Bracing for a longterm slowdown
Russian architecture’s tireless advocate
Russia comes to terms with the reality of sanctions P.03
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American’s photographs preserve Russia’s heritage P.06
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Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Migrants Syrians fleeing their homeland don’t see Russia as a destination or as a pathway to Europe
NEWS IN BRIEF
Refugees Reject Russia
Russian Women Barred From Holding 456 Types of Jobs
that Russia has little to offer Syrians, in part because the process of applying for asylum is long and difficult.“Russia accepts very few refugees from Syria and does not offer much help to asylum seekers.While they look for work, they must go through complicated procedures and pay bribes,” said alHamza. “I encountered cases in which people on the Russian border were interrogated about their political convictions and which Islamic rules they follow. In Europe the approach is completely different.” Russia is also less attractive as a transit zone, in part because the distances refugees must travel to get to a border between Russia and an E.U. state are vast. “It’s difficult to get to Europe from here,” al-Hamza said. Additionally, few Syrians have taken such a path and therefore cannot advise others on how to travel. Most refugees attempting the crossing to Europe rely on the experience of a family member or friend, according to Khallum. “Usually one of their acquaintances illegally arrives at a location and then through personal contact on the phone or by mail says how he got there,” Khallum said. “No one of these refugees will reveal the route that they intend to use to get to Europe because they are afraid for their safety and the safety of those who trusted them with this information.” It also remains difficult to determine the exact number of Syrian refugees in Russia because many Syrians come to the country on work visas or as students and not as asylum seekers, said Svetlana Gannushkina, chairwomen of Russia’s Civic Assistance Committee.
Experts say that Russia is an unattractive destination for Syrian refugees due to the bureaucratic asylum process and the lack of routes to Europe. MARINA OBRAZKOVA
In mid-September, as Europe struggled to cope with thousands of Syrian refugees seeking asylum, Russian President Vladimir Putin took the opportunity to blame the situation on European countries themselves. Speaking on the sidelines of an economic forum inVladivostok, Putin called the crisis “completely expected.” “We in Russia, and myself personally said several years ago that our so-called Western partners continued to maintain their flawed foreign policy, especially in regions of the Muslim world,” Putin said. The Russian president’s words were a rebuke to those who suggested that Russia could do more to help refugees.Yet the number of Syrians who want to come to Russia is minimal. “Syrian refugees do not want to remain in Russia because here they don’t receive welfare, housing and work. And it is also difficult to apply for legal residency,” said Munzer Khallum, a Syrian journalist and writer living in Moscow. According to Khallum, the Syrians who have come to Russia can be separated into three categories: transients whose final destination is Europe; students who come to study and don’t know what they will do after they finish; and long-time expatriates who still maintain a dream of moving on to a better country. Mahmoud al-Hamza, Council Chairman of the Damascus Declaration Abroad Movement agrees
As Europe searches for ways to cope with thousands of migrants fleeing the violence in Syria, Russia remains an unattractive destination for those seeking asylum.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 2
Diplomacy Russian leader expected to stress importance of the organization in mediating conflicts
Putin Slated to Speak at U.N. General Assembly IGOR ROZIN RBTH
Russian PresidentVladimir Putin will speak at the 70th anniversary session of the U.N. General Assembly, according to a statement made by the Kremlin press service on Aug. 28. The last time the Russian leader addressed the gathering was in 2005.
Presidential aide Yury Ushakov told reporters on Sept. 11 that Putin would address the role of the U.N. in mediating international conflicts. “As Russia considers the 70th anniversary of this organization to be very important, we see it necessary to stress our commitment to the organization continually playing a coordinating role in all the matters on the international agenda, in regard to international security issues,” Ushakov said. Putin is not expected to meet
with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the meeting, although Obama is scheduled to have a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. A number of senior foreign policy figures are expected to be part of the Russian delegation, including the chairmen of the foreign relations committees of both houses of the Russian parliament, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. and its permanent representative to the U.N.
Apple to Store User Data in Russia to Comply with Law Tech giant Apple has agreed to store the personal data of its Russian users at a data center inside Russia to comply with a new law, according to reporting by Russian business daily Kommersant. Apple has reached a deal for data storage with Moscow-based data center operator IXcellerate, which already has a contract with online hotel booking service Booking.com. The deal will bring Apple in line with a Russian law requiring all companies supplying Internet services in Russia or targeting Russian users to store such data inside the country by Sept. 1. Apple held a tender for the contract in July, but the decision was only announced this month. Most major I.T. companies have announced their intention to comply with the Russian law, but some international giants, including Facebook, have yet to formally state their position.
St. Petersburg Best in Europe
St. Petersburg was named the best travel destination in Europe by the World Travel Awards at a ceremony on Sept. 4. The organization cited the city’s“exceptionally rich history, centuries-old traditions and bright future,” in announcing the award. The citation gave Russia’s northern capital bragging rights over Moscow, which just days earlier was selected as the unfriendliest city in the world by the MasterCard Global Destinations Index. The Index noted the “aloofness” of locals in explaining its decision.
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After a decade-long absence, the Russian president is scheduled to return to the U.N., leading a large delegation of Russian foreign policy dignitaries.
A recent report from the World Bank showed that women in Russia are legally restricted from holding 456 categories of jobs — more than in any other country in the world. The report stated that the regulations were a holdover from Soviet-era gender restrictions to promote healthy child bearing. Most Western nations have no genderbased job restrictions at all, though France requires that women’s work should not involve lifting weights of more than 25 kilograms (55 lbs).
The last time Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the U.N. General Assembly was in 2005.
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Regions Officials have declared the Republic of Dagestan a center of terrorism, but to local residents, security forces are a bigger threat spot for safety reasons. However, in some cases there are grounds to doubt that this was indeed the case,”said Varvara Pakhomenko, a consultant with the International Crisis Group. “When people return to their homes and see offensive inscriptions on the walls, it all looks like a punitive operation rather than like a fight against the militant underground.” Pakhomenko added that lawenforcement agencies are stepping up checks and detentions of devout Muslims. “They are detained in public places; there are even raids on private homes. People are taken to police stations, where they are fingerprinted and photographed. It happens on a regular basis. A database is being compiled,” she said. Unsurprisingly, this situation often causes irritation and misunderstanding among local residents.
Dagestan: Front Line of Russia’s War on Terror
For several years, Russia’s southernmost region, Dagestan, has been the epicenter of terrorist activity in the country, according to law enforcement.
Russia’s North Caucasus republics
BADMA BYURCHIYEV SPECIAL TO RBTH
On Oct. 18, 2014,Vremennoye was declared the subject of a coun-
Local residents or terrorists?
Gimry, a mountain village in Dagestan’s Untsukulsky District, is the birthplace of two legendary imams, Shamil and Gazimagomed, local chieftains who put up fierce resistance to the Russian Empire in the 19th century. They have become a symbol of national pride for the people living here, which since the 1990s, has become a stomping ground for various illegal armed groups and the scene of frequent counterterrorist operations conducted by Russian security forces. Such operations are rarely greeted with understanding and support from the local population, and for good reason. The most recent special operation here took place in June, with federal forces killing two militants. On this occasion, however, locals were impressed by how the military conducted the operation. “They acted quite professionally. They must have had reliable information,”said Sagid, a native of Gimry, who until recently was a public activist. Sagid himself had to change his place of residence in order to stay alive. “This special operation, of course, cannot be compared to what happened inVremennoye [a settlement in the same district]. There things got very scary,”Sagid said.
Residents of Gimry, where anti-terror operations have been conducted.
terterrorist operation (K.T.O.).The special operation lasted for more than two months, during which security and military forces killed seven suspected militants. In the process, 16 houses were blown up and the foundations of sev-
During the counterterror operation, security forces killed seven suspected militants and blew up 16 houses. eral residential blocks were badly damaged as security forces searched for terrorist bunkers. As a result, cracks appeared in three apartment blocks, which now stand empty. The remaining seven were damaged too, but people continue to live in them, repairing the damage themselves.
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ENGAGING THE WEST
There are six republics in Russia’s North Caucasus region, which stretches across the mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the country’s south, along the border with Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Property damage Although this process was humiliating, local residents are more upset about the rough conduct
of the military and security personnel who damaged their property, threw their furniture out into the street, left graffiti on their walls and knife scratches on their doors. Locals complained about the actions of the military and even wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to look into the matter. A source in the Dagestani prosecutor’s office told RBTH that this complaint from the local residents is being considered but no decisions on it have yet been made. As regards the destruction of houses, investigators are inclined to support the military’s position. The militants killed were hiding in fortified underground bunkers where“a large number of improvised explosive devices (I.E.D.s), components for them, firearms and ammunition” were found.
“Since there was a danger of their spontaneous detonation,” the I.E.D.s were destroyed on the spot, “as a result damaging the residential buildings in which they were found as well as nearby buildings,” RBTH was told at
Fifteen out of the 46 people on last year’s list of political prisoners are civil activists from the North Caucasus. the prosecutor’s office. However, not all local residents and activists accept these explanations of why residential buildings were destroyed. “Security forces as a rule justify their actions by saying that explosive devices were detected and had to be destroyed on the
Russia’s Lack of Support for Refugees Limits Flow of Syrian Migrants CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
“The Syrians who come here are not formally refugees. They have a visa and a part of them had come to Russia to work. But now they have nowhere to return to.” Journalist Hallum said that he had recently met some Syrians with student visas, but doubted they were in Moscow to study. “In the airport I met a group of ladies wearing traditional Muslim attire with year-long student visas. They told me that they had come to study Russian in St. Petersburg. However, I think that they had used the only way to avoid the war and possibly, they will not stay long in Russia,”Hallum said. On Sept. 4, Russia’s Federal Migration Service announced that there were 12,000 Syrians in Russia, but did not separate
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“Why did they do this to us? Before the K.T.O. was introduced, there had not even been a single exchange of fire here. They made us suffer for two-and-a-half months. And now nothing is being done to restore the houses, the settlement,”complained a female resident of Vremennoye, who asked not to be named. The woman recalled how the settlement was fenced with barbed wire and all the local residents over 14 — civilians, who had not been charged with anything — were given a number. They also had their fingerprints and DNA taken and were told to walk in front of the camera, to have their gait captured on film.
Local officials say that the number of terrorist attacks in the region have decreased in recent years, although government statistics show they are on the rise. In July, Dagestan’s president, Ramazan Abdulatipov, said that in 2014, only 12 terrorist crimes were recorded in the republic, compared with 300 two years ago. Slightly earlier, in March, the republic’s interior minister, Abdurashid Magomedov, announced that in the same period of time “20 acts of sabotage and terrorism involving the use of explosive devices were prevented and 161 bandits were killed while putting up armed resistance.” According to official statistics from the Russian ProsecutorGeneral’s Office, the number of terrorist crimes in Dagestan is steadily on the rise: 220 in 2011, 295 in 2012, 365 in 2013, 472 in 2014, and 307 in the first five months of 2015. At the same time, the website Caucasian Knot, which keeps its own statistics, says that “in 2014 the number of victims of the armed conflict in Dagestan fell by more than 50 percent:” 208 people were killed and 85 injured, while in 2013, the figures were 341 and 301, respectively. Experts attribute discrepancies in the figures to amendments in Russia’s anti-terror legislation. Last year, the list of crimes falling under the definition of “terrorism”was expanded to include political assassinations, preparations for and organization of mass unrest, etc. The new definitions make it possible to press criminal charges, among other things, for “inciting, recruiting or otherwise engaging a person” in terrorist activity. Suffice it to note that 15 out of the 46 people on last year’s list of political prisoners compiled by the Memorial human rights center are either civil activists from the North Caucasus or members of Islamic organizations banned in Russia. By way of reference, ethnic groups that are considered Muslim make up about 10 percent of the population of Russia, while practicing Muslims make up just 6–7 percent.
Refugees from Syria crossing the border near Sanliurfa, Turkey.
the number of those who were migrants or asylum seekers. Gannushkina says it’s doubtful that the number of Syrian
refugees in Russia is very high. “In 2012, when the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees asked representatives of the
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countries that had signed the convention on refugees to introduce a moratorium on their deportation to Syria, the Russian authorities demonstrated their loyalty to the refugees and started preparing documents for them. However, when last year we were flooded with Ukrainians, the Syrians were practically forgotten,”Gannushkina said. Recent statements from the Kremlin contradict Gannushkina’s words, however. On Sept. 10, Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agency Interfax that Russia wasn’t interested in contributing to an international effort to help Syrian migrants. “We expect that for the most part that expenditures [for dealing with refugees] will fall on the countries linked to causing the catastrophic situation,”Peskov said.
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Economy Assessing the affect of sanctions a year and a half after they were imposed
Sanctions: Russia Braces for Long Haul TIMELINE
18 months of U.S. sanctions
DAVID MILLER , JARED FELDSCHREIBER SPECIAL TO RBTH
Russia is girding itself for the possibility of a long haul under Western economic sanctions, as officials in Moscow warn that they see no near-term end to the campaign of economic punishment that the International Monetary Fund has said could shave off almost a tenth of Russia’s economy. A year and a half after the U.S. and European Union launched an effort to punish Russia over its role in the Ukrainian dispute, about 150 individuals have been targeted with travel bans and asset freezes, while dozens of Russia’s biggest banks and energy firms have been cut off from access to Western finance. Russia has retaliated by banning imports of U.S. and European food products, a blow that fell especially hard on European farmers. Albert Jan Maat, president of the European farmers group Copa, told the Reuters news agency that sanctions against Russia had led to the loss of about 5.5 billion euros’ worth of agricultural exports last year. Yet as the dispute drags on and the economic damage piles up, observers said there seems to be no end to the standoff in sight. “It looks as though the country is gradually adjusting to a new old reality: life under permanent sanctions, as it was in the Soviet Union,” bemoaned economists at Russia’s largest savings bank, Sberbank, itself a target of sanctions, in an analysis published this month. The E.U. and U.S. initially im-
MARCH 17, 2014 • 31 Russian officials were included in the initial U.S. sanctions list, which included travel bans and the freezing of their U.S. assets.
DECEMBER 17, 2014 • Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Crimea by executive order, prohibiting exports of U.S. goods and services to the peninsula.
APRIL 2014 • NASA announced the cessation of all cooperation with Roscosmos except for the International Space Station. On April 28, the U.S. imposed a ban on business transactions within its territory on 17 Russian companies and seven officials, including Igor Sechin of oil major Rosneft.
MARCH 2015 • Sanctions from March and December 2014 were extended for an additional year. The U.S. Treasury Department issued a statement announcing new sanctions against eight pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, one youth organization and one bank operating in Crimea.
JULY 17, 2014 • U.S. extended its transactions ban to two major Russian energy firms, Rosneft and Novatek, several banks and arms maker Kalashnikov.
JULY 31 • The U.S. added new companies and inviduals to its sanctioned list including state-owned Vnesheconom bank and more parts of Rosneft.
posed measures against Russia in March 2014, following the annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Western countries also accuse Russia of continuing to support Ukrainian separatist militants, a charge Russia has repeatedly denied.
on Sept. 9.“We, at least the Russian Foreign Ministry, are under no illusion that the sanctions may be lifted or alleviated in the near future.” The U.S. added 29 people to the sanctions list on Sept. 2 in a move aimed at tightening restric-
As the dispute drags on and the economic damage piles up, observers say there is no end in sight.
Overall trade between the U.S. and Russia fell by 10 percent in 2014, to $34.3 billion from $38 billion.
“We should proceed from the premise that sanctions will last for a long time,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told journalists during a visit to the Russian city of Nizhny Tagil
tions already in place by extending the sanctions on people and entities that are already covered, such as Russian arms maker Kalashnikov. Overall trade between the U.S.
and Russia fell by about 10 percent in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, to $34.3 billion from $38 billion in 2013. On the European side, however, the damage looks to be far greater. Europe may lose a total of 100 billion euros due to sanctions, according to an independent study published by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research in Vienna this summer.
Exxon’s $1 billion loss While trade levels between Russia and the U.S. were low even before sanctions kicked in, one of the highest-profile U.S. firms dealing with the fallout is America’s biggest oil company, ExxonMobil. The Irving,Tex.-based firm said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Committee that it lost a maximum of $1 billion due to U.S. sanctions on the Russian energy sector. Exxon was forced to back away from a massive joint venture with Russia’s top oil producer, Rosneft. The two companies had planned to start drilling for oil in the farnorthern Kara sea this year. Sanctions also mean Exxon has been unable to collect revenues from its 30 percent ownership stake in the Sakhalin 1 oil and gas project on Russia’s Pacific coast. “In compliance with the sanctions and all general and specific licenses, prohibited activities involving offshore Russia in the Black Sea, Arctic regions and onshore western Siberia have been wound down,”Exxon said in the 10-K filing with the SEC. Exxon’s “maximum exposure to loss from these joint ventures as of Dec. 31, 2014, is $1.0 billion.” Nevertheless, Exxon has continued to quietly acquire new
Russia, already facing recession and falling oil prices, prepares for the possibility that Western sanctions may remain in place for years to come.
A Moscow bar called Sanctions is making the most of a bad situation.
drilling rights in Russia, apparently with a view to expand its operations in Russia when, and if, sanctions are lifted. Exxon boosted its total stake in Russia to 63.7 million acres last year from 11.4 million acres in 2013, the Bloomberg News agency reported, citing data from U.S. regulatory filings. While Exxon has been forced to halt operations in Russia, sanctions don’t prevent the firm from taking out rights to new fields for future development, according to Bloomberg.
Oil just makes it worse For Russia, the impact of the sanctions has been magnified by the decline in the value of the country’s main export: crude oil. Russia, a key global energy ex-
porter that gets about half its state budget revenue from oil exports, entered recession this year after crude prices tumbled to about half their value compared to the previous year. Economists broadly agree that both sanctions and oil prices are damaging Russia’s economy, but many say it’s hard to say which is having a greater impact. “It is difficult to disentangle the impact of sanctions from the fall in oil prices,”the Washington, D.C.-based I.M.F. said in a statement in August. The agency said current estimates indicate sanctions clipped Russia’s economy by about 1–1.5 percent in the early stages, and that “the cumulative output loss could amount to 9 percent of G.D.P. over the medium term.”
Transportation Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, has bought the country’s troubled No. 2 carrier, Transaero, for the symbolic sum of 1 ruble
Rescue Deal Creates Airline Monopoly The main reasons
Experts have called the deal between Russia’s two bigges carriers the birth of a new monopoly a change in state policy. ALEXEI LOSSAN
Russia’s largest airline, stateowned Aeroflot, is buying 75 percent of the country’s second largest carrier, Transaero, in a deal that experts say will create a new monopoly, as the combined company will control more than 50 percent of the Russian air travel market. “Transaero’s activity will be fully restructured and integrated in the Aeroflot group,” Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted an official Aeroflot representative as saying. A company press release stated that Aeroflot had sent Transaero its offer on Sept. 3. The decision was made after a meeting headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. “For the aviation industry, this means consolidation and a move towards monopolization, and in this particular case, government monopolization,” said Anna Bazoyeva, analyst at investment company UFS. According to Bazoyeva, while on the one hand, this is a step back from a healthy, competitive market economy, during this time
Transaero and Aeroflot both have direct flights from New York to Moscow. Their future remains uncertain.
of all Russian passengers flew either Aeroflot and Transaero in 2014. The two companies control more than half the market.
people flew in Russia last year. Aeroflot carried 34.7 million of them while another 13.2 million traveled with Transaero.
is how much debt Transaero held at the time of the buyout. Transaero’s activity will be restructured and integrated into Aeroflot.
of economic crisis, the merger has more advantages than disadvantages. In 2014, 51.5 percent of all Russian airline passengers flew with either Aeroflot or Transaero. Aerflot carried 34.7 million people and Transaero, 13.2 million. According to the Federal Air Transport Agency, a total of 93 million people flew in Russia last year and air travel continues to rise.
Semyon Nemtsov, an analyst from Russ-Invest, said that Transaero’s owners couldn’t see a clear way to shake its massive debt. “In today’s aggravated economic conditions, the sector is not doing so well — Transaero’s debt in the last several years has remained very high,”Nemtsov said, adding that Transaero had asked the government to give it a loan of 20 billion rubles ($297 million). Georgy Vaschenko, director of operations on the Russian capital market at Freedom Finance, says that Transaero found itself in a financial position that it could escape only through recapitalization or bankruptcy. “Practice has shown that companies with low budgets that are not supported by the industry’s giants do not survive,” said Vaschenko. From October to December 2015 there will be offers for holders of Transaero debt. Since the announcement of the deal the risk of default has been minimized. Transaero founders and owners Alexander and Olga Pleshakova will leave the company as part of the deal.
Headaches for travelers The merger of the companies will likely have negative repercussions for the traveling public.
“For the population and tour operators, such a merger will doubtlessly lead to a hike in ticket prices, inconvenient conditions and the lack of the right to choose an airline,” said Bazoyeva. Both companies fly direct flights between New York and Moscow. The cancellation of one of those flights would cause additional headaches for travelers, who are already facing the loss of Delta Air Lines’ Moscow-New York flight next month. Ticket aggregator OneTwoTrip told RBTH that it was too early to know how the merger would affect any particular routes, and airline representatives refused to comment on the future of any particular routes.
The creation of a monopoly According to Dmitry Baranov, a leading expert at investment holding Finam Management, the creation of a new monopoly demonstrates that the government has changed its policy on how the airline sector should develop. “Before, the government would say that ineffective airlines should leave the market and then the crisis in the sector would end. However, in the current economic conditions the idea of creating small airlines that would compete with each other is unsustainable,”Baranov said.
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Education Controversial changes could be paying off
SPECIAL TO RBTH
When news came in fall 2012 that School 122 in central Moscow would be merged with another school, parents were up in arms. The school, which is the home of the Moscow Boys Cappella and requires all students to take choir, is one of the few places outside of conservatories where students can do coursework for a special diploma in music. Parents were afraid that the merger would not only result in the loss of the special music curriculum, but that it would “destroy the school’s unique culture,” in the words of one parent, whose daughter was then in the second grade. The school was slated for consolidation under a controversial reform that began in 2010 and involves merging small or underperforming schools with larger schools primarily to more evenly distribute financial and administrative resources. Under the reform, funding for schools would be distributed on a per capita basis — a move officials said was necessary to accommodate an increase in demand. “In our very large country, it is essential to ensure maximum equal access to early childhood services, and supplementary education,” said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, defending the changes, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2011. Russia experienced a baby boomlet during the economic prosperity of the early 2000s. Russia’s state statistics service, Rosstat, showed a steady increase in births from 2007–2012. In Moscow, 101,000 children were born in 2007. By 2012, that number had risen to more than 134,000. While some schools in the center of Moscow, like School 122, are undersubscribed, schools in the bedroom communities on the edges of the city, where young families moved into newly constructed apartment complexes, are overcrowded. Parents at Intellectual, a staterun boarding school for gifted students in western Moscow, took to the streets to protest the merger and expansion of their school, which had a student-teacher ratio
No matter what experts and parents think of the reforms, they are necessary, said researcher Isak Frumin. In search of excellence In addition to redistributing funding, the reform’s authors hoped to improve the performance of students on the Unified State Exam (E.G.E.), which is required for graduation from Russian schools, by combining schools with weaker academics with stronger ones. Boris Kagarlitsky, a political scientist and the director of the Institute of Globalization and Social Movements, said that this second goal is at odds with the first one. “In Soviet times, they sought to reduce class sizes so that the teacher could work with each student. Now per capita funding encourages schools to fill classrooms as much as possible, with fewer teachers,” Kagarlitsky said. But other experts disagree with Kagarlitsky. Isak Frumin, a researcher at the Institute of Education of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, said that forcing smaller schools to merge with larger ones will give more students access to high-quality education. “There are several schools where the competition was dozens of people for one place, but now they were given additional space by combining with other
Russia instigated a major reform of its educational system in 2010 to improve administration and quality.
Out of options Frumin said that no matter what experts and parents think of the reforms, they are necessary. This year, the number of children entering school in Russia has increased by 560,000 over last year, and the number is only going to continue to rise at least for the near future. “In the next few years, we will need between 1 and 2 million new places,” Frumin said.“Either the number of children who will study in a second shift will increase, or we should put new school buildings into operation. This is a serious problem for the entire country; we are talking about hundreds of billions of rubles.The money has not been fully allocated for it.” Over the past four years, 4,000 schools in Moscow have been combined into 692 larger institutions — including Intellectual, which merged with Gymnasium 1588, and School 122, which was united along with a kindergarten and a school with an intensive German-language program, with School 1234, an English-intensive school with a reputation for strong academics.
Results? After the merger, the students remained in the same building and the music curriculum continued, but School 1234 brought in a new
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
What parents think about the changes
schools and now they take more children. Opportunities to send a child to a good school have increased,” Frumin said. Writing in a blog on the website of independent radio station Ekho Moskvy, local lawmaker Irina Kurash said that it is clear that the school reform has been a success — parents no longer have to “run around Moscow” in search of a good school and teacher salaries have increased as administrative costs were lowered, she wrote. Additionally, she noted, 13 schools in Moscow made it into the listing of the top 25 schools in Russia. “Moscow finally has a fair system of financing educational institutions. Now funding decisions are based on standards and not the status of the school,” Kurash wrote. Previously school funding depended in part on the school’s designation, if it was classified as an ordinary school or had a title that indicated a special curriculum, such as “gymnasium.”
RUSSIAN MINISTER OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE
of two to one. Students from the school took up the cause, writing letters to PresidentVladimir Putin and Moscow’s mayor and making a short film that was shown on local news portal Moskva24. Moscow Deputy Mayor Leonid Pechatnikov responded in an interview with Russian daily Kommersant that if the parents wanted to keep that level of staffing, they would have to pay for additional salaries themselves.“We cannot afford to allocate 378,000 rubles ($5,640) per student. Two students for one teacher is, in fact, a system of tutoring. We have a law on universal education, but we do not have the law on universal tutoring,”Pechatnikov said. The average amount per student spent in Moscow schools today is 63,000 rubles ($940).
Five years into a process to consolidate and redistribute funding to schools, results are being seen, despite protests from parents and experts.
Moscow Makes the Case for School Reform
administration and some new teaching staff in the academic subjects in the upper school. The crumbling entryway and concert hall of the school’s 1930s building were remodeled and a new playground was installed. Now, two years later, the graduates of combined School 1234 scored so well on the E.G.E. that the school is now ranked 57th out of all schools in Moscow. After years of struggling to attract new students, the arts division introduced a first-grade class of 21 students at the opening bell ceremony on Sept. 1 and the school choirs held a concert as
part of Moscow’s official City Day celebrations on Sept. 5. “Things have changed for the better, and many of our fears were not realized,”said one parent with two children at the school, who declined to give his name. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) in July, his views are shared by only 15 percent of parents; 42 percent of Russian parents believe the consolidation of schools is wrong. But for nearly half of those who responded, the jury is still out — 43 percent of respondents told the pollsters the question was too difficult to answer.
Why was the decision made to start the unification of schools and kindergartens in 2010? In Moscow in the last three years, about 500 schools have been united with other schools. This does not lead to a reduction in school accessibility — the buildings and the teaching staff remain — but to an increase in education quality, because proven educational models are taken to a larger number of schools. Usually a strong school is united with others and introduces its own educational standards, teaching methods and technology. This also results in an increase in economic efficiency, because the costs of the administrative staff are reduced. Are the interests of small but unique schools taken into consideration during the unification process? We believe that each unification must be the result of a deep analysis. These unifications cannot be approached mechanically. All regions are given the task of performing an analysis when restructuring their educational organizations, an analysis from the perspective of education standards. In no way should the standard be lowered.
Consumers Russian parents struggle with the rising costs of school supplies for the start of the academic year as real incomes fall
School Year Brings Lessons in Economics Social help
As students head back to school, Russia’s continued economic downturn and decline in real income is forcing some parents to make difficult decisions.
ALEXANDR BRATERSKY SPECIAL TO RBTH
is how much parents estimate the cost of school supplies has risen. Uniform costs have risen by more, in some cases by as much as 40 percent, because they are imported.
PETER KOVALEV / TASS
Victoria Gordeichuk, 34, a single mother of a 13-year-old son, used to make enough money to live comfortably in Moscow and also take a nice vacation every year. Today, however, due to the fall in the value of the ruble, her salary is the equivalent of $920 a month. This year, she spent 20,000 rubles ($300) on her son’s back-toschool expenses. Most Russian schools require uniforms, which can cost between 2,500 and 6,000 rubles ($38-$90). Students must also have uniforms for P.E., shoes to wear inside the school building (as Russian schoolchildren must leave shoes worn outside on the streets in the cloakroom), and pens, notebooks and workbooks. Victoria says the school expenses have forced her to cut back on the kinds of food she buys. “Sometimes, I even deny my son his favorite grapes. Previously, I bought them all the time, just like cucumbers and peppers, but they have become much more expensive,” said Victoria, adding that she has started to put more of her food purchases on her credit card. Parents estimate that the cost
or 27,000 rubles is the average amount parents in the Central Federal District, which includes Moscow and the surrounding regions, spent on back-to-school items this year.
Most Russian schoolchildren are required to wear uniforms, which can cost up to $100 per set.
Parents estimate that the cost of school supplies has risen on average by 15 percent compared to last year. Regional authorities are trying to help the poorest families with payments at the start of the school year.
of school supplies has risen on average by 15 percent compared to last year. Meanwhile, the real wages of Russians declined by 9.3 percent in the first half of 2015, according to figures from the Russian State Statistics Service, Rosstat. News agency TASS reports that parents living in the Central Federal District, which includes Moscow and the surrounding regions, will spend the most on back-toschool purchases — 25,000-27,000 ($375-$403) rubles on average. In the Volga Federal District,
which includes Russia’s thirdlargest city, Nizhny Novgorod, prices are lower. In the Nizhny Novgorod Region, parents spend on average 10,000 rubles ($150). The average salary in the region is also lower, however — 27,000 ($403) rubles per month. Costs are also high in Russia’s Far East. In the Khabarovsk Territory, parents will spend 20,000-25,000 rubles, out of an average monthly salary of 36,500 rubles ($545).
Big family, big expenses Costs just go up for parents with
several children, even if not all of them are in school. Last year, Muscovites Irina and Pavel had a third child. Although only their oldest son in in school, education-related expenses take a major chunk from their income, which is about 40,000 rubles ($600) per month. “The prices of some items have almost doubled,” said Irina.“His backpack is already three years old, but we have to postpone the purchase of a new one, to wait for discounts. My son is neat; it is the only thing that saves us.”
The situation is even more difficult for needy families — the number of which has increased significantly with the financial crisis. The number of Russians living below the poverty line (monthly income of 9,700 rubles or $145) has reached 22 million, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets told Interfax news agency in July. Regional authorities are trying to help the poorest families to prepare children for school with lump-sum payments at the beginning of the school year; the amount varies depending on the region. Volunteers also help poor families and families with several children get their kids ready for school. In the town of Smolensk in western Russia, a local priest, Fr. Dionysis Davydov, of the Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Tikhvin, put a notice on online forums asking for people to contribute money to help needy families or donate school supplies. Natalia Popova, the officer-incharge of the church’s social service and charity department, said, “People donate less than last year, but still continue to help — both retired women and even school students bring donations. Now that times are difficult, many hearts have hardened, but we went through a lot and will endure this, too.”
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Universities Peoples’ Friendship University was established to encourage communist sympathies in the 1960s, but its legacy is far richer
Getting an Education in Friendship As it turns 55, People’s Friendship University draws on its history as one of Russia’s most diverse institutions to attract students in the 21st century. ALEXEI STROGANOV, MARINA DARMAROS
© GRIGORY SYSOEV / RIA NOVOSTI
SPECIAL TO RBTH
In late August 1968, 17-year-old Vladimir Filippov arrived in Moscow on a late-night train from Uryupinsk, a small town in the Volgograd Region, to begin his studies at Peoples’ Friendship University (RUDN). He reached his dorm room close to midnight and found that one of his roommates was from Madagascar and the other from Cameroon. Neither spoke a word of Russian. He spent his first night in the capital treating them to the homemade jam he had brought, but when it came time to go to bed, a problem arose. “It turned out that the lady who was in charge of laundry and bed linen had already gone home. As we were turning in, they saw that I did not have any. They then moved all the three beds together, put their two bed sheets on them and put me in the middle. That was how I spent my first night with foreign students. That was it; that was how the peoples’ friendship started,” remembered Filippov, who is today the rector of the university. Peoples’ Friendship University celebrates its 55th anniversary this year and continues to attract students from all over the world, although the goals that led to the university’s creation are no longer relevant. When the university opened its doors on Feb. 5, 1960, the Soviet Union was seeking to spread its influence to the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America by offering higher education to rising leaders from those parts of the world. Soviet officials hoped that after years of living and being educated in the communist sys-
The student body at Peoples’ Friendship University is as diverse today as it was in the 1960s. The school has the highest percentage of foreign students of any Russian university.
In the 1980s, RUDN was one of the first Soviet universities to offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Today the university faces new challenges as international rankings become an important part of recruiting. tem, these young people would return to their home countries and, if not promote communist values, at least encourage their governments to be friendly to the Soviet Union. The university was staffed by some of the Soviet Union’s leading academics in both the sciences and the humanities, and had a reputation as one of the most open-minded schools in Soviet academia. In the 1980s, RUDN was one of the first educational establishments in the Soviet
Union to switch to the Western model of higher education, offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees rather than the Soviet first degree, a five- or six-year course of study. Today the university still attracts students from around the world, but faces new challenges as international rankings become an important part of recruiting. Inayê Brito, 27, who studied at RUDN after being selected to participate in a new internship exchange program between Russia and the Universidade de São Paulo (USP) in her native Brazil, praised the international character of the university. “I appreciated very much its openness to foreigners,” she said.“It seemed to me that the institution was prepared for the inclusion and teaching of students from anywhere in the world.” However, she thinks the university deserves its fourth-place ranking among Russian universities in a recent survey done by Russian news agency Interfax. “The demands and high expectations of students are much high-
RUDN then and now The Soviet government founded the Peoples’ Friendship University on Feb. 5, 1960. On Feb. 22, 1961, the university was renamed Patrice Lumumba University after the first democratically elected leader of the Congo. Its first class, made up of 228 students from 47 countries, graduated in 1965. Today, more than 29,000 students from 140 countries around the world are studying at the university. in addition to RUDN’s illustrious foreign alumni, the school has a number of notable Russian graduates. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny and spy Anna Chapman both graduated from RUDN.
er in USP than in RUDN, even though the system is completely diverse in terms of programs, grades, classes, methodology, teachers,” Brito said.
versity’s reputation is to tap into its vast alumni network, which includes Abbas Yusuf Saleh, a prime minister of Chad; Abdramane Sylla, a government minister in Mali; and Achieng Ongong’a, the managing director of the Kenya Tourism Board. The challenge, said Zaitseva, is to get these alumni to spread the word about the school. “RUDN is doing a wonderful job keeping in touch with [alumni]. Now they just need to convert [these contacts] into publicly available and interesting news so that not only market experts can find this information, but also kids and parents,”Zaitseva said. Filippov, for his part, continues to emphasize the university’s unique focus on promoting friendship between people of different cultures and backgrounds. “It is necessary to create an opportunity for closer contacts at the everyday level, both in the dormitory and in the classroom,” he said. “Everything will follow from there.”
Zoya Zaitseva, RUDN’s regional director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, agreed with Brito that the university’s diversity is one of its major strengths, but said that to move up in international rankings, the school will need to focus on again being a place where the best academics want to teach. “Education became a competitive market place for the rest of the world a while ago, but in our case, being still mainly state-supported, it is a completely new thinking,”said Zaitseva. But, she added, RUDN’s position in international rankings is in part a reflection of its low name recognition abroad. “This is probably one of the most modern, flexible and progressive universities in Russia,” she said.“We have to make an effort to be recognized globally so that our alums could be mobile and can find a good job without going through all the troubles of proving our diploma is worth something.” One way of improving the uni-
Ratings Russia makes a major push to increase the standings of its universities in the international marketplace through a federal projec
Unhappy With One in a Hundred, Russia Goes for Five GLEB FEDOROV RBTH
Since 2013, Russia has invested millions of dollars in an attempt to drive up the position of its universities in international rankings. According to its official mandate, Project 5-100 is focused on increasing the competitiveness of Russian universities in the international marketplace. Fifteen universities were selected for the program, whose name comes from the overall goal of having five Russian universities in the top 100 of three world rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Currently only two Russian universities appear in these rankings at all — Moscow State University and St. Petersburg State
University — and neither in the top 100. Moscow State University’s best showing is 114th out of 700 schools in the 2014 QS World University Rankings. According to Irina Abankina, director of the Institute of Education Development at the Higher School of Economics, with Project 5-100, the Ministry of Education and Science intends to separate out the Russian universities with the most potential, and give them the financing needed to help them achieve their goals. In 2015 the Project 5-100 universities will receive a total of 10.1 billion rubles ($148 million). In interview with Times Higher Education, Alexander Polvalko, deputy minister of science and education, said that the program was not just about improving Russian university rankings, but making long-lasting changes in Russian higher education — which will in turn result in better rankings. “This transformation has three key objectives,”Polvako said.“We want to change the university en-
vironment, upgrading it to a world-class level by creating a large choice of international educational programs. Second, we want to reform our university research — to join in partnership with leading international research teams and to increase our presence in highly cited international research journals. Third, we want to increase the attractiveness of our universities in order to recruit talented international faculty and students.” Since the start of Project 5-100, Russian universities have indeed become more noticeable on the international education market, said editor-in-chief of Times Higher Education, Phil Baty, although he noted that the most noticeable school is Moscow State University, which is not part of Project 5-100. “Moscow State University has been making impressive strides up the rankings recently. I predict it will see further good news when we publish the world university rankings for 2015–2016 on Oct. 1,” Baty said.
Russian universities are members of the QS World University Rankings, which include more than 700 institutions. In 2013, only 18 Russian schools were on the list.
million will be spent in 2015 on the 15 universities selected to participate in Project 5-100. © GRIGORY SYSOEV / RIA NOVOSTI
Project 5-100, launched by presidential decree two years ago, sets the ambitious goal of getting five Russian universities in the world’s top 100 by 2020.
Moscow State University is Russia’s highest-ranked school in global ratings, but still has room to improve.
Abankina says that two universities that are in the program, Novosibirsk State University and the National Research Nuclear University, have also been moving up the rankings and are two schools to watch in the future. Experts are skeptical about the program’s potential for success, however. Alex Usher, the president of Higher Education Associates in Canada, said that there are fundamental problems with Russia higher education that cannot be solved quickly. “The management of universities which are very successful in
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rankings is much more ‘bottomup,’” Usher wrote in a recent article for Higher Education in Russia and Beyond. “Russian universities, on the other hand, are very much ‘top-down’. University cultures change very slowly, so no one should expect Russian universities to suddenly become free-wheeling havens of progressive academic practice.” According to Baty, the program will only be successful if it is a long-term commitment.“The biggest challenge is whether or not the reform and investment program goes far enough,”Baty said.
The project is focused on the period up to 2020. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Baty does point out one aspect of Project 5-100 that might contribute to its long-term success. “The most exciting aspect of the reform program is internationalization. Russia must work hard to attract and retain leading global talent from across the world. Too many great Russian scholars in the past left Russia to pursue their careers elsewhere. This must change. The reforms recognize this,” Baty said.
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PUTIN UNLIKELY TO MAKE WAVES IN TURTLE BAY Ivan Tsvetkov RUSSIA DIRECT
ccording to the pundits, the 70th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, which opened yesterday, could be the scene of a blazing rhetorical battle. The General Debate, which begins Sept. 28, is currently slated to feature speeches in succession by U.S. President Barack Obama, China’s leader Xi Jinping, Russian PresidentVladimir Putin and Iran head Hassan Rouhani on the very first day of the gathering. In today’s turbulent times, the U.N. General Assembly is perhaps the only place where such a diverse range of speakers can gather under one roof for such a discussion. Of course, the ceremonial nature of the 70th anniversary of the event will leave a mark on the content of the speeches, and the leaders of the great powers are unlikely to set about listing their grievances without prolix preambles and platitudes. Rather, attentive listeners will have to read between the lines and fish out their own interpretations from the stream of evasive phrases and allusions. It has become common in recent years for one maverick speaker to shake up the rhetoric and bring some life to the staid proceedings. Previously, this role has been played by the presidents of Iran andVenezuela. But at the 70th Session of the General Assembly the bookies’ odds-on favorite is Vladimir Putin. All eyes and ears will be tuned to the Russian president on Sept. 28, expecting juicy denunciations of the United States and its allies, and off-the-wall solutions to international exigencies. But all told, such grand expectations may well be in vain. Not only should obsevers consider that Putin may not make such declarations — he may decide not to make an appearance at all, instead deciding to send a subordinate to give the speech. The fact is that in today’s international climate, particularly in the U.N., it is hard for the Russian
Over the 70-year history of the organization, relations between the United Nation and Russia have fluctuated wildly.
As the leader of a great power, Putin should deliver a realistic assessment of the current threats, primarily the Islamic State.
president to take the moral high ground over his opponents. And without the certainty of victory, Putin will not act — or will at least limit himself to a formal address. Over the 70-year history of the organization, relations between the United Nation and Russia have fluctuated wildly. For most of the first decade of its existence, the United Nations in the eyes of Moscow was an enemy stronghold and a tool for the Western countries who had a firm majority in the
General Assembly to exert pressure on the Soviet Union. The Soviet delegation during this period (as, indeed, any period) actively used its right of veto, mainly to block the accession of new “pro-American” members. After the death of Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev’s rise to power, the Soviet attitude to the U.N. made an about-face. The admission of new countries was now welcomed, and the Kremlin began to view the General Assembly as the ideal platform
from which to spread its influence among the newly independent countries of the developing world. In the fall of 1960, Khrushchev’s visit to New York to attend the 15th Session of the General Assembly lasted three weeks, during which time the Soviet leader actively engaged in the discussions and attracted global attention. Suffice it to recall the infamous shoe-banging incident in protest against what he regarded as “anti-Soviet” statements. Under Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet Union sought to utilize the U.N. General Assembly largely as a platform to promote its ideas in the area of disarmament and international security. These ideas appeared more sober in comparison with the projects put forward by Khrushchev for “general disarmament in four years,” and allowed the Soviet Union to pres-
ent itself as the“bastion of peace,” especially at a time when the United States was bogged down inVietnam. But this carefully built construct began to crumble in the late 1970s, when the aging Soviet leadership embarked on its own foreign policy misadventure in Afghanistan. As a consequence, the U.N. General Assembly swiftly turned from being a champion of Soviet foreign policy into its harshest critic. Forceful intervention in the affairs of small and medium-sized countries unable to resist was not to the liking of most members of the General Assembly. The Soviet Union’s reputation in the U.N. was restored by Mikhail Gorbachev and his “new thinking” in matters of foreign policy. Gorbachev’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Dec. 8, 1988, was one of the most striking episodes in the organization’s histo-
ry and seemed to herald a new era of international cooperation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new Russia tried for a while to preserve and build on the political capital gained from “the Gorby effect,” persistently calling for the U.N. to play a greater role in interntional affairs. This position was welcomed, especially in light of the openly disdainful attitude toward the U.N. on the part of the United States. But in the second decade of the 21st century, Russia has decisively waved goodbye to the legacy of Gorbachev’s foreign policy. If Putin decides to devote his speech at the 70th Session of the U.N. General Assembly to the need for strict observance of international law and a more prominent role for the U.N., he might simply be catcalled. For many years, Moscow subjected Washington to legitimate criticism, but now the Kremlin has demonstrated by example that it recognizes no other means in the defense of national interests other than power politics in circumvention of all international institutions. Having made this“coming-out,” Russia has effectively nullified the many years of image-building in the eyes of the U.N.; the goodwill toward Brezhnev’s Soviet Union in the late 1970s is but a distant memory. Fast forward to today and the reality is that appeals by the Russian president to the antiAmericanism of some delegations in the hall will not work. For many, modern Russia is no better than the United States — it, too, is a great-power predator that is only looking out for No. 1. This being the case, Vladimir Putin’s best option when speaking from the U.N. podium is to refrain from making bombastic statements about respect for international law, and from accusing the United States of numerous mortal sins. In any case, there is no way that he can surpass the oddball rhetoric of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As the leader of a great power, Putin should deliver a realistic assessment of the current threats, primarily the Islamic State, and show a commitment to creating a mechanism of international cooperation that can withstand them, preferably under the auspices of the U.N.. However, given the present state of Russia-West relations, such cooperation is wishful thinking. Ivan Tsvetkov is an associate professor of American studies in the international relations department of St. Petersburg State University.
IMPROVING EDUCATION FOR ALL RUSSIANS Denise Roza SPECIAL TO RBTH
hen I came to Russia 26 years ago in 1989, people with disabilities were totally invisible. No buildings or forms of transport were accessible, and the media ignored the issue. It was as if there were no people with disabilities in Russia. The majority of children with disabilities were educated in segregated special schools, residential institutions or in homeschool programs, often not leaving their homes for months due to the accessibility challenges. Children with intellectual disabilities were still considered uneducable – a term that was shocking to me – and were receiving no education at all. Orphanages also did not provide any education for their residents with disabilities. Some of the people I met during my work with Perspektiva, an N.G.O. that promotes improved quality of life for people with disabilities, stand out as examples of the challenges children with disabilities face getting an education in Russia. Once a young man named Alexander who had cerebral palsy and had grown up in an orphanage came to us for a job, but he was illiterate. So instead of finding him a job, we found him a Russian teacher. I remember Natasha, a young
wheelchair user from the Komi Republic, who had studied in a homeschool program. She never got her degree because she was unable to take some of her courses as there was no teacher available to visit her home. Then there was Kirill, also a wheelchair user, who studied at a mainstream school in the early grades. When he entered middle school, however, he was supposed to transfer to a homeschool program since all the classes for the upper grades were on the third or fourth floor of the building, and the school had no elevator. Perspektiva was able to secure
a chairlift for Kirill, so he could continue to attend the same school. We were also able to help a parent of a child with Down Syndrome win a court case to allow her daughter to study in a local kindergarten. There have been many positive changes over the past 10 years to support inclusive education in Russian schools, in which children with disabilities study in ordinary schools. The biggest changes have taken place over the past three years. In May 2012, Russia ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the situation for
people with disabilities began to improve at a much quicker pace. Russian cities are slowly becoming more accessible thanks to federal and local funding, and a new law on education that went into force on Sept. 1, 2013, guarantees inclusive education for children with disabilities and special education needs. Attitudes towards people with disabilities are changing as they become more visible, and Perspektiva is playing a role in that. In 2003, Perspektiva began promoting inclusive education, developing and supporting pilot programs and raising awareness about the benefits of such education in our campaign“Children should go to school together.” We were the first disability N.G.O. to do this, and our campaign was the first one to raise awareness about inclusive education and its benefits. Today, our campaign is widely recognized, and our disability awareness trainings and other inclusive programs are in high demand not only by schools, but by the Ministry of Education. Ten years later, in 2013, Perspektiva launched a national competition for Russia’s “Best Inclusive School.” We received 100 applications that first year and more than 400 in 2015. This competition has been endorsed by the Ministry of Education and Science, and the ministry is now a key partner in this annual event. I know many children with physical and intellectual disabil-
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ities who were very excited about going back to their inclusive school or starting school on Sept. 1. But unfortunately they are still a minority, as parents continue to face a number of challenges to get access to inclusive education – teachers lack skills, knowledge and information about inclusive pedagogy; after testing, children with intellectual disabilities are still being sent to segregated special education schools; there are insufficient supports at schools for children with vision and hearing impairments; accessible transportation is lacking; there is a lack of trained teacher assistants, and funding is not always available to support them.
And these are just a few of the challenges. However, we at Perspektiva, together with our coalition of 25 regional disability and parent organizations that promote inclusive education, are confident that this movement, which has been slowly developing, will only move forward and continue to grow with government and community support. We hope that awareness and services will only continue to improve, and more and more parents will be able to choose inclusive education for their children. Denise Roza is the director of Perspektiva.
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Movies Russian documentary filmmakers find professional success in the United States
Recalling the Soviet Past: Line, Deficit, String Bag Alexey Mikheev SPECIAL TO RBTH
f you visit a Russian supermarket today, you’ll see people lining up at the cash registers with full carts — in this sense, contemporary Russia is hardly different from other countries. However, during the Soviet era, buying goods required standing in line, a particular phenomenon that required a specific vocabulary. Store shelves were occupied by “unsellable” items, that is, goods for which there was no demand. If something that was truly needed went on sale, a line formed for it, sometimes for hours on end. This situation was described with the verbs davat’ —“to give”— or vybrasyvat’ — “to throw out,” a kind of shortened form of the expression “they threw it out for sale,” as in:“They’re giving coffee at the bakery!” or “They threw out jeans at the department store!” There was a popular joke about a woman who, seeing a line, walks up to the end of it and asks,“Who’s last?”and then, “And what are they giving?” The joke was honestly not very far from reality: Soviets, even when they did not set out to go shopping, would carry a mesh bag with them, just in case. As early as the 1930s, thanks to standup comedian Arkady Raikin, this bag got the name avoska. The name comes from the old Russian word avos, which can be translated as“What if?” The bag was carried just on the off chance you might run into a line where something was being given out. The very existence of a line meant that something truly needed was being “given,” and if it was being “given,” it needed to be taken. Goods that did not exist in sufficient quantity for everyone
“When People Die They Sing Songs” by director Olga Lvoff is one of the films scheduled to be shown at the festival in New York next month.
Russian Filmmakers Benefit From American Techniques Russian documentary filmmakers find that graduate study in the U.S. helps them put the theory they learned at Russian universities into practice. VSEVOLOD PULYA RBTH
Regina Gluckman, a cheerful and active woman of 93, sits in her New York apartment, telling her daughter stories from her life before World War II and showing pictures from an old photo album. Here she is with her father and her little brother, young and beautiful. “Back then, when I was a child, I did everything boys did – but just better than them,” she said, smiling. Gluckman has never told these stories to anyone, but now, as she is approaching the end of her life, music therapy – specifically songs in her native Yiddish – have stirred long-lost memories and given her daughter an opportunity to record them. The story of Gluckman and her daughter is captured in a documentary by young Russian director Olga Lvoff, 27, called “When People Die They Sing Songs.” In 2014, it was nominated for a 2014 Student Academy Award and received a number of prizes, including the 2014 CINE Golden Eagle Award. Lvoff is one of several young Russian documentary filmmakers who are now making their mark in the United States. Lvoff graduated from the School of Journalism at Moscow State University, but even before she graduated she realized that she wanted to make documentaries. She went to New York for gradu-
ate school and received a master’s degree in Fine Arts and Social Documentary at the School of Visual Arts in New York. “There are wonderful documentary makers in Russia, but there is no industry,” Lvoff said. “That world is very small, and revolves around several groups of people.” She said that in contrast, NewYork is the center of the documentary film world. Viktor Ilyukhin, 26, who was a classmate of Lvoff’s at Moscow State University, graduated from the School of Visual Arts a year after she did. His film “Two and Twenty Troubles,” which tells the story of disabled actors working
See Russian Documentaries in New York
“There are wonderful documentary makers in Russia, but there is no industry,” said filmmaker Olga Lvoff. on a production of Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard”at Nicu’s Spoon Theater, has already received numerous acclaimations. “The film is about the idea of overcoming physical limitations through art,” said Ilyukhin. After two weeks of shooting, Ilyukhin completely forgot that the actors had any disabilities at all.“We were just talking about life, about how it has changed,” he said.“It was a revelation to me how many ways they find to express their acting ability.”
Craft and art Georgy Molodtsov, 29, had a successful career in Russia before
The Eighth Independent Russian Documentary Film Festival will take place at several locations across New York including the Anthology Film Archives, DCTV theaters and the Brooklyn Public Library on Oct. 9-11, 2015. The festival features documentaries from Russia, Belarus, Lithuania
and the U.S. that were made over the past year and emphasize social topics. Fifteen of the 20 films scheduled will have their American premieres at the festival. Some screenings will also include Q&A sessions with directors. For the complete screening schedule, visit www.rusdocfilmfest.org
deciding to continue his studies in the U.S. In 2008, he graduated from the prestigious Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) and was hired to select films for the Moscow International Film Festival. Later, he moved to Washington, D.C., for graduate work at American University. He received his master’s degree in Film and Media from the School of Communication at American this spring. “If VGIK offers an outstanding education in the philosophical and artistic appreciation of cinema, teaching you to understand its depth, [at American] we were instructed how to do it inside the industry,”Molodtsov said. “I was really impressed by how systemic all the processes are.” The animated social ad he made to promote a service that makes it possible to refill a drinking water bottle in 500 locations in Washington, D.C., received American University’s Vision Award. Molodtsov’s main American project is an as-yet-unreleased documentary about Anton Buslov, a journalist and expert in
urban planning who died in August 2014 in New York after a lengthy struggle with cancer. Buslov, who was a popular blogger, chronicled his illness, Hodgkin lymphoma, and the treatment he received in Russia and the U.S.
Next steps All three filmmakers have ambitious plans for the future, and aren’t limiting themselves to just one country. Ilyukhin is working on several environment-related projects both in Russia and the U.S.; Lvoff is starting to shoot a film with a working title “A Symphony One” about Dissociative Identity Disorder formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder and plans to continue living and working in the U.S.; and Molodtsov is in Russia, experimenting with virtual reality glasses in his documentary-cum–social project,VRability, which aims to enable people with disabilities to participate in sports.
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Chekhov’s Censored Early Work Finally Published Phoebe Taplin
GENNADY USTIAN SPECIAL TO RBTH
One of the Soviet Union’s most popular films,“Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears,” celebrates its 35th annivesary this year. Although today the film seems like a typical Hollywood romance, when it was made in the Soviet Union of the late 1970s, its themes of women who choose their own – sometimes unconventional – paths to happiness, was anything but ordinary. Modeled in part on the 1959 Hollywood film “The Best of Everything,”in which three women move to New York in search of success and romance, “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” is a story of three girls from the Russian regions who find themselves sharing a room in Moscow. Ambitious Katerina (Vera Alentova, who is also director Vladimir Menshov’s wife) is determined
to win a place at a university, despite having failed at her first attempt, and spends her evenings after work studying. Carefree Lyudmila (Irina Muravyova) sees life in Moscow as a big lottery and hopes to marry a good-looking man with a great Moscow apartment. Modest Antonina (Raisa Ryazanova), meanwhile, works as a painter at a construction site and marries a fellow worker early in the film. Gradually, Katerina becomes the film’s central character. After a brief affair with a high-flying film student, she becomes pregnant and is lectured by his formidable and domineering mother about the sorry fate that awaits single mothers in Soviet society. Katerina goes on to have a successful career, demonstrating the film’s overall message that there are no universal rules for finding happiness. “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” had its premiere in the Russian capital at the end of 1979, but was released nationwide only the following year. More than 90 million people went to see it in
SPECIAL TO RBTH
TITLE: THE PRANK AUTHOR: ANTON CHEKHOV PUBLISHER: NEW YORK REVIEW BOOKS CLASSICS
© GALINA KMIT / RIA NOVOSTI
Oscar winner “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears” was a groundbreaking depiction of Soviet women at the beginning of the 1980s.
Husband and wife, actress Vera Alentova and director Vladimir Menshov.
the theater, even though it was released on television only the month after it appeared on the big screen. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film in 1980. The film’s depiction of single motherhood caused a lot of controversy at the time – officials in the Soviet film industry did not want to see a successful single mother presented on screen. But the film’s astonishing box-office success, followed by its Oscar win, made them change their minds about this“soppy melodrama not worthy of the Soviet woman.” Director Vladimir Menshov’s Oscar story was also typical of the Soviet era. He was not allowed to travel to attend the ceremony
itself and, having heard the news of his win on TV on April 1, thought that it was an April Fool’s Day prank. For years, Menshov’s Oscar statuette was kept at the State Cinema Committee, which oversaw the Soviet film industry. When in 1989 Menshov was presented with a Nika, Russia’s national film award, his Oscar was also brought on stage during the ceremony. Menshov seized the opportunity to get hold of his statuette and refused to hand it back when the ceremony was over. Like the characters in his most famous film, who followed long and winding paths to happiness, Menshov finally attained the most coveted prize in world cinema.
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Film Oscar winner “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” was inspired by a Hollywood film
Iconic Soviet Film Celebrates 35th Anniversary
were called deficit goods, or just “deficit.” In the 1970s and 1980s, salaries steadily rose, people started to have more money, and everything more or less valuable sold out quickly. Correspondingly, the scope of “deficit”widened. Salespeople took advantage of this and started selling deficit goods“through the back door”or “on the side.” For their part, shoppers tried to build friendships with salespeople in order to buy items by avoiding the shop counter. Such an action was known by a different verb: “to come by something;” this meant to receive something that was not openly on sale. To be able to “come by” something, people usually paid not just with money, but with something else, even a service that had a connection to the “deficit.” This system of relationships was captured in the popular proverb “You — to me, me — to you.” As a result, everyone turned out to be interested in the deficit. Nevertheless, stores needed to put at least a portion of the merchandise on the open market. And when it became known that a batch of “deficit” had arrived at a store (jeans, for example) and would go on sale in the morning, a line would start forming the night before. So that people did not stand in line all night, lists were established. Anyone who wanted to could sign up for the line and then get a number to save their place. Today, in this time of abundant goods, the classic Soviet type of line with lists for deficit items is no longer relevant; nevertheless, there are vestiges of it. In Russia you’ll still find people arriving at a line and asking“kto posledny?” — who’s last — before taking their place or giving their name to the person holding a list of numbers.
The Prank” is a collection of stories that Anton Chekhov hoped would kick-start his career as a writer. Censored in 1882, the book he intended has finally been published — in English. The collection has never appeared before, even in Russian, although many of the stories in it are well known and only two of them are new to translation. This selection of playful tales sheds new light on the young writer. Chekhov appears as a chameleonic jester — here in the guise of a Spanish translator, there as a scientific journalist; a malapropistic, elderly landowner, writing to his educated neighbor; a cantankerous mother complaining about marriage. By the end of the book, the author’s romantic pastiche swallows its own tail in an ecstasy of metafictional, pre-modernist surrealism. In the 1880s Chekhov was in his 20s and training to be a doctor. To pay his tuition fees and support his family, he wrote a series of comic short stories under pseudonyms like Antosha Chekhonte. Already published in humorous magazines, “The Prank” was to be his first book, with the revised stories illustrated by his brother Nikolai. The imperial censor rejected the manuscript and it languished in a dusty office until
a Soviet scholar rediscovered it in the 1970s. Translator Maria Bloshteyn, who has cleverly replicated the freshness of Chekhov’s prose and the deliberate awkwardness of his parodies, explains in her excellent introduction how subversive these stories were. At first glance Chekhov’s flippant fables, some little more than extended jokes, seem inoffensive. But look more closely and these seemingly innocent scenarios expose hypocrisy and corruption: a father tries to bribe a teacher into giving his son a better grade; a train carriage becomes a corrupt and stinking social microcosm. One traveler observes:“darkness, snoring, stale tobacco and rotgut — this is Russia all right.” In the opening story, an apartment block full of “artists’ wives” suffers from frenzied, babywaking singers, sleep-inducing literature or painters who demand their wives pose naked by the window. The protagonist, Alphonso Zinzaga, is a young novelist:“very famous (only to himself)”. Newcomers to Chekhov might find this slim volume an amusing appetizer; for those who already know and love his work, it adds an interesting layer to the portrait of the ironic, melancholic doctor we think we know. Confirmed theatrical Chekhovophiles will scour these pages for a glimpse of the later playwright, with his tragicomic psychological observations. As Bloshteyn hopes, these stories have “the effect of an early photograph of someone met in middle age.” Unfamiliar at first, closer inspection shows us“smiling eyes” and recognition: “Yes, that’s him! Of course that’s him.”
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES
MOST READ The Kremlin’s Dormition Cathedral: Russia’s
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Architecture Tulane professor has spent 45 years photographing the iconic buildings of Russia’s difficult-to-reach places
William Brumfield: We See Things in Russia We Never Expected to See What Americans know about Russian architecture is mainly thanks to the work of one man, who has photographed the country since 1970. LARA MCCOY
It’s not easy to get William Brumfield to talk about himself. For Brumfield, 71, the foremost authority on Russian architecture in the U.S., the focus of any conversation is the work. And the work, first and foremost, is the photography. “The photography has always been the fulcrum for me to convey this knowledge that I have about Russian culture and architecture,” Brumfield said. Although photography has defined Brumfield’s career, he did not train as a photographer. He studied Slavic literature at the University of California at Berkeley, receiving his Ph.D. in 1973. Perhaps fittingly, he first picked up a camera on his first trip to the Soviet Union in 1970. The only time a conversation with Brumfield hints at anything personal is when he talks about the connection between the Russian North and his native American South. Born in Charlotte, N.C., Brumfield did his undergraduate work at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he has also taught since 1980. Like the South, Brumfield says the Russian North is full of structures that tell the story of a culture clinging to its heritage while searching for a way forward. “For all the losses, the trauma …there is an extraordinary wealth, much of it in a ruined state. But for the historian, the ruin is also important. This is something of extraordinary power. What created it? Because there’s nothing visible sustaining it now,” he said. A tireless advocate for the recognition and preservation of Russian architecture, Brumfield has published countless articles in English and Russian as well as several major books, including “A History of Russian Architecture”(1993), widely used as a textbook in Russian studies courses, and “Lost Russia” (1995), which Brumfield described as a book that tried to put Russian architecture into a familiar Western context,“this trope of the ruin as a point of meditation.” His more recent work, including “Architecture at the End of the Earth,” which was published in June, approaches Russian architecture more on its own terms, as an anomaly that doesn’t fit into the traditional narrative of Western art and architectural history. “It’s interesting because it’s Russia,” he said, adding that in his view,“architecture is as much an expression of Russia as its music or literature. Although it’s rare to find any of the great novelists talking about the architecture of a church, for example, that ambience is there.” He has received numerous accolades for his work over the
FROM WILLIAM BRUMFIELD PERSONAL ARCHIVES
William Craft Brumﬁeld William Brumfield attributes his ability to visit and photograph many hard-to-reach cities in the Russian north to his network of friends in the region who support his work.
years, but he says he doesn’t seek out these opportunities; rather, they find their way to him. When the National Gallery of Art approached him about creating an archive of his photographs in 1985, it was “not because of some abstract idea — we need to fill in Russia, there’s a gap here — but because they saw my photographs,” he said.
The National Gallery archive led to connections at the Library of Congress, which supported other research trips. “These linkages have been so unpredictable in my career, but the image has to be there,” Brumfield said.“There’s a higher logic here that goes beyond anything that I could have predicted — it’s the power of the image.”
Brumfield’s unique ability to create these powerful images comes from his roots as a scholar of Russia itself, according to Blair Ruble, former director of the Kennan Institute in Washington, D.C., and a longtime friend of Brumfield.“His interests grew from his love of Russian culture, which makes his photography different from that of an architectural photographer,” Ruble said. For now, Brumfield is focusing on archiving the images that exist in pre-digital form — as well as taking more. He would like to do a trip to the Russian south and photograph some cities he has never visited, including Krasnodar and Astrakhan. Such a trip would take him in the footsteps of early 20th century photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, whose color photographs of imperial Russia
prefigured Brumfield’s own work. “How much I’ll be able to get done in my allotted span is very much an open question. I’ve become almost fatalistic about it now,” he said. Although he says that he has spent more time in Russia than any American who doesn’t live here, Brumfield has no desire to move to the country and do photography full time, because that would mean giving up teaching. “We’re trying to create educated citizens and they need to know something about Russian culture,” he said. “To the extent that my work can reach out to our students, that’s good. I do my job and I have to believe that it’s going to make a difference to someone, because I know that the people who started me on this journey were just dedicated teachers, not art historians.”
AGE: 71 NATIONALITY: AMERICAN STUDIED: SLAVIC LANGUAGES
A native of Charlotte, N.C., William Brumfield took his first photographs of Russian architecture during a visit to the Soviet Union in 1970. Since that first trip, Brumfield has taken hundreds of thousands of pictures of Russia, documenting many structures throughout the Russian north that have since fallen into disrepair or been destroyed. He was named a Guggenheim Fellow in the Humanities in 2000 and last year was awarded the Dmitry Likhachev Foundation award “for outstanding contributions to the preservation of the historic and cultural heritage of Russia.” He has taught at Tulane University since 1980.
Ask the Professor: Why the Onion Domes? William Brumfield answered questions from RBTH readers about traditional Russian architecture and the best places to see it. Mireya Rodriguez: I am going to visit Russia and would like to see the classic highlights, but also the new Moscow and St. Petersburg. What would you recommend I see? There is so much to see in the central part of European Russia: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novgorod, Pskov, the Golden Ring towns accessible from Moscow such as Vladimir, Suzdal and Yaroslavl. In terms of recent developments, Moscow has the more dynamic architectural mix. The sky-
scrapers of Moscow City are the most visible and can easily be reached by subway. But new projects are spread throughout the city. Tastes and opinions vary, but the energy is undeniable. Kimberly Zenz: Where are the best places to see wooden architecture? Are there any places where it is still built or masters exist? Wooden architecture is alive and well in Russia. Indeed, traditional wooden buildings are visible throughout the country. There are also a number of open-air museums where distinctive examples of regional wooden architecture have been reassembled. The most famous of these sites
is Kizhi Island, in Lake Onega in Karelia. Others are Vitoslavlitsy, near Novgorod, and Malye Korely, near Arkhangelsk. Yes, there are indeed masters in the traditional crafts of wooden construction still working in Russia. There is even a school devoted to traditional construction methods at the St. Kirill Belozersk Monastery, in the northern town of Kirillov. Charles David Shaw: Where and when did the first onion dome emerge? And why in Russia? Our knowledge about their origins is quite limited. The earliest visual evidence appears to be an engraving of St.
Basil’s on Red Square in a book by the German scholar Adam Olearius (1599-1671). In the engraving, St. Basil’s (a.k.a., Cathedral of the Intercession on the Moat) clearly has the elaborate onion domes we associate with it today. They apparently appeared as the result of a major repair following a fire that damaged much of the upper structure in 1588. Why did this form take shape at this time? We are not sure. One hypothesis is that it imitates an onion dome that was presumably over the Holy Sepulcher (the grave of Jesus Christ) in Jerusalem in the early medieval period. Jerusalem was a very important theme in Russian spiritual
Nine venues in Moscow will take part in the annual Circle of Light Festival. Some of the world’s best light designers will present videomappings projected against some of the city’s most iconic buildings in 2-D and 3-D installations and multimedia shows as part of the event.
THE RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY ON THE FRUNZENSKAYA EMBANKMENT
From Sept. 26 to Oct. 4 MOSCOW
Artists from Russia, France, the U.K. and the U.A.E. will display their work on the buildings belonging to Russia’s Defense Ministry and also on the Andreyevsky Bridge over the Moscow River.
Prepared by Anna Sorokina
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lightfest.ru This announcement was produced by the Department for Multicultural Policy, Interregional Cooperation and Tourism of Moscow
THE BOLSHOI THEATER The facade of the Bolshoi will become a canvas for variations on the opera “Carmen” and the ballet “Swan Lake.”
VDNKH The revamped VDNKh park and exhibit center will host a light show that includes ﬁgure skaters. Light installations will greet visitors at the park entrance and accompany them along the main promenade.
THE CENTRAL CHILDREN’S STORE Amazing stories about fantastic creatures and a parade will turn the facade of the country’s biggest children’s store into a fairytale village.
PATRIARCH’S PONDS The location memorialized in Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov’s mystical novel “Master and Margarita” will feature projections of the novel’s characters.
THE MOSCOW RIVER Boats projecting light and multimedia shows will run from the House of Music near Paveletskaya railway station to the Luzhnetskaya Embankment. Projections from the boats will be visible on both sides of the river.
culture in the latter part of the 16th century. Some even considered Moscow the new Jerusalem. Therefore, the argument goes, the onion dome would have expressed this idea in the most visible new church of Ivan the Terrible’s Moscow. We do know that the onion dome became so admired that it replaced more traditional domes on Russian churches far older than St. Basil’s.
CHISTYE PRUDY (CLEAN PONDS)
T R AV E L 2 M O S C O W. C O M
The Life in the City light installations will take place in this favorite haunt of young Muscovites.
Published on Sep 16, 2015
Published on Sep 16, 2015
In this issue: Refugees reject Russia; Putin slated to speak at U.N. General Assembly; 18 months of U.S. sanctions