empress was not as modest as in her private life. In his book “Repast History of the Russian State”, Professor Pavel Romanov describes one such banquet consisting of over a hundred dishes. The empress and her guests were served a dozen soups, poularde and quail with truffles, pheasants with pistachio nuts, bass with ham, teal with olives, tortoise meat, lamb roast, etc. Some of the dishes were clearly inspired by French influences. This is not at all surprising since, during Catherine the Great’s rule, it was fashionable among the Russian nobility to hire French chefs and Russian cuisine

was changing under their influence.

Under 50 minutes Alexander II (1818-1881), who abolished serfdom in Russia in 1861, was known on the culinary front as the tsar who introduced a strictly observed duration of meal times at breakfast and lunch for members of his family. Each meal was supposed to take exactly 50 minutes. The task was made all the more challenging because the tsar from time to time changed the venue for these family meals, with some of them being so far from the kitchens that staff found it extremely difficult to get all the food on the table in time and hot. In the end, they came up with the idea of using large hot water bottles to keep the food warm. The trick did not always work with delicate sauces, whose original taste and smell were sometimes affected. But punctuality was more important.

Last menu The best chronicled in history are the culinary preferences of Russia’s last tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918). Here is, for example, what Aleksandr Mosolov says in his book “At the Emperor’s Court”:“Lunch began with a soup with small vol-auvents, savoury pastries, and small cheese toasts. Importantly, vol-au-vents were served together with the soup rather than as a separate dish, as they are abroad. The soup was followed by fish, a (game or chicken) casserole, vegetables, sweets, fruit… To drink, there were madeira, white and red wines for breakfast (or beer as an option) and different wines served at lunch, as is the custom everywhere else in the civilised world...”


Discover more about the country’s cuisine and culinary traditions with: useful tips from our authors workshops from Delicious TV and recipes from The Soviet Diet Cookbook


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Could ASEAN partner the Eurasian Union?  

This supplement was distributed with The Nation newspaper in Thailand on December 4th, 2014.

Could ASEAN partner the Eurasian Union?  

This supplement was distributed with The Nation newspaper in Thailand on December 4th, 2014.