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Speaking notes of Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko at the Preview Reception on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition "Houghton Revisited: The Walpole Masterpieces from Catherine the Great's Hermitage" 25 April 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to welcome you at today's preview reception on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition "Houghton Revisited: The Walpole Masterpieces from Catherine the Great's Hermitage."

This exhibition is dedicated to the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage in 2014.

The acquisition of Walpole's art collection in 1779, described by his contemporaries as "the most celebrated in England", was a major event in the history of the Hermitage - the Imperial gallery was expanded by outstanding works of European masters of the 17th century.

Its founder Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford was the First Prime Minister of Britain during the rule of Kings George I and George II. Sir Robert Walpole entered Parliament in 1701 at the age of 25 and became Britain's Prime Minister in 1721. He held office through to his retirement in 1742 and served in the House of Lords until his death. An outstanding political and public figure, he was one of the most significant European art collectors; the collection of Sir Robert Walpole perfectly reflected an early 18th-century English collector's taste. Originally the numerous artistic treasures were kept in Prime Minister's London houses, including the official residence in Downing Street. After his retirement, Sir Robert moved best part of his collection in Houghton Hall, his country house in Norfolk.

Rebuilt in the Palladian style after the plan of Britain's leading architects - Colin Campbell and James Gibbs - the house was specially designed to accommodate this art collection. The interiors and decor created by William Kent have been preserved to our time.

Robert Walpole's younger son, writer Horatio Walpole saw conservation of his father's collection for the nation as the purpose of his life. In 1752, he issued a comprehensive catalogue of the collection, which was extensively annotated. However, strained circumstances of the descendants played a key role in the collection's destiny. In late 1778 an immediate heir, grandson George Walpole, burdened with debts, offered his collection for sale to Catherine the Great. Russian Envoy to London, Alexey Musin- Pushkin, reported to the Empress the matter in the following manner: “Prime Minister took all the opportunities his long stay in office presented to make the gallery as beautiful as complete. His grandson, Lord Orford, takes the liberty to bring it in full or in part to the feet of Your Imperial Majesty. All art connoisseurs agree that it deserves to belong to the world's greatest sovereign.”

The news of George's intention to sell the famous collection of his grandfather to the Russian Empress caused a great scandal in the English society. Members of Parliament suggested purchasing "one of the most beautiful collections in Europe" and establishing National Gallery on its basis. Yet, MPs failed to put the idea into practice – Decree of Her Imperial Majesty Catherine the Great authorising the purchase followed shortly in February 1779. The whole collection, of 204 paintings, with the exception of family portraits and sculptures, was bought at a cost of 40,555 pounds. The paintings packed in boxes were delivered to St Petersburg in autumn 1779 by "two best ships" under the guard of a frigate.

The Walpole collection brought some significant, large scale works of the 17th century masters into the Imperial gallery of Hermitage.

Catherine the Great, and, indeed, Sir Robert Walpole, realised that art collecting is a matter of state importance that enhances the prestige of the country and improves its international image. Thanks to the effort and knowledge of her envoys and her personal passion for collecting from the time of her ascension to the throne in 1762, the Empress successfully purchased a number of outstanding European art collections.

The purchase of the Walpole collection had as paramount importance for the establishment of the Hermitage gallery as was the acquisition of Baron Pierre Crozat's collection. Russian art historian Vladimir Levinson-Lessing, the author of an outstanding study on the history of the Hermitage Museum, described the purchase of the Walpole collection as "a major event in the life of the Hermitage".

At present, 126 works of the Walpole collection are reposited in the Hermitage Museum. 15 canvasses are kept in Moscow's museums, 21 of them are in various museums of Russia and Ukraine, while yet another six canvases were sold abroad in the 1930-ies; part of the paintings, which had been kept in St Petersburg suburban palaces, museums, was lost during the Nazi occupation during WWII. The fate of 36 canvasses from the British collector's gallery remains unknown. The portrait of George I by Godfrey Kneller and John Wootton, which had been kept in the Great Gatchina Palace near St Petersburg and was considered missing, was returned to Russia by the German government in 2002.

I wouldn’t dwell on particular works comprising the collection. You’ll see those for yourselves. What is important, however, that is the cultural and historical connection between Russia and Britain this story came to symbolize. That is what we are making now. That is what, I am sure, we’ll last till the end of time. Thank you.


24.06.2018 - Greeting by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for the Znaniye school Family Day (Ealing, 24 June 2018)

Dear friends and guests, I am delighted to welcome you at a Family Day celebrating Russia and the World Cup. Today, Russia is the place to be for the whole world. It is a great pleasure to hear fans from all continents appreciating Russia’s hospitality, friendliness and openness to everyone. Right now, people from virtually every country see the 11 host cities, from the Baltic Sea to the Urals on the border of Europe and Asia, and realize how diverse and beautiful our country is. We’d like to bring a bit of Russia and the excitement of the World Cup to Ealing, for those who couldn’t make it to the tournament. By the way, so far both our teams are doing very well, and let us hope they keep up this good work. We cheer for both Russia and England but I’m afraid this can change if both teams meet at the semi-finals.

20.06.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, May 30, 2018

Mr Dynkin, Colleagues and friends, Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for a new opportunity to speak at the international forum named after Academician Evgeny Primakov, an outstanding Russian statesman, academic and public figure. It is indeed a great honour for me. I consider Mr Primakov, with whom I worked at the Foreign Ministry in the latter half of the 1990s, my senior comrade and teacher, as probably do the majority of those who crossed paths with him at one point. Holding this representative conference under the aegis of one of Russia’s leading academic institutes – National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) that also bears Primakov’s name – has become a good tradition. The Primakov Readings have earned a reputation as a venue for serious dialogue of authoritative specialists on the most pressing issues of international politics and the global economy. Today, there is no lack of buzzwords used by politicians, experts and scientists to capture the current moment in international relations. They talk about the crisis of the “liberal world order” and the advent of the post-Western era, “hot peace” and the “new cold war”. The abundance of terms itself shows that there is probably no common understanding of what is happening. It also points to the fairly dynamic and contradictory state of the system of international relations that is hard to characterise, at least at the present stage, with one resounding phrase. The authors of the overarching theme of the current Primakov Readings probably handled the challenge better than others. In its title “Risks of an unstable world order’ they provocatively, and unacademically, combine the words “unstable” and “order”.

21.04.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's talking points at the Press Conference, 20 April 2018

Since we met last time a lot of events took place: - Military strikes of the United States, UK and France against Syria in violation of the international law - Mission by OPCW inspectors to Douma - Speech of Prime Minister May in Parliament in support of the British aggression against Syria - Special meeting of the OPCW Executive Council (18 April 2018) - New developments in the classified case of Salisbury poisoning of Skripal family - No meaningful developments on the Glushkov case - and Cyber security threats I plan to comment all these issues. And I will be happy to answer all our questions, if you have any.

17.03.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Mail on Sunday" (full text)

Q: Bearing in mind that the US, France and Germany have said they agree with Britain that all the evidence suggests the attacks in Salisbury were the responsibility of the Russian state, what credibility can be placed on the denials issued by the Russian Government? A:We don't know if UK presented any evidence to US, France and Germany - highly likely none - but if they did, why not present it through the channels outlined in the Chemical Weapons Convention? Universal legal principle is presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof lies with the British Government. Its record includes the Iraq WMD dossier - you will remember that at some point doubting US and UK claims was considered a wild conspiracy theory. It is not any more.

26.01.2018 - Main foreign policy outcomes of 2017

In 2017, Russian diplomacy addressed multidimensional tasks to ensure national security and create a favourable external environment for our country's progressive development. Russia maintained an independent foreign policy, promoted a unifying agenda, and proposed constructive solutions to international problems and conflicts. It developed mutually beneficial relations with all interested states, and played an active role in the work of the UN, multilateral organisations and forums, including the G20, BRICS, the SCO, the OSCE, and the CSTO. Among other things, Russian policy has sought to prevent the destabilisation of international relations, and this responsible policy has met with broad understanding in the international community.

17.01.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the unveiling of memorial plaque in Sayes Court Park

Dear Mayor, Dear Councillors, Lady Joan, Ladies and gentlemen, It is now 320 years ago that a truly remarkable man set foot in Deptford. As you know, the Russian Tsar Peter, later named the Great, visited Western Europe in 1697—1698 under the nickname of Peter Mikhailov, with his Grand Embassy. He was eager to find out about the latest achievements in science and technology and create new diplomatic alliances. Of course, England couldn’t escape his attention. He mostly studied shipbuilding at the famous Deptford Dockyard, but he also met King William III, and, reportedly, Isaac Newton. Peter’s landlord, the famous John Evelyn, was also a respected scientist – a founder member of the Royal Society.

13.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, I am pleased to welcome you to the Russian Embassy at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee. It’s a common knowledge, that football is the most popular game in the world. It is an honour for us to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the first time in the history of our country. I believe that those who come to Russia to support their national teams will leave with unforgettable memories.

08.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo

Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo (7 December 2017)

25.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the reception at the Embassy dedicated to Russian Film Week (24 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends First of all, I would like to pay tribute to the outstanding Russian opera singer Dmitri Hvorostovsky who passed away this week. In 2015 he gave a concert in this very hall. I am delighted to welcome you at our reception dedicated to the Russian Film Week and the environmental causes it champions. This year their charity partner is World Wide Fund for Nature, which runs many projects in Russia in coordination and with support of the Russian Government. Russia has a unique, fascinating wildlife. A number of this week’s films show the natural beauty of our land and are sure to raise awareness of how fragile this beauty is. We appreciate the WWF effort in Russia and worldwide and call on everybody to become a supporter, especially this year, marked as Year of Ecology in Russia.

20.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the launch of the Russian Film Week (19 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, It is a pleasure for me to be at the opening of the second edition of the Russian Film Week here in London – which this year also spans to Cambridge and Edinburgh.

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