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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

03.12.2013

A celebration of cultural links with a long and proud tradition (by Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to UK)

The governments of Russia and Great Britain have designated the year 2014 as Russian-British Year of Culture. More than 250 cultural events are expected to take place in the first project on that scale in our bilateral relations. However, we are not starting from scratch. British culture has always been welcome in Russia (favourites include Shakespeare, The Beatles, the architect Charles Cameron, the artists James Whistler and George Dawe) but Russian culture has also been popular for centuries in Britain. There is plenty of evidence that our cultural relationship has always had strong elements of interaction and mutual influence.

The history of Russian-British ties goes back at least 460 years. Throughout this time Russian culture was a very obvious phenomenon in the British Isles. Despite the fact that our political relationship has had its ups and downs, the cultural fascination with each other has always helped us to keep in touch

England first became acquainted with Russian culture in the 16th century, when the embassy of Tsar Ivan IV arrived in London. References to Russia can be found in Shakespeare’s plays, including Love’s Labour’s Lost as well as in Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, many influential Russian cultural figures such as Princess Ekaterina Dashkova, the historian Nikolai Karamzin, writers Ivan Goncharov, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoevsky and many others visited Britain, along with Alexander Herzen, who lived here in exile. It is around that time that William Shakespeare became as much a cult figure in Russia as Anton Chekhov became in Britain in the 20th century.

The Russian cultural presence became more prominent in the period of Russian-British alliances during the Napoleonic wars. Some buildings and monuments in Britain today reflect that influence, notably the sculpture of a Russian eagle on a double column in Bayswater Road in London, the nearby Apsley House and Windsor Castle.

After the strain of the unnecessary Crimean War of 1853-1856 and the terms of the Peace of Paris, Russia and Britain rediscovered each other during the allied relationship before and during the First World War. It went far beyond a joint struggle for peace in Europe. This was a time of great cultural exchanges: for example, a mission of prominent Russian public figures, writers and journalists (including the writer Aleksey Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov, the father of the novelist, and the children’s poet Korney Chukovsky) visited Britain in 1916.

A similar British mission was sent to Russia. It was a genuine breakthrough in the relationship encouraged by the two governments, and it was a time when the people of Russia and Britain looked beyond the stereotypes.

During the Second World War the Arctic Convoys served as a living link between the two countries and helped bring the two peoples closer through effective comradeship-in-arms.

There are other examples of lasting cultural ties. Many Russian scientists and artists were awarded the title of honorary doctor at Oxford University. The history of Cambridge University is closely associated with the name of the physicist Pyotr Kapitsa. One of the most memorable 20th century events in Britain was the visit of the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961.

There is also a strong Russian connection in British sport. One of the most famous British rugby players was Oxford’s England international Count Alexander Obolensky (1916-1940). British ballet is still greatly influenced by Anna Pavlova and Tamara Karsavina.

One of the important sources of cultural influence in Britain today is the Russian community. Its members have established a number of organisations promoting Russian culture and language and play an important role in the multicultural fabric of British society. The London office of the Russian Federal Agency Rossotrudnichestvo has become a popular place for people in love with the country’s culture.

Regular cultural exchanges continue: the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theatres, a huge number of different theatrical companies, exhibitions, singers, musicians, artists and many others are frequent guests in the United Kingdom. The Year of Culture in 2014 will build on this tradition, contributing to the growing sense of affinity between our nations.

Alexander Yakovenko, special to RBTH (RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES)




LATEST EVENTS

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.


16.10.2017 - Unpublished letter to the Editor of The Times (sent 12 October)

Sir, If British MPs are free to speak out, wherever they wish, on any issue, why try to block their freedom of speech (“Helping Putin”, 11 October)? If a TV channel wants (and is legally bound) to present different points of view, why slam those who express these views? If the mere act of giving an interview to foreign media amounts to high treason, why does The Times interview Russian politicians without fear? And finally - while MPs critical of Russia are welcome guests on the Russian TV channel RT, does your paper give the same treatment to those critical of the paper’s owner? Konstantin Shlykov Press Secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation


25.09.2017 - PRESENTATION by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk at the Christian Future of Europe Conference 22 September 2017, London

Your Eminences and Your Excellencies, dear Mr. Ambassador, conference organizers and participants, I cordially greet all of those gathered today at the Russian Embassy in London to partake in this conference dedicated to the question of the future of Christianity in Europe. This topic is not only not losing any of its relevance, but is resounding ever anew. Experts believe that today Christianity remains not only the most persecuted religious community on the planet, but is also encountering fresh challenges which touch upon the moral foundations of peoples' lives, their faith and their values. Recent decades have seen a transformation in the religious and ethnic landscape of Europe.


23.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at presentation of the book "The Mystery of Repentance" held at the Russian Embassy

I’m glad to welcome you here to a discussion of two prominent hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England, on Christian future of Europe.


12.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the exhibition opening (“Scythians: Warriors of ancient Siberia” 12 September, British Museum)

Today the British Museum and the State Hermitage of Saint-Petersburg are once again proving their unique world class by bringing a whole new civilization to London. Ancient, and almost mythical, but creative, powerful and very different from what we have all known about antiquity – the Scythians.


14.07.2017 - Letter of Consul General Mr Andrey Pritsepov to the Herald newspaper, published 13.07.2017

I NOTE a rather questionable article by Mark McLaughlin (“Russians lurking near Faslane to eavesdrop on nuclear submarines", The Herald, July 11). Do you really believe that 145 million Russians would elect a leader who would command his nuclear submarines to chase someone's sole and lonely operative U-boat which is firing missiles in the opposite direction or Type 45 destroyers with faulty engines or an aircraft carrier without aircraft on it, all of them being located in Scottish waters?



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