Methane concern grows
The grand manor
Thawing of the permafrost may impact global climate change
The mansion Australia's ambassadors call home
This supplement is sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, which takes sole responsibility for its contents and is wholly independent of Fairfax Media. The supplement did not involve Fairfax Media editorial staff in its production.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Distributed with The Age. Other distribution partners include: The International New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, Le Figaro, El Pais, Mainichi Shimbun. See the full list at page 8.
Russian ballet dances down under
FORMER BOLSHOI SOLOIST'S TOURING COMPANY BRINGS THE BEAUTY OF SWAN LAKE TO AUSTRALIA
PAGE 3 MARK OLICH
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IN PICTURES AND NUMBERS
US raises pressure on arms
WORKING HOURS RUSSIANS VIE WITH GREEKS TO BE HARDEST-WORKING
As the US hits Russia with fresh sanctions targeting arms and aircraft manufacturers, experts are speaking of a further deterioration in US-Russian relations. As the war of words between Russia and the West continues to simmer, the US is raising the pressure on Russia, with Washington justifying a set of new restrictions on the basis of the crisis in Ukraine and the issue of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. On September 2, Washington announced the extension of the sanctions list drawn up to punish Russia for what is widely seen as its illegal annexation of Crimea and its fomenting of a conflict between pro-autonomy rebels and government forces in eastern Ukraine. As part of the latest round of economic measures, another five Russian companies were placed on the sanctions list, on charges of vio-
The US has broadened its sanctions against Russia and is now hitting its defence industry hard.
nology to Iran, Syria and North Korea by major representatives of the Russian defence industry and manufacturers of missiles and aircraft. Observers have asked why the companies are being
lating US law on the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction in relation to third countries. The new sanctions are said to be in response to the alleged transfer of missile tech-
targeted now when they have long been suspected of violating the non-proliferation regime.
This is the average number of working hours per person in Australia a year, according to the OECD data, with productivity at $US55.20 an hour.
Germany, which has one of the strongest economies in Europe, has 1393 working hours per person per year with productivity at $US62.3 an hour.
Aeroflot swallows nearest competitor
Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, has decided to buy 75 per cent of the country’s second-largest airline, Transaero, which has a debt of 159 billion roubles ($US2.36b). The purchase, which was made for a symbolic fee of one rouble, has moved the industry closer to monopoly. “Transaero’s activity will be fully restructured and integrated in the Aeroflot group,” RIA Novosti quoted an official Aeroflot representative as saying. A company press release stated that Aeroflot had sent Transaero its offer on September 3, and that the decision was made after a meeting headed by
According to the latest data from the OECD, in terms of hours worked Russia trails only Europe’s most indebted nation, Greece, with Russians working 1982 hours per person a year. In terms of productivity, measured as value created per hour worked, Russia is behind every country in Europe at just $US25.90.
Transaero will be integrated into the Aeroflot group.
First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. “For the aviation industry this means consolidation and a move towards monopolisation, and in this particular case, government monopolisation,”said Anna Bazoyeva, analyst at investment company UFS. According to Bazoyeva, while on the one hand this is a step back from a market economy, on the other hand, at a time of crisis the creation of such a giant presents more advantages than disadvantages. In 2014 the two companies carried 51.5 per cent of all Russian passengers. Aeroflot’s Russian passenger flow was 34.7 million people and Tr a n s a e r o ’s w a s 1 3 . 2 million. According to the Federal Air Transport Agency, a total of 93 million people flew in Russia last year.
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New Google logo created by Russian designer
2D AMONG US
Russian designer Denis Kortunov is the creator of the new Google logo unveiled on September 1, the DailyTech media reported. Kortunov, who works for the Swiss software company Acronis, proposed his own version of the Google logo in 2008, in an article on his blog which was critical of the Google favicon. In an interview with Russian internet media VC, Kortunov confirmed that he agreed that Google could use his logo after the company had approached him about it.
A new online community depicts characters from cartoons, movies, paintings and video games in Russian settings. ASIA.RBTH.COM/MULTIMEDIA/394733
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Snowden: Russia was last resort for me 2013 federal law banning homosexual propaganda as an example. “I’ve been quite critical of it [the law] in the past and I’ll continue to be in the future,”he said.“This drive that we see in the Russian government to control more and more of the internet, to control more and more of what people are seeing, […] deciding what is the appropriate or inappropriate way for peo-
ple to express their love for one another [...] is fundamentally wrong.” Snowden also said seeking asylum in Russia had been a last resort for him, and that he had applied for asylum in a total of 21 countries. In 2013, Russia granted Snowden temporary asylum for one year, and in 2014, he was given a three-year residency permit which allows him to travel freely.
Need some Putinspiration in your day? See a popular Instagram account for some presidential words of wisdom. REUTERS
American whistleblower Edward Snowden publicly criticised the Kremlin for its stances on internet freedom and homosexuality when he accepted a Norwegian freedom of speech award on September 5. The former National Security Agency (NSA) subcontractor accused the Russian authorities of disregarding the rights of sexual minorities, highlighting Russia’s
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SWAN LAKE VENUES AND DATES
Ballet Bolshoi soloist's itinerant dance company showcases Russian ballet to the world
Classical dance's timeless appeal
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The Imperial Russian Ballet company has a troupe of 40 dancers, who come from Russia's most prestigious ballet academies in Moscow and Perm.
RBTH talks to the energetic Gediminas Taranda, a former soloist at the Bolshoi Ballet, whose dance company is touring Australia, performing Swan Lake. KATHERINE TERS RBTH
Gediminas Taranda, artistic director of the Imperial Russian Ballet, always travels with his itinerant dance company and is on the road about seven months of the year. The Imperial Russian Ballet presents classical ballet to international and Russian audiences, and is currently touring Australia with Swan Lake. Created in 1994, the company built a reputation in Russia in the 1990s for bringing high-quality performances to regional cities and towns. For some Russians, this was their first opportunity to see a level of performance which until then had mostly only been accessible in cultural centres such as Moscow, St Petersburg and Perm. Russia’s most prestigious ballet companies – the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and St Petersburg’s Mariinsk Ballet (also known by its Soviet name the Kirov) – rarely travel to regional cities. “The Mariinsky and the Bolshoi are the icebreakers of ballet in Russia,”Taranda
said. “Our company is more like a small ship, and we can reach the smaller islands.” Since the company started touring internationally, it has continued the tradition of venturing outside big cities. In this year’s Australian tour, it will perform in five capital cities and 19 regional centres, including Albury, Geelong and Shepparton in Victoria and Port Macquarie, Newcastle and Wollongong in New South Wales.
The company built a reputation in Russia for bringing classical ballet to regional cities and towns Taranda, who exudes passion for what he does, isn’t as well known outside Russia as he is at home. This is perhaps because at the height of his dancing career, the KGB banned him from leaving the USSR, following perceived misconduct on tour in Mexico in 1984. Taranda, 54, was born in Kaliningrad to a Lithuanian father and Cossack mother. He studied at Moscow’s Academy of Choreography and as soon as he graduated was given the lead in the Bolshoi's production of Don Quixote – an unprecedented honour at the theatre. Even comical-
ly falling on stage in this debut performance, following an altercation with his leg-warmers, didn’t stop Taranda from becoming one of Russia’s most renowned contemporary ballet soloists. Despite his popularity when he was performing with the Bolshoi, Taranda’s relationship with the theatre’s long-standing artistic director Yury Grigorovich was tense. It eventually became so strained that Taranda was fired in 1993. This was the impetus for him to set up his own company, which he did with input from and in collaboration with various figures from the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky, including the celebrated Soviet dancer Maya Plisetskaya, who died in May this year. Before the 1917 revolution, the Mariinsky Ballet company, which dated back to the 18th century, was called the Russian Imperial Ballet, and Taranda chose to resurrect the name for his troupe. Since then, his company’s international reputation has grown. When talking about his tour to Australia, he admitted he was a little surprised that Australians were so interested in classical ballet. “I didn't expect there to be so many ballet schools here,” he said. And as a father and the
Dance legend Anna Pavlova Anna Pavlova was born in St Petersburg in 1881. After seeing a performance at the Mariinsky Theatre as a child, she studied at the Imperial Ballet School and made her debut at the same venue. Known for her unconventional and romantic style, the ethereal Pavlova became the principal artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet and the Ballets Russes. Best known for creating the role of The Dying Swan, a solo that was choreographed for her by Michel Fokine, Pavlova went on to found her own company and tour the world. She visited Australia in 1926 and 1929, not long before her death from pleurisy in 1931. On her deathbed she apparently said: "If I can't dance I'd rather be dead. So can you prepare my swan costume?"
Taranda credits Anna Pavlova with popularising the image of classical ballet in Australia
FRI OCT 9 8PM, SAT OCT 10 8PM, SUN OCT 11 2PM › bass.net.au
founder of a ballet school himself, it’s not surprising that he is passionate about helping kids develop an appreciation for this classical art form. “The number of children learning ballet in Australia prompted me to decide to bring The Nutcracker here in 2016,” he said.“This is a performance which we’re putting a lot of energy into and which I hope Australian kids will really enjoy.” Taranda credits Anna Pavlova with popularising the image of classical ballet here. “When I was researching Australia, I discovered that she had toured here and that her performances had left a profound and lasting impression on the country,” he said. Neil Croker, CEO of the Palais Theatre in Melbourne, where the Imperial Ballet has been performing since 2010, is of the same opinion. “We fell in love with Pavlova and Ballets Russes in the early 20th century,” Croker said. “Standing ovations at previous Imperial Russian Ballet performances tell us that our audiences still enjoy Russian ballet presenting the classics. “This year we’re particularly looking forward to the soloists Lina Seveliova and Nariman Bekzhanov, who have performed beautifully in previous productions.”
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NEW EYE-CATCHING DESIGN
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CLIMATE CHANGE PERMAFROST RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS SAY THAT EMISSIONS FROM MELTING ARCTIC PERMAFROST ARE GOING TO AFFECT OUR CLIMATE FAR MORE THAN WE THOUGHT
RESEARCHERS SOUND ALARM ON BIG THAW YANA PCHELINTSEVA SPECIAL TO RBTH
A team of Russian scientists has spent years examining thermokarst lakes – bodies of water formed by thawing of permafrost that are sources of carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Recently, the lakes have began to grow in size – some are hardly recognisable on satellite images from a few years ago. As well, in certain Arctic areas the coastline has shifted by as much as 70 metres in just two or three years. An even more serious issue than the thawed lakes is the question of carbon emissions in the Arctic continental shelf. For more than 20 years, researchers at Tomsk State University have been studying the western Siberian sub-
arctic, an important natural zone of the northern hemisphere. Their main research facility is the Khanymey scientific station, in a village in Russia’s Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area. The local wetlands are several times larger than those in Scandinavia, Canada and Alaska. “The soil’s organic carbon, or peat, transforms into car-
The scale of emissions shows that underwater Arctic permafrost has been degrading severely bon dioxide the fastest while in water,” says Sergei Kirpotin, head of the TSU BioKlimLand research centre. “Over 80 per cent of subarctic Siberia is covered by thermokarst lakes. “But the scale of the carbon dioxide flow has still not been evaluated by anyone, and neither has been
Read, watch and listen to RBTH’s weekly analytical program, featuring three of the most high-profile recent developments in international affairs. ENGAGING THE WEST
the chemical composition of the water.” The researchers have discovered that smaller lakes with a surface area under 100 square metres, which are virtually undetectable from satellites and do not show up on any maps, emit several times more greenhouse gases than bigger ones. There are millions of such tiny lakes in the Siberian tundra. However, due to their negligible size, until recently they had not been taken into account within existing carbon exchange models. Because of the increasing thawing of the permafrost in western Siberia, the bigger thermokarst lakes could soon break up into many smaller ones, the scientists say. “This may well lead to a tenfold increase of greenhouse gases and dissolved organic carbon emissions into rivers and the Arctic,” Kirpotin says. Of more concern are the processes that occur within the Arctic continental shelf, where carbon emissions (methane and carbon dioxide) are already significantly affecting the Earth’s climate. “Five years ago, we discovered that the massive methane emissions that occur in the seas of the western Arctic are about two times bigger than the emissions of this greenhouse gas in all the seas of the world ocean,” says geochemist Igor Semiletov of Pacific Oceanological Institute and Tomsk Polytechnic. In 2014, an international research team led by Semiletov set sail to the Arctic Ocean on board the Oden icebreaker science vessel to complete a scientific mission. The researchers were the first to examine the waters of the outer west Arctic continental shelf at depths below 50 metres. It turned out that carbon emissions in the shelf zone were much more serious than expected. Up to several hundred grams of methane per square metre of the west Arctic continental shelf is emitted every day. The scale of emissions shows the underwater Arctic permafrost has been degrading severely.
Layar scan or visit link below for more images of Russia’s new crater holes. asia.rbth.com/44009
The Arctic permafrost thaw is now irreversible, Russian researchers say, citing studies of both western Siberian soil and the Arctic continental shelf.
About 60 per cent of Russia's territory is covered with permafrost.
What is permafrost? Permafrost is soil, rock or sediment that has been frozen for more than two consecutive years and stores carbon. According to data from the Earth Cryosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Siberian branch, more than 60 per cent of Russia is covered by a layer of permafrost. Across the world permafrost covers a quarter of the total landmass. There is often a thin layer of soil above permafrost which thaws in summertime, allowing plant life to be supported. This is called an active layer, and its thickness varies by year and location.
Methane a cause for concern Alexey Kokorin WWF RUSSIA
We know that the Arctic seas emit two gases – carbon dioxide and methane. The Arctic is not going to become a significant source of carbon dioxide. But in the case of methane, the region could potentially get into the top five of all sources of greenhouse gases, both anthropogenic and natural. The concentration of methane in the atmosphere is growing very slowly, though, unlike the concentration of carbon dioxide which is rapidly increas-
ing. Therefore, either methane emissions in the Arctic are currently small, even though the potential for emissions is huge, or the situation with methane, as with other greenhouse gases, is more complicated than we think. Methane can break down, and unlike carbon dioxide, it stays in the atmosphere for only 12 years. The concern with methane is that it is a powerful contributor to the greenhouse effect. The potential of methane release in the Arctic is an important reason why transition to renewable energy sources should be an urgent priority.
SEA SPONGES ON THE FRONT LINE OF FIGHTING CANCER asia.rbth.com/48585
Geology Permafrost thaw will release greenhouse gases
Mysterious holes may affect climate Scientists are saying that the holes that recently formed on Russia's Yamal Peninsula are a result of a serious degradation of permafrost in the region. GLEB FEDOROV RBTH
FACTS ABOUT PERMAFROST
The Arctic seabed has the same geological structure as that found in the Yamal Peninsula. Most of what is now the Arctic seabed was 10-15,000 years ago land with permafrost formations.
The permafrost which covers 60 per cent of Russia's territory is a huge reservoir of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, a gas which is known to contribute to climate change.
Climate Warming may be accelerated by craters forming in northern Siberia
Expeditions seek answer to hole riddle Scientific expeditions to the new crater-like hole on the Yamal Peninsula have provided fresh information and new theories about how these holes form. VICTORIA ZAVYALOVA RBTH
When it was first discovered in the summer of 2014, scientists suggested that the mysterious new crater-like hole that had been found on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia’s north-west was likely to turn into a lake. And a recent scientific expedition found that a lake had indeed started to form in the hole and was already 10 metres deep. Vasily Bogoyavlensky, head of the expedition and a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oil and Gas, told RBTH that
several Arctic lakes might be the result of similar craters. Researchers have also proposed a new hypothesis: that the origins of most roundshaped tundra lakes on the Yamal Peninsula are linked to thermal gas. According to Bogoyavlensky, the process happens in places where there is paleocongelation and underground ice. As a result of climate change, hills are emerging in these areas, up to two kilometres in diameter and dozens of metres high. “They look exotic against the flat tundra landscape,” Bogoyavlensky said.“Gradually, from high temperatures, the hills disappear and form craters. A year ago, after the Yamal crater was formed, we learned that they can also explode.” In 2014, three expeditions
were dispatched to study the crater. All of them came up with different theories as to its origins. The first was proposed by scientists from the Trofimuk Institute of Petroleum Geol-
The origins of most round-shaped tundra lakes on the Yamal Peninsula are linked to thermal gas ogy and Geophysics in Novosibirsk. They say the crater is at the junction of two large faults that cross the peninsula. They think that this area was heated by warmth coming up from the Earth’s core along the cracks in the crust, as well as from above from warm summer temperatures in 2014.
There was also an emission of gas hydrates, which are present on the peninsula, both deep underground and on the surface. The scientists believe that these are the same processes that occur in the Bermuda Triangle. Three new craters have been located. The largest is 30 kilometres from Bovanenkovo, in the region of a large gas deposit. The hole’s diameter of about 40 metres is increasing. It is thought that the hole appeared in spring 2014 or autumn 2013. The second, which like the third was found by deer herders, most likely appeared in September 2013. The third was discovered in April 2012. The second and third holes are similar in dimensions, with diameters of about 15 metres.
The Russian vessel Bravenit almost sank in the Pechora Sea in 1995 as a result of an underwater gas explosion that occurred while a shallow engineering shaft was being drilled.
The only other holes like the ones that mysteriously appeared on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia’s north-west are at the bottom of the Arctic seas. However, according toVasily Bogoyavlensky of the Russian Academy of Sciences, even those holes have never been properly studied. What this means is that scientists really don’t know where and why holes like this can form. If they really are like the holes in the Kara, Pechora, Barents and other seas (which are called pockmarks and which are formed as a result of natural gas explosions), this could be a cause for concern. According to Bogoyavlensky, the Arctic seabed has, as far as we know, the same geological structure as the Yamal Peninsula, with one exception: the peninsula is covered with a thick layer of permafrost. “The majority of what is now the Arctic seabed 10 to 15,000 years ago was land with permafrost formations,” he said.“Apart from that, this huge area was covered by a powerful glacier, part of which survives to this day in Greenland.” Bogoyavlensky added that since there are hundreds and
Several large holes formed on the Yamal Peninsula.
thousands of pockmarks on the seabed, this could indicate that further degradation of the permafrost will lead to new holes in the future. Permafrost in this region is a reservoir of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, which is known to contribute to climate change. Since the permafrost covers such an enormous area, its thawing and other connected processes are likely to have a direct impact on the global climate. Marina Liebman, a doctor of geological and mineralogical sciences, supports this theory. A permafrost expert with more than 40 years’ experience, she was one of the first to arrive at the new hole near Bovanenkovo last year. Asked whether she thought the topography of the Yamal Peninsula was suited to these cavities, Leibman said: “It's
not the case, of course, that the entire topography is suitable since specific conditions need to come together in one location for this to happen. “It's connected to the type of rocks found near the surface and it depends on the geological cross-section, the gas content in the rocks and on the amount of ice [in the soil].” Leibman said that if the ice content is high and the density of ice is half that of rock, processes come into play which work to redistribute matter in the soil. She added that the gas would need to be at a depth affected by warmth seeping down into the rock from above. “It would take several decades for the present rise in temperature to reach down to a depth of 100 metres,”Liebman said. “I think that the temperature wave would have travelled 20 metres underground by 2012. Where the hole formed, the soil had thawed to a depth of 73 centimetres.” As Leibman noted, there is a similar hole at Taymyr in northern Siberia, and in theory this could also happen in Chukotka (in the Far East). But there is no reason to expect new holes to appear below 69-70º in the north. “Around 10,000 years ago it was warmer than it is now, so the permafrost had melted in more southerly latitudes. The permafrost at these latitudes isn’t solid any more, but is isolated and under deep lakes and interrupted by river valleys.Whatever needs to escape [methane], has already escaped long ago. “There is no longer any need for the gas to fracture the permafrost since it can escape via the rocks which have thawed out.”
RUSSIA’S NOT JUST A EUROPEAN COUNTRY See Russia’s relations with Asian nations through the eyes of our bloggers. Continental drift a s i a . r b t h . c o m /c o n t i n e n t a l _ d r i f t Russians in Asia Pacific a s i a . r b t h .co m /r u s s i a n s _ i n _ t h e _ a s i a - p a c i f i c Lo o k i n g E a st asia.rbth.com/looking_east
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Heritage Ambassadors reside in style in a pre-Revolution art nouveau showpiece with a fascinating history Architect Fyodor Schechtel designed the home and its interiors, fixtures and fittings.
Schechtel strove to make his designs original and striking.
Since 1959 Australian ambassadors to Russia have been lucky enough to live in a renowned heritage home, which was built at the turn of the 20th century. DARIA STRELAVINA RBTH
For more than half a century, an enchanting art nouveau building on Moscow’s Kropotkinsky Lane has been home to Australia’s ambassadors to Russia. It was built by Alexandra Derozhinskaya, an heiress to a large textile business, who bought a plot on the lane in 1901. To design her home, Derozhinskaya employed the celebrated art nouveau architect Fyodor Schechtel, who specialised in designing mansions for Moscow’s elite at the time. Schechtel not only designed the building and its interiors but even its fixtures and fittings: the doors, furniture, floor lamps, lighting fixtures and bronze fittings were all created from his drawings. The mansion was completed in 1903. “All the main reception rooms on the ground floor are grouped around the central hall, which the architect believed was the heart of the mansion,” says Lyudmila
Saygina, art historian and author of the book Architect Fyodor Schechtel. Encyclopedia of Creations. The drawing room, dining hall, library, master bedrooms and offices were all on the ground floor. From the central hall, one could reach the main office and the landing of the grand staircase, beyond which there was a door to the mistress’ quarters. A winding staircase from the dining room was intended for the domestic staff, whose bedrooms were on the first floor, together with the nurseries and teachers’ rooms. Even though nurseries and schoolrooms occupied most of the first floor, Derozhinskaya did not have any young children. Although an early 20th century building, this home boasted the latest technologies of its time. It had electricity, steam heating, exhaust ventilation, sewerage, running water and a telephone. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, things changed for the house and its owner. The mansion, along with all the other properties that belonged to Derozhinskaya, was nationalised and she and her family and staff were moved out.
MARGARITA FEDINA (4)
The grand mansion Australia calls home
This hypnotic winding staircase, with its rhythmical repetition of soft contours, was used by the home's domestic staff. Schechtel was known for having an ornamental style based on curved lines and asymmetrical composition. His use of antique and mythological motifs gives the home a mysterious atmosphere.
Bruce Lockhart BRITISH CONSUL-GENERAL IN MOSCOW BEFORE THE REVOLUTION, IN HIS MEMOIRS, 1932
It amused me to see Madame Zimin [Alexandra Derozhinskaya when married to her third husband], a Moscow millionairess, lunching every Sunday and playing bridge with her three husbands
– two ex and one current. It showed a tolerance and an understanding, which at that time was beyond the range of Western civilisation. The English wives, however, held up their hands in pious horror."
For some time, Derozhinskaya’s fate remained unknown. There was a rumour that she had managed to flee to Italy along with her son from her third marriage. But in fact she remained in Moscow, where she and her son had become manual labourers. “Sergei and Alexandra make two roubles a day doing various odd jobs and are happy to have even that,” Sergei Zimin, the brother of Alexandra’s third husband, wrote in his diaries. After 1917, the house was occupied by various Soviet government departments before it became the Australian ambassador’s residence. “This hall has seen many
balls and dinner parties and welcomed many historical figures,” Bob Tyson, Australia’s former ambassador to Russia, said at a ceremony in Moscow in 2006.“Since 1959, Australian ambassadors in Moscow have had the huge privilege of living in this house, and we did our best to preserve the atmosphere of grandeur and inimitable style created by its architect.” Photo gallery: The Australian Ambassador’s art nouveau mansion asia.rbth.com/ multimedia/396019
In the giant fireplace of the building's central hall you can see Schechtel's habit of juxtaposing hard and soft lines and motifs from different eras. The hall was designed to be the centrepiece of the public reception rooms of the mansion. Schechtel said that he had envisioned the hall as the very heart of the building.
EIGHTY YEARS OF A SOVIET-ERA THEME PARK asia.rbth.com/48885
Autobiography Chinese emperor Pu Yi's own account of his time in the USSR is the main source for this shadowy episode
China’s last emperor spent five years in the USSR as a prisoner of war. In his autobiography he provides insights into this precarious period of his life. AJAY KAMALAKARAN RBTH
On August 18, 1945 Pu Yi, China’s last emperor, who by then had been reduced to being the emperor of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, renounced his throne and prepared to flee northeastern China, along with the defeated Japanese Army. Bernardo Bertolucci’s Academy Award-winning film The Last Emperor dramatised the moment when Soviet troops seized a Manchurian airport and stopped Pu Yi and his entourage from escaping to Korea. Pu Yi was then taken to the Soviet Union to an uncertain fate. In The Last Manchu: The Autobiography of Henry Pu Yi, Last Emperor of China, Pu Yi dedicated a chapter to his time spent as a prisoner in the USSR. In Russia, there is very little information in the public domain about his time there, making the book an important source about this littleknown episode of history. According to the book, after his plane landed in Siberia Pu Yi was put in a sedan and driven for hours before the car stopped. He feared for his life when someone told him in fluent Chinese he could step outside and urinate if he wanted. “In the darkness, I became frightened,” he wrote. “The voice made me think that some Chinese had showed up
to take us back to China, and if this were true, I would without doubt be killed.” The man who had spoken in Chinese turned out to be a Soviet Army officer of Chinese descent. Not only was PuYi’s life not in danger but, as he described in the autobiography, for the next five years he lived in Soviet Russia in relative comfort. His first stop in Russia was a sanatorium or resort near the Siberian city of Chita, famous for its mineral springs. “We had three square Russian meals a day as well as afternoon tea, Russian style,” Pu Yi wrote.“There were attendants to look after us and doctors and nurses who constantly checked up on our health and took care of us when we were ill.” The Soviet authorities provided him with books, board games and a radio. He also took regular walks, enjoying his life in Chita. In 1945, it was still unclear whether the Nationalists loyal to Chiang Kai Shek or the Communists would win the civil war in China – the main reason why the USSR was in no hurry to return the former emperor to China. Pu Yi was unaware of the geopolitical situation that was developing at that time. “Not long after our arrival, I developed the illusion that since the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States were allies, I might be able to move eventually to England or the US, and live the life of an exile,” he wrote. The former emperor had enough jewellery and art to live out the rest of his life in the West. He believed that the
In the last emperor’s words: his life as a prisoner in the USSR
After the Communists won the civil war, the Soviet authorities sent Pu Yi back to China, where he was then put in prison.
best way to achieve this goal was to make sure that he could initially remain in Russia. The former emperor even wrote to the Soviet authorities three times to seek permission to live in the country permanently. Convinced that both the Nationalists and the Communists in China wanted to kill
my prerogatives,”he wrote. In Khabarovsk, he didn’t have any attendants but co-prisoners, including his family members, would wait on him. His family, who brought him his meals and washed his clothes, referred to him as the “Upper One”. He wrote about the inconveniences he experienced
I was most impressed,” he wrote. A love for gardening was something he would carry with him to China. And much later, after PuYi was released from a Chinese prison, gardening became the occupation he chose to pursue. For Pu Yi and his co-prisoners, the only sources of
For the next five years, he lived in the Soviet cities of Chita and Khabarovsk in relative comfort
Pu Yi developed a passion for gardening and started growing vegetables on some land allocated to him
In August, 1950 Pu Yi was unwillingly sent back to China accompanied by Russian officers
him, he tried in vain to convince Moscow to let him stay. Pu Yi was later moved to the city of Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East. From his own description, the conditions were not as good as they had been in Chita, but he still lived a privileged existence. He seemed irked that the other prisoners could no longer call him “Emperor” or “Majesty” and stuck to calling him “Master Pu”. “During my five years’ detention in Soviet Russia, I was never able to dispense with
when the Soviet authorities moved some of his family members to another centre. The former emperor’s brother-in-law then brought him food and did his washing. Despite his attitude towards doing things himself, PuYi developed a passion for gardening and started growing vegetables on some land allotted to him. “My family and I grew green peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, beans and other vegetables, and when I saw how these green plants grew daily,
news from China were their interpreters and a Chineselanguage newspaper called Trud, published by the Soviet Army. Going by his account, the Soviet authorities did not demand much from PuYi. They offered him Soviet Marxist and Leninist books, but he could not understand why they would want him to read them if he was not going to be allowed to stay permanently in the Soviet Union. In 1946, the Soviet authorities took him to Tokyo to
testify at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.“I accused the Japanese of being war criminals in an utterly direct and unreserved way,” he wrote. “However, whenever I spoke about this period of history, I never discussed my own guilt.” Pu Yi eventually donated some of his jewels and treasures to the Soviet authorities, claiming that he wished to support their postwar economic reconstruction.“Since the Soviet Union was the deciding factor in my life, it therefore was best to be nice to the Russians and seek to gain their favour,” he wrote. In August,1950 Pu Yi was unwillingly sent back to China, accompanied by Russian officers. “Although they had joked with me and given me beer and candy, I still felt that they were sending me to my death,” he wrote. But PuYi would live for another 17 years. After a decade in prison, he was declared reformed, and went on to work in the Peking Botanical Gardens. He even won favour with Mao, who encouraged him to write his autobiography.
Me Bi MEDICINE
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HIstory Nine facts about the Moscow Kremlin stars
Linguistics The dialectics of dialects
Stars shine on in post-Soviet era
Why Russians and Ukrainians speak different languages PHOTOSHOT/VOSTOCK-PHOTO
In the year of the 80th anniversary of the Moscow Kremlin's most iconic and recognisable symbols, RBTH maps landmarks in their history. YELENA OSIPOVA RBTH
In 1935, the two-headed eagles, symbols of Tsarist Russia, were removed from the towers of the Moscow Kremlin.
1. The four towers of the Moscow Kremlin were decorated with two-headed eagles until the 1930s, when specialists from restoration workshops headed by Igor Grabarya concluded that the prerevolutionary figures did not have any historical value and could therefore be replaced. 2. On August 23, 1935 the two-headed eagles were replaced with five-pointed stars. Symbolically, the eagles were melted down. 3. It took two attempts to have the designs of the stars approved. Stalin did not like the first version, which had been created by the artist Yevgeny Lansere. 4. The red copper gilded structures were covered with 7000 polished topazes and amethysts.The stars were said to shine in the sun as if supernatural. 5. Each Kremlin star weighed one tonne.They were so heavy
Workers clean the ruby-glass five-pointed star that sits on top of the Vodovzvodnaya tower of the Moscow Kremlin.
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that the dilapidated towers could have collapsed under their weight, so the towers had to be fortified. 6. The stars remained on the towers for two years. Due to damage from rain and snow, they became dark and it was decided to replace them. 7. Five new stars were created by the chief artist of the Bolshoi Theatre, Fyodor Fyodorovsky, who suggested making the contours of the stars more proportional. 8. The biggest stars – on the Spasskaya and Nikolskaya Towers – are 3.75 metres in diameter. The stars are perched on towers of various heights, so in order for them to appear the same they were made in different sizes. They were constructed from ruby glass, so that they would shine brightly. 9. The stars stopped shining only twice in their history. The first time was during the Second World War (19411945), when the entire Kremlin was camouflaged against aerial bombing attacks. The second was when director Nikita Mikhalkov shot a scene in the Kremlin for his film The Barber of Siberia (1998).
Journalist and linguist Ksenia Turkova explains why Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian are three distinct languages, not one language and two dialects. KSENIA TURKOVA SPECIAL TO RBTH
When asked what distinguishes a language from a dialect, American linguist Max Weinreich used to say: “A language is a dialect with an army and navy.” However, this catchy maxim doesn’t always apply. Many languages have an army and navy but are still confused with dialects or other similar languages. In an interview with the gramota.ru website,Vladimir Plungyan, author of the book Why Languages Are So Different, said: “There is no doubt that Ukrainian is a language, although one should not think that there exists an objective device that will tell you: this is a language and this isn’t. It’s the choice and the opinion of society. “Clearly, the Ukrainian language exists because millions of people speak and write in it. As for it being similar to some other languages, there are hundreds of cases like this. Norwegian and Danish are also similar languages, far more so than Russian and Ukrainian.” Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian are East Slavic languages which began to become distinct around the 14th century, when Slavs found themselves in different states:
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part of Eastern Rus was controlled by the Golden Horde and part of Western Rus by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, where for a while East Slavic was a state language. These separations and different political and administrative influences led the languages to develop along distinct trajectories. The notion that if you know one of these languages, you can easily understand the others is a misconception. Alexander Savchenko, a linguist from St Petersburg, is teaching Ukrainian in Taiwan. He says his students are well trained and would never confuse Russian with Ukrainian or Belarusian. As well, they understand that there are languages that are even more like each other. Since the time of its codification on the basis of texts by Taras Shevchenko and Ivan Franko, Ukrainian has had many lexical parallels with Polish and other West Slavic languages, which is why Poles and Czechs often understand it better than Russian. Classical texts make for good “material proof” that Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian are three different languages. Take Tatyana’s letter from Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, Shevchenko’s poem Zapovit and Yanka Kupala’s Spadchyna and read them aloud simply to hear how different the languages sound. The differences between these three languages become very clear.
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THE KURSK SUBMARINE DISASTER: CHRONICLES OF A TRAGEDY
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This September issue was distributed with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia on September 17, 2015