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Feature

Russia-Ukraine relations frozen

American pop culture that Russia has adopted

Moscow’s demand for repayment of Ukrainian debt has caused discord on the ground. Now the dispute has escalated to the skies.

The enduring appeal of certain U.S. trends and cinema inspires admirers to recreate these experiences.

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Economy

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

RUSSIANS SUPPORT SYRIA EFFORT O

A growing awareness of crisis Although the war in Syria has filled the screens of Russian viewers for four years, until a year ago, it was an irrelevant topic for the Russian population. Among those who followed it, more than half did not support any of the parties in the conflict. No one took seriously the deadly threat posed by Islamic State terrorists. Some poll respondents even named the group as a probable ally in geopolitical games, says Levada expert Stepan Goncharov. “This situation persisted until the end of this summer, when information about the transfer of troops to the Russian base in Syria was leaked in the media,” Goncharov said.

Operations in Syria are viewed positively as a way to return to dialogue with Western countries “The new world conflict reached ordinary citizens even later, as the agenda on federal channels was changing [TV channels with full coverage across the country – RBTH].” First attacks by Islamists from ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra (a branch of Al-Qaeda) and other radicals hardly displaced the Russian media’s then most popular topic – the crisis in the southeast of Ukraine. Ukraine was a cause for concern, but this was “only Syria,” said Yekaterina Schulmann, a political analyst and associate professor at the Institute of Social Sciences at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). “When the Federation Council received a request to permit the use of armed forces abroad, and when it became clear that it is just only Syria, the first reaction was, paradoxically, relief,” Schulmann told RBTH. “We were afraid of a new aggravation on the Ukrainian front; for us it would have been much scarier.” Breaking through isolation The beginning of the Russian operation in Syria was also seen positively as way to return to dialogue with Western countries and break out of isolation. This support is a manifestation of an antiAmerican trend, according to Mikhail Korostikov, a political analyst on international affairs and the head of the Strategic Development Department at the Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics.

What is Russia’s take on the Syrian conflict?

ALYONA REPKINA

n Sept. 30, Russia began military operations against radical Islamists in Syria. Not more than five hours passed between the moment President Vladimir Putin received permission to use troops abroad and the first attack by the Russian Air Force. It happened so quickly that Russians didn’t immediately know how to react, say sociologists. However, after a little more than a week, Russia’s two major sociological services – VTsIOM (All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center) and the Levada Center – presented data showing that the vast majority of Russians approved of the campaign as a whole. A little later, Vladimir Putin’s approval rating shattered its historic maximum and reached almost 90 percent “in connection with the events in Syria,” according to figures released by VTsIOM Oct. 22. Do Russians understand whose side they are on and against whom the Russian Federation’s armed forces are fighting? Do they understand what for?

The VTSIOM poll was held on Oct. 3-4 among 1,600 people from 46 regions. According to data from the Levada Center, collected on Oct. 2-5, 72% of respondents see the threat of the Islamic state, so airstrikes are deemed legitimate.

Attitude toward the conflict in the Middle East has made a qualitative leap – from indifference to broad support of the military campaign.

“The main thing is to have a clear enemy, and to look better than Americans – this is already enough, is not so important what exactly is going on there,” Korostikov said. Putin has also found supporters in those who who lament Russia’s drastically reduced influence in the world since the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. “If Russia had not entered the Syrian conflict, and Assad – our last ally – had fallen, Russia would simply not participate in the politics of the 21st century,” said Maxim Shevchenko, a journalist and member of the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, speaking on the Ekho Moskvy radio station. Those who aren’t involved in the Middle East cannot say they really participate in world politics, according to Shevchenko. “It is a unique region, which also has both sacred and economic significance,” Shevchenko said. “Non-presence in it automatically transfers a country into the thirdrate category.” But Syrian campaign enthusiasts include those who are ready to go to war “for justice” in any part of the globe, whether Syria or Ukraine. “What’s the difference, Syria or Novorossiya [eastern Ukraine]? There is mayhem going on both here and there and somebody has to stop it,” said Igor Uglich, a Donbass veteran and volunteer who together with friends joins groups on social networks, seeking ways to go to Syria.

© DMITRY VINOGRADOV / RIA NOVOSTI

Strike force: A Russian pilot checks the ordnance before taking off from Hemeimeem air base in Syria.

The Ministry of Defense did not reply to a RBTH request concerning the number of Russian volunteers in Syria. Not our war The bottom line is, despite the many people who approve of the Russian intervention, Russian citizens do not understand the intricacies of Middle East politics – and they do not want to understand. “If they do know something about it, it is only from old Soviet clichés – the ‘Arabs’ and ‘Israel.’ The situation in Syria and its various Islamist trends... it’s just not interesting to them,” said Leonty Byzov, a leading researcher at the Institute for Comprehensive Social Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Asking people for more details, such as who is fighting there and for what, reveals that people’s opinions are based wholly on TV shows and news reports, said Byzov. “They believe that Putin understands better, and if it is supported by the Federation Council, then it’s probably right,” he said. Still, both the public and the media are concerned about how far Russia can go in Syria, especially when it comes to the sensitive issue of possible casualties. “Russian society has a sore point connected with the Afghan trauma, and, in a broader sense, with the memory of World War II,” said Schulmann at RANEPA. “As soon as something comes that can cause human losses, attitudes deteriorate sharply.” “Society is ready to rejoice at a manifestation of the military and foreign policy power, but we are not ready to pay for it.” ■YEKATERINA SINELSCHIKOVA RBTH


Politics & Society P2 // rbth.com // November 4, 2015

Nationalists struggle to find unity and clout

Russia soars in international business ranking Russia’s Doing Business ranking has risen by 41 positions since 2013, going from 92 to 51, according to a new international business environment ranking that will be prepared annually by the World Bank going forward. According to the World Bank, in the past year Russia carried out five economic reforms which contributed significantly to increasing the country’s rating. Russia also entered the ranks of the top 10 countries for best performance of “power supply reliability” as well as “transparency of electricity tariffs.”

EPA/VOSTOCK-PHOTO

Will protests gain the ultra-right groups the attention and influence they seek?

NEWS IN BRIEF

READ THE FULL STORY at rbth.com/ business

The annual nationalist rally or “Russian March” is held on or around Nov. 4, the Day of National Unity. Russia wants men on the moon by 2029 Extras on the Kremlin’s stage The Ukraine schism cannot destroy nationalists as a force, according to Segei Prostakov, a collaborator at the Center of Ethno-Political Studies. Nationalist groups “realized that their interests for the first time corresponded to government policy,” Prostakov said, namely when it comes to the accession of Crimea; the restoration of the Soviet Union; and the protection of Russians in the Donbass. However, rather than winning nationalists political points, this has relegated them to the role of extras on the Kremlin’s stage. Their weak results in regional elections have made it clear: without government help, the systemic nationalists, such as the pro-government Rodina Party, the Anti-Maidan Movement and the Great Fatherland Party, have been left without any political clout.

ber of people [2,500, according to the police – RBTH], even though in better times the march would gather about 10,000 people,” Prostakov said. But looking forward, no one interviewed by RBTH could say exactly what will become of the nationalist movement, which has been sapped of strength but remains entrenched. Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the Sova analytical center and an expert on nationalism and xenophobia, did offer one prediction: The radicalization of the movement is inevitable. “Russian nationalism is going through a heavy crisis, but all crises end in something,” Verkhovsky said. “It is unlikely to die a sick man’s death; this is impossible.”

SHUTTERSTOCK/LEGION-MEDIA

Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, is planning to send a manned flight to the moon and execute a lunar landing, announced Vladimir Solntsev, head of Roscosmos partner Roscosmos Energia Oct. 27. The space-

■YEKATERINA SINELSCHIKOVA RBTH

Radicalization or death November’s Russian March will be key to evaluating the state of the movement, said Sergei Prostakov. “Last year the demonstration gathered a minimal num-

READ THE FULL STORY at rbth.com/50191

craft that will travel to the moon is now under construction, Roscosmos said. The first flight of the spacecraft is scheduled for 2021. In 2025, the spacecraft will conduct an unmanned voyage to the moon.

Unity or Revolution Day? Supporters of U.S.-Russia relations honored National Unity Day, which is observed Nov. 4, was first celebrated in 2005. The day commemorates the popular uprising that expelled Polish occupation forces from Moscow in November 1612, and also marks the end of the Time of Troubles and the Polish-Muscovite War (1605–1618). During Soviet times, a different holiday was celebrated around this date: Nov. 7 was the official national day of the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1991. On this day, which is Gregorian calendar date of the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace.

The Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in D.C. held its 2015 Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Awards Dinner Nov. 3. Petr Aven and Susan Carmel Lehrman received Woodrow Wilson Awards recognizing their lasting contributions to corporate and public service for U.S.-Russia relations. Aven was recognized for corporate citizenship and building understanding, and Lehrman was honored for philanthropy in Russian studies.

© YURI ABRAMOCHKUN / RIA NOVOSTI

Most Russians are celebrating the 10th annual Day of National Unity Nov. 4 with parades, speeches and a day off. But for far-right Russian nationalists, it’s a different kind of occasion. To mark the holiday, which is a new incarnation of a holiday instituted in 1613, these nationalists gather in large groups to hype “Russia for Russians,” referring not to the 185-plus ethnic groups found in Russia, but only to European Russians. The original name of the holiday: the Day of Moscow’s Liberation from Polish Invaders. The date highlights new tensions between the Kremlin and Russia’s nationalists, which, while not the happiest of couples, have historically been at least been content to be in the same room. Shared conservative values and staunch championing of all things “Russian” have made them natural allies in the past. But since the crisis in Ukraine began in early 2014, the relationship has been unraveling. Oct. 28, the Moscow City Court recognized the association Russkie “Russians” as extremist and banned its activity in the territory of the Russian Federation. Russkie has pushed back, with representatives saying the decree will not affect their desire or ability to hold a Russian march this year, because they are not officially registered. “You cannot forbid what does not exist,” they said. A lawsuit has been filed against leader Dmity Demushkin, who told RBTH he is waiting to be arrested “for some fictitious act.” Nationalists say their ranks are being purged. But experts are calling it a “progressive decline” stemming from an internal schism over the conflict in Ukraine. While a large number of nationalists have proclaimed support for the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region, a significant segment has sided with Kiev under the slogan of Russian-Ukrainian Slavic unity. Not one but two columns formed during the 2014 Russian March, a now-annual rally for Russian nationalists organized in major cities across the country. In Moscow, two separate marches took place in the southeast and northwest.

Vodianova co-creates a charity app, models effortless giving and connects them with people around the world,” Vodianova told RBTH. “Elbi,” the heart-shaped mascot that greets users and inspires them to do good deeds was created by Chris Meledandri’s team, known for the popular animated films “Ice Age,” “Despicable Me,” and more. Developed over the course of three years, Ebi is available only in the U.S. and the U.K., but will be available in Russia and elsewhere around the world in coming months. JP YIM/GETTYIMAGES

Already famous as a supermodel and philanthropist, Natalia Vodianova has added two more personas to the mix: startup co-founder and creator of a micro-philanthropy app aiming to “add meaning” to the online existence of people who cannot imagine life without their smartphones. Called Elbi, the app allows milllennials (aged 15-35) to make micro-donations of £1 or $1 to charitable organizations all over the world, including Save the Children, Walkabout Foundation, Blue Skye Thinking, and dozens of others. Users of the app, which launched Sept. 28 at the Global Clinton Initiative with an introduction by Vodianova, can also get involved with artistic projects to raise awareness for causes. “Elbi is a platform that brings the power of the social and digital worlds to charities

Natalia Vodianova, 33, is a Russian model and philanthropist.

Charity for the smartphone generation While an estimated 83 percent of millennials have a smartphone, the vast majority of charity organizations do not have an online strategy. Elbi not only provides charities with an easy-to-use digital tool, but also goes further: It gives meaning to millennials’ online activ-

ity, said the app’s developers. “Unlike many charity applications, Elbi is an aggregator, a platform for working with many funds at once,” web developer Lev Zvyagintsev of Moscow-based educational project Teplitsa Technologies for Social Good told RBTH. “Still in Russia, the majority of mobile donations go through text messages, not through apps. I would say that the Russian market isn’t developed enough yet for really ‘smart’ charitable applications.” However, he added, Elbi does stand out from other existing apps. It not only harnesses social engagement, but also taps into another powerful human force: imagination.

of support to a child in a hospital in India; or invent a funny caption for sandwich packaging in Cambridge. Users can click “Love” for drawings posted by other users, which generates microdonations to different charities. The better the created content – whether a photograph, a drawing or a get-well message – the more “Loves” it gets, and the more more money raised for charity. “With Elbi, your small actions can make a big difference,” Vodianova told RBTH.

Can “Love” really change the world? Elbi users generate content themselves. They can draw letters for schoolchildren learning the alphabet in Uganda; send a few words

■SVETLANA ARKHANGELSKAYA SPECIAL TO RBTH

READ THE FULL STORY at rbth.com/50277

RUSSIAN EVENTS IN WASHINGTON, D.C. Accordion Virtuosi of Russia at Lincoln Theater Nov. 8 The Lincoln Theater 1215 U Street N.W. Washington, D.C. 20009 Founded in Leningrad in 1943, boasting dozens of master accordionists and an ace rhythm section of percussion, electric guitar, bass and more, the Virtuosi amaze their audiences with daredevil feats using their keyboard and button prowess with modern and classical songs.

A celebration of James W. Symington Nov. 17 Russian Ambassador’s Residence 1125 16th Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20036 The American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation will salute James W. Symington’s 23-year chairmanship of ARCCF and his championing of U.S.Russian cultural diplomacy. For advance reservations please contact ARCCF at apotemkin@a-rccf.org

The Washington Balalaika Society concerts Nov. 21 - F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater, 603 Edmonston Drive, Rockville, Md. Nov. 22 Kenmore Middle School, 200 S. Carlin Springs Road, Arlington, Va. Founded in 1988, the Orchestra will present its fall concerts, Musical Treasures, featuring soprano Olga Orlovskaya. The program includes Sviridov’s ‘Snowstorm’ and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker Suite.’

Doing Business with the Eurasian Economic Union Dec. 7 Various venues in D.C. The Eurasia Center and the Eurasian Business Coalition will host a conference highlighting the new opportunities of “Doing Business with the Eurasian Economic Union.” Officially formed on Jan. 1, the union brings together five countries and more than 183 million people, with a gross domestic product of over $4 trillion.

› www.thelincolndc.com

› www.a-rccf.org

› www.balalaika.org

› www.eurasiacenter.org

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Economy rbth.com // November 4, 2015 // P3

vide the funds necessary to repay them, according to Standard & Poor’s. Ukraine has already received $9.7 billion from international organizations since the beginning of 2015. It is set to receive another $4 billion from international partners by the end of 2015, Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko said Oct. 16. In this situation, the IMF loan would effectively go toward the payment of Ukraine’s debt to Russia. But this scenario is unattractive from the Western point of view. “The IMF is unlikely to go for the provision of a loan to Ukraine to repay its debt to Russia,” says Andrei Margolin, Vice Rector of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, a research institute close to the Russian government. Politics trump the economy on this issue, Margolin says. In addition, Ukraine’s debt to Russia falls into the category of sovereign debt. “In accordance with the rules of the IMF, the program of financial support for Ukraine would be suspended until the settlement of the public debt,” Margolin says. Verum Option’s analyst Alexander Krasnov says the same, pointing out the IMF’s statute prohibits lending to countries that do not pay their public debt. Understanding that the sovereign nature of the debt is a problem, Ukrainian authorities have tried to challenge it on the grounds that it was issued to the previous regime.

GETTY IMAGES

Moscow and Kiev bring relationship and flights to halt

The air travel ban Restructuring Ukrainian bonds is not the only stumbling block for economic relations between the two countries. Another issue is air traffic: On Oct. 25, direct flights between Russia and Ukraine stopped completely. “We have received an official notification that all Russian companies will be prohibited from use of Ukraine’s airspace,” Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov told RBTH. Oleg Panteleyev, head of the analytical services of Aviaport, said the move is related to sentiment in Kiev. “The decision to ban flights of Russian airlines to destinations in the territory of Ukraine is connected with Kiev’s objections against flights to Crimea conducted by these airlines,” Panteleyev said. In response to these measures, Russian authorities have closed Russian air space to Ukrainian aircraft. Despite a steady decline since the end of 2013, passenger traffic between Russia and Ukraine amounted to 100,000 people per month in the first eight months of 2015, Sokolov said. This decline will affect Russia more, said Boris Rybak, an expert on civil aviation with the company Infomost. “Given that Russian airlines made several times more flights between the countries than Ukrainian carriers, it is clear that their nominal losses from the closing of regular flights will be higher,” Rybak said. But Rybak pointed out flights to Ukraine represent only about half a percent of total passenger traffic for Russian airlines. Ultimately, the consequences of the no-fly rule will be more serious for Ukraine, he said. “Of course, in real economic terms, any loss is bad, since air carriage teeters on the brink of profitability, and the situation is not healthy,” Rybak said. “But if Russian carriers are able to survive the closing of the Ukrainian direction, it is not a fact that the Ukrainian companies will survive the loss of the Russian route.”

The dispute mainly centers on Russia’s demand for Ukraine to return $3 billion in debt, but even air traffic between the countries is under question

Where the debt comes from In late 2013, Moscow agreed on a $15 billion loan with then-Ukrainian President Vixtor Yanukovych to support the Ukrainian economy. The move was meant to redeem the Ukrainian bond loan. The money came from Russia’s National Wealth Fund, consisting of revenues from the sale of hydrocarbons abroad.

Decline in Russian and Ukrainian Trade

ALYONA REPKINA

Ukraine is restructuring its debt following an October agreement with private creditors. The creditors are writing off $3 billion of Ukraine’s debt and reconstructing another $8.5 nillion, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Oct. 15. Russia has refused Ukraine’s offer to do the same: cancel 20 percent of its debt, extend payments toward the principal amount, and set the coupon rate at 7.75 percent rather than 5 percent per annum, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. The debt must be returned, or it will mean a default, the Russian president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Oct.15. Russian authorities promise to demand the return of funds in the London Court of International Arbitration.

Ukraine is ready for litigation with Russia about debt restructuring terms, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has said.

Russia has long been Ukraine’s main trade partner. According to data from the Ministry of Economic Development, turnover is consistently decreasing. As First Deputy Minister Andrey Likhachev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta: “Following the results of the first eight months of the current year we see steady falling of commodity turnover with Ukraine for 56 percent. If this tendency remains, by the end of this year we will reach $12-14 billion. And in 2016 we will come closer to $10 billion. Ukraine will fall from our fifth trade partner to the 30th or 40th.” Bonds were to be repaid by Dec. 20, 2015, and the coupon rate was set at 5 percent. According to a condition of the loan, Ukraine was required to return the funds early if total Ukrainian debt exceeded 60 percent of its GDP. But Russia only had time to transfer the

first portion of the $3 billion to Yanukovych before a political crisis in Ukraine ousted the president and led to a regime change. To solve the problem, Ukraine could offer to renegotiate the terms of the loan, according to Adam Derrick of the American Enterprise Institute. Specifically, Ukraine could offset a preferential rate (5 percent compared with the market 12 percent) and place the loan into the commercial category, according to Martin Wolf’s Oct. 20 column in the Financial Times. But Moscow is unlikely to agree to this proposal, if current rhetoric is any indication. Will the IMF give money? Ukraine has two ways to return funds to Russia, according to Standard & Poor’s. The first: In theory, Ukraine could repay the debt from its foreign exchange reserves of$12 billion. But in practice, per the request of the IMF, Ukraine cannot reduce its gold and currency reserves, which must reach $17 billion by the end of 2015. The second: The country could default on these bonds, in which case IMF would pro-

Digital connections provide top-tier healthcare to villagers in Russia’s remote reaches

■ALEXEI LOSSAN RBTH

FOLLOW VTB Bank president Andrei Kostin says there is no real economic crisis in Russia. Do the experts agree? rbth.com/50099

Two young engineer-programmers created a well-needed service by establishing a digital health system

Japan, a broken arm and an idea The partners behind the venture promising to transform Russian healthcare met in Japan. Vladimir Kovalsky, 31, and Dmitri Lazutkin, 30, both received invitations to study at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology during their fifth year of school. Kovalsky was attending the Russian Far Eastern University; Lazutkin was at the Pacific Ocean State University. While in Japan, Lazutkin broke his arm. During his subsequent dealings with the local health system, including an operation, Lazutkin found himself awed by the interactions between all the players and thrilled by their result: his own rehabilitation. From his experience, a business idea was born. “We understood that, coming back to Russia, we would not be able to arrange the hospitals and clinics,” Lazutkin remembers. “But a part of it, for example the informatization process, we would be able to handle.” In 2008, together with programmers from Khabarovsk (one of the largest Russian cities in the Far East), Lazutkin and Kovalsky launched a project to gradually link up more and more clinics with a program that managed documents electronically. The name of the endeavor, which

turned out to be one of the only feasible digital health projects in Russia: MEDESK. High quality healthcare in remote villages Kovalsky and Lazutkin found their calling when a nurse at a clinic in a Siberian village asked to upload a patient’s cardiogram to their system, where a cardiologist at a large medical center could study it and send back suggestions. “The country is big,” says Kovalsky, “and the remote regions lack doctors.” Before, a patient in a town such as Magadan (a port town in the Far East with a population of 93,000 people located 6,400 miles from Moscow) would never have been able to connect with a high-level specialist. But MEDESK made

IN FIGURES

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regions (out of more than 80) in Russia use the MEDESK system. It serves more than 115,000 patients and collaborators.

$50 is the minimum monthly subscription rate for clinics, to better serve their patients.

it possible for that patient to remotely “see” a specialist in Moscow. Demand for the service exploded, bringing money pouring into both local and big-city clinics. Today, the cases that go through the MEDESK system monthly number in the many thousands. Digital health’s sustainability in Russia The end of 2013 saw Kovalsky and Lazutkin’s efforts pay off with the launch of a “cloud” version of MEDESK, offering even more options. The company works with clinics on a subscription basis with monthly rates ranging from the basic $50 to the premium $800. More than 1,000 doctors, administrators and economists in 21 Russian regions use the platform, which serves more than 115,000 patients and collaborators. The number of clients grows 10-15 percent each month. In the absence of external investors, MEDESK has spent $16,000 of its own $161,000 annual budget on expansion. And for now, only network clinics and big medical centers connected with at least 30 collaborators can fully utilize the platform’s potential. But Russian insurance companies are particularly interested in MEDESK, whose single system calculates the total time, work and cost needed to treat a patient. And according to Kovalsky and Lazutkin, the possibilities of digital health are as expansive as Russia itself, and must be thoroughly explored to best serve Russian patients. ■ELENA NIKOLAEVA EXPERT MAGAZINE

IN HIS OWN WORDS

Nikolay Vasilyev HEAD OF THE RUSSIAN AMERICAN SCIENTISTS ASSOCIATION (RASAUSA), BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL

"

Telehealth applications have great potential for Russian healthcare. Such products are very useful for general practitioners, as well as for specialists, who work in remote villages. The ability to consult with a colleague is especially valuable for pediatricians who often need to make critical decisions rapidly, without the opportunity of transporting a sick baby to a specialized center.”

GETTY IMAGES

A new system uniting IT and medicine is taking its first steps into the Russian market. Billed as digital health, its aims are to help people save money on treatment, to accelerate medical services, and to make those services accessible to people living in the remote regions of Russia’s eleven time zones. Entrepreneurs believe this form of private medicine will boom in the Russian market in upcoming years.

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Opinion P4 // rbth.com // November 4, 2015

HOW LONG WILL RUSSIA’S SYRIA CAMPAIGN BE VIABLE? lies from the Revolutionary Guard Corps (Tehran officially denies the latter’s involvement) know precisely what and why they are fighting. After several weeks of powerful air support and engagement of Russian attack aircraft in ground operations, forces loyal to Assad are now regaining control of their country. Losses will not stop the Kremlin Despite the risks, any losses (downed aircraft or captured Russian pilots) are unlikely to halt Russia at this stage. For the time being, the operation appears to be going according to plan. The Syrian army has retaken Mansura and Lahai, is displacing militants from the suburbs of Damascus and stormed Aleppo.

DORMIDONT VISKAREV

ARTEM KUREEV RUSSIA DIRECT

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ussia’s aerial operation in Syria, ongoing since Sept. 30, has thus far been a triumph for the Russian military. The actions of Russia’s pilots, the unexpected use of pinpoint cruise missiles, and the coordination with Syrian ground forces are all contrasted in the Russian press with the protracted and ineffective campaign waged by Western allies against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). The West is up in arms, so to speak, over Russia’s intervention and is reluctant to agree to even a minimal level of cooperation. Moreover, since the early days of Russia’s military involvement in the Syrian civil conflict, both Moscow and the West have been engaged in a major information war.

While the Kremlin tries to demonstrate the combat readiness of its troops, most Western politicians and media continue to question Russia’s involvement and chances of success. In any event, it is still too early to judge whether Russia will be able to restore stability in Syria and dislodge ISIS. The reasons behind the timing of Russia’s Syria campaign For Moscow, direct intervention in the Syrian conflict was a forced measure. Having lost control of his country’s oil fields, and without external support, President Bashar al-Assad was doomed. Even substantial military aid from Russia and Iran was not enough to reverse the situation. Even though infighting broke out among his opponents, it did not help his army regain control of many key regions. Syrian government troops suffered heavy losses and saw their territory shrink. Although all eyes are on the flood of migrants into Europe, it should not be forgotten that even more Syrians are internally displaced in their own country, and that the Assad government has to feed about 3.5

million victims of the humanitarian catastrophe. Victory for the Syrian government will help to return at least some of them to their homes. Why Russia’s campaign in Syria is deemed a success so far Whenever the Russian Defense Ministry reports a success in Syria, the question arises: How could such a relatively small force have achieved it? Why was the West unable to do the same in Iraq and Syria? The answer is simple: The West is not operating on friendly soil. In Syria, NATO has no real support. And Iraq, driven by internal strife after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, is a poor ally even when it comes to liberating its own territory. Meanwhile, it is clear that the Russian military operation in Syria is based on data received from the intelligence agencies of Damascus and Tehran, which is also actively involved in supporting Assad militarily. Additionally, Russia’s allies have had time to coordinate the ground operation. Thus, in contrast to the demoralized Iraqi army, both the Syrian military and their Iranian al-

Russia will now share the blame with Western countries for the refugee crisis, regardless of its success in stabilizing the situation in Syria. Clearly, Russia’s ultimate goal is to allow Assad to regain control over at least some of Syria’s oil fields and to expand the government-controlled section of the Syrian-Turkish border. That will enable Damascus to start selling oil again. It should be noted that ISIS currently controls not only oil rigs, but also numerous refineries built under Assad’s father. The militants sell oil products at below-market prices, exporting them by road through Turkey and other countries. Russia’s military campaign in Syria undoubtedly puts this lucrative business in jeopardy, which was even reflected in a rise in oil prices in the first half of October. However, as long as there is a chance of returning the oil facilities to Damascus, the option of bombing them is not on the table. In any case, an attack on ISIS-held oil facilities would provoke a wave of indignation in the West, which would immediately blame Russia for causing an ecological disaster and killing civilians forced to work for ISIS. But the Russian military might hear such accusations anyway. After all, the Islamists would not give up their oil installations without a fight, and if forced to retreat they would surely try to blow them up. That could be followed by claims that the Russian Air Force had destroyed the infrastructure at huge cost to the environment, paving the way for the army of the “dictator Assad.”

The implications of Russia’s Syria campaign on the refugee crisis One of the most serious problems for Moscow in its effort to assist Damascus is the lack of support its faces not only from the West, but also from Syria’s neighbors, although one might have expected the latter to welcome any concrete steps to stabilize the region. As noted, not all refugees are streaming into Europe. That is a distant and expensive destination. Most have settled in Turkey – which is now home to more than 1.8 million – Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Damascus, Riyadh, Ankara and Amman have all had to provide the necessities of life for millions. A successful offensive by government troops in Syria could solve the main task of restoring supply lines and returning at least some of the migrants home, which would significantly relieve the burden on the Assad regime and the economies of its neighbors. Russia’s operation entails significant economic costs For all that, Russia’s operation is no panacea. Even if one assumes that with Moscow’s support Assad can regain control over the country by military and diplomatic means within the next 12-18 months, Syria has already lost much of its industrial infrastructure, and no one knows how much more will be destroyed as the fighting goes on. Meanwhile, the World Bank’s damage assessment comes to around $170 billion. In any event, the fight to regain control of Syria will entail enormous devastation, including the destruction of refining and agricultural infrastructure. Assad will hardly be able to restore the economy without outside assistance, primarily from Moscow and Tehran. At best, the Russian operation will restore some degree of order and stability in war-torn areas. It will take many years before Syrians can once again live and work in peace. Probably no more than half, if that, of those who have fled the country will go back. Most likely they will become a burden to Europe’s social security system. The problem, however, is that Russia will now share the blame with Western countries for the rise in the number of refugees, regardless of its success in stabilizing the situation in Syria. Anticipating such an outcome, Moscow was never counting on the support of Brussels and Washington anyway. Regrettably, the wellbeing of millions of Syrians, which would be much easier to ensure through cooperation, has been sacrificed on the altar of political ambitions on both sides. Artem Kureev is an expert from the Moscowbased think tank “Helsinki+” that deals with protecting interests of Russians living in the Baltic countries.

READ THE FULL STORY at www.russia-direct.org

THE POLLS

A ‘NEW’ NATIONAL HOLIDAY SERVES TO UNITE 11 TIME ZONES MIKHAIL SHVYDKOI SPECIAL TO RBTH

In a country where more than 130 languages are spoken, the idea of unity is a necessary theme to explore. hearts of all Russian citizens, their fates and human connections. The memory of the war and the pride of victory for their parents and grandparents undeniably unite the new Russian and Soviet histories. And on National Unity Day, these similarities are things we dwell on. At the same time, Russians are significantly freer in their judgments than the Soviet people. We got all the constitutional rights which they could not dream of in the Soviet Union – the right to freedom of movement, freedom of speech and the right to property. Today’s Russia is a capitalist country, where the government is trying to maintain its social responsibility to its citizens, which is very difficult in the current economic situation.

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The role of religion in society has changed. Freedom of conscience, as stated in the Russian constitution, has led to the increased development of our country’s traditional religions – Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. But unity can also grow out of this multi-confessionality, even if Russia is a very secular state. Today, patriotism is quite often, and wrongly, in my opinion, regarded as a kind of national ideology. Such an understanding, ironically, is a threat to our national unity. Patriotism, in a pure sense, is a normal human feeling – like loving your parents – and is usually not related to the political beliefs of a person. However, it is important for society and individuals to distinguish between patriotism and nationalism. One should not forget that patriotism is inherent in all people, and should be a unifying emotion even in people of different ethnic backgrounds: in Russians as well as in Tatars, Bashkirs or Chechens [Russia’s second, fourth and sixth largest ethnicities, respectively – RBTH]. Certainly, every people has its own

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language, its intangible heritage – customs, traditions, rules of conduct, art and culture. Not everything matches, even if the peoples belong to the same linguistic group or share a common religion. Russia is a country where multiculturalism is accompanied with some general civil rules of conduct. I will make no secret of the fact that it is extremely difficult at times to maintain the balance of interests of different peoples living side by side. But this should be the goal of every forward-thinking country. When celebrating National Unity Day, a decade after its recreation in its current form, Russians will draw upon these themes of multi-culturalism, multi-confessionalism and what it means to be from a country with two intertwined histories: Soviet and Russian. Certainly our poets and filmmakers and ballet dancers and musicians serve as a common well of culture for Russians to drink from: Whether it’s 19th-century classical music or the defining movies of the ‘90s, we don’t need to look too far to find similarities. As Russians learn to cherish this new November holiday, whatever their ethnicity or political leaning, they can dwell on the unifying glory of Victory Day in the recent past or on the historical Day of Moscow’s Liberation from Polish Invaders. Mikhail Shvydkoi was the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation (2000-2004).

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The answer: Not really, according to an Oct. 24-27, 2014, poll by the Levada Center among 1,600 people from 46 regions.

ALYONA REPKINA

O

n Nov. 4, Russian citizens will celebrate National Unity Day. This is a relatively new Russian holiday, which came into our lives in 2005. It was brought to life for a number of very obvious reasons. The creation of a new – Russian, not Soviet – nation required new symbols. We had to find an event that was in the vicinity of Nov. 7 [the anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution, the official national day of the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1991 – RBTH] to create a holiday that could replace the Soviet tradition. However, National Unity Day is not simply a young holiday. The historical roots of this particular date reach back to the beginning of the 17th century and the end of the Time of Troubles (a period of national and dynastic chaos from 1598 to 1613), when Polish troops were expelled from Russia and the new Tsar Mikhail Romanov was crowned. Bulkily named the Day of Moscow’s Liberation from Polish Invaders, it was an important and stately holiday but, in my opinion, deprived of any necessary emotional connection to modern Russia. The newly founded Nov. 4 holiday has yet to earn its place in the hearts of all Russians. I’m sure that there is no holiday in Russia today that can be compared in its unifying power with May 9 – U.S.S.R.’s Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War and World War II. This war is still embedded in the

Do Russians know what they’re celebrating on Nov. 4?

Some 16 percent didn’t know the meaning of the holiday, compared to 43 percent in 2006. Both years, only 3 percent identified Nov. 4 as the Day of Moscow’s Liberation from Polish Invaders. Levada has asked the question since 2005. Data for 2015 is not yet out.

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

AND GET DIRECT ORDERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD An analytical publication that focuses exclusively on the complex challenges and opportunities shaping the U.S.-Russia relationship. Contact our team on cooperation matters via: russia-direct.org/about-us | contact@russia-direct.org


Culture rbth.com // November 4, 2015 // P5

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ELENA KAZACHKOVA

PHOEBE TAPLIN

Soviet Disneyland: VDNKh marks 80th anniversary A park filled with eclectic Soviet architecture finds new relevance in present-day Moscow

PRESS PHOTO

Eighty years ago, Moscow saw the birth of the most grandiose exhibition park in the Soviet Union and a showcase of the country’s economic and technological achievements, from rabbit rearing to space travel. the VDNKh project. With its eclectic mix of monumental Stalinist architecture and full range of historical styles from pseudo-Gothic to recreations of Art Nouveau, the Exhibition of Achievements of the People’s Economy wows visitors to this day. The secret to its survival: Since it was established in 1935, it has adapted to meet the needs of each successive decade, displaying Soviet space advances in the ‘60s and hosting flea markets in the ‘90s. Its allencompassing variety has become its hallmark. “VDNKh can be considered an almanac of the Russian architecture of the 20th century,” said architect Oleg Raspolov. “Its main unique feature is its eclecticism. Inspired by the famous pavilions of Venice, VDNKh became a single coherent entity.” Architect Vyacheslav Oltarzhevsky, who designed the park’s layout and main entrance, was arrested in the late 1930s because his modernist vision did not fit the monumentalism of the day: The entrance resembled a yard gate rather than a castle gate. The project changed hands, landing with Leonid Polyakov, who created the huge triple-arched entrance

VDNKh was designed to show the achievements of collective farms.

READ THE FULL STORY AT rbth.com/sovietpark

that is now the northern entryway. But those in charge ultimately panned this design, too, as insufficiently pompous for the primary entry point. The next grand reopening in 1954 saw a new five-archway triumphal arch go up over the main entrance, adorned with the monument “Tractor Driver and Kolkhoz Woman.” Another monument which also became symbolic for VDNKh, had been installed here earlier, in 1939 – “Worker and Kolkhoz Woman” by Vera Mukhina and Boris Iofan, it first appeared at the 1937 World Fair in Paris. Not only the main gates, but most of the pavilions were rebuilt several times to align with the latest architectural trends. The most significant shifts in VDNKh’s architecture took place in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, when the pavilions moved under the control of the relevant ministries and underwent alterations to suit the current economic needs. One building in particular exemplifies the many changes the park and pavilions have gone through, in

SPECIAL TO RBTH

TITLE: “THE BIG GREEN TENT” AUTHOR: LUDMILA ULITSKAYA PUBLISHER: FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX

structure as well as in name: the emblematic pavilion that was at various points known as “Siberia,” “Agriculture of the Russian Socialist Republic” and “Coal Industry,” which Armenia leased in 2003 to represent that former Soviet Republic. The future of VDNKh In a final twist, the abundance of reliefs and decorative flourishes that had been so vehemently insisted upon was itself declared “architectural excess” that went against the progress and needs of the Soviet people. Luckily, despite this determination, the VDNKh’s architectural exuberance has survived mostly intact. In 2014, this federal property moved under the ownership of Moscow authorities, who in less than a year have finished renovating some two dozen pavilions and rebuildingthe main and southern entrances. Moscow plans to go even further, and is embarking on an ambitious 10-year,163-billion-ruble ($2.5 billion) project to create six theme parks at the site, among other changes. VDNKh will never again serve the same purpose that the park did in the 1930s or following decades. But if history is any indication, the complex will find ways to stay relevant as it enters its next phase, which promises to be just as colorful. ■OLGA MAMAEVA SPECIAL TO RBTH

TIMELINE

1930s • The All-Union Agricultural Exhibition (VSKhV), later renamed VDNKh, was established in 1935 and finally inaugurated in 1939.

MOSKVARIUM Eighty huge aquariums represent almost an entire ocean of marine fauna. You will come faceto-face with the most dangerous and intriguing inhabitants of the darkest depths. Killer whales, beluga whales, dolphins, walruses and sea lions will showcase their artistic talents throughout the day.

1940s • After WWII began, the pavilions were repurposed for military use, including a military auto repair shop and a reconnaissance training center.

1950s • Massive reconstruction took place; most notably, the People’s Friendship Fountain was erected. In 1959, the park was renamed VDNKh.

1960s – 1970s • New venues were added: the USSR pavilion, a venue for the International Farming Machinery Exhibition, and the Consumer Goods pavilion.

Disparate voices all under the same tent

1980s - 1990s • Most buildings housed various small businesses. The once-proud exhibition was transformed into a huge, derelict bazaar.

EXPERIMENTANIUM Your young scientist will find endless fascination at the “Experimentanium” (ages 7 and up), an attraction where children are allowed to not only view, but touch and participate in the various experiments.

GORKY PARK In addition to hosting the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, the park in the winter becomes home to one of Moscow’s largest open-air skating rinks, complete with a special space for children.

Leningradsky prospect, 80, building 11

Krymsky Val street, 9

experimentanium.ru

park-gorkogo.com

L

udmila Ulitskaya’s evocative book “The Big Green Tent” (2011), set in Moscow after Stalin’s death, has returned in Polly Gannon’s elegant English translation. It is Ulitskaya’s sixth novel translated to English. Ulitskaya’s longest novel yet (about 600 pages), “The Big Green Tent” has an openly Tolstoyan ambition to capture the spirit of an age. She adopts a conventional narrative style, but a deliberately erratic timeline, letting one tale race to its conclusion only to bounce back to earlier days like a temporal yo-yo. Many of Ulitskaya’s recurring topics are here: Judaism, feminism, families. The novel looks back to the 19th-century revolutionary Decembrists and a parallel history of dissent, and glances covertly toward the present day. She narrates a drunken teenage party and a KGB interrogation with the same eye for comic detail, the same ear for ominous tones. The interlocking stories in “The Big Green Tent” revolve around three male and three female school friends. The novel opens with their families’ disparate reactions to news of Stalin’s death, from Olga’s mother, a party official (“misfortune has befallen us”) to Tamara’s grandmother, who celebrates that “the Big S seems to have kicked the bucket.” What follows are the fraught and mangled histories of those

who (as Ulitskaya writes in her acknowledgments) “stumbled into the meat grinder of their time … the witnesses, the heroes, the victims…” The three boys first bond while rescuing a kitten from two bullies. Mikha, an orphan, poet and later a teacher, is red-haired, “bespectacled and a Jew, to boot.” Sanya is musical, sensitive, a repressed homosexual. Ilya, tall and dynamic, becomes a dissident publisher and photographer. Their days, “full of enemy spies” and “skirmishes,” mockingly prefigure later sagas of betrayal and compromise, exile and suicide. Ulitskaya’s pages are sprinkled with references to Solzhenitsyn, Brodsky, Dickens and Orwell, classical myths and samizdat manuscripts. A teacher wounded in the war at the boys’ school and leads the boys through the streets of Moscow, whose shifting history and geography are potent undercurrents in the narrative flow. “We live not in nature, but in history,” Ulitskaya writes, as her protagonists walk down a lane once trodden by Pushkin and Pasternak, “skirting the eternal puddles.” The book’s title image comes from one character’s dream of “a large green marquee” filled with “the dead and the living.” The tent embodies the spirit of this generous, inclusive novel, spanning more than four decades of Soviet life, and Ulitskaya’s defining characteristic: an overwhelming compassion for human frailty.

READ THE FULL TEXT at rbth.com/533187

LITERATURE Read our updated literature section! rbth.com/literature

“MOSCOW LIGHTS” MUSEUM Make sure to pre-register for this interactive tour, which can be played in various foreign languages. Here you will learn how to ignite kindling, a candle lantern and kerosene lamp (ages 6 and up). Armyansky lane, 3-5, building 1. ognimos.ru

MEMORIAL MUSEUM OF COSMONAUTICS Budding young astronauts (ages 4 and up) will be delighted by the museum, with its genuine “Mission Control Center.” There is a rescue helicopter simulator as well as the main attraction – a spaceflight simulation that will make you feel like yo yyou u ar aaree flying y ng yi g to the moon! n!

Prospect Mira 119, building. 23 moskvarium.ru

PLANETARIUM The ever-alluring and mysterious starry sky will appear before you in all its glory on Europe’s largest dome screen. The most curious young visitors (ages 4 and up) will be able to observe the tools of exploring the universe from antiquity through today; touch the secrets of astronomy; and carry out celestial experiments.

Prospect Mira, a 111 kosmo-museum.ru us seum u .ru

MOSCOW ZOO One of the oldest zoos in Europe, it was opened in 1864. Today, it houses more than 8,000 different animals from around the world in a large park setting.

Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya street 5, building. 1 planetarium-moscow.ru

T R AV E L 2 M O S C O W. C O M

Bolshaya Gruzinskaya street, 1 moscowzoo.ru

This announcement was produced by the Department for Multicultural Policy, Interregional Cooperation and Tourism of Moscow


Feature P6 // rbth.com // November 4, 2015

Back to the American past, in Russia Why do some American time periods, films and sitcoms resonate greatly with Russians?

Ivan Kurilla PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY IN ST. PETERSBURG

"

PRESS PHOTO

A muscle car show in St. Petersburg unites fans of American retro cars and pin-up models.

YEKATERINA CHIPURENKO

FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVES

DeLorean cars, Doc Brown quotes and Photoshopped images of Marty McFly flooded Inernet users Oct. 21. Crowds gathered to greet time travelers Marty and Doc, set to arrive on this date in 2015, according to the American cult classic “Back to the Future” movies. The future was in full swing just as BTTF had imagined it, with one difference: the scene and its surrounding hubbub took place in Russia. Weeks into this historic period of the future, one can’t help but think about the influence American culture has on Russian everyday life. Even in the days of the Iron Curtain, people managed to hear illegal songs and learn about fashion and cultural trends via forbidden radio waves caught in secret in the middle of the night. But these days, with world media wide open to Russian users, there’s no lack of all things foreign. In fact, certain trends have grown so solidly into Russian life that they’re no less important to the current generation than Chekov or Tarkovsky. “Back to the Future” was never a thing of the past for Natasha Bezrukova, 36, who in 2012 managed to finagle two special guests for her son Seva’s seventh birthday. She posted an ad in a Moscow newspaper, asking for “a kind heart that would be able to gift the child an hour of delight,” as well as one specific detail. The result: not one but both owners of the two existing DeLoreans in Russia volunteered their cars for a birthday ride. “There’s something in the movies of the ‘80-’90s, something true, something that makes you watch it again at an older age with your own kids,” Bezrukova said. It was only when she decided to show Seva the things she liked as a child that Bezrukova discovered her own love for the series, she said. “We saw the trilogy when Seva was six,” Bezrukova says. “To my surprise, he got the point of the time-space interconnection, got excited about time traveling, watched everything on YouTube on the topic.” What Marty and Doc didn’t foresee: how the past would become a fashion statement. Red lips, provocative poses, playful clothes – who would’ve thought that American pinup, a popular 1940-50 trend, would make its way into contemporary Russia? And yet projects such as “Haunted Cathouse,” the first pin-up project in Russia, weave together the retro with the modern. Radmila “Rocky Zombie,” 26, discovered pin-up at 18 while searching for herself, her style and her way to femininity.

IN HIS OWN WORDS

In 2012 Natasha Bezrukova managed to get the only two existing DeLoreans in Russia to come to her son Seva’s 7th birthday. “Pin-up can’t but attract with its ‘sweetness,’ lovely color combinations, smiles and charm of the girls,” Radmila says. “When I saw modern American models with tattoos and colorful hair I thought ‘that’s my option,’ as I was an alternative girl at the time.” A retro stylist, hairstylist, photographer and creator, Radmila and her team organize performances, lectures, and master classes and go to festivals and exhibitions. “At first I never thought about business and money, but I thought straight away about world fame for my pin-up project,” Radmila says. “That’s what moves me still and what turned the project into profit.” For Radmila, who is inspired by American models and photographers, artsy makeup is a daily must, as well as certain clothes and accessories. “They’re real innovators in everything and are afraid of nothing, then and now. Our shoots go to American magazines or just into the web,” Radmila says. “Our clients are

“Central Perk” café in the city of Perm (700 miles from Moscow) marks its 4th birthday this November.

While public polls are showing a negative attitude toward Americans among ordinary Russians, from a lifestyle perspective, the influence of American pop culture is quite notable.

clothes stores, fashion brands, festivals, cafes and private individuals.” The interest is growing day by day, and Radmila and her group are booked till Jan. 1, she says. The popularity of pin-up could be explained by the emerging fashion for femininity, something that hasn’t been emphasized since the ‘80s, Radmila says. Another trend making a comeback: the cult of famous ‘90s TV shows such as “Sex in the City” and “Friends.” Visit the Russian city of Perm, a city near the Ural Mountains 700 miles from Moscow, and you’ll find a recreation of the old “Central Perk” café set in Los Angeles, a facsimile that has attracted visitors from all over Russia for four years. Karina Alenina, 36, the creator of the café, says the series has become a solid part of her life, literally. “It’s not just that I’m quoting it all the time and persuading people to watch it, but also

I wouldn’t pigeonhole such hobbies only to the time period of American cultural expansion in the U.S.S.R./Russia in the ’80s-’90s; the interest appeared earlier. We can recall during the ’50s-’60s the wave of stilyagi (hipsters) in the Soviet Union, who liked jazz, boogie-woogie and rock ’n’ roll. Besides, I would pay attention to the fact that in the U.S. it is possible to meet people who are extraordinarily fond of Russian culture. They aren’t only collecting works of folk art, balalaikas and samovars, but also opening Russian art museums or restaurants of Russian cuisine. But to speak about American cultural influence, of course it is very significant in the field of popular, mass culture. Many Russians can be critical of U.S. foreign policy, but at the same time accept, use and even love American culture and its scientific achievements.”

the fact that my first daughter is named Emma, after Ross and Rachel’s daughter,” Alenina says. Alenina first saw “Friends” in 1995 as an exchange student in the U.S., at her host family’s home. She was hooked instantly. “Later, I saw the series translated in Russian and started watching. At last I got all the jokes!” Alenina says. “The older I became, the more all the characters and plots got revealed from a new perspective.” She adds, “I think this series has all the everyday life situations played out, which surely helps to look at one’s own problems in a different light, easier, with humor.” Alenina jumped at the chance to recreate part of her favorite show, and so Perm’s “Central Perk” café was born, she says. “We did it all by ourselves, from the famous red sofas, all the furniture and signs to the tiniest interior details,” Alenina says. “Joe’s famous sawed door became a toilet door at the last stage.” Raised watching the show, Alenina and her friends hold it in high regard. “In Russia ‘Friends’ was one of the first American series translated into Russian, and that’s why a generation has grown up with it, capable of telling the quality,” Alenina says. Alenina, Radmila and Bezrukova are not alone: From huge annual Comic Con events to a snug little café in Perm, American culture has become a part of daily life for many Russians, and for many, a part of their identity. “It’s not that retro culture is so very popular, but people started recognizing it and distinguishing it,” Radmila says. “Maybe out of respect for the past or maybe because we’re so influenced by American fashion and trends.” ■KIRA TVERSKAYA SPECIAL TO RBTH

Thanksgiving dinner Soviet style By the end of November, Russians are slowly getting excited about the biggest holiday of the year – New Year’s Eve. It’s the day when Russian families get together for a big meal and exchange presents - like Americans do on Christmas. In Moscow, New Year’s trees are being set up, people are starting to shop for presents, and everyone is dreaming of the main dish on the New Year table – Olivier salad, definitely not turkey and pumpkin pie. I don’t think many Russians know much about Thanksgiving. They may be aware that it exists, but if you asked anyone on the street if the fourth Thursday in November is different from any other day in the United States, I doubt they would have an answer. I know I didn’t have an answer until about five years ago, when a Canadian/ Australian couple invited my husband and me over for Thanksgiving dinner. Now I remember, and if you ask me what’s special about this day in late November (or in October, in the case of Canadian Thanksgiving), I would say that it is special because there is turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie…

ANNA KHARZEEVA SPECIAL TO RBTH

and I don’t have to cook any of it! I love Thanksgiving dinner. My Australian friend is a spectacular cook and I remember crawling out from under the dinner table and plopping myself on the sofa, wondering if I had indeed had enough – or could I maybe fit just one more heavenly slice in. Since then I’ve been very lucky to get to go to several more Thanksgiving dinners with Americans who were all away from home but gathered together in a Moscow apartment to have a wonderful time. This year I thought I’d try cooking the dinner myself.

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On the downside, I had to make my own food, but on the plus side, I found some recipes in the Book that worked really well. There was just one turkey recipe, so that choice was easy – it says it should be served with baked apples, which is a great idea. I also used a cranberry sauce dessert recipe with less sugar and, of course, mashed potatoes. I didn’t have an American around to test my creations, but my Australian husband and I thought it was as appropriate a Soviet Thanksgiving dinner as one could ask for. I asked my grandmother if she knew much about Thanksgiving and the food that’s usually served: “Thanksgiving? American Thanksgiving? I know of it, but don’t know anything about it. I think they eat turkey, a whole one. In Soviet times I’d never even heard of turkey – we certainly never cooked it. It’s surprising there’s a turkey recipe in the book. As for mashed potatoes – I always loved them, and the dish is very handy as you can always use the leftovers to make potato cakes.” I know Granny would love a real Thanksgiving dinner – she enjoys a cowberry (similar to cranberry) sauce with meat, and now that the Soviet Union no longer exists, I’m glad she’ll have the chance to do so.

This piece is part of the Soviet Diet Cookbook, a blog about a modern Russian girl cooking Soviet food.

READ FULL VERSION OF THE RECIPE at rbth.com/41809

R B T H . C O M / M U LT I M E D I A SCAN WITH LAYAR TO WATCH INTRODUCTORY VIDEO

ANNA KHARZEEVA

THE SOVIET COOKBOOK

Instructions for fried turkey: 1. Salt the prepared turkey on all sides, place it on a pan with its back up, pour on the melted butter, add half a glass of water and let it bake in a mediumheated oven. While baking, use a spoon to pour the juice formed around it onto the turkey and turn it so that it browns on all sides (the turkey needs to be baked anywhere from one to two and a half hours, depending on its size). 2. After baking, remove the turkey, pour out the fat, add a glass of meat broth or water, boil and sieve. 3. When the turkey is not prepared in its entirety but in halves, the parts must be fried after the baking process. The turkey should be served on a warm platter. Pour the juice over the turkey and decorate it with parsley shoots or salad leaves. Baked apples or fried potatoes can be served on the side. Serve the cranberry sauce on the side.

RBTH the will return to ost Washington P on Dec. 2 !

RBTH insert in the Washington Post, Nov. 4, 2015  
RBTH insert in the Washington Post, Nov. 4, 2015  

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