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An expert's insight into controversy




United Cricket League, a big hit Eight teams and growing, expat Indians set the pitch P.07

A Report from The Tmes of India. In association with Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Distributed with


From Bollywood to Bharatnatyam, studios attract hordes of students students

Danger of putting The Gita on trial


Indian dance blooms in Russia


Russia India

...Marching towards a common future




Scared of winter? Relax, just chill out

Economy doing well, but political picture hazy

right attitude, it can be a lot of fun. Next time, you are in Russia, try snowboarding, skiing and skating. Winter also stands for a two-week holiday, which means traditional Russian feast, family gatherings and loads of gifts. SEE PAGES 4 -5


My Indian friend once asked me how do we Russians survive the benumbing cold winter? The question struck me as slightly odd, but then it was hard for me to imagine living through the scorching Indian summers. Winter frost can seem frightening, but with right clothes and

A third of Russians welcomed 2012 with optimism (34%), while the share of pessimists dipped to a minimum since 2008 (10%), says a poll byVTSIOM Public Opinion Center. In general, 57% believe that 2011 was better for them and their families than previous years. Though 2011 was very challenging for the world economy, Russia fared fairly well, clocking 4.3% economic growth. Average monthly wa g e ro s e by 1 2 % a n d amounted to $750. But the risks ahead are real. Russia remains vulnerable to external shocks, especially falling energy prices. Besides, the political situation remains volatile in the aftermath of mass protests following the Duma polls. With the March presidential elections looming, Russians are cautiously optimistic as they usher in the NewYear. HIGHS AND LOWS OF 2011: PAGE 3


Bilateral ties move into higher orbit

Taj, saris, snow, vodka? Let's go beyond cliches

The recent summit between the leaders of India and Russia has imparted a fresh momentum to bilateral ties. OLGA PETROVA RIR

Defying sceptics and those who thrive on controversies, the leaders of India and Russia held their 12th annual summit in Moscow on December 16, which culminated in the signing of five pacts and tangible outcomes in areas ranging from nuclear energy,

With confusion in some quarters in Moscow about India's commitment to nuclear collaboration with Russia in backdrop of local protests over nuclear safety, Manmohan Singh took the lead in defence and space to educa- clearing the air and antion, culture and trade. Put to- nounced that Kudankulam gether, Indian Prime Minister Unit I will be operationalised Manmohan Singh spent near- in “a couple of weeks” and ly six hours in separate meet- Unit II of Kudankulam in“anings with Russian President other six months.” Most imDmitry Medvedev and Prime portant, the two sides struck Minister Vladimir Putin. Al- an understanding on Moscow though it was freezing cold providing credit facility for outside, the warmth and depth Kudankulam III and IV that of mutual understanding was should make it easier for India evident in their wide-ranging to continue the atomic energy interactions, which reinforced drive in times of global slowthe “special and privileged” down. strategic partnership between CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 the two countries.

Indians and Russians may be good friends, but continue to think of each other in stereotypes. How do Russians see India? Classical dance, cows blocking the traffic, the magnificent Taj Mahal. India may be an IT power and an emerging economy, but exotica still colours perceptions. Ditto goes for Indian images about Russia as a snow-covered, vodka-drinking country, producing fighter jets. How do we move beyond these distorting images for better mutual understanding? SEE PAGE 8


Summit Kudankulam n-plant on track, Sukhoi deal sealed






Ties scale a new summit Business council for cooperation with India JSC Rosoboronexport website Oil and gas industry news



Russia will significantly boost supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to India in 2016, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said. "Gazprom has signed the memoranda covering major supplies of LNG to India with several Indian companies," Medvedev told Russian and Indian businessmen during the meeting in December. Alexei Miller, CEO of Russian gas giant


Dispelling all doubts, Manmohan Singh reiterated India's commitment “to move ahead with the 2010 road map” that entails Moscow building at least a dozen reactors in the next few years. Seeking to accelerate their time-tested ties, the two sides signed five pacts. India's deal with Russia for buying 42 Sukhoi jets reinforced sturdy defence ties that remain the keystone of bilateral relationship despite Russian defence industry losing out some lucrative Indian defence contracts. An agreement on the military uses of the Russian GLONASS navigation system, an alternative to theWestern GPS, promises to enhance space cooperation. The Sukhoi deal came on top of the ongoing Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft project, the proposed lease of the nuclear submarine Nerpa, and the refitted Gorshkov aircraft carrier that reinforced Moscow's position as the top supplier of military hardware to New Delhi despite competitors. The summit also saw the two leaders focusing on ways to expand economic ties as they set a target of more than doubling their bilateral trade to $20 billion by 2015.“This multifaceted relationship will grow in all directions but trade and investment growth will be one of the key areas to work for,” Medvedev said. With Russia's entry into the World Trade Organisation, India is now hoping to seal a Comprehensive Economic Co-

AVIATION RUSSIA OFFERS CIVILIAN AIRCRAFT TIE-UP TO INDIA Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Moscow.

Medvedev reiterated support for India's seat in UNSC and backs its entry into SCO as a member. operation Agreement (CECA) with the Belarus-Kazakhstan-Russia Customs Union. The two sides have identified steel, diamonds, pharmaceuticals, and hydrocarbons as focus areas. Two important steps that can be game-changers in transforming the economic relationship also emerged from the summit. This includes a proposal to set up a joint investment fund and intensive collaboration to commercialise technologies in sunshine areas like IT, bio-medical technology and nanotechnology, that was symbolised by

the establishment of a Science and Technology Centre with offices in Moscow and New Delhi.The focus on deepening the economic content of the relationship has in fact been a trend through the year, with success stories of joint ventures making it to headlines. The summit also brought to the fore a striking unanimity of views on a range of international issues as Russia came out unambiguously in support of India's claim for a seat in a reformed UN Security Council. Moscow also supported New Delhi's interest in joining the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a full-fledged member. Unfortunately, a totally unnecessary controversy over a move by some zealots in the Siberian town ofTomsk to ban the Bhagavad Gita erupted as the Indian prime minister re-


Fallacy and danger of the Gita trial Eugenia Vanina SPECIALLY FOR RIR


oday, in the early 21st century, a book is on trial in Tomsk, a pleasant university city. And what a book! The holy book of Hinduism, Bhagavad Gita, or “Song of God”. The Gita was first translated into Russian in 1788 (ironically, nobody put the book and its translators on trial in the Orthodox Russian Empire in 1788, but it’s being judged in a secular democratic Russia) and has since been translated and published many times.

Gazprom, said in November that the company would take India's growing demand for LNG into account in its plans to build export facilities under the Eastern Gas Programme. India's gas consumption is projected to increase 70 percent by 2020. India's ONGC is in talks with Russia's largest independent gas producer Novatek to participate in the Yamal LNG project. RIA Novosti

Swami Prabhupada translated Bhagavad Gita and provided it with copious commentaries that are more voluminous than the text itself. The Tomsk prosecutors discerned in Prabhupada’s version “signs of fomenting religious hatred, denigration of human dignity on grounds of gender, race, nationality, language, origins and religious conviction”and demanded that the book be banned as “extremist”. For some reason, the court rejected the request of the defence to seek the opinion of Indologists in Moscow or St Petersburg. Instead, it brought in a team of experts from

Tomsk State University, led by Dean of the Philosophy Department S.S. Avanesov, who first adjudged the book as extremist but later retracted

A Russian lad singing Hare Krishna has the right to do so under the law in a secular, democratic Russia. their statement.The court then turned to linguists in Kemerovo, who delivered the opinion the prosecutors needed. But one does not have to be an In-

turned to New Delhi after what an Indian newspaper called “one of the most successful and productive bilateral meetings in recent years”. However, the Indian leadership has shown faith in its relations with Moscow to resolve this tricky issue. Moscow has also been prompt to assuage Indian apprehensions, with its envoy denouncing “madmen”wishing to ban the Gita and asserting Russia's secular credentials. While controversies may come and go, both sides realise their relations have stood the test of time and will continue to do so amid the shifting global flux. As Manmohan Singh said:“In today’s world of uncertainties, regional flashpoints and economic slowdown, the IndiaRussia relationship stands out a factor of peace, progress and stability in the world.”

dian scholar to understand the fallacy of this approach when a religious text is simply screened for the presence of negative words (“fool", “enemy”,“demon", "kill”and so on) as grounds for declaring the book“extremist”. It did not occur to the “experts” that, if the Bible, for example, were subjected to a similar test, it would come in for still more severe judgement. We keep saying that Russia is a democratic, secular and multi-religious state. If that is so, however sceptical we might be of a Russian lad wearing Indian clothes and singing Hare Krishna, he has the right to do so under the Constitution and the law. Eugenia Vanina, D.Sc. (History), Indian Studies Centre, Oriental Studies Institute.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev offered joint development of civilian aircraft with India, saying the two nations could benefit from the accumulated experience in the production of combat jets. "I discussed the idea of

shifting our successful experience in the field of military aircraft to the civilian aviation, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," Medvedev said. "Now, we are moving towards implementing this idea, at least I hope so," Medvedev said. RIR

TECHNOLOGY INDO-RUSSIAN S&T CENTRE OPENS IN MOSCOW The bilateral scientific cooperation received a major boost mid-December, with the inauguration in Moscow of the Russian-Indian Scientific and Technological Centre. The centre seeks to build on existing linkages between Indian and Russian scientific establishments, to facilitate and channelise commercial/ industrial applications of technologies developed in

the two countries. “This new Center will seek to commercialise the results of joint IndiaRussia R&D efforts,” said India's ambassador to Russia Ajai Malhotra. This would include innovative technologies developed jointly or independently by Indian and Russian scientists. It was also announced that a similar centre would be opened in New Delhi early next year. RIR

OIL ZARUBEZHNEFT GETS ITS FIRST CONTRACTS IN INDIA The Russian state-owned oil company JSC Zarubezhneft has signed its first contracts in India since 2004, the company said. On December 13, two contracts were signed between JSC Zarubezhneft and the Assam branch of ONGC Ltd: one for the supply

of chemical reagents and materials and one for providing services to enhance oil recovery in the Lakva field in Assam. The contract involves Zarubezhneft experts working to enhance oil recovery in inactive wells and wells with low flow developed by ONGC. RIR


RUSSIA INDIA REPORT Official website for APEC Russia 2012 in Vladivostok FInd more facts about Russia’s WTO accession





Highs & lows, tragedies and triumphs, 2011 was a mixed bag

Protesting the results of Duma polls, Moscow saw its biggest mass rally in nearly twenty years Dec 24.


1. Tragedies/Disasters 3. Changing times 27 MARCH. YEAR-ROUND DAYLIGHT SAVING On March 27, Russians turned their clocks forward one hour for the last time, making Daylight Saving permanent in Russia. The time reform was based on the conclusions of experts who cited the negative effects of the time change on people’s health, the lack of economic benefits, and sociological opinion polls.


by employees of the Interior Ministry. The most widely reported of these was the shooting of customers in a Moscow supermarket by a drunken police officer in April 2009, and the murders in late 2010 of 12 people in the Kushchevskaya settlement in southern Russia by members of a criminal gang who were virtually abetted by corrupt policemen. Russia’s militia (police) was renamed After a deluge of complaints, politsia. During mandatory a federal law “on the police” reconfirmation proceedings, was passed on March 1. The more than 200,000 Interior necessity of reforming the ap- Ministry employees, including paratus of internal affairs be- 140 generals, were sacked. Are came obvious to the govern- the police now doing a better m e n t a ft e r a s e r i e s o f job? The jury is still out on the sensational crimes committed success of these reforms.


4. Integration


Since 1st July, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are operating under a full customs union.

Customs barriers between the countries were removed. Experts predict that the creation of the Customs Union will bring Russia a hefty profit of some $400 billion, and Belarus and Kazakhstan a profit of $16 billion, while causing the GDP of these countries to grow by upto 15% by 2015. The three countries have now begun moving in the direction of creating a Eurasian Union.




Undoubtedly, the parliamentary elections in Russia and the“awakening”of a civil society will top the list of defining political events in Russia

With the 24th satellite up and running, the Global Positioning and Navigational System (GLONASS) was complete: its 24 satellites working on three

orbital planes are now able to completely cover the globe’s entire surface. The launch of the last satellite took place on December 4. Within three months, the American GPS will not have any advantages in terms of precision over Russia’s GLONASS, which will provide a precision of 2.5 to 2.8 m e t e r s , R o s ko s m o s a n nounced. In addition, on November 3, the unique Mars500 experiment was successfully completed.



After being closed for restoration for six years, Moscow’s iconic Bolshoi Theater re-

opened its doors on Oct 28. After the $700 million reconstruction work, the theater doubled its space to 80,000 sq. meters. The main hall boasts unique acoustics and a stage the size of a six-storey house, the largest in Europe. In September, Alexander Sokurov’s Faust received the top award at the 68thVenice Film Festival.


2011 began in Russia on a dark note with a deadly terrorist attack at the Domodedovo Airport on Jan 24, the latest addition to a long list of such horrid acts of devastation in Moscow. A suicide bomber exploded in the middle of a crowd of passengers in the airport’s international terminal -- 37 people were killed and over 200 were wounded. The last major ter-

rorist act in the capital, an explosion in the Metro that left 40 dead, had occurred in the spring of 2010. In 2011, at least three more tragedies occurred, which reverberated in the hearts of all Russians. On July 10, the Volga cruise ship in Bulgaria was wrecked and 122 people were drowned.The decade’s worst tragedy in the world of sports occurred on September 7 as a plane crashed, killing the entire Lokomotiv hockey team (of the 45 who perished, 37 were hockey players, 8 were crew members). The year ended with yet another disaster: in mid-December, the floating Kolskaya oil rig overturned and sank in the Sea of Okhotsk, killing over 50 people.



in 2011.The ruling party United Russia managed to win, but with a reduced presence: it got 238 seats in the 450-member Duma. But alleged violations during the elections, which the opposition decried as “massive”, led to a series of protests. Demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg were the largest in the last decade. The events of December 2011 may mark the beginning of the awakening of a civil society in Russia, experts say.

After 18 long years of negotiations, a protocol was signed on Russia’s accession to the WTO on December 16 at a ceremo-

ny in Geneva after the WTO’s ministerial conference finally approved this decision. In yet another important diplomatic event, Russia took up the chairmanship of APEC (AsiaPacific Economic Cooperation) for 2012 and will host the next APEC summit in Vladivostok in September next year. Among Russia’s priorities as chair will be the liberalisation of trade and investment.





IN ASSOCIATION WITH ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, RUSSIA THE TIMES OF INDIA WEDNESDAY_JANUARY 4_2012 Russian Public Opinion Research Center Russia Profile online magazine Russia Today TV Channel


FROST BITES, BUT YOU CAN ALWAYS PARTY brate Russian Orthodox Christmas on January 7 and finish the holiday marathon with a very odd-sounding fest for foreigners - "Old NewYear", which means celebrating New Year, according to the old Russian calendar, on January, 13.A popular NewYear tradition is to write down a wish on a sheet

of paper, burn it with a match, throw the ashes into the glass of champagne and gulp it down before the clock strikes midnight. On Christmas eve, girls target fortune-tellers to know about their future husband. There are times when Christmas trees remain in the living rooms well into February.


Come year-end, and nothing, not even sub-zero freezing temperature, can spoil the mood of Russian party-lovers. Some people plunge into the festive mood on December 25 (never mind it's Catholic Christmas!), party all through the NewYear night with a typical Russian zest, then cele-

In Moscow, never say no to skating

Skating-rink at Red Square.



Skating is one of the favourite winter recreations for Russians. Everyone has his pet skating story to tell. Skatingrinks frequently act as sets for romantic or funny episodes in Russian films, songs and even cartoons. For example, a scene in the cult Russian film "Pokrovskye vorota" ("Pokrovskye gates") takes place at a skating-rink. Even a popular Soviet cartoon series "Nu, pogodi!" ("You just wait!") shows main characters Wolf and Hare skating together on New Year's. The abundance and variety of skating-rinks in Moscow is impressive but there are a few venues that are especially popular and truly spectacular. Skating-rink at Red Square has a very special ambience for skaters. It is a 3000 square metre space where about 500 visitors can skate simultaneously. Thanks to the rink's unique location, skaters can feel the vibrant rhythm of the heart of Moscow beating in pace with the cheerful music



Pratyush wins the 1st prize.

Ice hockey is a big draw.

from the retro Soviet and European films. There is also a cafe for those who'd like to have a cup of coffee while admiring the beautiful SaintBasil's Cathedral and the famous GUM. For many Muscovites and vis-

itors to Moscow, there is another perfect place for immersing in a winter fairy-tale. It is the famous Gorky Park (the Central Park of Rest and Culture named after M. Gorky). With 15,000 square metres, ice labyrinth for kids

and a lot of skating routes, it is the biggest skating-rink in Europe. Besides, thanks to the ice-cooling system keeping the ice from melting under the temperature upto 15 degrees above zero, it will be possible to skate in the Gorky Park until mid-spring. This historical park in the heart of Moscow offers all the facilities for skaters of all tastes: big teenage groups who indulge in adventurous "ice battles", families with kids or couples who appreciate the romantic atmosphere of this sprawling skating-rink, which feels very Christmassy from the beginning of December already. The skating-rink called "Gorky-Gorod" on the Patriarshye Prudy, another historical Moscow location, has gained much acclaim lately. It's a big hit among trendy young people, with its fashionable music and atmosphere redolent of a European punk festival. Previously, this used to be a modest skating rink where people would bring their own food and tea in thermos jugs. Now, it has been transformed into an impressive 12,000 square metre space, with ice slides for children, a park of ice sculptures and a place for safe skating and playing hockey.

Snow-clearing helps, but driving can be a challenge Many Indians who visit Moscow in winter are delighted to see snow. But it can be a trial for the city because when winter comes to Russia, it is the real deal: winter lasts for about four months, with snow falling on approximately 50 days. Upto 16 inches of snow can fall overnight, prompting municipal utilities to swing into action and clear the streets. As soon as it starts snowing, snow-cleaning machines are sent on to the city streets. A single machine not only cleans about 12 kilometers of road surface per hour, but also does valuable extra work: it detects


From adventure-seekers and romantic couples to families and kids, you can find them all on skating-rinks across Moscow. Nothing like skating to beat winter blues!


holes in the road and reports electronically on their exact location to the road construction service. Snow-ploughs push snow to the side of the road, where the piles are loaded into dump trucks and then taken to one of 200 snow-melting units. It costs the city 20 million euros a year to maintain its snowclearing fleet. Car owners also brace themselves for the cold season. All winter tyres are equipped with spikes, and huge amounts of windscreen-washing fluid are used – upto 5 litres a day - to enable smooth driving.

BOOKMARKS Ria Novosti news agency The Moscow Times newspaper Online newspaper






Skiing - the high of conquering new peaks


Moscow are also proliferating. The ski hills in these regions are not high and do not look so magnificent as the impressive mountain chains. But their advantage is gently sloping descents, which are safe even for beginners or families with children. It may seem unbelievable but in Russia, keen skiers start to teach their kids to ski when they are barely 2 or 3 years old. Apart from such extreme cases, doctors say skiing helps boost the immune system, develop dexterity and is very energising.


Some like it colder: ice swimming (right) or football on snow (left). The best for kids - gifts from Father Frost (middle).

"The only thing better than mountains can be the mountains that one hasn't ascended yet," said celebrity Russian singer Vladimir Vysotskiy. Conquering mountain peaks and daring even the most challenging downhill skiing pistes is one of the much favoured winter hobbies for many Russians. The most popular skiing resorts in Russia are situated in the Caucasus and Ural mountains. Dombai, Krasnaya Polyana and Elbrus are the most famous among the Caucasus mountains. They have breathtaking landscapes and offer you a chance to try all kinds of mountain sports. Ski-extreme, free-ride, snowboarding, etc draw a large numbers of visitors. All the resorts have a well-developed infrastructure, including mineral sources for health improvement, numerous bars and restaurants and saunas. These resorts offer diverse ski-runs which are perfect, both for fearless professionals and cautious amateurs. Ski resorts in the suburban

Sochi 2014 Olympics mascot: Snowboarding Snow Leopard.

From +15 to -72 Celsius..... cals have long been accustomed to frosts and take them calmly. Apart from freezing temperatures, there are other winter phenomena to reckon with in Russia. Icy roads and pavements force car drivers and pedestrians to take extra care while making their way. Last time, winter became famous for the so called icy rain - ice pellets formed when it rains at below zero temperatures. But as they say in Russia, "every weather has its beauty". Below are a few examples of the daily challenges Russians face during the cold season and what they do to adjust to it.

Say "Russia" and it triggers images of thick Siberian frosts. Indeed, it sometimes does get really cold in Russia, even though the climate ranges from polar to subtropical on the Black Sea shore, with its average January temperature of plus 15 degrees Celsius; for instance, in Sochi, which is located on the same latitude as Nice. Russians from other regions are envious of Sochi residents. The 470 residents of Oymyakon, a town in Yakutia, where the mercury dropped to minus 72 degrees C last year, must be especially envious. Winter naturally colours all aspects of their lives but the lo-

Mittens: they were brought to Russia by Varangians, hence, the Russian name for mittens, “varezhki”. Mittens keep hands warm, and grannies love knitting mitts for grandkids. Felt boots (“valenki”): are made by felting lamb wool. These boots protect you from cold even at below 30 celsius. But they are not water-resistant and have no outsoles, which is why they are traditionally worn with galoshes.

Russia’s annual felt boot production is estimated at 4.5 million pairs. Ushanka: a fur cap with earprotecting flaps. The word derives its name from Russian “ushi” – ears. It's a style statement and symbol of the Russians.


Keeping warm: Go to sauna, put on samovar “I’m going to the banya, make up the fire in the oven and put on the samovar.” This was what a typical Russian would say only 50 years ago. “Banya” is a Russian sauna, “oven” here stands for a big stone stove that any “izba” – a Russian wooden house – used to have. A “samovar” is a big boiler used to make tea, which also symbolises Russian hospitality and an invitation to have

a cup of tea often means a long and hearty conversation. Going to the banya in winter months still remains a recreational mood-boosting (and some say, also immunity-enhancing) habit for many. But the pressure of growing urbanisation is gradually eroding popular traditions. Soviet urban construction has made them somewhat obsolete. Modern Russia only has cen-

tral heating, with no individual thermostats. As a result, rooms are overheated and hot dry air becomes a universal problem for the country. Despite this, the “central heating” model seems to remain the only viable one. To prevent the water pipes from freezing, hot water is first heated at power plants and then pumped directly to homes. Russians have to pay for the shortages in summer,


Fashion: Frost Chic

when the hot water supply is traditionally suspended for upto three weeks to allow for maintenance of heat pipelines.





IN ASSOCIATION WITH ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, RUSSIA THE TIMES OF INDIA WEDNESDAY_JANUARY 4_2012 Foundation of Indian Cultural Heritage Studies Website of Khatak guru Ashwani Nigam

Heritage Studios teaching Indian dance forms are mushrooming in Russia; a lack of funds and facilities key problems

From Bollywood to Bharatnatyam Three decades ago, it was mostly Bollywood dance that captivated Russians. Now, classical dance forms like Bharatnatyam and Kathak are also casting their spell.





Indian dance set its nimble feet on the Russian soil in the 1980s, after a decade of the Indo-Russian bhai-bhai in politics and a great many films and music that flooded the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Inspired by Indian films such as“Disco Dancer”or“Dance Dance”,the first studios teaching Indian dance began finding their feet in Russia around that time. In September 1996, Guru Ashwani Nigam was sent by India’s Ministry of Culture to teach at Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre. Mr. Nigam, the founder of Tarang Theatre specialising primarily in Khatak, recalls how one of the first Indian dance schools in Russia in 1980s was “White lotos”founded by Galina Das Gupta. Most dance collectives at that time taught just dance from films, which have nothing to do with Indian classic dance.“This was a hard time for the enthusiasts, with the lack of dance costumes and very rare opportunities to travel to India and meet local dance gurus,”recalls Natalia Obolenskaya, head of the “Saraswati”dance studio specialising in Bharatnatyam. "We sewed the costumes ourselves, we made adornments for the performances from tins and metal things. But it was fun.”Starting in 1994, Natalia studied in New Delhi for a long time under the guidance of Padma Sampath Kumaran, an eminent Bharatnatyam teacher whose Russian students have gone on to win top international prizes. Natalia feels living in India and learning from an Indian guru gave her a profound insight into this dance form. “It elevates my mind to divinity. An array of thought-provoking themes makes me feel the fullness of life,”says Padma while trying to explain why Indian classical dance captivates people from all cultural backgrounds.“In our culture, dance is a way to God, to perfection, to admitting and controlling oneself. Very often, people’s hands and legs are like ice, and then they begin to dance and feel as if they are reborn,”says Mr. Nigam. Besides classical dance, there

Khatak guru Ashwani Nigam: dance is a way to God, to perfection.

Dancing her way to Russia Padma Sampath Kumaran, an eminent Indian dance teacher, was born in Chennai and began to learn Bharatnatyam at the age of 5. The encouragement she received led her to believe that dance is her destiny. Her conservative family at first did not quite approve of her passion for dancing. But Padma's paternal uncle, a liberal-minded person, helped her to learn from the legendary guru, Chokkalingam Pillai. After her marriage, Padma started teaching Bharatnatyam dance with active support from her husband. She founded Nrityam Cultural and Dancing Society. In New-Delhi, a lot of Russian students came to learn from her and were entranced by her techniques. She learnt the Russian language quite fast to teach Bharatnatyam to Russians. She was honoured

with the Russian state award for her contribution to the development of the Indo-Russian relations on November 4 this year. Padma Sampath Kumaran visited Russia and was deeply impressed with the elegance and vigour, synchronisation and perfect positioning of the Russian folk dance and ballet.

are a lot of dance studios in Russia teaching Bollywood dance and even modern Indian fusion and new age dance. Anjali, a Russian dancer, studied choreography in India for two years and managed to master Bollywood dance. She prefers to use unconventional methods, mingling moves from Flamenco into Indian music or setting Indian dance moves to Latin American music. But while the Indian dance is

catching on in Russia, it has a long way to go. Scarce financing and a lack of facilities, says Ashwani Nigam, are key obstacles. The cost of renting a room is high and there are other expenses for organising dance classes, contests and festivals. He hopes for more support from the Russian and Indian sides to promote Indian dance in Russia. Nigam feels that although Indian dance is blossoming in Russia, and there are about 270

different dance collectives in Russian cities and towns, most of them teach Bollywood dance and not classical ones. “It’s understandable,” smiles Nigam. “Profound study of the classical Indian dance can take upto six years whereas Bollywood dance can be learnt in six months. It's like comparing ballet to club dancing.” Nigam is quite impressed by great flexibility and precision of movements Russian students exhibit, which often surpass their Indian peers in technique. But there is a bit of cultural disconnect.“Expressing emotions through dance is often a challenge for Russians because this demands feeling a strong affinity with the Indian culture and religion, and it’s hard for those who were not born there,”says Nigam. Padma Sampath Kumaran, however, differs.“In fact the difference in culture creates eagerness to know the differences and absorb the same speedily,”she believes. Padma has Russian students who, she feels, have managed to cross the cultural boundaries with ease. She gushes about the sheer dexterity of Natalia Obolenskaya, one of her students who has taken the Bharatnatyam dance to a higher trajectory.“Natalia is more of an Indian than a Russian when she comes to perform Bharatnatyam. Sometimes, I wonder whether she was an Indian in her previous birth.”

Ekaterina Stolpnikova

Lekshmi Reghunath





As a Russian, I didn't know much about the Indian dance culture before. But several years ago, I felt drawn to this country and was keen on learning more about it. Visiting an Indian classical dance concert impressed me very much and inspired me to find a Bharatnatyam dance studio in Moscow. For me, the rhythm of the dance is very important, and the rhythmic system of Indian classical dance is much richer than other dance forms. And the Indian music represents the whole system of knowledge. It's an endless process of learning.



Maria Mavlyudova

Svetlana Tulasi

I've lived in Moscow ever since my birth but nevertheless Indian dance plays an important role in my life. I started studying classical Indian dance forms when I was seven. At the moment, I am learning several forms simultaneously - Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi and Nota but it's not confusing for me. For me, studying Indian dance is important because I am an Indian, and this is a part of my culture. It helps when people keep in touch with their cultural legacy even if they live far away from their home country.







I had always wanted to study Indian classical dance. It's like theatre in many ways. There are so many characters, so much acting and pantomime. Through my Bharatnatyam dance classes, I began to understand India much better, and I realised how much the Indian mentality differs from the Russian. After my trip to India, the dance became vibrant and real. I learnt not only to imitate the movements of the dancers, but also to feel the emotions expressed in the dance.

My mother is Russian but my father's Indian which is why, even though we live in Russia, my parents followed the Indian tradition of teaching their children classical dance. This is how I began learning Kathak as a child. But as I grew older, I got interested in the history of the dance. The Indian classical dance helps me to learn more about India, but for me, it’s more about mastering a special skill that a few people possess rather than keeping in touch with my culture.


RUSSIA INDIA REPORT Official partner of Russian Olympic Committee Russian Alpine ski and snowboard federation




Cricket Welcome to the United Cricket League of Russia; expat Indians seek support of ICC to boost the game

Eight teams and growing, Indians score big in Russia ELENA LININSKAYA RIR

Never say no to cricket. Indians would agree, whereever they may be. More than 200 expats from the Indian subcontinent are willing to sacrifice their precious summer weekends to play cricket, says Sumit Huda, head of NSquare group of companies and an enthusiastic cricketer. He is the captain of the team “Omega”and devotes a lot of time to the game, despite his busy schedule. It all started with a few students from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean countries in the 1980s. They played with tennis balls and archaic cricket bats, even during the Soviet era in the backyards of their hostels. Or-

ganised cricket, however, started shaping up around 2000 when the first tournament with part-sponsorship from Coca Cola was held. Punit Shrivastava, the pioneer of modern-day cricket in Moscow, played a pivotal role in the transformation of cricket in his adopted country. Since then, veterans like Ashvani Chopra, head of the United Cricket League, and several others have spared no time and effort to make this tournament an annual event. Only three teams participated in the inaugural tournament India X1, Rest X1 and combined Australia-England X1. The game has since moved up: today, the UCL (the United Cricket League of Russia) boasts 8 regular teams. Huda, the winning captain of 2011 tournament, feels that a lot more could be done to popularise the game in Russia. More so, since the International Olympic Committee has officially included cricket in the


There’s a corner of foreign land that is forever India. And if Indians are there, can cricket be far behind? They have kept their passion for the game alive in Russia.

Sumit Huda with his teammates at the MSU stadium after winning the 30 over Cup.

2020 Olympics. Huda believes that Russia being a great sports power should not lag behind and grab this opportunity. Unfortunately, in spite of tireless efforts to promote cricket, only two ethnic Russians are regular participants in annual tournaments. For a game to be recognised officially in Russia, more than 50% of the administrative subjects should recognise the sport in some form or the other. It is practically impossible without the support of the International Cricket Council, the sport’s world governing body, and the Russian sports ministry. Though the ICC sent its representatives to Moscow for inspection, it is reluctant to support the UCL either materially or organisationally.

Lapta and cricket: A few facts The first cricket matches were played at Moscow Dinamo stadium in 1980s. Now, MSU (Moscow State University) stadium hosts cricket matches. There are two versions of the game played in Moscow – the longer 30 over and the shorter 20 over. Today, 8 teams participate in the annual Moscow Summer Championship: Omega X1 – 2011 champions of the 30 over format, RCC

(Russian Cricket Club) – 2011 champions of the 20 over format, Friends X1, TBA (Textile Business Alliance), Moslions – mostly expats from Pakistan, MCC (Moscow Cricket Club), Mosmongrels (expats from the UK and Australia) and Sprandi – formerly sponsored by the sports goods firm. Cricket is often compared with the traditional Russian ball and bat game called “lapta”.

Huda says the main stumbling block is the charter of the UCL itself, which is virtually a single person ownership. He points out that there are many

Indian businessmen sponsoring soccer teams in Russia, and to get them to sponsor cricket will not be a difficult job if their opinions are taken

into account in the game’s administration. Clearly, there is still a long way to go, but there is plenty to cheer cricket enthusiasts. The Russian cricket team participated in two Euro 20 tournaments in Wales in 2008 and 2009 respectively and in Macedonia (2010), they were the finalists. These tournaments were recognised by the European Cricket Board (ECB). Cricket celebrities, too, have helped.A few cricket aficionados invited the legendary Indian cricketer - Farooq Engineer – to Russia in 2009 as the chief guest. Ajay Jadeja, a former captain of the Indian team, was the chief guest in 2010. Braving the benumbing cold, hundreds of Indian fans, including many women and children, thronged the stadium. In a lighter mood, Jadeja quipped that he had to keep smiling since morning till evening to please those trying to photograph him. The annual Goodwill Cup match between expats of India and Pakistan has become an other important cricket event. The Goodwill Cup started in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Independence Day celebrations of India and Pakistan. The then ambassadors of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Jamaica graced the occasion. Since then, it has been played annually barring the period between 1999 and 2003, when back the relationship between both countries were going through a rough patch.

Sport Russia has many downhill skiing resorts: Elbrus, Kirovsk and Krasnoyarsk; Krasnaya Polyana in Sochi is the best

Anton Yurin, a ballet teacher, discovered snowboarding in Japan. Yurin recalls how he quit his job, left his home and found bliss in his new passion in snowy Sochi mountains. ANTON YURIN RIR

My interest in snowboarding began 10 years ago. I was then teaching ballet in Japan. It was on the coast of the Pacific Ocean that I first got up on a surfboard. I loved the feeling of freedom, new emotions and a rush of adrenaline coursing through my blood. When I returned to Russia, I decided to change my life. I gave up ballet, gave up working in St. Petersburg and moved to the mountains near Sochi: to learn how to snowboard.

Living in the mountains is pure bliss. I love the climate (exactly like the subtropics of Japan), the fresh air and the way of life on the slopes. I immediately found myself the best teachers. I knew very well how important it is for a novice to learn from a professional sportsman. Most important, I learnt to forget about my work, my problems, my fears and give myself up entirely to my instructor and have faith in my abilities. I’ve had injuries several times in my life: dislocations, sprains, concussions.The most serious of these caused me some memory loss.We were in the mountains during a photo shoot of snowboarders. We were doing tricks, jumping off ski jumps. For one shot, I need-


Why I gave up ballet for sheer bliss of snowboarding

Yurin savouring thrills of snowboarding in Sochi.

ed to perform a jump without a helmet. I took off my helmet, which proved to be a potentially fatal mistake. For three days, I didn’t recognise my friends and couldn’t remember who I was. It took me six months to recover. But it was clear to me that these injuries resulted from sheer carelessness. Always wear elbow and knee guards and, most importantly, a helmet. And don’t ever drink when you’re snowboarding. There are two types of snowboarding: Free-riding and Freestyle. Free-riding is snowboarding off regular runs on unprepared slopes. Here speed and directional movements are important. Here you have a stiff board and strict direction. Here you ride on natural

terrain with all sorts of obstacles, hummocks and trees. Freestyle, by contrast, is all about technique. Freestylers ride on a flexible board, which allows them to perform vari-

You find good slopes in unexpected places. Gulmarg in India is a wonderful place to enjoy skiing. ous jumps and spins and turns. It is the technical dexterity with which these tricks are executed that freestylers are typically judged at competitions. The most difficult freestyle trick that I have mastered is called a Korg 540 jump: with your legs over your head, you

spin around your own axis 540 degrees, in other works, you do 1.5 rotations in air. Russia has many downhillskiing resorts: Elbrus, Kirovsk and Krasnoyarsk. But the best one of all, I think, is in Sochi. It’s called Krasnaya Polyana and right now it is the focus of massive construction in the run up to 2014 Winter Olympics. I’ve seen the new slopes and they are very modern, just like in Europe. But sometimes you find good slopes in the most unexpected places. In India, for example. There is a resort in Gulmarg in Jammu and Kashmir where some of my friends live and they say it is a wonderful place to spend one’s life and enjoy the thrills of snow and snowboarding.





IN ASSOCIATION WITH ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, RUSSIA THE TIMES OF INDIA WEDNESDAY_JANUARY 4_2012 Popular Soviet and Russian films with English subtitles for free viewing Russian Centre of Science and Culture in New Delhi


Old friends, stuck with old images Russia: Snow, vodka, fighter jets...

How do Russians see India? An IT power, a global player and growing economy? But strange as it may sound, exotica still colours most Russians’ views of India.

Russia and India have been friends for a long time. But the image of Russia as a snow-covered, vodkadrinking country producing fighter jets, needs revisiting.





India may be one of the world’s fastest growing economies with nearly half its population living in cities, but for many Russians, India remains, first and foremost, an enticing and enigmatic land of ancient temples and exotic dance. Although many more Russians are travelling around the world, images of the "Oriental exotica" have persisted due to lack of first-hand contact. If you haven’t visited a country and interacted with its people, your picture of that place will be cluttered with clichéd images and out of sync with reality. Here is a quick lowdown on how Russians view India:

When a colleague of mine went to study to India, she was rarely recognised as a Russian because she did not conform to an image of a typical Russian, from Indians' point of view. Her Indian classmates thought that a Russian would be someone tall, light-haired, goodlooking but with no smile on his/her face, and someone who spoke patchy English. She laughed it off at that time, but it shows the power of images.

Taj Mahal, saris and cows Taj Mahal, women in flowing saris, dance and the lazily pottering cows. Some Russians also add yoga, Indian tea and a laidback philosophical approach to life. The images of Aishwarya Rai or Amitabh Bachchan lookalikes, dancing in bright clothes, may have stemmed from the way most Russians get to know India - through music and films. So where does the cow come from? Due to heavy traffic, crossing a road in Russia, even


India: Dance, IT, saris, cows, Taj Mahal...

humans often run the risk of getting hit by a vehicle, not to mention animals. "I was amazed that in India cows take precedence over cars, buses or rikshaws; a cow is the queen of the road there," Alexei, a 22-year old Russian student who has recently been to India says excitedly. Every joke has a bit of truth Laid-back approach isn't probably the exact word to describe many Indians who are thriving in Russia due to their business acumen, result-oriented hard work and natural instinct for adapting to a foreign culture. However, many Russians feel there is a grain of truth in this stereotype. In contrast to Russians' knack for nagging, Indians generally

Protest movement looks set to continue

appear calm and relaxed. Besides, Russians who work with Indians speak about their need to take their time to think things over, as well as the Indian habit of replacing a categorical "no" with "maybe sometime in the future". My Russian friend Anna, who frequently works with Indians, says their ladback ways sometimes put her off but,“ it's good that Indians don't fret over trifles like we do.” The very idea of India being a place devoid of aggression and competitive spirit, an oasis of peacefulness in the stressed-out world, is very appealing. Probably, this is one of the reasons why so many Russians have been drawn to India like a magnet, wanting to see for themselves what it's really like.

Tall, gloomy, bad English The image of a Russian who

spoke halting English with a Russian accent may have been true a while ago. But now many Russians are studying and working abroad, and hanging out with their foreign friends in social networks.They speak ok English and many of them sport British accents with ease. What's up withthe smile? Many Russians admit to not being their friendliest selves when walking along the street or commuting to work by metro. But Indians living and working in Moscow change their opinions of Russians when they start communicating with them on a daily basis, from“reserved and distant”to“warm and friendly”.Says Ravi, an Indian living in Moscow since his student years: "It takes time for Russians to warm up to a person. But once they feel they can

Hype about oil pipes Today, the names of Russian oil tycoons are often more famous than the names of scientists or ballet dancers, which is a shame. It's true that these are money-spinning industries, but the clichéd picture of a Russian sitting on an oil pipe and armed with a missile is just a little disturbing. In all fairness, all Indians do not nurse such stereotypes. For the well-read, Russia is the land of legendary writers like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and the country of ballet dancers.

Drinking vodka to get warm? And last but surely not the least, some Indians imagine Russia as a freezing cold place where drinking vodka helps people to stay warm.As my Indian classmate Rabia told me: "It must be so hard living in constant frost. How do you manage not to fall ill in such a climate?" But to tell the truth it's not as bad as it sounds. Not as nice as mild Indian winters, yes. But also not so depressing that one needs to be cured with a glass of vodka. By the way, Indians who've lived in Russia for a while say the Russian winter is not as cold and dreadful as it is painted. In fact, some of them even prefer energising frost to the Indian summer heat.

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Jan 2012, Russia&India Report  

Russia&India Report is a monthly publication brought out by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, that is published in association with The Economic Times. RI...

Jan 2012, Russia&India Report  

Russia&India Report is a monthly publication brought out by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, that is published in association with The Economic Times. RI...