Politics & Society
Discover the Unknown War in the Special Report on pages 4 and 5 of this issue and find out much more at unknownwar.rbth.com
What’s behind the visits of Kerry and Nuland to Russia? Russia’s Foreign Ministry interprets the high-profile overtures as a victory of Russian diplomacy. P2
Feature Celebrating Brodsky at 75 The great poet’s work was influenced by American writers, many of whom became his friends. P6
people from the U.S.S.R. are estimated to have died during the Second World War, suffering more casualties than any other country.
women were mobilized into the Soviet Army. They served as nurses, radio operators, pilots and even snipers. Three combat regiments of female pilots were created in 1941.
8000 aircraft were provided by the U.S. to the U.S.S.R. through the Lend-Lease Act. Support also included nearly half a million vehicles, 2 million tons of gas and oil and nearly 4.5 million tons of food.
A paid supplement to
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Friday, May 29, 2015 RICHARD PORTWOODPHOTO
PERESTROIKA LESSONS FOR THE U.S. AND RUSSIA S
oviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began his famous restructuring, known as perestroika 30 years ago this spring. From 1985, when the reforms began, until the end of the Soviet Union, the interest of Americans in the Soviet Union and Russian language increased, and Soviet-American ties were strengthened through student and professional exchanges as well as through telecasts that connected Soviets and Americans, who were separated both geographically and ideologically. According to the Modern Language Association, enrollment in Russian language classes in the U.S. nearly doubled during the years preceeding and throughout perestroika. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of people studying Russian in the U.S. increased from about 24,000 to more than 44,000. Research from Victoria Bonnell and George Breslauer at the University of California, Berkeley indicates that Gorbachev’s reforms and, particularly, his policy of glasnost – or openness – which attemped to establish freedom of speech and transparency in governmental institutions, raised excitement among American academics and experts. “From a trickle in 1986, glasnost opened a floodgate by 1989-90; censorship declined dramatically; increasingly sensitive archives were opened both to Soviet and non-Soviet scholars,” Bonnell and Breslauer wrote. Most importantly, perestroika allowed Soviet and American scholars to exchange opinions and publish articles together. People also had the opportunity to regularly participate in joint events such as telecasts and international forums, where, as Bonnell and Breslauer put it, “Soviet scholars became increasingly emboldened to speak their minds.” “The perestroika experience in the
Three decades after perestroika, Russian studies experts re-examine the policies that have defined U.S.-Russia relations for 30 years U.S.S.R. was a unique phenomenon determined by very specific conditions – most importantly the Soviet Union’s reevaluation of its foundation myths and achievements,” said Anton Fedyashin, director of the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History at American University in Washington D.C. “Doubt is always a healthy thing in human societies since it stimulates introspection and this experience led many people in the U.S.S.R. to express genuine interest in the U.S. and its culture.” Gregory Feifer, a former Moscow correspondent for National Public Radio (2005-2009) and for Radio Free Europe (2009-2012) in Prague, consider the thaw of perestroika as “a great example of two states with apparently opposing ideologies beginning to understand” that cooperation benefits both sides. Feifer, 43, graduated from Harvard University with a master’s in Russian studies in 1998, long after the Soviet collapse. However, since his mother is Russian and his father, American George Feifer, is a journalist who reported about Soviet life during the Cold War, he grew up very much aware of Soviet life. “My early perception of the U.S.S.R. was little more than a stereotype: a place where life was grim and everything was gray – but that under the surface people were warm and valued love and friendship,” he said. “When Gorbachev began perestroika, it was a period of great optimism that the Soviet Union was finally opening.” Kenneth Martinez, who graduated from
Stanford University with a master’s degree in international studies, focusing on Russia, was born during the very beginning of perestroika in 1985. He studied this period in detail, and sees perestroika as “the shift of power from an older generation to a newer one,” a sense of movement in a stagnant society long in need of change. “What is quite interesting...are the personal ties and trust that characterized the relationships of many diplomats of the older generation during this period,” Martinez said. “This created a sense of stability that allowed relationships to be built on mutual respect and on trust – a wary trust, well-characterized by Reagan’s slogan of ‘trust but verify’, but trust nonetheless.” Perestroika: The other side of the coin In contrast, Nicolai N. Petro, professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island who specializes in Russia, warns against romanticizing perestroika. “For the Soviet leadership at the time, it was not an effort to promote mutual understanding with the West,” he argues. “Rather, it was an attempt to reform the U.S.S.R. and reconnect with the original Leninist ideals of the Bolshevik Revolution.” At best, it was seen as an opportunity to achieve the advancement of U.S. policy interests by taking advantage of the fact that Gorbachev had temporarily disoriented the Soviet leadership; at worst, it was seen as merely another effort by Soviet leaders to bamboozle the West.
Other experts, academics and journalists also do not see perestroika as a clear-cut phenomenon in Soviet-American relations. Many argue that it didn’t meet the expectations for either country, which, finally, lead to mutual misunderstanding. According to Fedyashin “once the floodgates opened, Western and American culture quickly overwhelmed the U.S.S.R., but the dismantlement of the country in 1991 led to two unfortunate consequences,” he said. “In Russia, the end of the Cold War inspired unrealistic expectations about becoming part of a greater West. In the U.S., triumphalist interpretations of victory in the Cold War resulted in unrealistic assumptions about Russia’s cultural and political convergence with the West. The outcome was a reluctance to study Russian culture as an integral part of Russian national identity in the West.” Martinez argues that perestroika “opened a can of worms... that acted more like a kicked bag of snakes,” and one of them bit its main architect: Gorbachev. “What resulted was the chaotic Russia of the 1990s, out of which Russia’s current institutions were born and that gave ‘democracy’ and ‘capitalism’ a bad connotation for many Russians,” he said. Anti-perestroika in U.S.-Russia relations today Petro believes that the U.S. must look beyond Gorbachev’s perestroika to “anticipate the emergence of a new national consensus
based on traditional Russian values. Failure to do so would result in misreading Russia as simply an extension of the Soviet Union, and blind us to opportunities for forging a new relationship that come but once in a lifetime,” he warns. “The good news...is that government support will afford more opportunities to study Russia,” Petro said. “The bad news is that we will have replicated the ideological, organizational and institutional perspectives of the Cold War, and once again lost sight of the complexity and diversity of Russian life and society.” At the same time, Kenneth Martinez argues that the current trend in U.S.-Russia relations is far different from the one that existed in perestroika. According to him, the potential for open conflict is even greater now than at almost any time during the Cold War. “There are no established rules to the game, and the amicable relations of the previous generation have crumbled into mutual distrust,” he said. “I think this lack of certainty and degeneration of personal relationships are probably one of the worse outcomes for those of the older generation.” When then, will the increasing interest in Russia after the Ukrainian crisis translate into more funding for Russian studies programs in the U.S.? Petro said that “initiatives of this magnitude take years to establish and our focus on Ukraine is barely two years old.” However, as of March, Fedyashin is the director of a new center for Russian studies at American University, christened the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History, after philanthropist Susan Carmel Lehrman, who endowed the program in perpetuity for the purpose of continuing the ongoing study of Russian culture and history.
T R AV E L B E Y O N D Y O U R I M A G I N AT I O N Gems: • Siberia’s seven wonders: The region ’s most astounding places to visit • The Chuysky Trakt: Siberia’s Silk Road • The Ukok Plateau: Altai’s Princess at the crossroads of ancient cultures
Capitals: t point of view the city from a differen • Moscow by tram: see rg’s best annual events rsbu Pete St. t: feas ural • A cult and most ro, Moscow’s cheapest • What to see in the Met eum mus le edib incr
American students pose with a sculpture that says “love” in Russian at Sparrow Hills in Moscow.
Destinations: to Watch the • Five Unbeatable Locations Sunset on Lake Baikal edge of • The Russian Far East: on the the Paciﬁc gner in • The expat files: being a forei Sochi
■ PAVEL KOSHKIN RBTH
Tours: • Five u n Moscow usual tours yo u can’t m • Best V iss olga riv er cruises through Russia
Politics & Society P2 // rbth.com // May 29, 2015
NEWS IN BRIEF Russian Central Bank buys dollars to replenish foreign reserves The Russian Central Bank has begun replenishing its foreign-exchange reserves by purchasing U.S. dollars. Some Russian analysts argue these purchases are directed primarily against the strengthening of the ruble, which would call into question
the plans for import substitution. Others say the small amounts involved indicate that the regulator is merely sending a signal to the market. The Central Bank’s new practice contradicts the decision on the transition to a free exchange rate for the ruble.
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Despite visits by John Kerry and Victoria Nuland in May, gap with Russia still exists After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s May 12 visit to Russia, experts expressed a wide range of views about its potential effect on U.S.-Russian relations. Many welcomed Kerry’s negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin as a good sign. Likewise, others viewed the visits of highprofile U.S. officials such as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubenstein as an attempt to repair the damaged relations with Moscow and resume talks on the thorniest issues. However, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has interpreted the visits by Kerry and Nuland as a victory of Russian diplomacy. These negotiations indicate that “attempts to isolate Russia failed,” said Lavrov during a business lunch at the editorial offices of newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta on May 18. Lavrov also pointed out that there are many international challenges – from Ukraine to Syria and Yemen – that are impossible to resolve without Russia’s involvement. Lavrov regards Kerry’s visit as a “responsible” step in tackling regional conflicts and helping to end the standoff in U.S.-Russia relations. Just talks, not a game-changer During the May 18 lunch with journalists, Lavrov admitted that restoring trust between Moscow and Washington would be difficult, given their different interpretations of the details of the Minsk II agreements on the
conflict in Ukraine. Experts from both the U.S. and Russia have warned against being overly optimistic regarding the visits of Kerry and Nuland and argue that they do not necessarily mean that Russia and the U.S. are preparing to rise out of the historic low in their relations. Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, is skeptical, because Russia and the U. S. are “still very far apart on the core dispute over Ukraine.” He highlights the core differences remaining in the Kremlin’s and the White House’s official positions. The Russian side focuses on the U.S. returning to the table seeking the “normalization” of ties with Russia, and realizing that it cannot get very much done without Russia’s partnership, according to Rojansky. “From the U.S. side it was almost the opposite – sending top diplomats to remind Russia that its past and ongoing bad behavior is unacceptable and [to] underscore why Russia simply must cooperate with the West on Syria and Iran, which the U.S. describes as being ‘in Russia’s interest,’” Rojansky said. According to Rojansky, the main motivation behind the Kerry and Nuland visits is to demonstrate to domestic and international stakeholders, primarily Germany, that the U.S. is doing its utmost to sustain the “vulnerable” Minsk agreements before the White House “gives in to
Different motives drive recent talks
Russia prepares to host BRICS Summit
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Sochi on May 12. what appears to be overwhelming political pressure from Congress to send U.S. weapons to Ukraine.” U.S. President Barack Obama is personally against sending weapons and, like Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, he understands the negative implications of such a risky move. However, the U.S. Congress has already authorized sending weapons with a veto-proof supermajority in the case of a major escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine. “His only way forward is to show that he has done everything he can diplomatically even if in the end he authorizes even a symbolic weapons delivery. If that does happen, the conflict will of course become even more intractable with greater casualties on both sides,” Rojansky said. Andrei Tsygankov, a professor of International Relations and Political Science at San Francisco State University, believes that “the shift doesn’t necessarily mean that Russia and the U.S. have passed the low.” “We don’t exactly know what went into the decision’s black box – strategic considerations or politics,” Tsygankov said. “It may be that the decision reflects Obama’s desire to improve his foreign policy record as a part of his legacy or as a way to preempt a future debate on Russia during the next presidential elections. We may yet remember Obama as the least anti-Russian of all American presidents since the Cold War.”
The Russian Federation has taken the presidency of the BRICS grouping of developing nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) for a year. The organization’s 7th annual summit will take place July 8-10 in the city of Ufa, the capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan (800 miles east of Moscow). Russia will give priority attention to financial and economic cooperation within the BRICS group, including launching the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement. Read Russia Prize 2015 The annual Read Russia Prize is awarded in New York on May 29 for works of Russian literature in English translation. There are seven nominnees on the shortlist, including two new translations of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” one by Rosamund Bartlett and another by Marian Schwartz.
■PAVEL KOSHKIN RUSSIA DIRECT
Russia Direct is an international analytical publication with a focus on foreign policy. The publication’s premium products, including analytical white papers and monthly memos, are available to subcribers. To find out more, visit the publication’s website. Read the full story at russia-direct.org
Other books include translations of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, “Crime and Punishment,” modern Russian literature and the book “Pushkin Hills” by Sergei Dovlatov, which was translated in 2013 by his daughter. Read Russia, founded in 2012, is an initiative that celebrates Russian literature and culture.
RUSSIAN EVENTS IN THE U.S.
OBAMA’S LEGACY AND RUSSIA
“Rodin” by the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg May 29-31 The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. Northwest, Washington, D.C. 20566 This ballet is devoted to the life and work of two great sculptors: Auguste Rodin and his pupil, mistress and muse Camille Claudel. The Eifman Ballet will be on tour in Los Angeles and Costa Mesa, California until June 14.
20th Annual Eurasian/ Russian – American Innovation Technology Week; June 11-25 Philadelphia; New York; and the mid-Atlantic region. This event will explore opportunities to build partnerships between the U.S., Eurasia and Russia in the spheres of innovative pharmaceutical, biotechnological and life science development.
Russia Day in New York June 12 Carnegie Hall 881 7th Ave., New York, N.Y. 10019 Russian Day is a worldwide celebration, culminating in New York at Carnegie Hall with this return appearance by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 and Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 are on the program.
FYODOR LUKYANOV SPECIAL TO RBTH
irst and foremost, we have to remember something that was almost forgotten: communication between nations is not necessarily about negotiating deals. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. made an effort to be in touch, but the purpose was not primarily to conclude agreements or resolve specific issues. There was another, much more vital concern: both parties needed to understand the logic and, if possible, the intentions of the other. At the start of the 1990s, the countries began to lose these corresponding tools and skills, as it seemed then there was no need for them anymore. The danger of war was no longer perceived as real, and negotiations were henceforth supposed to deliver tangible results. Nevertheless, the political changes of 2014 and 2015 have proven that the hopes for a final and irreversible end to all confrontation were misplaced. The habits and customs of the Cold War era are back, but there are no implements to keep these in check. The U.S. policy on Russia since Crimea was incorporated into the Russian Federation can be summed up this way: minimize
all communication until the Kremlin changes its behavior. This policy has not produced any results. The U.S. expectations that Russia would change its stance on Ukraine were not met. On the other hand, it became clear that Moscow cannot count on a sufficiently stable Ukraine against the will and without the participation of the U.S. Finally, general tensions began to rise, manifesting in all sorts of unpleasant incidents with Russian and NATO warships and planes. That said, a full-scale Cold War is out of question; there are still “common challenges” and they are here to stay. For instance, Russia and the U.S. may have different views on the origins of the events that are unraveling the Middle East, but they still agree that ISIS is a menace. President Barack Obama is entering the final stage of his presidential term, which is the time when presidents tend to think about their legacies. Obama became president in a period of ever-accelerating deconstruction of the world order, so it was difficult to achieve international success. Besides, he made some mistakes. In this context, it is all the more important for him to focus on the areas that will become part of history. For Obama, it is mostly Iran, and probably Cuba. The completion of the Iranian epic will necessitate hard work on all tracks. The agreement about to be achieved will be fragile, so maximum cooperation is needed from all sides, including Russia. More broadly, President Obama will undoubtedly not want to leave the Middle East
in its current chaotic state – and for that he will also need cooperation, or at least noninterference, from Russia. Ukraine, on the contrary, does not bode well for his legacy, and Obama understands there will be no rapid advances there. This is why the new stage of U.S.-Russia relations, which will last until 2017, will probably look like this: The parties will establish communication between officials charged with political and military security to minimize the risk of accidental collisions; they will also exchange views on the situation in the Middle East and determine possible common steps. There will be no consensus, but there will also be no explicit confrontation; in Iran, the countries may even work together, and they will not take any drastic measures in Syria. The competing stances on Ukraine will remain the same, but it’s highly likely the parties will try to avoid escalation. The modus operandi described here does not imply the rhetoric will become less harsh; rather, both parties will probably have to compensate for the easing of tensions with even more bellicose statements. But overall, this situation may continue until the end of the Obama presidency. Later on, the situation will depend on a great deal of factors, not least of all on the relations of both countries with China. Fyodor Lukyanov is the editor in chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine and chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy think tank.
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Business rbth.com // May 29, 2015 // P3
Raising retirement age fuels debate IN FIGURES
years is the average life expectancy in Russia according to the Health Ministry.
80% of Russians expressed opposition to the proposal of raising the retirement age.
40 million pensioners live in Russia, almost a third of the population.
The current retirement age in Russia – 55 years for women and 60 years for men – was set in 1932. Americans born after 1960 can receive full Social Security benefits at 67.
The change would take pressure off the budget but the majority of the population is opposed to it.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has called on the government to raise the retirement age starting in 2016, the TASS news agency reported on April 14. “From the viewpoint of the economy, the quicker we solve this problem, the better it will be for the budget,” said Siluanov. International experts suggest Russia raise the retirement age to 65 for both men and women, instead of the current 55 for women and 60 for men, said Siluanov, who believes delaying retirement would provide the country with more labor resources, important given not only the economic crisis but also Russia’s demographic situation. Siluanov’s predecessor, Alexei Kudrin, supports the initiative to increase the minimum
Russian tourist industry rises in ranks of competitiveness Russia has become much friendlier to tourists in recent years, according to a recent international study of the industry. Russia was been ranked 45th in the 2015 edition of the biennial Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, published May 6 improving its performance by 18 points from its 2013 ranking of 63rd. The World Economic Forum (WEF) and Strategy Partners Group rank countries every two years, using the latest Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index and assessing “the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the Travel & Tourism sector, which in turn, contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country,” according to the report. Thanks to the 44 percent drop in the valuation of the ruble, Russia’s national currency, against the U.S. dollar, since May 2014, hotel rates have become markedly cheaper and travel has become more affordable, according to the report. In 2013, the WEF cited hefty prices as a main disadvantage of the Russian tourist market. Russia also gained points in the availability of national and cultural heritage sites, ranking 34th and 21st, respectively.
Easing the burden on the state According to Anton Soroko, an analyst from investment holding Finam, sooner or later the retirement age in Russia will be raised.
Low scores holding Russia back Strict visa requirements and a lack of international openness are obstacles to those looking to visit Russia, according to the report, which ranked Russia 120th for visa requirements (one rank behind the country of Suriname) and 99th for internation openness (trailing both Paraguay and China). Russia’s poor business climate and high number of safety and security concerns also hurt its attractiveness as a tourist destination, according to the report. The country ranked 109th in business climate, one step behind Colombia, and 126th in safety and security, after Myanmar and Jamaica. This does not even include the effect of recent conflicts in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Strategy Partners Group partner Alexei Prazdnichnykh pointed out. “The potential impact of current macroeconomic and geopolitical factors can be assessed only on the results of the next ranking and the position of Russia,” Prazdnichnykh said.
25.4 million trips were made into Russia in 2014 according to the Federal Agency for Tourism.
$160 is the price for a multiple entry Russian visa for Americans, good for up to three years.
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Foreign visitors tend to visit large cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg.
age of retirement. “It’s necessary to raise the age, but the specific parameters need to be discussed... but 65 years is an understandable option,” Siluanov said. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently spoke out against the initiative during his annual live TV call-in show in April. “The pension reform must be carried out in an open dialogue with society, so that people understand what is happening,” said Putin. “Life expectancy is now growing in Russia, but for men it is still 65.5 years.”
Russian rankings up; tourist totals down Although the total number of registered visits to Russia has dropped in recent years, the drop in tourism has not been as large as that number might indicate. Russia saw 3 million fewer inbound trips in 2014 than in 2013, dropping from 28.4 million to 25.4 million, according to the report and the Federal Agency for Tourism. However, the number of foreign tourists who arrived in Russia in 2014 dropped only 3 percent from the 2.6 million recorded in 2013, according to the same data sources. The reason: Most of the visitors are from Soviet republics, many of whom do not require a visa to enter the country. Russia saw some 28.4 million international arrivals in 2013, with each visitor spending an average of $423 in the country, for a total $11.98 million in receipts, according to WEF estimates. In comparison, the United States, which the WEF ranked 4th overall in tourism, saw some 70 million foreign tourist arrivals, and$173 billion in total receipts. Tour operators began to register a sharp drop in interest in traveling to Russia among foreigners at the end of 2014; against the background of the conflict in Ukraine, the number of bookings for trips to the country fell to almost zero. However, market participants are now giving more optimistic forecasts. ■ANASTASIA MALTSEVA KOMMERSANT
“For the last several years the pension age has indeed been a headache for the government,” said the analyst. “The annual transfers that are needed to make the current payments are not only not decreasing, but are even increasing.” His point is illustrated by the fact that in 2014, due to the budget deficit, the government used about 300 billion rubles ($5.9 billion) of future pension savings to pay today’s pensioners. Russia’s retirement age is low, said Soroko, but it takes life expectancy into consideration. According to Health Ministry data, life expectancy in Russia grew to 71 in 2014, having reached a historic maximum of 65.4 for men and 76.5 for women.
Public opinion set firmly against changes Despite the possible benefits of raising the retirement age, 80 percent of Russian citizens opposed the idea in a Russian Public Opinion Research Center survey conducted in April 2015. The population often reacts negatively to any changes affecting pensions, said Anton Soroko. “The question is how will the age be raised: The government would have to create an algorithm of gradual increase connected to real data on the average life expectancy,” Soroko said. During an annual account on the government’s work, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev suggested raising the retirement age of only deputies and state officials. Alexander Safonov, Rector of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration told RBTH that “raising the retirement age during an economic recession or weak economic growth will substantially increase the risks of unemployment for people of pre-retirement age.” Safonov said this will lead employers to send these citizens into early retirement, and cautioned that a major consequence of extending the retirement age will be high youth unemployment resulting from a lack of opportunities on the job market as older specialists continue to occupy working places. ■ALEXEI LOSSAN RBTH
Coping with the Crisis: “You have to work much harder now.”
Alexei Gisak, co-founder of the pan-Asian fast-food chain Wokker in Moscow. Once an ephemeral threat, Russia’s economic crisis has become a serious challenge for small businessmen and entrepreneurs in Moscow over the past several months. Between February and March, Russia’s economy began to contract rapidly, according to numbers from the Ministry of Economic Development and Russian business newspaper RBK Daily. RBK Daily reported on April 30 that the volume of Russia’s GDP fell by 3.4 percent year-on-year as of March 2015, compared to the 1.2 percent the ministry had predicted in February. The ministry’s forecasts for inflation and GDP growth are also fluctuating dramatically. At the moment, it is predicting 11.9 percent for 2015 overall. This is just the latest bad news for restaurant owners, who have taken blow after blow, including a ban on imports of food from many countries last August, rising prices demanded by suppliers nervous about entering the Russian market, and restrictions on credit and expensive domestic loans brought about by economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the west. “You have to work much harder now,” Alexei Gisak, 37, co-founder of the pan-Asian fast-food chain Wokker, told RBTH.
New circumstances Gisak is keenly feeling the effects of the economic crisis in his business, which is much less stable than it was, he said. Prices have gone up for just about everything, Gisak said. In turn, the increase in supplier prices has forced businesses to choose between absorbing the losses, and raising their own product prices, Gisak said. “We haven’t raised our prices, because purchasing capacity has not increased – it’s dropped,” Gisak said. “The decrease in receipts is apparent, profit is minimal.” One of the most painful issues for business owners has been the steep increase in rental rates, which are in some cases directly linked to the dollar exchange rate, and which few business owners will be able to afford for long at market value. Personal finance Gisak isn’t scrimping and pinching just yet. “I spend less than I make, and I haven’t started to economize on anything,” Gisak said. Amid universal panic over the devaluation of the ruble, Gisak hasn’t dipped into his savings. “I had some money in rubles, but I failed to react at the right moment, so I decided not to touch it,” Gisak said. After entering the market during the previous crisis in 2008, the Wokker chain has thrived, and now operates 23 restaurants in Moscow and eight in other regions. These crises actually prove easier for newcomers to weather, Gisak said. “Such is the situation in the market; it’s easier for newcomers to come to terms with lessors and receive preferential terms compared to those who have been working for a while,” said Gisak. The situation will eventually come to an end, Gisak said – and there is hope that the end is only a year or two away. ■EKATERINA SINELSHIKOVA RBTH
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Special Report The Order of the Patriotic War, established in 1942, was the first military award the Soviet Union designated for this conflict. It was awarded at first- and second-class levels for heroic deeds by troops, security forces and partisans. Relatives were permitted to retain the award after the recipient’s death, making it the only Soviet award from the war that did not have to be returned to the state if the honoree died.
P4 // rbth.com // May 29, 2015
On April 25, 1945 Soviet and American troops cut through the Wehrmacht divisions and met in the middle of Germany near the town of Torgau, 85 miles from Berlin, on the Elbe River.
When East and West met in the middle
both languages, so I translated. Then the cavalrymen went to Dresden and we arrived at the Elbe. We were met by a group of Soviet officers, including a commander from General Vladimir Rusakov’s 58th guards division.
An American veteran with Russian heritage recalls his personal experiences at the Elbe In early May, RBTH published its special edition “Brothers in Arms,” which focuses on cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union during World War II. A PDF version of the booklet is avaliable at rbth.com.
THE HEROES OF VICTORY ONLINE During the nearly four years the Soviet Union fought in World War II, soldiers of the Red Army were awarded over 38 million various orders and medals. Unfortunately, in many cases the award never made it to the person who earned the honor. Now the families of veterans and in some cases the veterans themselves, can check online to see if there are awards that belong to them. The goal of the Stars of Victory Internet project is to provide a way for these far-flung former Soviet citizens to receive their honors. There are more than 8,200 names listed in the database, which can be read in Russian at rg.ru/zvezdy_pobedy. With the help of readers, RBTH editors have already found the families of five women listed in the database. If you have Russian friends who live in your country; you are an émigré or a descendant; or if any of your relatives, male or female, fought or served in 1941-1945, please visit the website and check to see whether you or they are among those still awaiting an award. Unfortunately, any honor or award issued during World War II can be legally given only to the person who actually won the award. If the person was killed or lost in the war, or has since died, the heirs of the person have the right to receive a certificate noting the honor won by their loved one upon presentation of the relevant documents. RBTH will update readers with details of those veterans who have been found through the online database. Please let us know if you think you or people who you know might be eligible, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
American veteran Igor Nikolaevich Belousov, 93, was born in Shanghai and grew up in San Francisco. He was a direct participant in the Elbe meeting that took place April 25, 1945, and this year he came to Moscow to watch the May 9 Victory Day parade. At his home in Falls Church, Virginia, just outside Washington D.C., Belousov spoke about how the soldiers from the Allied armies met, and what the meeting meant for them. It is not difficult to detect Russian lineage in your name. How did it happen that you fought in the American army? My father was a “white” immigrant. After the 1917 Revolution, he managed to get to Khabarovsk from central Russia, where he met my future mother and married her. Then they crossed the border to China. I was born in Shanghai, and seven years later ,my family moved to San Francisco. Back then, 1,000 Russians lived there. They all lived together. At home everyone spoke Russian, all our friends were Russian. With time, I obviously became American, but I still have this so-called double personality. After growing up I started at the University of California, Berkeley, but did not finish my studies due to the war. How did you wind up at the front? I think it was in 1943. Back then, there were various educational programs in the Army for students, and taking my background into consideration, I was sent to study Russian at Syracuse University. But the director of the Slavic department was convinced that I knew Russian quite well and therefore switched me to a German course. The army in Europe needed reinforcements, so my studies were interrupted. We were distributed among the military units, and I found myself in
American veteran Belousov poses with a Shpagin submachine gun. the 69th infantry division as a regular lance corporal. At the end of 1944 the division was sent to England and then to the front near the BelgianGerman border. My last military campaign consisted of capturing Leipzig. How did you become part of the group that established contact with the Soviet units? We were fighting in the eastern part of Germany and our regiment stopped near the Mulde River, a tributary of the Elbe. Parts of the Red Army were somewhere on the other shore of the Elbe. For several days, we did not move anywhere – everyone was very cautious. Just think: If we had not recognized each other and started a skirmish, this would have been very bad. Finally, when three patrols were formed to establish contact, one of the regiment commanders remembered that someone among the soldiers spoke Russian. I was called and placed in one of the patrol units.
Early on the morning of April 25, we crossed the Mulde Bridge in our jeeps. In about two or three hours, our three groups managed to established contact with the Russian army. We would later say that any one of the soldiers in our three patrol units could consider himself a participant of the first meeting with the Russians. When and where did you personally come into contact with the Soviet soldiers? At a distance we spotted a cavalry column, which, after seeing us, galloped in our direction. I had a small photo camera in my pocket, the only one in all the patrol units. I took some photos of the cavalrymen, and then of the meeting itself. A commander of one of the Soviet detachments told us which roads could be taken to the Elbe and to the town of Torgau. [Editor’s note: Torgau is considered the offical meeting location.] I was the only one to speak
The meeting on the Elbe is sometimes considered the final defeat of Nazi Germany. What feelings did you personally have at that moment? The only thing I regret is that at that moment I only had one roll of film. I knew that it was a historic occasion. By the way, Russians have always respected this date. Here in Washington, in the Arlington Cemetery, there is a memorial that honors the meeting at the Elbe, and every year the Russian Embassy invites veterans to a wreath-laying ceremony and organizes a reception for them. How did the American soldiers perceive the meeting? Among the Americans, there were few who had an idea of the Soviet Union. But of course they knew about the bloody battles on the Eastern Front. Back then there was no such thing as the Cold War. Even though we spoke different languages, the meeting was very friendly. Everyone patted each other on the back, and smiled. There were no serious talks or negotiations. I translated a lot. We were given a lot to eat and drink and then we slept in our hosts’ camp. In the morning I had a terrible headache. Did the ordinary soldiers exchange anything as tokens? Yes, everyone wanted to take some kind of souvenir. We were interested in the stars with the hammer and sickle on the Russians’ caps. But the most important souvenirs for me were the memories and the photos. The film was later developed at our command post and much to my surprise, the photos and the negatives were returned to me. In two weeks the war in Europe was over. Our unit organized the movements of migrants who were heading west. In two or three months we were transferred to the rear, and then we returned home, and that is how it all ended.
■IGOR DUNAEVSKY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA
BROTHERS-IN-ARMS, RIVALS IN PEACE IVAN KURILLA SPECIAL TO RUSSIA DIRECT
Did you know? Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov presented Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower with the Soviet Order of Victory, while Eisenhower gave Zhukov the Legion of Honor.
Discover the Unknown War in the pages of this issue and find out much more at UNKNOWNWAR.RBTH.COM
eventy years ago in May 1945, Nazism was defeated and the bloodiest war in European history ended. For most European nations, and especially for the Russian people, that war had a profound impact on national memory, and its trauma is still very much alive. Similarly, 150 years ago in May 1865, the Civil War in the U.S. ended. After a century and a half, that event remains the deepest trauma in American memory and the most important point of reference for U.S. history. These two May anniversaries and the tragic events that surrounded them also remind us that in those two calamities, Russia and the United States were friendly powers and allies. Indeed, during the Civil War of 1861-1865, Russia remained the only European power that openly supported the federal cause by diplomatic means, and even sent its fleet to New York harbor in 1863, while Russian public opinion was decidedly on the Northern side. Certainly, the fleet had more complex reasons for this action, including Russia’s strategic plan to keep its navy outside of the Baltics in case of a new war with England, but the inspiration sparked by the Russian Navy visiting the U.S. was remarkable. Likewise, the 1861 abolition of serfdom in Russia in 1861 and the 1863 emancipation of slaves in the U.S. in 1863 promoted mutual sympathy and that reinforced the spirit of freedom prevalent during that epoch in both countries. Eighty years later, the meeting of Soviet and American soldiers on the Elbe River and the defeat of a common foe, Nazi Germany, became the symbol of another war collaboration that in-
cluded many more instances of mutual support and military cooperation in 1941-1945. This was not a rare coincidence. During the Crimean War of 1853-1856, U.S. public opinion supported Russia against joint European intervention, and many American surgeons even hastened to serve in Sevastopol hospitals. In fact, it was an American journalist, Januarius MacGahan, whose description of the Turkish atrocities helped Russia gain the Europeans’ support in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878. Russia and the United States were also allies in World War I, and even during the War on Terror in the early 2000s. But outside these periods of conflict, relations between the two nations have not been as good. Brothers-in-arms during war, they became rivals in peace. Why is it that during peacetime, these two countries migrated into opposite corners of world politics? Ideological competition, geopolitical rivalry, and the Hegelian logic of history may offer explanations. However, the causes are less relevant for us today than the lessons of the past two centuries. That shared history may be interpreted differently in order to support one or another political position during the current period of tensions. A struggle for the past is unfolding in and around Russia, with its focus on World War II. At the bottom of this struggle is the problem of martyrdom: For what reason did 27 million Soviet people die? The answer is not obvious in the contemporary world. It is more traditional to say that the Soviet people, together with the liberal democracies of the Western allies, fought to eliminate Nazism, the worst evil in human history. According to this logic, the great alliance helped humankind reach for a better future, despite the differences of the allies’ political organizations. Another interpretation, however, is gradually gathering more supporters in the new generation of politicians. It states that World War II was essentially a fight between two evils, Nazism and
Communism (in its Stalinist form). According to this second view, there was not a big difference between those two regimes, and the Red Army did not liberate Eastern and Central Europe, but rather conquered it for Communism. “Western victory was a liberating victory; Russian (Soviet) Victory was a subjugating victory,” the theory goes. The history of post-war Europe went in different directions, and Soviet leaders helped to impose pro-Soviet regimes in Eastern Europe. However, in no way did such a political development denigrate the martyrdom of the Soviet people and the fight for freedom from Nazi rule. In addition, when we look at the implications of the second view, we see that it gives World War II a purely geopolitical interpretation at the expense of a moral one. The war, at least on the Eastern front, was waged for dominance, not for liberation. Strangely, this interpretation, promoted by the anti-Stalinists in Europe, helped the Russian Stalinists. Refusing to view the Soviet Union as on the right side of an epic moral battle, it turns the millions of Soviet dead from heroes who fought against evil into fallen martyrs spreading the influence of Soviet might. Indeed, it is hard to imagine society ready to abandon such a martyrdom – it does and it will determine the value system of Russians for generations to come. This year of anniversaries is full of troubles. However, let us focus on the longer-term perspective. The history of the U.S.-Russian relationship extends more than two centuries into the past. Let us use that history to make the future better and deepen our mutual understanding. Read the full story at russia-direct.org
Ivan Kurilla is a former Kennan Institute fellow and professor at Volgograd State University.
Special Report rbth.com // May 29, 2015 // P5
5 MOVIES TO SEE Russian/Soviet:
Movies and politics: filming the war
After World War II, U.S. and Soviet movies allowed the Cold War to strongly shape the narratives their films told After World War II, the two superpowers produced two different narratives about the conflict, how it was fought, and how it was won. In 1949, Allan Dwan’s “The Sands of Iwo Jima,” starring John Wayne, established what would become the archetypal version of America’s war in the Pacific. Wayne’s Sergeant Stryker, an authoritarian squad leader, is initially hated by his men, before their fight for Iwo Jima forges them into a team and leads them to appreciate Stryker’s methods. Stryker is shot by a Japanese sniper and dies just as his men take the hill and raise the American flag over it. His sacrifice allows his men to continue the fight and to win the war. “The Sands of Iwo Jima” premiered just four days before Joseph Stalin’s 70th birthday in 1949. Mikhail Chiaureli’s present to the Soviet leader, “The Fall of Berlin,” was released in two parts in early 1950. The film follows Alyosha, a Stakhanovite steel worker who is in love with a teacher named Natasha. When the Nazis invade, Alyosha is knocked unconscious in an air raid and falls into a coma. He recovers, fights his way through the Soviet Union and then to Berlin, where he helps to raise the Soviet flag above the Reichstag. The hero of the film, however, is Stalin. The Soviet leader guides his people to victory and even arrives in Berlin to help Alyosha find Natasha again. While “The Sands of Iwo Jima” established the parameters adhered to by American movies about the war, culminating in the onscreen flag-raising over Iwo Jima, “The Fall of Berlin” did the same for Soviet cinematic narratives, culminating in the flag-raising over the Reichstag. After Stalin’s death, Soviet films stripped away his wartime significance, and continued to focus on the sacrifices Red Army soldiers made to defend their motherland. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a series of Soviet movies, including Mikhail Kalatozov’s 1957 “The Cranes are Flying” and Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1959 “Fate of a Man,” captured the humanistic elements of the war even while reaffirming that the defense of Russia, culminating with the victory at Stalingrad, served as its turning point. While these films were well received by American critics, they were frequently interpreted through Cold War lenses: the New York Times wrote of “The Cranes are Flying” that “the Russians have finally found romance” and even “with each other, not with a tractor or the Soviet state.”
At the same time, American movies were dominated by action-adventure flicks – often co-produced with British companies – such as J. Lee Thompson’s “The Guns of Navarone” (1961), Don Siegel’s “Hell is for Heroes” (1962), Robert Sturges’s “The Great Escape” (1963), Robert Aldrich’s “The Dirty Dozen” (1967), and Brian Hutton’s “Kelly’s Heroes” (1970). Most of these films, along with epics such as “The Longest Day,” established D-Day as the turning point in the war. They all tended to tell the war as an action story involving a group of ragtag soldiers coming together to accomplish a mission that contributes to the overall victory. These Hollywood interpretations of the war did not sit well with Soviet critics: In a 1963 Iskusstvo Kino review of “The Longest Day,” Lev Ginzburg concluded that it was an attempt to use the Second World War in order to legitimize NATO’s Cold War policies.
American movies focused on the Pacific Theater or on D-Day. Soviet movies focused on the Nazi invasion and the victory at Stalingrad that led to taking Berlin. The Cold War provided the context for the two nations’ film industries to construct two distinct memories of World War II and to understand the other’s movies. By and large, American movies focused on the Pacific Theater or on D-Day and the liberation of France or Italy. Soviet movies almost exclusively focused on the reaction to the Nazi invasion, the heroic defense of the motherland and the victory at Stalingrad that led to taking Berlin. These narratives should come as no great surprise, yet the unintended consequence was that movies about World War II had the effect of justifying the Cold War. The war could no longer be imagined as a shared experience. Steven Spielberg’s 1998 global blockbuster, “Saving Private Ryan,” would help to bring about a renewed dialogue between American and Russian films. In addition to the acclaim it received, Spielberg’s movie generated a lot of discussion in Russia. Karen Shakhnazarov, the head of Mosfilm Studio, criticized “the American films with their own evaluation of the war constantly thrust
upon us” and called for renewed interest in Russian movies about the war. The subsequent return of the war to Russian screens – both large and small – has had some notable moments, particularly in films that explore subjects deemed taboo during the Soviet era. Nikolai Dostal’s acclaimed 2004 TV series “Penal Battalion,” brings to light the neglected story of Soviet citizens forced to fight as cannon fodder, but does so by reaffirming that “ordinary” men and women defended their motherland. This timeless value, combined with a willingness to sacrifice oneself for victory, is also at the heart of Fedor Bondarchuk’s 2013 blockbuster, “Stalingrad,” which became the highest-grossing movie in Russian history. American films, from the critically lambasted blockbuster “Pearl Harbor” (2001) to the hugely successful HBO series “Band of Brothers” (2001) and “The Pacific” (2010), have also continued to operate within the frameworks established during the Cold War. Even films that introduce new elements – John Woo’s “Windtalkers” (2002), which focuses on the role of Navajo code talkers in the Pacific, and Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna” (2008), which narrates African-American contributions to the war in Italy – do so by sticking to established paradigms. Perhaps the clearest sign that war movies have established fixed narratives in both countries can be detected in two recent films, one from each country. Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” (2008) is not meant to be a historical film at all. Tarantino’s tongue-in-cheek take on the war, as the director noted, was meant to be “my ‘Dirty Dozen’ or ‘Where Eagles Dare’ or ‘Guns of Navarone’ kind of thing.” The same year Tarantino’s film debuted, Marius Veisberg released his parody of Soviet war films, “Hitler Kaput!” A graduate of USC Film School and a fan of 1980s screwball comedies such as “The Naked Gun,” Veisberg particularly pokes fun at the mythic version of the war created on Soviet screens. Veisberg argued that he wanted “not to make light of World War II, but rather of how the war was actually sold by the communists to the masses.” Even in these films, however, Americans are still liberating France and Soviets are still headed to Berlin.
SPECIAL TO RBTH
Female aviators played a vital role defending the Soviet Union during the war
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simple tale of idealism, heroism and survival. Marina Raskova, whose record-breaking adventures as an aviatrix inspired “millions of Soviet women,” is soon revealed as a secret officer of the NKVD, the KGB’s murderous precursor. Legendary pilot Valentina Grizodubova later said bitterly of Raskova: “I have no doubt that people suffered because of her.” Vinogradova’s awareness of context and complexity show how one generation’s idols can become uneasy ghosts. In the cold, retrospective light of history the image of young Raskova skywriting “Glory to Stalin!” at the annual Soviet air show Tushino Aviation Day, is more chilling than heartwarming. There is plenty of real heroism in “Defending the Motherand,” which includes first person accounts from survivors. The feared “Night Witches” brigade switched off their engines to glide silently, but hitting an unexpected snowstorm in March 1942 was like “flying though milk;” four women died in the disorientating whiteness, where “lights on the ground … began to seem like distant stars.” Lilya Litvyak, the “White Lily of Stalingrad” was the first woman who came to Vinogradova’s attention, and her story forms a narrative thread throughout the book. A beau-
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Soviet cinema’s critical engagement with the war began in many ways with Kalatozov’s film, which Russian critics voted the best film of the KINOPOISK.RU first 50 years of Russian cinema in 2008. Kalatozov’s film was the first among many classics from the Thaw era that dealt with the war’s significance, preceding Grigorii Chukhrai’s “Ballad of a Soldier” (1959), Sergei Bondarchuk’s “Fate of a Man” (1959), Chukhrai’s “Clear Skies” (1961), and Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Ivan’s Childhood” (1962). “The Cranes are Flying” focuses on Veronika, who sees her boyfriend Boris off to the front before dealing with with the hardships the war causes at home. Tatiana Samoilova’s nuanced performance is one for the ages.
“TRIAL ON THE ROAD” (1971/1986) BY ALEXEI GERMAN
“THEY FOUGHT FOR THE MOTHERLAND” (1975) BY SERGEI BONDARCHUK
Banned for 15 years, German’s first film tells the story of a Soviet soldier who defects to the Nazis, then switches sides again to fight with Soviet partisans. KINOPOISK.RU Based on his father’s novel and adapted by Eduard Volodarskii (who has written a number of important films dealing with the war), “Trial on the Road” is a profound examination of concepts such as “patriotism,” “hero” and “traitor.” German also directed another classic about the war, “Twenty Days Without War” (1976).
A veteran of the war, Bondarchuk first turned to it onscreen with his 1959 classic, “Fate of a Man.” After winning an Academy Award for his six-hour epic KINOPOISK.RU adaptation of “War and Peace,” Bondarchuk returned to World War II in “They Fought for the Motherland.” “They” are a complex collection of wounded, weary, broken, older soldiers defending a small, relatively unimportant plot of land in July 1942, as the Red Army begins to fight at Stalingrad. The famous battle only comes in at the end: After defending some far-flung locales, the regiment, which has lost all of its officers, learns it must head to Stalingrad.
■STEPHEN M. NORRIS
Brave women protected the Soviet skies
On the first page of Lyuba Vinogradova’s fine book about Soviet women pilots, she compares Hitler’s attempted invasion of Moscow in 1941 to Napoleon’s in 1812. Vinogradova centers her comparison on the neo-gothic Petrovsky Palace, built on the road to St. Petersburg in the late 18th-century as a rest house for traveling royalty. Napoleon sheltered here as Moscow burned and the palace later became an aeronautical academy, whose alumni included cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. By World War II, when Vinogradova takes up the tale, the palace’s rooms are noisy with “a more motley assembly than they had ever witnessed,” directed by women in uniform. Vinogradova’s skill as a writer is to see both the larger, historical picture and the vivid, individual detail. Born in Moscow, Vinogradova describes herself as “not an historian,” but she has worked in many Russian archives. She helped research Antony Beevor’s skillful patchwork of human stories in “Stalingrad” and many other books. Introducing Vinogradova’s new book, Beevor calls her theme “a unique phenomenon in the history of modern conflict,” which also tells us a great deal “about Soviet society under Stalin.” Arch Tait, who translated Vinogradova’s book from Russian, has captured her slightly breathless style as she details the lives of these diverse and courageous women. But Vinogranova’s book is not a
“THE CRANES ARE FLYING” (1957) BY MIKHAIL KALATOZOV
Klimov’s masterpiece, set in occupied Belarus, is the story of Flyora, a young boy who gets caught up in the conflict and goes stumbling © RIA NOVOSTI through the hellish landscape of the Eastern Front. Klimov’s film has consistently been cited as one of the best films ever made about the war, if not the best. When it appeared in the U.S., Walter Goodman declared its “history is harrowing and the presentation is graphic,” and its director was “a master of a sort of unreal realism that seeks to get at events terrible beyond comprehension.” “Come and See” is violent, brutal, horrific and profound.
tiful, formidable fighter pilot, she was killed in her early twenties. Her sudden disappearance led to conflicting rumors: that she was captured alive or that she had crashed, leaving only scraps of parachute-silk underwear and bleached blonde hair. In her last letter to her mother she wrote, “I have a burning desire to drive those German reptiles out of our land…” During World War II, nearly half a million women served in the Soviet forces and Vinogradova, whose next book will cover female Red Army snipers, has unearthed a rich seam of historical detail in charting their relatively unknown stories.
“COME AND SEE” (1985) BY ELEM KLIMOV
“THE CUCKOO” (2002) BY ALEXANDER ROGOZHKIN
Among the more recent Russian movies about World War II, Rogozhkin’s “The Cuckoo” may be the most satisfying (although Dmitrii Meskhiev’s 2004 KINOPOISK.RU “Our Own” is also worth a watch). In it, a Finnish soldier conscripted to fight for the Nazis and then chained to a rock after being labeled a pacifist makes his way to the house of a Sami woman whose husband has also left to fight in the war. She is nursing an injured Soviet soldier who was sentenced to death for anti-Soviet activities but who managed to escape his execution. Rogozhkin’s film explores how misperceptions and differences in language affect the three individuals’ of each other, often to comedic effect.
Of the 258 Soviet war cameramen active during WWII, only two of them are still alive.
■PHOEBE TAPLIN SPECIAL TO RBTH
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AND ONLY ONE STILL LIVES IN RUSSIA: 95-YEAR-OLD BORIS SOKOLOV.
WATCH A VIDEO about him at rbth.com/multimedia/94491
Feature P6 // rbth.com // May 29, 2015
Brodsky’s poetry spanned worlds Emigre’s writing was profoundly influenced by American and British poets
Joseph Brodsky, who would have turned 75 on May 24, was one of the most prominent Russian poets of the 20th century. As a young man in the Soviet Union, he refused to bow to the conformist attitudes of the day, writing poems characterized by a sparkling wit and independent thinking. Given the repressive, censorship-driven Soviet society, it came as no surprise when he was arrested for “social parasitism” in 1964 – eventually spending 18 months in a remote village as a punishment – and ultimately expelled from the country in 1972. His poetic style combines technical brilliance with the intimate, lyric poet’s concern with transcendent themes such as exile, love, death and nature. It is a measure of Brodsky’s skill as a poet that he was also able to master the poetic form in both his native Russian and in English, a language that enchanted him from an early age.
St. Petersburg, Russia From 1955 to 1972, Joseph Brodsky lived in the Muruzi House (Liteiny Prospect, 24) in his “room and a half.” At the end of 2015, a Brodsky museum is scheduled to open in this apartment.
Norenskaya, Arkhangelsk Region
Learning English by night As a young poet in Soviet Russia, Brodsky pursued his interest in English verse with admirable determination. Brodsky’s biographer Lev Lossef describes how the poet spent his time in exile in Norenskaya village, Arkhangelsk region “slowly making his way through English texts: “At night, in his hut on the edge of a village on the banks of a stream, there was nothing to distract him […] His object was not to learn another language; it was to learn another poetry.” Brodsky’s fascination with poetry in English lasted his whole life. He translated the works of several poets into Russian, and in later years began to write his own poems in English. He also wrote several essays in English, many of which can be found in the award-winning collection “Less Than One: Selected Essays.”
In 1964, Brodsky was arrested, accused of “parasitism,” and sentenced to five years of forced labor. After 18 months, he was released on parole and allowed to return to Leningrad from Norenskaya, where a museum is now being created.
Ann Arbor, Michigan In July 1972, Brodsky moved to the U.S. and became the poet-in-residence at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he intermittently taught, following in the footsteps of Robert Frost, who taught at Michigan decades earlier.
Growing into poetry with Robert Frost A profound early influence on Brodsky’s verse was the American poet Robert Frost. Many years after his first encounter with Frost’s poetry, Brodsky recollected his astonishment when he first read Russian translations of them at the age of 22. “With Frost, it all started,” Brodsky remembered in a 1975 interview for the Paris Review. “I was absolutely astonished at the sensibility, that kind of restraint, that hidden, controlled terror. I couldn’t believe what I’d read.” Brodsky saw the restraint of Frost’s writing as a way of expressing a uniquely American experience. To journalist Solomon Volkov, he suggested the “absence of emotion” was “representative of an art that simply doesn’t exist in Russian.”
his own poems to Frost’s Russian translator, who said one of them “really resembles Auden in its sense of humor.” Brodsky sought out examples of poetry by Auden, who became his friend and mentor after Brodsky left the Soviet Union in 1972. It is difficult to underestimate Auden’s significance for Brodsky’s writing. The writer and critic John Bayley suggested that “without Auden, Brodsky would possibly never have made himself into a poet writing in English.” After Auden’s death, Brodsky mused that “belief in the immortality of his soul becomes somehow unavoidable.” Discussing his efforts to write poetry in English, Brodsky explained, “My sole purpose […] was to find myself in closer proximity to the man whom I considered the greatest mind of the 20th Century: Wystan Hugh Auden.” Auden’s poem “In Memory of W.B. Yeats” was a particularly important reference point for Brodsky, who wrote of his fascination with its description of “time that is intolerant” yet “worships language and forgives.” Critic Adam Weiner suggests that this relation of language, time and space became a “cornerstone” of Brodsky’s own poetic practice. Auden’s poem also provided a template for Brodsky’s tribute to the poet T.S. Eliot, where he declares that “in the rhyme / of years the voice of poetry stands plain.” Moving into English After leaving the Soviet Union and moving to America, Brodsky became close with the American poet Robert Lowell. They met when Lowell volunteered to read translations of Brodsky’s poems on stage at the 1972 International Festival of Poetry, which Brodsky attended with Auden. The critic and expert Derek Bethea suggests, that both elder poets had a profound influence as they helped Brodsky settle into his new life in America: “It was these two – Auden and Lowell – who left an indelible personal residue on Brodsky and his language at a very vulnerable and impressionable time,” Brodsky said. It was also at Lowell’s funeral that Brodsky first met fellow Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott. “I found working with Walcott that his intuition is stunning,” Brodsky confided in a 1993 interview with Blair Ewing. The pair became close friends and mutual influences, translating each others’ work and sharing techniques. Brodsky and Walcott also joined with Irish Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney in the book “Homage to Robert Frost,” revisiting the influence of one of Brodksy’s early favorites. In 1985, Walcott praised Brodsky’s “industry, his valor, and his intelligence.” These qualities are most evident in Brodsky’s passionate pursuit of poetry in English throughout his career, as he endeavored to draw together two great literary traditions in his own verse. ■DOROTHY BUTCHARD
New York City, NY
SPECIAL TO RBTH LAIF/VOSTOCK-PHOTO
“Greatest mind of the 20th Century” Brodsky’s admiration of Frost indirectly led him to discover works by the English inter-war poet W.H. Auden. In his Paris Review interview, Brodsky recalls sending
PLACES TO EXPLORE BRODSKY’S LIFE AND INFLUENCES
Joseph Brodsky, who would have turned 75 this month, was heavily influenced by such great American poets at Robert Frost and Robert Lowell.
THE SOVIET COOKBOOK
What’s the latest diet craze? For Russians, who are dealing with the ban of many imported foods, learning to cook like a Soviet may be more of a necessity than a choice. Anna Kharzeeva, with help from her grandmother, has been testing out this theory, cooking her way through “The Book of Healthy and Tasty Food” — an iconic cookbook that was the ‘go-to’ book for just about every Soviet family. The book features more than 1,000 recipes and includes not only classic Russian dishes, but also Uzbek, Georgian and Ukrainian meals. It was published for the first time in 1939, and an updated version appeared in 1952. “The Book of Healthy and Tasty Food” is not just a cookbook. Its goal was to explain to every Soviet woman everything she needed to know about food. It was also a cultural phenomenon that promoted Soviet ideas about life and health. In her columns, Kharzeeva discusses the background of the Soviet diet along with how Soviet food appears to modern Russian cooks. Join RBTH on this culinary journey.
VICTORY DAY MEMORIAL TEA: A SPONGE CAKE TO CELEBRATE
Although there are no specific Victory Day recipes, the author associates the holiday with sponge cake topped with sour cream and cocoa on the side.
In 1980, Brodsky moved from Ann Arbor to New York, where he lived in a Greenwich Village apartment at 44 Morton St. In 1993, he bought an apartment in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, where he died from a heart attack in 1996.
Looking for sweet recipes to make this May, I stumbled upon biskvit (sponge cake) with sour cream. Biskvit has always been on the table in our family, but I only recently asked Granny why — she says that her mother found it very easy to make, and as she was always on the go, it suited her character perfectly. May 9 marks an important date — Victory Day, the day Russia observes the end of World War II. This day is celebrated on a grand scale – there are parades and concerts on Red Square and at Victory Park. As for regular people, they get together, cook up a feast, raise their glasses to the victory over the Nazis, and remember those who didn’t come back. In my family, Granny makes the ever-present sponge cake and we remember her father, who went missing in 1941, and her husband, who served and came home. He passed away 16 years ago. In 1941, Granny was nine. Her father went missing just three months after leaving home. His name is on a stone memorial outside the factory he left to go war — along with the names of 1,000 others, of whom only one or two came back. After her family had been evacuated from the city and was living in the village, Granny and her mother would make sponge cake and send it to the soldiers based nearby. In honor and memory of those times, I made sponge cake today for a kind of Victory Day memorial tea. “On May 2, 1945 we were in Moscow, and I had a beautiful American coat on — the Allies would send us food and clothing,” Granny remembers. “Mom was putting pins in it to make it shorter, and we heard a
VISIT A SPACE CREATED FOR ALL THOSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO DISCOVER MORE ABOUT RUSSIAN CUISINE AND THE COUNTRY’S CULINARY TRADITIONS.
Check our website now for recipes!>>rbth.com/russian_kitchen
IN BRODSKY’S FOOTSTEPS Find more places connected with this famous poet’s life at rbth.com/multimedia/96069
ANNA KHARZEEVA SPECIAL TO RBTH
special announcement on the radio: an important notice about taking over Berlin! We ran down the streets to Red Square — me still with pins in my coat — to see the fireworks.” We don’t have particular dishes that should be cooked on May 9, and I don’t know what the rules are about grandchildren setting up traditions, but it might be nice to have sponge cake with sour cream and cocoa on the side — something sweet to remember the loved ones by, and all the other soldiers. Sponge cake with sour cream Ingredients: 2 cups flour; 1 ½ cups sour cream; 6 eggs; 1 cup sugar; vanilla Separate the eggs. Whip the egg whites into a foam. Combine sugar and egg yolks. Mix well. Add vanilla. Add sour cream. Stir. Add flour and egg whites. Stir. Pour the batter into a greased dish and cook on a low temperature for 2025 minutes.
RBTH will return to the Washington Post on Sept. 2 !
Published on May 29, 2015
Published on May 29, 2015
In this issue: Perestroika lessons for the U.S. and Russia; Raising retirement age fuels debate; An American veteran recalls his personal ex...