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Cheap Ruble, Troubled Image

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Russia still has a hard time R attracting tourists

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Sports Despite probes, Russian observers say 2018 World Cup tournament will go ahead as planned

NEWS IN BRIEF

FIFA Scandal Hits Home

Economic Forum Opens Today in St. Petersburg The annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is opening today in Russia’s northern capital. This year’s event has more sessions focused on Asia, as part of Russia’s drive to increase its economic presence in the region. The move also reflects geopolitical realities. Few Western businesspeople attended the 2014 forum, as the conflict in Ukraine escalated, and they have not returned this year. The event runs through June 20.

In the days since Sepp Blatter resigned his post, Russian commentators have continued to express confidence that the country will host the World Cup. ALEXEY TIMOFEYCHEV RBTH

McDonald’s Announces Plan for a University in Moscow As part of its drive to rehabilitate its image in Russia as well as fight flagging global sales, fastfood giant McDonald’s has announced plans to open a branch of its Hamburger University in Moscow.The president of McDonald’s Russia, Khamzat Khasbulatov, made the announcement June 9. The purpose of the university will be to train regional managers in food sales and preparation. At the moment, McDonald’s Russia managers take classes at local training centers, and then attend the company’s university in Munich. McDonald’s became a target for Russia’s health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, last year and its flagship restaurant on Moscow’s Pushkin Square was closed for three months. Since then, the restaurant has run ads that emphasize its connection to Russia and its long history in the country. The first McDonald’s in Moscow opened 25 years ago.

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The shock resignation announcement made on June 2 by FIFA President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, just four days after being re-elected, surprised and disappointed Russian authorities and sports officials, who had continually expressed support for Blatter even as the U.S.-led investigation into FIFA, its leadership and the World Cup bidding process unfolded. Commenting on the resignation, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the R-Sport news agency that the FIFA president had“made a courageous decision, with love for FIFA.” Despite Blatter’s exit, Russian sports officials and commentators are convinced that Russia will host the 2018 World Cup. After Blatter announced his resignation, Greg Dyke, chairman of England’s football association, said that the issue of where the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be held could be reviewed. But speaking about the World Cup in Russia in an interview with the state-run TV channel Rossiya 24, Mutko was defiant, saying that “the decision was not made by one person, but by the executive committee. There are no threats (to the championship being held in Russia).” Vyacheslav Koloskov, honorary president of the Russian Football Association and former FIFA and UEFA executive committee member, shares Mutko’s opinion. In an interview with the Sport Express newspaper, he stated that “even now (after Blatter’s decision) there are no grounds for moving the 2018 World Cup to

An image of a soccer player holding the official emblem of the 2018 World Cup is projected on Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater. Russia continues to plan for the event, even as investigations continue.

another country, for taking it away from Russia.” However, there are reasons for concern. Shortly after the arrests of seven top FIFA officials in Zurich on May 27, Swiss police opened a parallel criminal inquiry into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively. Allegations of vote-buying have circulated in global media ever since the announcement of the two hosts in December 2010, with the award of the event to Qatar provoking widespread ridicule. Then, late on June 3, Reuters reported that the F.B.I. will also look into the 2018 and 2022 bids

as part of an extensive probe into corruption in FIFA. Alexander Domrin, a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, said that there are plenty of grounds for the investigation, but that it should not turn into a witch hunt. “If some FIFA officials laundered their money through U.S. banks, there are grounds to launch such an investigation. But as a lawyer I am against turning a legal case into a political one,” Domrin said. “We can expect anything from politicians, but nobody would dispute the basic principle: Anyone is innocent unless proven guilty.”

Dmitry Navosh, general director of the sport.ru website said that it was only natural that Russia’s bid be included in the investigation. “Pandora’s box has been opened,” Navosh said, although he stressed that even evidence of corruption among Russian FIFA officials would not mean that the decision for Russia to host the 2018 tournament would automatically be revoked. Former head of FIFA’s Moscow bureau Valery Chukhry told RBTH that even if FIFA decided to take the championship away from Russia, it would have very little time to organize it elsewhere.

Terrorism More and more reports are appearing of young Russians who want to join the Islamic State

Russians Feel Pull of Radical Islam OLEG YEGOROV SPECIAL TO RBTH

At the end of May, Varvara Karaulova, a 19-year-old Moscow State University philosophy student, left Moscow with a oneway ticket to Istanbul. According to her family, Karaulova planned to cross the Turkish border into Syria and join the Is-

lamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The story made headlines in Russia, partially because Karaulova is ethnically Russian and grew up in a nominally Russian Orthodox family. Her father said until recently, she always wore a cross around her neck. Fluent in English and French, Karaulova was a student of Middle Eastern culture and Arabic. None of Karaulova’s family of friends can say exactly when her behavior started to change, but over the past few months, she

began wearing a hijab to her classes and reading books on radical Islam. On May 27, she left the apartment she shared with her parents in the afternoon and disappeared. While Karaulova’s story has some unusual elements, she is far from the only Russian national who has joined or tried to join radical Islamic groups. According to the Federal Security Service (FSB), in the year more than 1,700 Russians have joined religious extremist organizations. CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

© VLADIMIR VYATKIN /RIA NOVOSTI

Russian ballet stars Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev will bring their production “Solo for Two” to New York for performances Aug. 7 and 8. Both are alumni of the Bolshoi ballet and St. Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Ballet, but this performance highlights their talents as solo artists. The work, which debuted last year in Los Angeles, features dances by three contemporary choreographers set to a mix of live and recorded music. It has received positive reviews in both the U.S. and the U.K. These performances will be the first in NewYork.

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CIHAN / BARCROFT MEDIA / TASS

The case of a Moscow student who left her family to join ISIS has focused the attention of Russian society on the threat posed by the group.

Russian Ballet in New York

RICHARD PORTWOOD

Varvara Karaulova was extradited from Turkey to Russia on June 11.

Lessons of Perestroika for the U.S. and Russia RBTH.COM/46439

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Politics & Society

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INTERVIEW LYUDMILA ALEXEYEVA

Taking on the Law on Foreign Agents a long time the country did not have a chance to engage in a political battle.

RUSSIA’S GRAND DAME OF HUMAN RIGHTS HAS RETURNED TO GOVERNMENT SERVICE TO TAKE ON THE NOTORIOUS 2012 LAW ON THE STATUS OF NGOS

What, according to you, is political culture? One of its most important elements is the ability to agree, find compromises with people who don’t share your views. But here it is all or nothing. Is the lack of political culture the opposition’s main problem? No, the main problem is that the opposition is given conditions within which it just can’t operate. Its leaders are not shown on television. And in our modern life if a person is not on television, then it is as if he doesn’t exist at all. Also, the government is thinking of moving up the date of the 2016 Duma elections, from December to September. The election campaign will then be held in the summer when no one is around and turnout will be low.

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HER STORY NATIONALITY: RUSSIAN AGE: 87 STUDIED: HISTORY

Lyudmila Alexeyeva with photos from the Bolotnaya Square protests.

One of Russia’s best-known human rights activists, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the director of the Moscow Helsinki Group, recently made the decision to return to Russia’s Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights. She left the group in 2012 and had been asked to return previously, but had always refused. RBTH spoke with Alexeyeva about why now is the right time for her to make this move. What will you do in the council? I know that you are very concerned about the 2012 law on foreign agents … Yes, that is precisely what I will be occupied with.This law is complete foolishness.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva was born in 1927 in Yevpatoria, Crimea, U.S.S.R. Her debut as a human rights activist came in 1966, when she spoke out against the trials of political prisoners. After this, she was banned from membership in the Communist Party and had difficulty finding work. In 1976 she co-founded the Moscow Helsinki Group, but in 1977, she left the Soviet Union for the United States. She returned to Russia only in 1993. Lyudmila Alexeyeva is the author of more than 100 articles on human rights; a book, “The History of Dissent in the USSR”; and a memoir, “The Thaw Generation.” She has received numerous awards, including the French Legion of Honor and the Andrei Sakharov Prize.

Why is it meaningless? Because any organization that receives foreign money becomes a candidate for being an“agent.”No matter how much we clarify this definition, in the end, if you really want to you, can apply it to just about anything. Then what are you proposing? If we want to solve this problem, we need to look at the internal source of financing. The government cannot finance all the nongovernmental organizations. This is not right, since we are not governmental but social, and there are thousands of us. Something else must be done.Vladimir Putin needs to appeal to businesses on our behalf.We have many wealthy

people who would be happy to finance us. But they are afraid to endanger their businesses. In 2016, elections will be held to the State Duma and the opposition has announced that it will be participating. In fact, the opposition has united into a coalition precisely for this purpose. You know many of these people. How would you evaluate their potential? The attempt to unite is a great breakthrough.This has never happened before. Moreover, everyone would say: “They can’t do anything, it’s just a battle of vanities.” It’s not exactly like that. It’s not a matter of vanity, it’s just that our society does not have a political culture. And it’s obvious why. For

The opposition is frequently blamed for not having a leader who the people would follow. Alexei Navalny has two conditional sentences, [political activist] Sergei Udaltsov has recently been moved to a penal colony (where he is serving a term participating in a 2012 demonstration). Boris Nemtsov has been killed. Who do you see who could be a leader? I am not a politician and do not belong to the opposition. It’s difficult for me to judge. But there are people who could be leaders. [There is former State Duma Deputy]Vladimir Ryzhkov. Or [former Prime Minister] Mikhail Kasyanov. [Former finance minister] Alexei Kudrin and Mikhail Khodorkovsky. There is the stereotypical opinion that rights organizations in Russia are just formal structures and are actually incapable of seriously influencing decisions made in the State Duma, for example. Do you agree with this? Unfortunately, the government does not really heed rights activists. Rights activism in Russia was born in the middle of the 1960s and existed for 25 years during the Soviet era. We have experi-

Appeal of Radical Islam Reflects Disconnection CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1

Russian scholars are quick to point out that the problem of young people traveling to join terrorist groups is not unique to Russia. “In the last month, 1,733 people went to join ISIS from France alone, and statistically, one-fifth of them did not come from Muslim families but were recruited,” said Georgy Mirsky, a scholar of Arabic culture at the Russian Academy of Sciences, adding that that the percentage of non-Muslim women who joined the ISIS was even higher, at 30 percent. According to Russian psychologist Pavel Ponomarev, the phenomenon of young people who grew up in secular Western

According to the Federal Security Service, in 2014 about 1,700 Russians have joined religious extremist organizations. the society in which she lived and find a new identity in a different world. Students and other young people are going through a crisis: society is not giving them a chance to express themselves, imposing harsh restrictions. The intention to free oneself from this society and obtain

everything, and immediately, in a different system is so great that people are practically ready to give their life for it.” Mirsky says that the attraction of Islamic extremism today is no different from that of other radical movements of earlier eras, such as fascism and communism: “There are neither any fascists nor any real communists today, but against the background of the dullness of everyday life, there is a big new movement — radical Islam.” In Mirsky’s opinion, the real revelation of Karaulova’s case is that Russians have underestimated the threat radical Islam poses.“The most amazing thing is that everyone — her family, her friends — was indifferent. No one noticed anything until she disappeared. This is complete disorder.”

RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES IS PUBLISHED BY THE RUSSIAN DAILY NEWSPAPER ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA. ITS PRODUCTION DOES NOT INVOLVE THE EDITORIAL STAFF OF THE NEW YORK TIMES. RBTH IS FUNDED THROUGH A COMBINATION OF ADVERTISING AND SPONSORSHIP TOGETHER WITH SUBSIDIES FROM RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. RBTH’S EDITORIAL VOICE IS INDEPENDENT. ITS OBJECTIVE IS TO PRESENT, THROUGH QUALITY CONTENT, A RANGE OF PERSPECTIVES ABOUT RUSSIA AND RUSSIA’S PLACE IN THE WORLD. PUBLISHED SINCE 2007, RBTH IS COMMITTED TO MAINTAINING THE HIGHEST EDITORIAL STANDARDS AND TO SHOWCASING THE

You are listened to by politicians not only in Russia but also abroad. In May you met U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. Some people perceive such meetings as betraying the government. Please define your position regarding this issue. To Russian journalists, to foreign correspondents, to the presidential administration, to Nuland, I say one and the same thing: whatever I think. Rights activism has no borders. Honestly, I don’t know why she [Nuland] came.“This law about foreign agents is rather disappointing, isn’t it,” she says.“Of course, it is disappointing,” I respond.“What do you think, should I speak about it or will I only harm these organizations?” “It’s better not to.You’ll only harm them.” I just answered her questions. And not so that she would protect us. We’ll manage to deal with our authorities by ourselves.” You lived in the United States for 16 years and are an American citizen. Why did you return to Russia? When in Russia my son and husband, who weren’t rights activists, were threatened with arrest, I was forced to leave and I went to America. I returned in the mid1990s when many were allowed to return, while I wasn’t — I was still on the KGB blacklist. I don’t hide the fact that I have American citizenship. Some say that I should renounce it. I will never go to America, but the country was very good to me in my time. I lived a normal life there in a time when here I would have been in prison. I returned because Russia is my country. And I want to live in my country. Interview prepared by Yekaterina Sinelschikova Read the full interview at rbth.com/46441

simply because of the way they look. “When people are persecuted not because they violate a law but because they wear long beards or attend ‘the wrong’ mosque, the result is usually radicalization even of the moderate Muslims,”Pakhomenko said.

An ongoing problem

REUTERS

The charm of the extremists

families joining terrorist groups is rooted in the existential crises of youth.“If we are to speak about Karaulova, we will see that she tried to commit social suicide; that is, she attempted to completely cancel herself from

ence; there are many professionals among us and I am one of them. If I have been doing this for 50 out of my 87 years, I would have to be an idiot not to have learned how to do it! Therefore I wouldn’t say that we don’t have any influence. In the end we are taken into consideration.

Young people traveling to join terrorist groups is not unique to Russia.

The Islamic issue Despite the press being given to Karaulova, she is an anomaly among Russians fighting for ISIS. In May, the Meduza news website published an interview with an ISIS preacher who said that “no fewer than 1,500 people — half of them Dagestani, and half Chechens — from the North Caucasus are fighting with the Islamic State.” Both of these regions are majority Muslim. Varvara Pakhomenko, a specialist on the Caucasus and a consultant with the International Crisis Group, believes that there are several reasons for the appeal of radicalism among

Russia’s Muslims. The first is disillusionment with the government. “If there is unhappiness with the corruption, the stratification of society and people understand that it is very difficult or even impossible to improve the situation, many Muslims begin to think that justice can be obtained only if secular government is replaced by the Caliphate, which functions according to the Sharia Law,” Pakhomenko said. This dissatisfaction with the authorities is reinforced by the authorities themselves, who often harass Muslims not for any crimes they have committed, but

Varvara Karaulova’s cell phone was tracked to a town near the Turkish-Syrian border, and she was apprehended there in early June with a group of 13 other Russians. She returned to Moscow on June 11. It is unclear if she will face charges. A source in law enforcement told staterun news agency RIA Novosti that Karaulova could work out a deal with the authorities if she was willing to provide information about terrorist groups or recruiting organizations operating in Russia. The day before Karaulova returned, St. Petersburg local news portal Fontanka.ru reported that another young woman, Fatima Dzhamalova, a student of pediatrics at the First Medical University of St. Petersburg, had also left home to join ISIS, but had appeared to have changed her mind. After arriving in Turkey, she sent text messages home saying she regretted the move and asked for help.

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READ A SUMMARY AND LISTEN EACH WEEK AT rbth.com/world/troika


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03

Poverty Wages stagnant as expenses go up

Economy Will the ‘pivot to Asia’ pay off for Moscow or Washington?

Number of Russia’s Poor is on the Rise More and more Russians are slipping below the poverty line as the country’s economic recession begins to bite, and the situation is likely to get worse. YEKATERINA SINELSCHIKOVA RBTH

EPA/VOSTOCK-PHOTO

During the APEC summit in Beijing in November 2014, Russia and China signed nearly two dozen agreements, primarily in the energy sector.

Both Russia and the U.S. Turn Toward the East The U.S. and Russia are pushing to forge trade alliances in Asia as the region’s economic power rises, yet the reality is falling short of the rhetoric. DAVID MILLER SPECIAL TO RBTH

When Russia celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe on May 9, President Vladimir Putin presided over a military parade in the heart of Moscow, and China’s leader, Xi Jianping, sat in the place of honor at Putin’s right hand side, watching Chinese forces join the parade for the first time. Western leaders boycotted the blowout event, but the Kremlin sent them a clear message: Russia can forge a new alliance with its rising neighbor to the east — China. Indeed, both the United States and Russia are pushing hard to shore up trade ties with Asian nations at a time when the center of the world’s economic weight continues to shift toward the Eastern hemisphere. Yet for both Washington and Moscow, the reality of their“pivot to Asia” is falling short of the rhetoric. U.S. President Barack Obama is running into pushback from his own Democratic Party as he attempts to bring the U.S. into the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, a treaty between 12 coun-

tries including Japan and Vietnam. Protestors and labor unions have taken to the streets of Washington D.C. to demonstrate against the pact, which critics argue will send U.S. jobs overseas. The initiative, which does not include involvement from China, is seen by some as an attempt by the U.S. to preserve its own dominance in the sphere of global trade in the face of China’s rising power. “If we don’t write rules for trade around the world, guess what?,” Obama said recently, “China will.” Russia, meanwhile, has long been seeking access to Chinese markets for its exports of oil and natural gas. The outbreak of war in Ukraine, and the subsequent political fallout with Europe and the U.S. over Russia’s role in the dispute, finally pushed Moscow to make concessions to Beijing in negotiations over natural gas pricing. Russia’s big breakthrough in trade talks with China came in May 2014, when the two sides signed a deal worth $400 billion at the time for Russia to supply China with natural gas for 30 years, following a decade of deadlocked talks. During a trip to Beijing in November, Putin expanded that agreement with a new memorandum that foresaw Russia shipping an additional 30 billion cubic

IN FIGURES

$400 billion

$5.9 billion

$28 billion

was the amount of the May 2014 deal that will bring Russian gas to China, via the Power of Siberia pipeline through Russia’s Far East.

is how much China will invest in the construction of a high-speed rail line linking Moscow with the city of Kazan, 600 miles to the east.

is the total GDP of all countries expected to be part of the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, 40 percent of total global GDP.

Russia’s big break in trade talks with China came in May 2014, when the two sides signed a deal worth $400 billion. meters of gas to China a year. Yet skeptics are quick to point out that the gas deals are still non-binding, and that years of difficult negotiations in the past suggest that future haggling over the final terms will likely cause more delays. Disagreements between the two sides have indeed continued to spill over into public view, including over the exact route the pipelines will take and interest payments for a proposed $25 billion Chinese loan to help Russia build the links. Russian crude oil major Rosneft has also invited the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to take a stake in the mammoth Siberian oil deposit,

Vankor, just as Western majors, such as ExxonMobil and Shell, were being forced to abandon oil projects they’d been developing in Russia due to U.S. and European sanctions. But at Vankor, too, problems have arisen in the negotiations. The decline in oil prices over the past year, from more than $100 to roughly $60-$65 per barrel, has raised thorny new questions over the price the CNPC will pay to join the project. Critics say the two sides remain suspicious of each other as Russia watches China’s economic expansion warily and Chinese negotiators push for tough terms in energy deals with Russia. “The West does not need to fret too much about driving Russia and China into each other’s arms,” wrote The Financial Times in a recent editorial opinion. “Russia is clearly the junior partner and the differences between the two are as great as the forces that unite them.”

As Russia’s economy continues to slide into recession as a result of the effect of Western sanctions and volatile oil prices, figures published by Russia’s state statistics bureau, Rosstat, show that 16 million people, or 11 percent of the population, are now living below the poverty line. Russians are considered officially poor when their incomes fall below the minimum amount required to subsist in the country, which Rosstat calculates at 8,000 rubles ($150) a month per person. Yelena Kiselyova, a senior researcher at the Institute for Complex Strategic Studies notes that this is the first time since 2000 that the number of poor in Russia has gone up. “Until recently, the number of poor in the country had been steadily declining. Even during the last crisis [in 2008] there was no significant increase in the number of poor,” Kiselyova said. One of the major problems facing Russians is that wages remain stagnant as the cost of living rises. “The salary level of many people is close to the subsistence level or slightly above,” said Kiselyova. According to official statistics, this is the case for 13 percent of Russian workers. Sociologist Leontiy Byzov also said that incomes are not keeping up with the amount of money required to live in the country today at the same standards people were living a year or two ago. “It has become impossible to live on a small pension or salary,” Byzov said. “This is a very important factor, which we have been trying to leave behind for 15 years after the default of ‘98, and now we have returned to it.” Many Russians who do not fall below the official poverty line consider themselves poor. According to a recent survey by the polling agency Public Opinion Foundation, 47 percent of the population think of themselves as “the working poor.” “It’s hard to give up what you used to have, so people feel they have become much poorer, even if this is not quite the case,”Byzov said. When asked about the measures being taken by the govern-

IN FIGURES

$1,760 is the U.S. equivalent of the official Russian poverty line. Those who earn less than this amount per year are considered poor — about 11 percent of the population.

15.7%

is the year-on-year inflation rate in 2015, according to data published on June 10. Experts note that prices for consumer goods have increased by 20 percent on average this year.

ment, the press service of Russia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Protection said that insurance pensions have been indexed by 11.4 percent (averaging 13,000 rubles, or $241 monthly), welfare payments by 10.3 percent, and benefits for families with children and monthly payments for certain categories of citizens by 5.5 percent. Additionally, on May 23 Russian PresidentVladimir Putin authorized the use of the “mother’s capital,” a one-time lump sum payment for the birth of a second child, to be used for mortgage payments. Previously the use of this money was restricted to pay for a child’s future education or the initial purchase of a home. Sergei Smirnov, an economist at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, is unimpressed by the steps the government is taking to tackle the problem. “Pensions are being indexed without considering the crisis. In February they were indexed at a percentage below the Rosstat rate of inflation [16.7 percent],”he said, calling the permission to invest maternity capital in mortgage payments “a hopeless decision.” According to Smirnov, these moves are stopgap measures taken by the Ministry of Finance to avoid indexing pensions to the rate of inflation:“The State Duma has come up with an initiative not to pay pensions to working pensioners whose annual income is above one million rubles [$18,500],” he said. Read the full story at rbth.com/46625

Soft drinks The company hopes to increase sales in Russia by offering other diet brands

Coke Playing a Zero-Sum Game ANNA AFANASYEVA, OLEG TRUTNEV KOMMERSANT

The Coca-Cola Company debuted Coke Zero in Russia this month, with a launch party attended by company executives and celebrities, in the hopes of increasing sales in the market and tapping into a newfound interest among Russians for healthy living. As part of the change, the company will be dropping its CocaCola Light brand in Russia. Two major Russian supermarket chains, Dixy and Metro Cash & Carry, noted that sales of Coca-Cola Light in their stores are negligible. “Consumption of low-calorie foods is not yet so widespread in Russia,” Metro spokeswoman Oxana Tokareva said. Coca-Cola pointed out, however, that the situation is changing, referring to a study by the global information and measurement company Nielsen: In the third quarter of 2014, 82 percent of Russian consumers said that the amount of calories contained in foods was important to them. It also follows from the study that the consumption of low-fat milk has grown by 10 percent since 2012, the cottage cheese-like product, tvorog, by 31 percent, and cheese by 72 percent.

Coke executives hope that the taste of Coke Zero will appeal to Russians as it is closer to the taste of regular Coca-Cola than CocaCola Light was. “The difference is in taste: Zero is as close as possible to the original Coca-Cola,” said Coca-Cola spokesman Vladimir Kravtsov. “In 2014, the share of Light in total Russian sales was 2 percent,” said Kravtsov. “By 2018, we expect that the share of Zero will increase to 10 percent.” However, this still represents a very low share of the market for low-calorie products compared with that seen in large Western markets. For example, in the U.K., the share of low-calorie cola in the total sales of the brand, is 43 percent. In the United States, according to a report by Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., sales of standard Coca-Cola decreased by 1 percent in the past year, while Coke Zero showed an increase of 11 percent. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola’s main competitor, PepsiCo, has two lowcalorie drinks in its Russian portfolio — Pepsi Light and Pepsi Max. “According to our estimates, the majority of consumers prefer the classic taste of [our] cola; Pepsi Light and Pepsi Max occupy less than 10 percent in sales volume of the brand Pepsi in Russia,”the Russian office of PepsiCo said. According to market research by Canadean, sales of drinks under the Coca-Cola brand in Russia have increased four times

April Report

BEST RUSSIAN STUDIES PROGRAMS 2015 This April, Russia Direct released its comprehensive ranking of Russian and post-Soviet Studies programs in U.S. universities, together with an analysis of the current state of Russian Studies programs in the U.S. Bringing together top experts in the field, including Harvard’s Alexandra Vacroux, Georgetown’s Angela Stent and Rhode Island University’s Nicolai Petro,, the report addresses the major challenges facing Russian Studies programs in the U.S. and ways of tackling them.

REUTERS

Coca-Cola has decided to replace its Coca-Cola Light brand in Russia with Coke Zero in an attempt to increase sales of lowcalorie sodas in the market.

RUSSIA DIRECT IS A FORUM FOR EXPERTS AND SENIOR RUSSIAN AND INTERNATIONAL DECISIONMAKERS TO DISCUSS, DEBATE AND UNDERSTAND ISSUES IN GEOPOLITICAL RELATIONS AT A SOPHISTICATED LEVEL.

Coca-Cola has launched Coke Zero in Russia.

June Report over in the past 15 years — from 211.8 million liters (222.3 million quarts) in 2000 to 859.1 million liters in 2014 (the market share of carbonated soft drinks has increased accordingly from 9 percent to 18.5 percent in the same period). Meanwhile, in 2014, Russian sales of the drink effectively failed to increase for the first time since 2010 — growth was only 1.1 percent. In comparison, the increase was 19.6 percent in 2012 and 10.3 percent in 2013. A report published by The Coca-Cola Company for the first quarter of 2015 said that its overall sales in Russia decreased by 7-8 percent in real terms during this period. Coke Zero will be present in

all the company’s promotional campaigns, along with the main brand, said Coca-Cola. Specific numbers concerning investments in promotion were not disclosed, but the company noted that the advertising budget of the entire Coca-Cola brand is always tied to the revenue that its sales generate in a particular region. According to AdIndex, the total budget of the advertising campaign in Russia amounted to 2.9 billion rubles ($52.7 million) in 2014, of which 2.7 billion rubles was spent on television advertising. Read the full story at rbth.com/46377

HI-TECH AND SCIENCE CITIES In June, Russia Direct released a new brief examining the topic of Russian hi-tech and science cities. New efforts to modernize the Russian economy have taken on even greater significance with the introduction of Western sanctions and recent volatility in global energy markets. This report highlights the early successes and challenges of Russia’s modernization drive, with an emphasis on the role of the state in supporting innovation efforts at the local level, primarily through the creation of new technoparks.

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Travel A cheap currency combined with rich cultural attractions should make Russia an ideal destination for visitors

Russia’s Image Problem Puts a Damper on International Tourism The fall of the ruble at the end of 2014 made travel to Russia cheaper than ever, but not many Western tourists are willing to make the trip.

itself better as a tourist destination.This year, Rostourism opened its first offices abroad, beginning with an office in Dubai in May. By September, the agency plans to have outlets in Finland, Germany, China and Italy. Other government agencies are also working to improve Russia’s attractiveness for tourists. English signs and maps were introduced in the Moscow Metro last year, and in July 2014, Russia’s Interior Ministry created a division of police to help tourists. However, ATOR’s Kantorovich noted that tourists still complain that Metro workers and other municipal staff don’t speak English. And the tourist police have had a hard time recruiting qualified personnel. Nevertheless, the initiatives may be paying off. In early May, Russia rose by 18 points from 63th to 45th place in the prestigious international Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report rankings, prepared by the World Economic Forum and Strategy Partners Group. Russia received high marks for cultural attractions, but low scores for the difficulty of obtaining visas. Getting a Russian visa is associated with a high degree of bureaucracy, says the ATOR’s Kantorovich, who believes that Russia could make concessions there: “No one prevents us from taking this step unilaterally and abolish visas,” Kantorovich said, citing the example of mutual abolition of visas with Israel. After the move, the flow of Israeli tourists to Russia increased by 50 percent.

In June, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg was named one of TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice landmarks.

ALEXANDER BRATERSKY

In a January article on CNN.com, travel reporter Laura Powell asked, “Is now the time to visit Russia?” At the time, the question seemed absurd. Relations between Russia and most of the West, including the United States, are at post–Cold War lows and fighting was raging in eastern Ukraine. Over the past few months, however, the idea of Russia as a tourist destination has gained more traction — partially because of the decline in the value of the ruble against western currencies. Data from Russia’s Federal Agency for Tourism (Rostourism), confirmed that there was an increase in the number of tourists visiting Russia in December, just after the value of the ruble fell sharply. However, that was not enough to improve the overall numbers for the year. Overall in 2014, the number of tourists to Russia declined by 3 percent. Nevertheless, the trend that began in December 2014 has continued this year. Since the beginning of 2015, tourism into Russia has increased by between 3 and 5 percent, according to a recent interview Rostourism deputy chairman Nikolai Korolev gave to news agency Tass. It isn’t Western tourists who are gradually making their way back to Russia, however. In the first quarter of 2015, tourism from China increased by 10 percent. While most tourists come to Moscow, the number of Chinese visitors to Siberia has also increased, according to Anatoly Kazakevich, the director of the travel agency Baikalov, which focuses on trips to famous Lake Baikal. “This is due to the currency exchange rate and the strengthening of international relations with Asia,” Kazakevich said. Over the past year, Russia’s economic and political strategies have focused on the “pivot to Asia,” with major deals being signed between Gazprom and China’s national energy firm CNPC. Russian President Vladimir Putin also made a state visit to China last year. Traditionally, Germany led the ranking of countries sending tourists to Russia. In 2013, about 380,000 Germans made the trip. But in 2014, only 350,000 Germans came to Russia, while the number of Chinese increased to 410,000 — up from 372,000 in 2013. The number of American tourists also declined in 2014 to 162,000, down from 197,000 the year before, according to statistics from Rostourism.

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410,000 tourists from China an Union and the United States toward Russia. “Clearly, it is not directly related to tourism, but tourists want to travel to those countries that have good relations with theirs,” Kantorovich said. Tour operators agree with this statement: “Unfortunately, the depreciation of the ruble coincided with the deterioration of the image of Russia in the foreign market; therefore, the country failed to become more attrac-

Tourism to Russia, 2013-2014 The total number of foreign tourists in 2014 decreased by 5 percent, to 2.1 million people. In 2013, most tourists came from Germany, followed by China and the United States. In 2014, China took first place.

162,000 tourists from the United States

350,000 tourists from Germany

tive to many foreign tourists,”said Alexander Lanskaya, executive director of Patriarshy Dom Tours, a travel agency specializing in sightseeing tours of Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities for foreign tourists.

Signs of improvement? The recent downturn in tourism has only reinforced the recognition that despite its rich cultural heritage, Russia needs to promote

Read the full story at rbth.com/46731

Travel Air carriers from the West have cut back their Russia routes, with some leaving the market altogether

Airlines Reduce Flights as Demand Falls Russian tourism to Europe fell by 30 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to a report by the European Travel Commission. The decline comes after Moscow’s three major airports spent hundreds of millions of dollars on massive upgrades, including shiny new terminals, and after express trains have been built to the city center. Delta Air Lines, the only U.S. carrier currently offering flights directly to Russia, plans to halt its New York–Moscow service in December, the company said. EasyJet, which was the first major budget airline to launch service between Moscow and western Europe in 2012, said this spring it will drop service between Manchester and Moscow in October. Niki, AirBerlin’s subsidiary that operated flights from Moscow to Vienna, has also announced its exit from the Russian market, along with France’s Aigle Azur, which offered flights from Paris. “On some flights, large airliners were replaced by aircraft of lesser capacity,” Lufthansa’s

Airlines are reducing flights to and from Moscow as Russia’s economic downturn keeps Russian vacationers and foreign business travelers grounded. KIRA EGOROVA RBTH

The Russians aren’t coming after all. Or at least, they’re not coming to Europe or the U.S. for their vacations. International airlines are canceling or downsizing service to and from Moscow as the country’s slowing economy causes millions of Russians to rethink travel plans and fewer foreign tourists and business travelers to visit the country from abroad. Overall demand for flights to and from Russia fell as much as 40 percent in late 2014 and early 2015 compared to a year earlier, according to Martin Riecken, Lufthansa’s director of corporate communications for Europe. Routes to Western Europe and across the Atlantic were hit especially hard, he added.

The value of a weak ruble Vladimir Kantorovich, a member of the presidium of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR), said that right now the weak ruble is the only trump card in Russian tourism, and that advantage is offset by the overall negative attitude of the Europe-

IN FIGURES

40% is how much demand for flights to Russia fell between the beginning of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, according to Lufthansa.

4 airlines currently offer direct flights from the U.S. to Russia — Aeroflot, Delta, Transaero and Singapore.

$522 was the cheapest round-trip flight available from Moscow to New York last month, according to web portal Skyscanner.

pecially“Greece, Cyprus and Italy. Spain is so far a bit weaker.” Lufthansa’s Riecken agreed that interest has recently been ticking back up. “We have noted an increase in demand for popular dates, such as the May holidays,”he said.“But the volume of purchased tickets did not reach last year’s level.” A stronger currency should eventually help coax some airlines back into renewing their service to Moscow, said Oleg Panteleyev, head of analytical services of the agency Aviaport, by translating into reduced ticket prices for Russians. Indeed, by late April this year, ticket prices for flights to Europe and Asia were already back to roughly the same level as in September 2014, according to Janis Dzenis, PR director of JetRadar travel search service. Routes to the U.S. and London remain about 10 percent higher than before in ruble terms, Dzenis said.

Riecken said.“On high-frequency routes … [the] number of flights has been reduced on days with low demand,” he said, including the Frankfurt-Moscow route. Many observers called the ruble one of the main culprits behind falling demand among Russians. The Russian currency went into a meltdown in late 2014, losing about half its value in a matter of months and making foreign trips much pricier for Russians. Although the ruble has recovered some lost territory in 2015, it is still down by about a third against the dollar and the euro compared to a year ago.

Room for Optimism? Some observers, however, said the ruble’s recent upward trend may help Russian travel spending recover. Interest is indeed beginning to revive among Russians for some European destinations, said Alexander Burtin, commercial director of tour operator Tez Tour. “Tourists are beginning to look toward Europe,” Burtin said, es-

Read the full story at rbth.com/46935

Currently, Russia is home to 26 Unesco World Heritage Sites. The first sites in Russia to be added to the list were St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, the historic center of St. Petersburg and Kizhi Pogost in the northern Republic of Karelia. They received the designation in 1990. Today, World Heritage sites can be found across Russia, from the North to the Far East, and include natural sites and architectural marvels. Prepared by Joe Crescente Discover more routes in Russia. Go Beyond Your Imagination!

KIZHI POGOST

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10 MUST-SEE WORLD HERITAGE SITES TO CHECK OUT ON YOUR TRIP TO RUSSIA

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UNESCO SITES

(1990)

ENSEMBLE OF THE SOLOVETSKY ISLANDS

COMPLEX OF THE KAZAN KREMLIN

CURONIAN SPIT (KURSHSKAYA KOSA)

REPUBLIC OF KARELIA

(1992)

(2000)

(2000)

ANCIENT CITY AND FORTRESS BUILDINGS OF DERBENT (2003)

ARKHANGELSK REGION

THE REPUBLIC OF TATARSTAN

KALININGRAD REGION

THE REPUBLIC OF DAGESTAN

An archipelago comprising six islands, this area has been inhabited for 2,500 years and a monastic site since the 1400s. Chosen for being an outstanding example of a northern European monastic settlement, it is also noted for its well-preserved stone labyrinths. The Russian Orthodox Solovetsky Monastery complex on the site was first built in the 15th century. The islands became infamous during the Soviet era as the site of the first gulag labor camp. Established in 1921, it was closed at the beginning of World War II and designated a museum in 1974.

Built by Ivan the Terrible to commemorate his victory over the Tatars in 1552, the Kazan Kremlin was constructed on the ruins of his vanquished enemy’s castle. It features numerous 16th century buildings including the Russian Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral (1554–62). Another prominent structure in the skyline here is leaning Söyembikä Tower, otherwise known as the Khan’s mosque. The Qolsärif Mosque was rumored to be Europe’s largest mosque outside of Istanbul when construction was completed in 2005. It can accommodate 6,000 worshippers.

Kurshskaya kosa is a 60-milelong, thin, curved sand dune spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast. Its southern portion lies within Russia’s exclave Kaliningrad, and its northern part in southwestern Lithuania. The Curonian Spit was formed around the Third Millennium B.C. by the movement of glaciers. Winds and sea currents later contributed enough sand to raise and keep the formation above sea level. The Curonian Spit is home to the highest moving sand dunes in Europe. It’s an easy day trip from the historic city of Kaliningrad.

Located where the Caucasus Mountains meet the Caspian Sea, Derbent has been an important north-south corridor since the first century B.C. Some claim that the city was founded as far back as the eighth century B.C. and several surviving structures here are thought to be over 5,000 years old. Occupied by Armenians, Mongols and Turks, among others, Derbent only became a permanent part of the Russian Empire in 1813. Today the main sites to visit are the ancient walls, baths, watchtowers, cisterns, mosques and the well-preserved citadel.

This site is located on Kizhi Island in Lake Onega in the Republic of Karelia. A“pogost”can mean many things, but in Kizhi’s case it is simply a gated church and cemetery. The island contains two large churches, both original examples of wooden Orthodox architecture. The Transfiguration Church was built in 1714 as a summer church and features 22 domes. The nine-domed Church of the Intercession was under construction for almost a century before being completed in 1764. A 98-foot-tall 19th century wooden bell tower is another famous landmark on the island.


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Tourism

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Hotels How does the industry cope with economy crisis?

VIEWPOINTS

Hotels See Demand Increase Despite Drop in Business Travel

Russia’s Unrealized Potential Maya Lomidze SPECIAL TO RBTH

MARIA KARNAUKH SPECIAL TO RBTH

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ALEXANDRS MUDRATS / TASS

Hostels and high-end hotels alike are benefiting from the decline in the ruble, as Russians stay home and tourists from Asia move west.

Germans has dropped by almost 20 percent and the number of nights booked by French and American visitors fell by 25 and 30 percent, respectively. Higher-end hotels in Russia are seeing their occupancy rates increase as visitors realize that their local currency goes farther in Russia. “Guests can now stop not at the Holiday Inn, but at Intercontinental, not at the Courtyard, but at Marriott, and so forth,”Jenkins said. International real estate consulting firm Cushman & Wakefield marked an increase in the return per room in luxury segment hotels in Russia of 10 percent in the first quarter of 2015. The press service of the RitzCarlton confirmed the growth in demand, noting that the first quarter of 2015 was the best in the history of its Moscow property in terms of revenue.The press service attributed the success to the increase in occupancy, although the Ritz-Carlton declined to provide exact numbers. Representatives of foreign hotel operators prefer not to comment on how the political and economic situation in Russia affects their plans for business development. Hilton Worldwide said it was acting with caution. But Marina Smirnova, a partner with Cushman & Wakefield, said that hoteliers are moving ahead with plans to open properties in Russia’s regions. For example, a Hampton by Hilton hotel and a Hilton Garden Inn have both recently opened in the Urals city of Ufa. Smirnova attributed these projects to the increase in domestic tourism: “Foreign demand is relevant only for filling Moscow, St. Petersburg andVladivostok, while the remaining 92–95 percent are supported by domestic tourism.” Domestic tourists are also key to the growth of hostels in Russia, which charge as little as 500 rubles ($9) a night, even in the center of Moscow.“If two or three years ago about half of the guests were foreigners, today they make up no more than 10 percent,”said Andrei, the manager of the Columb Hostel in Moscow.

Tourism Russians offer hospitality to guests from across the globe

Couchsurfing Offers a New Look at Russia “I’ve found many good friends on the Couchsurfing site,” said William McGuinness, an American fromYonkers, N.Y., who lives in Moscow, although he noted that he has never actually stayed in a couchsurfing situation. “[Couchsurfers] are open, merry and unmaterialistic people. My friend Dima always plays guitar in every train trip and we sing. We often travel together. With them I’ve been to Nizhny Novgorod, Kostroma, Vologda, Izhevsk, Volgograd, Samara, Ekaterinburg, Arkhangelsk.” Kat Hodgson, a Colorado native who has often traveled to the Urals city of Ufa for work, said that while her employer pays for her to stay in a hotel, she used Couchsurfing to find a tour guide. Aliya Salimova“drove us around Ufa and pointed out landmarks, then took us to a Bashkir restaurant so we could try the local food. On our last night in Ufa, we didn’t have a hotel room, so Aliya hosted us,” Hodgson said, adding that she recommended Aliya to another American friend visiting Ufa to attend a hockey match two years later. Russian couchsurfers agree that foreigners are often surprised by the small size of typical Russian apartments and their tiny kitchens as well as by the custom of taking off shoes upon entering a house. They are also often surprised by the amount of vodka Russians don’t drink. “They are convinced that we drink vodka the whole day and are therefore surprised when they see we don’t,” said Maria, a couchsurfer from Kazan.

in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Yusup Yerazov from Grozny has been using Couchsurfing.com for only a year, but he has dozens of comments on his page from Russian, European and Chinese tourists. Another North Caucasus couchsurfer, Bagdat Tumalaev from Makhachkala in Dagestan, says that most of his guests are from Europe: Italy, Spain, Serbia, Switzerland, Germany and Cyprus.

Usually foreign guests are surprised by the small Russian apartments and the tradition of removing footwear at the entrance. ELENA DOLZHENKO SPECIAL TO RBTH

Even as hoteliers in Russia worry about the downturn in demand, the number of people couchsurfing in the country is on the rise. Alexei Korykin, who lives in the town of Blagoveschensk in the Amur Region of Russia’s Far East, has not been abroad for a long time. But he has hosted guests from Australia, Brazil, Germany, Moldova, South Korea and China, among others. “In our Far East such guests are rarities,” Korykin said. “My relatives from the village always invite me to bring my foreign friends so that they can see how people live in the village.” Foreigners who manage to travel to Blagoveschensk can expect significantly different experiences in Russia from those who only visit Moscow and St. Petersburg. “My guests find many unexpected things in Russia. For example, Germans Tim and Dominic saw a movie about the Great Patriotic War for the first time and even befriended a veteran. And a Canadian by the name of Felix would never forget his visit to the banya,”Korykin said, adding that the most difficult thing for foreign visitor to his hometown to cope with were the ticks. The map of Russian couchsurfing hosts has some interesting dynamics. For example, there are few users in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, but there are many

The map of Russian couchsurfing has few users in Sochi, but many in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. “There are many myths about Grozny, but I try to show the real city,” said couchsurfer Yusup Yerazov. “My guests often compare Makhachkala to Istanbul. Europeans like the local fruits and vegetables.”Tumalaev says that one problem his European guests have is that they are often vegetarians, and Caucasian cuisine is famous for grilled meats. “Guests coming to the Caucasus have always been treated specially. Tourists are fascinated by the local traditions, customs and cuisine. I try showing my guests the traditional Chechnya. There are many myths about Grozny, but I try to show them the realcity,”Yerazov said.

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he best phrase that characterizes Russia as a tourist destination is “big potential.“ This phrase can be applied to practically all the country’s regions and cities — with the exceptions perhaps of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi — and it means that there are opportunities for development. In most of Russia, there are interesting things to see, and cultural experiences that might attract tourists, both Russian and foreign, but these opportunities have not been realized. Perhaps because of the geopolitical situation, the past year has been a watershed in the Russian tourism industry. For the first time, Russia is actually making an effort to realize some of this potential and attract tourists. In 2014, for the first time, Russia’s state tourism agencies began the process of establishing tourism offices abroad. This year, Visit Russia offices have already opened in the United Arab Emirates and Germany, and offices are planned for China, Finland and Italy. The external political situation and the serious cooling between Russia and the West have had a significant impact on the positioning of Russia as a tourist market, and consequently on the demand from Western tourists. According to Russian tour operators, in 2014 sales volumes in this market decreased by 30–40 percent. The devaluation of the ruble, however, had a notable effect. When tours became cheaper, politics practically moved to the background. Political situations change, crises come and go, but people always travel, no matter what is happening. The main question is whether Russia is a real tourist destination or it just has the potential to become one.

T

Although traditionally business travelers made up most of the clientele in Russian hotels, today luxury chains and hostels alike are seeing a new kind of client.

While the geopolitical situation and sanctions banning firms in a number of industries from doing business in Russia have caused a precipitous drop in the number of business travelers, the dismal economic situation has actually helped fill hotel rooms on both the high and low ends of the market. Traditionally, Russian hotels have filled most of their rooms with business travelers rather than tourists. Today, however, this market segment has almost completely disappeared. Businesspeople are being replaced with leisure travelers — primarily from Asia — who are taking advantage of the cheap ruble to visit Russia and domestic tourists for whom the value of the local currency has made a vacation abroad prohibitively expensive. “Due to the decline in foreign business trips to Russia, Moscow hotels are turning today to tourist groups from China, Korea and India,” said David Jenkins, head of the hospitality department of the consulting company Jones Lang LaSalle. Carlson Rezidor, Russia’s largest international hotel operator, which manages 31 hotels under the brands Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson, confirms the shift of tourist flows to Asia, particularly China. “There is also a considerable interest on the part of tourists from Turkey and India. At the same time, some of our hotels maintain a sufficiently high proportion of tourists from Germany,” Carlson Rezidor P.R. and Communications regional manager Irina Zakharova said. According to the Department of Tourism of the Primorsky Territory in Russia’s Far East, the number of tourists from China arriving in the regional capital Vladivostok increased by 140 percent in the first three months of 2015 compared to the same period last year. The change in clientele is being felt in the luxury hotel segment as well as in hostels. The P.R. department of the The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow, said: “We are seeing a slight drop in [the number of tourists from] Western Europe, the U.S. market declined more strongly, but there is the influx of visitors from China, India, the Middle East and Latin America.” Anna Borovikova, the owner of two Moscow hostels, the 3 Penguins and Chocolate, estimates that the number of Chinese guests at her hostels has doubled in the past year while the number of

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LAKE BAIKAL (1996)

VOLCANOES OF KAMCHATKA (1996)

GOLDEN MOUNTAINS OF ALTAI

PUTORANA PLATEAU (2010)

LENA PILLARS

(1998)

IRKUTSK REGION AND THE REPUBLIC OF BURYATIA

KAMCHATKA TERRITORY

REPUBLIC OF ALTAI

KRASNOYARSK TERRITORY

REPUBLIC OF SAKHA (YAKUTIA)

The largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world, with a depth of 5,387 feet, Baikal is also among the world’s clearest and oldest bodies of water. Some estimates put Baikal’s age at 25 million years. Located in a rift valley, Baikal is still actively growing at the rate of about an inch per year. By surface area it is the seventh largest lake in the world, containing more water than the five Great Lakes combined. Among the most famous endemic inhabitants are the Baikal seal, the nerpa; the omul, a whitefish that is smoked and is associated with the lake; and the Baikal sturgeon.

When landing on Kamchatka, visitors often feel they are arriving on a different planet, such is the diversity of shapes protruding from the mist. Kamchatka features a wide assortment of volcano types — there are approximately 300 total volcanoes on the peninsula. Kamchatka has 29 active volcanoes. Featuring a gorgeous mix of volcanoes and glaciers, a unique location along the Pacific Ocean, and an abundance of diverse species that includes black bears, sea otters and Steller’s sea eagles, Kamchatka is incomparable to anywhere else on Earth.

The Altai Mountains connect Central Asia to the Arctic Ocean via the Ob River, which begins its journey north here. Many landscapes can be found here including the mountainous taiga, steppe, lake basins, valleys and mountain meadows. This area became part of the Russian Empire in the mid-18th century, yet it has been home to man for one million years. Paleolithic settlements can be seen near Gorno-Altaysk, the main city in the area. The territory remains sparsely populated by Russians and the native Altai people, who maintain their traditional way of life.

Located 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle at the northwestern edge of the Central Siberian Plateau in Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Putorana Plateau area is a classic pristine northern landscape including taiga, tundra and Arctic desert. It features arctic and subarctic ecosystems within the relative isolation of a mountain range. The surrounding area contains 25,000 lakes (Russia’s second largest supply of freshwater after Baikal), deep canyons, cold-water rivers, thousands of waterfalls and fjord-like natural constructions formed in the landscape.

Lena Pillars Nature Park area visual demonstration of the dramatic climate changes in the Sakha Republic. Created by shifting temperatures that range from highs of 104 Fahrenheit in the summer to lows of -76 Fahrenheit in the winter, these spectacular natural rock formations shoot up from 100–300 meters (up to 1,000 feet) towards the sky along the banks of the Lena River. The pillars consist of various layers of limestone, marlstone, dolomite and slate, with fossils discovered here from the Cambrian age, which scientists agree ended nearly 500 million years ago.

(2012)

Maya Lomidze is the executive director of the Russian Association of Tour Operators.

Come and See Russia for Yourself Dmitry Davydenko SPECIAL TO RBTH

f I was a tourist from, let’s say, France, I would definitely go to Russia. Why? To see new cities and a new country, to try the Russian cuisine and to drink some Russian vodka as the Russians drink it — from frozen shot glasses, accompanied by mushrooms or herring.To visit the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, to take a walk on Red Square in Moscow, to buy some souvenirs on the Arbat and then brag to my friends and neighbors back home about my trip to “authoritarian and aggressive” Russia. Possibly some of my friends would suspect that I support Putin’s regime. Then I would tell them that Russians are really worried about the situation in southeastern Ukraine, where many have friends and relatives. I would tell them about the man-made miracle of Sochi, the home of the 2014 Olympics, the first-rate all-year-round ski and beach resort built in an incredibly short period of time. The Olympic villages are still decorated with the flags of almost all the national teams that participated in the Sochi Olympics, reminding everyone that, besides political interests, there are more important events that unite the people of the world. But most importantly, I would tell them that before making conclusions about a country and its people, one should go there and see it with his or her own eyes. One should dive into its thousand-year history and culture, speak to the people and then compare it to what is being shown on TV and printed in newspapers. One should free him or herself of all stereotypes, of politics and everything related to it, and then fully enjoy the new impressions of a great country.

I

Dmitry Davydenko is Chairman of the Organizational Committee of the All-Russian Tourist Association.


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CAN ISIS BE THE KEY TO U.S.-RUSSIA COOPERATION? Vitaly Naumkin KOMMERSANT

he rapid advance of radical Islamic terrorist groups is one of the major concerns in global politics today. These groups represent a threat to both the United States and Russia, and as such could be one place — perhaps the only one — where the countries currently share a common interest and common goals. In the Middle East generally, like in the rest of the worl, Moscow and Washington are pursuing mostly assymetrical policies. The U.S. still remains a major buyer of Middle Eastern oil and a number of states in the region are strategic partners with bilateral security and defense treaties that include the hosting of American military bases. Russia, for its part, has relationships with countries in the region that are hostile to the United States, like Iran, and U.S. allies, like Turkey. But Russia does not have strategic ties in the region, as the U.S. does. On the whole, Moscow arguably does not have any vital interests in the Middle East, which should give little reason for the U.S. and Russia to disagree about overall policy there, even if there are disagreements over certain regimes. It follows, then, that there could be an opportunity for cooperation in the one place where the countries have a common interest — the fight against international terrorism and Islamic extremism. Russia and the United States both want stability in the Middle East. Even if we take the view of Russian officialdom at face value and accept that Washington has actually been seeking to promote regime change in the region, it could still cooperate with

T

KONSTANTIN MALER

Low profile?

Moscow is especially concerned about the growing numbers of jihadists from Russia fighting for ISIS.

U.S.–Russia cooperation, even in the areas of common interests, is affected by a number of constraints.

Moscow to fight the Islamic State. There are also possibilities for the U.S. and Russia to cooperate on bringing stability to countries like Libya, which at the moment is controlled by no one. It is no coincidence that realist American politicians, like Henry Kissinger, to name one, have criticized their country’s reckless intervention in the affairs of the countries in the region. Working together, however, perhaps Moscow and Washington could bring peace to such failed states.

f sociologists compiled a ranking of the most active media figures in Russia, one of the top three would almost certainly be the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov. Not a day goes by without his name topping news feeds and headlines. Early June was no exception. YouTube blocked a film about the Chechen leader made by oligarchin-exile Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia organization. Despite the block, anyone who wants to can watch this film without too much difficulty, but those looking for shocking exposés are likely to be disappointed. The Open Russia project does not lay bare any new facts; rather it systemizes and arranges everything that has already been done countless times in the media and via social networks (thanks in part to the efforts of the film’s protagonist). It is not the informational impact of the film that matters, but the fact that it was blocked, which demonstrates once again the considerable resources and influence that Kadyrov wields. The management style of “Chechnya’s CEO” is to take a hands-off approach — not only in the republic itself, but far beyond its borders. Also important is making friends and enlisting support, which can come in useful at any level of business administration.

I

However, U.S.-Russia cooperation is affected by a number of constraints. The main one is the deplorable state of bilateral relations and the resulting deep mistrust between the two governments due to the conflict in Ukraine. The damage to the bilateral relationship is so severe that, even once the Ukrainian crisis is settled, relations will take time to heal. More to the point, however, the United States and Russia have

Vitaly Naumkin directs the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Originally published in Kommersant

CO N V E RT I N G M O N O LO G U E S I N TO D I A LO G U E

TATIANA PERELYGINA

SPECIAL TO RUSSIA DIRECT

Ideologically the Chechen leader is fond of appealing to the traditions and history of his people. And surprisingly even his fiercest critics and opponents swallow the bait, reeling off statements about the “new stone age” in Chechnya. In actual fact, the political system of Ramzan Kadyrov is a product of more modern times. In contrast to other North Caucasus republics, where complex models exist to coordinate the interests of different spheres of influence, the Chechen system is de facto autocratic. In Chechnya,“Kadyrov” is not just the name of the leader. It represents the linchpin of the entire system. For centuries, Chechens have barely tolerated being a vassal state inside a feudal system. For them, Kadyrov is the supreme leader, regardless of his age. Such a radical turn of events did not just happen by itself. Some fundamental premises lay behind it. The first is the headlong degradation of the institutions of kinship, which began not yesterday but years ago. The process was rapidly accelerated by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the two military campaigns of the 1990s. Today the concept of teip (clan) is nothing more than a journalistic stereotype. That is not the only important premise. Whatever is written about“Chechnya’s special status,” it is worth bearing in mind the republic’s relationship with “Greater Russia”and what would

Barriers to collaboration

Nevertheless, Russia is willing to cooperate both with the West and with regional states in the fight against terrorism, noting its preference for working with legitimate governments. Moscow is especially concerned about the growing number of jihadists from Russia and Central Asia fighting for ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), a problem that has become more acute this spring. I think the need to stand together against a common threat will eventually prompt Washington and Moscow to make amends. But considering all the abovementioned constraints, the cooperation will likely be low-profile. At best, the parties will coordinate their efforts and share relevant information, while acting on their own. That said, even this kind of trust will be helpful for mending the rift between the countries.

russia-direct.org

TAKING STOCK OF KADYROV’S CHECHNYA Sergei Markedonov

differing views on which Islamic groups operating in the region — particularly in Syria — to support. On one hand, the United States supports several Islamist groups it considers moderate; Russia, however, believes these groups are almost as dangerous as the al-Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda branch operating in Syria and Lebanon. And, Washington, for its part, refuses to cooperate with the Syrian government, which is regarded by Moscow as an important partner in the fight against terrorism. Even if we assume there could be counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries, and it could be advanced to a level corresponding to the threat, Russia would also never agree to join any coalition led by the United States, and the U.S. will never refuse to be the leader. Russia, which has learned some valuable lessons from America’s (and its own) experience in the region, would likely refrain from conducting military operations in Arab countries, or even conducting airstrikes there, but instead would focus on making its influence felt in the U.N. Security Council.

Ideologically, the Chechen leader is fond of appealing to the traditions and history of his people. In actual fact, the political system of Ramzan Kadyrov is a product of more modern times. have happened if the Kremlin had not staked all on the policy of“Chechenization,”which meant counting not only on local cadres, but also on the personification of power. Chechnya in the 2000s became a symbol that Russia had put the years of disintegration following the collapse of the Soviet system behind it. Nowhere else in the former Soviet Union had a separatist territory come back under central control. However, the price of this symbolism was unprecedented political independence for the Chechen leadership.Whereas previously Chechnya existed under

a kind of “one country, two systems” concept (as in the case of China and Hong Kong), Kadyrov thinks in different categories. If you need a symbol of stability so much, then let me take part in shaping your agenda, he seems to say. At the moment, however, Moscow has little room to maneuver in negotiating with Kadyrov. Until a settlement is reached on Ukraine, the logic of avoiding confrontation in the Caucasus will persist. But the indulgence of such a confrontational leader — in unison with the Russia’s growing reactionary ideological mood — is tipping the country into the archaic past, while marginalizing it internationally, not only in the West, but also in the East. In China, which claims to be a strategic partner of Russia, experts are extremely skeptical about Chechen home rule, seeing it more as a sign of weakness than strength. Sergei Markedonov is an associate professor of foreign regional studies and foreign policy at the Russian State University for the Humanities.

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The Arts

RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

MOST READ Russia’s First Alexander Solzhenitsyn Museum Opens in

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BEHIND THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE

Theater Artistic expression under threat as conservative tide grows in Russia

The Hidden Meanings in the Names of Russian Writers

Modern Theater in Russia: to Be or Not to Be?

Alexey Mikheev SPECIAL TO RBTH

hen you read a name in a language you don’t understand, you just see its exotic qualities. For example, beginning students of Russian are often surprised to find out that the Bolshoi Theater just means the Big Theater. When it comes to surnames, there are often hidden layers of allusion — and sometimes irony — waiting to surprise the foreign reader. If we’re talking about famous Russian writers, then Leo Tolstoy is definitely the prose heavyweight in more ways than one. His name comes from the Russian word “tolstiy,” which means “plump” or “thick.” It is likely that the first member of Tolstoy’s ancient noble family was a rather large individual who got a nickname to suit his appearance. Although Englishspeaking readers know him as Leo, Tolstoy’s first name is Lev in Russian. This makes his choice of the surname Levin for a character in his famous novel “Anna Karenina” quite an interesting one. Perhaps Tolstoy is hinting at Levin’s role as an alter ego of the author himself. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s surname has geographical origins: Dostoevsky’s ancestors came from Dostoev, a Belarusian town. More interesting, perhaps, is the surname he gives to the main character in his famous novel “Crime and Punishment.” The name Raskolnikov is derived from the word “raskolnik,” which refers to a person who opposed the reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century. More broadly it means a dissenter and also contains the idea of “splitting apart” — as the church did ultimately split at that time. As well as the clear

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© ALEXANDR KRYAZHEV / RIA NOVOSTI

A reimagining of the opera “Tannhäuser” in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk ignited debate about freedom of artistic expression in Russia.

A series of recent bans on dramas and plays and instances of state interference indicates the country may be slipping into another era of artistic censorship. MARINA SHIMADINA SPECIAL TO RBTH

Earlier this year, Russia’s artistic community was shaken when the director of an opera company in the Siberian town of Novosibirsk was taken to court by a Russian Orthodox priest. Timofei Kulyabin, whose staging of Wagner’s opera“Tannhäuser” was in production at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater, was accused by the regional head of the Russian Orthodox Church of “improper use of religious symbols”and offending the rights of believers. Kulyabin had adapted the plot of the opera to the modern era, making the knight Tannhäuser a film director shooting a film about Christ inVenus’s grotto. The court acquitted Kulyabin, but Russia’s Ministry of Culture nevertheless decided to dismiss theater head Boris Mezdrich, despite protests from prominent Russian cultural figures. The“Tannhäuser”case is a worrying example of the increasing degree to which the state and the religious community are now interfering in the cultural sphere in Russia, often using legislation passed in the wake of the 2012 Pussy Riot scandal. After that incident, in which band members performed an antigovernment song in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a law was passed making it a criminal offense to publicly insult the feelings of religious believers. In the days of the Soviet Union, government censors made it clear what kind of artistic expression was permissible. Productions of

Soviet dramas and Russian classics were welcome, and the only “correct”approach was the Stanislavsky method. Even during the Khrushchev “thaw,”productions from the famous Taganka Theater were banned and director Yuri Lyubimov was labeled as“anti-Soviet” and deprived of his citizenship. During the perestroika era, a wave of freedom flooded Russia: Foreign theaters embarked on tours of the country, while Russian directors began staging Western literature and contemporary dramas, modernizing the theatrical language. Recently, however, it seems that conservative political trends have been trying to return the country to the times of stagnation.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

John Freedman MOSCOW-BASED THEATER CRITIC, EDITOR OF AN ANTHOLOGY OF NEW RUSSIAN DRAMA

"

In the 27 years I have lived in Russia I have never seen anything like what we are seeing today. The attacks on culture, art and artists seem to grow daily. Censorship has returned and the state seems quite proud of it. The state is increasingly trying to control art, to force artists to say what the state wants to hear, and to stop them from saying what it doesn’t want to hear. We have entered a mini-Dark Ages.”

No backing down A vivid example of the political pressure is the ongoing harassment of Moscow’s independent Teatr.doc, founded in 2002. The theater has staged a number of provocative plays on contemporary themes, including one on lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after exposing a huge fraud case involving Russian officials, and a satirical work by Dario Fo,“BerlusPutin,” comparing Russian President Vladimir Putin to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi. At the end of last year, the theater was evicted from its tiny basement home. Letters of support, including one from British playwright Tom Stoppard, did not help. But the theater did not give up: It found new premises and last month presented the play “The Bolotnaya Affair,” about the arrest of demonstrators at public protests in Moscow in 2012. The premiere again attracted the attention of the police and the authorities

Andrei Zvyagintsev FILM DIRECTOR OF RUSSIAN OSCAR NOMINEE LEVIATHAN

"

Russia’s status as a secular country is determined by the constitution. In Russia the church is separated from the state and cannot interfere in affairs that are not related to its immediate responsibility before the people.”

Boris Mezdrich FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE NOVOSIBIRSK OPERA AND BALLET THEATER

"

I am glad that I did not give in to pressure and give up on the opera (Ed. note Tannhauser). Unfortunately, it was not possible to stand firm to the end victoriously. But I am thankful to all who supported us.”

ordered a series of inspections. The authorities have also been paying attention to the Gogol Center, headed by well-known director Kirill Serebrennikov. Law enforcement agencies examined his production of Zakhar Prilepin’s “Otmorozki,” a work about young revolutionary groups, for elements of extremism. Later the government prohibited the screening of a British documentary film on Pussy Riot to be held at Gogol Center.

Watch out, religion! In the atheist Soviet Union, books, films and plays on religious themes were banned. Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Andrei Rublev remained“on the shelf”for over 20 years. In contemporary Russia, the situation is completely reversed: For “offending religious sentiment”an artist can now even be punished with a jail sentence. “Russia’s status as a secular country is determined by the constitution,”said Andrei Zvyagintsev, director of the Oscar nominated film“Leviathan.”“In Russia the church is separated from the state and cannot interfere in affairs that are not related to its immediate responsibility before the people.” The state’s active backing of religious believers has proven differently, however. Since the Tannhäuser case, protests by believers against artistic productions have grown. In Izhevsk, a clergyman was outraged by the grotesque characterization of a pope in the production of Pushkin’s “Blizzard” and filed a complaint with local authorities. In Moscow, Orthodox activists attacked Konstantin Bogomolov’s production of “The Ideal Husband” at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater by leaving a pig’s head at the door of the theater.

Read our updated literature section! rbth.com/literature

BIBLIOPHILE

Phoebe Taplin

Why are there so few translations of modern Russian literature in English? Is it not as interesting for publishers as the old classics? Well, let us face it. There are no writers today, in Russia or anywhere else I know, as great as the

FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVES

The courses you teach are devoted to single novels, including “Anna Karenina,” “The Brothers Karamazov,” “War and Peace” and “The Idiot.” Why have you chosen these? I chose these books because they are among the greatest works of world literature and the first three are, by common consent, the greatest novels written anywhere. Saying this means I do not agree with the common view among American academics that there is no such thing as intrinsic or objective literary value — the idea that value is just what hegemonic powers of oppression want you to believe has value. On the contrary, these great Russian novels tower over other great novels, in Russia and elsewhere. They probe the ultimate questions of human

This year you participated in the ceremony of the Read Russia literary prize, in which special jury awards were given to new translations of “Anna Karenina.” Why is this book still so popular that new translations keep appearing — even two new ones just this year? In part, Tolstoy is the greatest examiner of human consciousness who ever lived. The book also challenges prevailing views about love. People have accepted the same myth that Anna lives by, the myth of love as transcendent romance rather than everyday intimacy. That romantic myth is even more prevalent today than in Tolstoy’s time, and so his polemic against it strikes people as all the more relevant.

SPECIAL TO RBTH

HIS STORY NATIONALITY: AMERICAN AGE: 67 TEACHES: SLAVIC LANGUAGES

Gary Saul Morson studied Russian literature at Yale and Oxford, and is Frances Hooper Professor of the Arts and Humanities at Northwest-

classic Russian authors. It is harder to get people interested. Are there any modern Russian writers you like and find worth teaching in American universities? Which modern books can you recommend to your students? It depends on what you mean by modern. If Bulgakov and Solzhenitsyn are modern, then those are definitely worth teaching. I tend to think we do not know who will be a classic for at least 50 years, since people always overestimate the quality of current works. The reason is that all a writer has to do is endorse currently fashionable beliefs and he will seem profound.

Learn more about other Russian writers at rbth.com/39513

A Young American in the Midst of a Revolution

Great Russian Writing Probes the Questions of Life life — what makes a life meaningful, what is honesty, what responsibility we owe to others and similar timeless questions.

religious allusions, perhaps Dostoevsky is drawing attention to Raskolnikov’s dual nature, a murderer who is conflicted about his crime. Anton Chekhov’s surname dates back to the ancient Russian name Chekh, or Chokh, which in turn relates to the verb“chikhat”— to sneeze. You might get this nickname if you suffered from chronic head colds or sneezed a lot. We don’t know how the patients of Chekhov, who was a doctor as well as a writer, reacted to the name, but it might have raised a few smiles to be treated by Dr. Sneezer. Boris Pasternak’s surname is the Russian word for “turnip.” In contrast to the author’s humble, unassuming name, the protagonist of his famous novel “Doctor Zhivago”clearly comes from good stock. The ending“ago”is one that is only found in noble names, while the “zhiv” part alludes to the Russian word for “living.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s family name comes from the term for the profession of malt processing. Traditionally, Solzhenitsy would have been malters. In Solzhenitsyn’s most famous work, “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” the hero’s surname, Shukhov, seems to be a variation of Sashukha — the most affectionate Russian nickname for the name Alexander. Vladimir Nabokov’s surname comes from the word“nabokii”– which means“lopsided,”or“falling to one side.” The émigré began to write in English during the latter part of his life, and when he achieved success in America with the publication of“Lolita,”Nabokov observed that his surname proved exceptionally difficult for Americans to pronounce: they always called him Nabakov or Nabukov.

LITERATURE

INTERVIEW GARY SAUL MORSON

Gary Saul Morson, a professor of Slavic literature at Northwestern University and one of the foremost authorities on Russian literature in the United States, spoke to RBTH about his love for Tolstoy, the ongoing popularity of the Russian classics and what, if anything, politicans can gain from studying literature.

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ern University. The class he teaches on “The Brothers Karamazov” and “Anna Karenina” is the bestenrolled class on Russian literature in North America as well as the most popular one at Northwestern. He has written 10 books and edited eight books, three of which are translations of Russian literature.

Do you think reading Russian literature could help American politicians better understand their Russian colleagues? Politicians are not great readers of literature. But if the educational system that shapes them includes great literature, they will develop the habit of seeing the world from perspectives other than their own. Americans have a tendency to think that everyone wants to be just like them, and so understand Russians, and other people as well. Literature helps overcome that narrowness. Interview prepared by Alexandra Guzeva and Elena Bobrova

TITLE: AN AMERICAN DIPLOMAT IN BOLSHEVIK RUSSIA AUTHOR: DEWITT CLINTON POOLE PUBLISHER: UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN PRESS

n August 1917, DeWitt Clinton Poole, a young American diplomat, arrived in Vladivostok and caught the last regular trans-Siberian train to Moscow. Upon arrival in the Russian capital, he soon found himself at the center of the Russian revolution. Many years later, just months before he died, Poole recorded his experiences, which had a direct impact on U.S.- Soviet relations. More than 60 years after his death, two historians have edited these reminiscences to produce the first published edition of Poole’s extraordinary story. Their conscientious footnotes, sometimes longer than the original text, supply extra information, like the backstories of characters glimpsed in passing, historical references or corrections to Poole’s lapses of memory. The resulting book is interesting on a number of levels: it is a firsthand record of historical events, including Allied and American interventions in Arkhangelsk. Poole recalls the assassination of the German ambassador and the brutality of the “Red Terror.” He worked to rescue European diplomats and frequently visited the notorious Lubyanka prison before fleeing via Finland in 1919.

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Then there are Poole’s sometimes prophetic observations, like the dangers of the U.S. trying to “impose its so-called American way of life on the world,” or the fact that in Russia “power outside the Kremlin cannot be tolerated.” In some ways, these are the most fascinating parts of the book. Poole’s philosophical asides include sadness that “the determined and courageous are killed while the cautious and timorous survive,”and the realization that “organized life has a tremendous momentum,” even amid rifle fire and shelling. Trains provide a recurring motif in Poole’s narrative, from the sealed train that brings Lenin home from Swiss exile to the legendary transSiberian. Rail workers’ unions play a crucial role and thousands of miles of railway take Poole south “across the Steppes” to Rostov or north to safety. Poole’s account strives for objectivity, although his view is unavoidably partial. His account provides a nice contrast with famous memoirs such as John Reed’s “Ten Days that Shook the World.” Whereas Reed, a journalist with communist sympathies, is rooting for the rioting Bolsheviks, Poole was an establishment figure whose main concerns were evacuating American citizens and charting possible futures for diplomacy. Whereas Reed sees an unstoppable tide,“sweeping into history at the head of the toiling masses,” Poole is struck by many Russians’ indifference to events that were “reshaping their lives.”Poole’s reminiscences may lack the vigor of Nigely Farson’s autobiography as he reports from Red Square, but historians will be perusing these documents for decades to come.


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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES

MOST READ Cosmic Crab, Star Salmon and Space Sturgeon:

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What’s on a Cosmonaut’s Menu? rbth.com/45141

Food The city on the Neva tries to create a unique culinary style to appeal to tourists attracted by its museums and palaces

Getting a Taste of St. Petersburg a seasonal fish and the season does not last long. Its cucumber smell, the true sign of a freshly caught smelt, can be detected in Petersburg only in April–May.” Ivan Berezutsky, who manages the kitchen in St. Petersburg’s PMI Bar and the Moscow restaurant Twins, agrees with Grozny in part.“When people speak about Petersburg cuisine, they are basically speaking about Petersburg cuisine in the times of Imperial Russia, in the 19th century when it was in its golden age. But it is still too early to speak about contemporary Petersburg cuisine because it is still not fully developed.” PMI Bar features local products in a special tasting menu of dishes of northwest Russia: smelt, White Sea mussels, kelp and wood sorrel.

Russia’s northern capital tries to make a name for itself in the culinary world by recreating the favorite dishes of famous residents. IRINA KRUZHILINA SPECIAL TO RBTH

PRESS PHOTO

Favorite dishes

Several restaurants in St. Petersburg, including the one at the Ambassador Hotel, are already including the soup Pushkin shchi on their menus.

ALASTAIR GILL

Visitors to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum June 18–20 will have the opportunity to try Pushkin shchi, a special type of cabbage soup named in honor of Russia’s greatest poet and resident of St. Petersburg. The soup, crafted for the event, is part of an effort by the St. Petersburg city government to promote local cuisine. While Russia’s northern capital is renowned for its palaces, parks, museums and theaters, few visitors make any comments on popular travel websites about the city’s food. Now the city government is taking steps to change that. More than a year ago, the city’s Committee on External Relations began discussing the promotion of St. Petersburg cuisine as a way of marketing the city to tourists, and now the project is coming to fruition. Dmitri Melnikov, the general director of the Solo Sokos Hotel Vasilyevsky, said that St. Petersburg cuisine should be something simple, not the kind of intricate, molecular cuisine that has been trendy in recent years. “There are many places that offer simple and comprehensible dishes, those familiar to Russians since childhood,” said Melnikov. “People are now interested in national cuisine, which currently combines old recipes and Soviet classics. In our hotel we have foreign and domestic guests, which is why in our menu we’ve created a Russian section: borsch, pelmeni, chicken Kiev, beef stroganoff, vinaigrette and the Stolichny salad (a form of chicken salad).” Melnikov named smelt as a particular speciality of St. Petersburg. The small fish is caught in

Akyan Hotel chef Denis Ustinov researched old Russian recipes and discovered that few recipes for dishes made before Peter the Great’s time remain in use.

the spring from the waters of the Gulf of Finland, and every May a smelt festival is held on the city’s Vasilyevsky Island. Lev Lurye, a historian and ethnographer, says that there is no such thing as old Russian cuisine, and what is considered old now is actually the cuisine of imperial Russia. The kind of food that existed before Peter the Great — such as tyurya, a soup with turnips and bread, and giant pieces of boiled meat — have fallen into oblivion. “St. Petersburg cuisine, which is rather young, like the city itself, which was founded in 1703, is a unique blend of Finnish and German cuisines and local products,” said Lurye.“The residents of St. Petersburg adapted French recipes only in the 19th century. And if we were to look for the differences between Petersburg and Moscow cuisines, we could say that they are rather

clear: in Petersburg, people drink coffee instead of tea, eat sandwiches instead of pies and obviously the Baltic smelt, the cloudberry, the cowberry and the cranberry.”

“St. Petersburg cuisine is rather young, like the city itself, which was founded in 1703,” said historian Lev Lurye. Outside influence One of the essential dishes in 19th century Petersburg restaurants was sterlet served in champagne. In her book on St. Petersburg restaurants, historianYulia Demidenko writes:“The unification of the Volga sterlet and French sparkling wine demonstrated the complex mix of two completely different products, as well as the incredible opulence that only the most

brilliant court of the time possessed.” Restaurant critic Dmitry Grozny compares St. Petersburg cuisine of the 1800s to Moscow cuisine in the 2000s. “As in the 2000s, when an enormous number of Italian chefs flooded oil-rich Russia, 200 years ago French chefs flocked to the beautiful capital of a huge empire to make some money,” Grozny said. “What were the names of the fashionable restaurateurs of the time? Dominique, Dusseau, Borel, Donon, Legrand.” Grozny believes that there is nothing wrong with borrowing foreign experience, but he stresses that a real culinary brand can be created only with the use of local products. “The dorado and the sea bass won’t help us,”Grozny said.“But we have the smelt, a fish that has its own cult, its own mythology. The problem is that the smelt is

As the Pushkin shchi indicates, the drive to develop a unique St. Petersburg cuisine has also involved recreating the favorite recipes of the city’s famous residents. Alexandra Smirnova-Rosset, a lady-in-waiting at the imperial court, wrote about a dinner at Pushkin’s house in her memoirs: “I loved supping at Pushkin’s. Supper consisted of shchi or green soup with boiled eggs… large chopped cutlets with spinach or sorrel and for dessert there was jam with white gooseberries.” The Pushkin shchi recipe was developed from memoirs like this and others. The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is not the only place where it will be possible to taste the famous shchi. The restaurants at the Ambassador and the Akyan Hotels have already put the soup on their permanent menus along with the blini of Arina Rodionova, Pushkin’s nanny, which have been immortalized in Russian literature. These blini are known for their delicate rosy color, which is obtained by adding beet juice.

DISCOVER RUSSIA TOGETHER

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Learn Russian! Food - еда (yeh-dah) Buckwheat Porridge - гречневая каша (greych-ne-vay-ah ka-shah) Pelmeni – пельмени (pehl-mye-nee) Tulsky Gingerbread – тульcкий пряник (toolsky pryah-nik) Vinaigrette – Винегрет (vi-nee-gryet) Ossetian Pie – осетинский пирог (osseh-tin-skee pi-rohg) Syrniki (cottage cheese pancakes) – сырники (syr-ni-kee)

sen n es ch for as a s r pi lun Sou art of summe e com okros n p d gn l e O i l e a l . , i t ans winter p is ca pped v i s s Ru as in ou f cho er s o l is wel summ de up ish a n . o m t er d ed a m s i e m t m m .I pp hka les and ular su of cho . s p etab her po a salad otatoe t p , o e d n t t n A ts a igre vina s, carro t bee

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NATALYA MIKHAYLENKO

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FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVES

Across 3. These dumplings are a favorite of Russian kids 5. This summer soup is served cold 8. Chak-Chak comes from this part of Russia Down 1. Cottage cheese pancakes are eaten for this meal 2. Ossetian pies are filled with this 4. Tulsky gingerbread is filled with this 6. The main ingredient in vinaigrette 7. Chak-Chak is fried dough covered with this 9. These fish are popular in St. Petersburg

Vladimir Mukhin is the chef at the White Rabbit restaurant in Moscow. He’s only 32, but his cooking is already famous. Last month, his restaurant — which is decorated with themes from the book “Alice in Wonderland” — was named one of the Top 25 restaurants in the world. It was the only Russian restaurant on the list. He began cooking in the restaurant where his father worked and later studied cooking in college. He says that his favorite food to cook is fish, but his favorite thing to eat is desserts and that he has loved chocolate since he was a kid.

Learn more about Russian food in the Russian Kitchen section on our website! Get an easy recipe for a fruity dessert called marmalade at rbth.com/46483

HAVE AN IDEA FOR RBTH FOR KIDS? WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A KID IN RUSSIA? WRITE TO US AT US@RBTH.COM!

RBTH Insert in the New York Times, June 18, 2015  

In this issue: Hotels see demand increase despite drop in business travel, Russia’s image problem puts a damper on international tourism, an...

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