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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

27.09.2018 - Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the UN Security Council meeting, September 26, 2018

Mr President, Colleagues, In the modern world, an efficient fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is becoming increasingly important for global and regional stability and the reliable security of all states without exception. Constructive cooperation in this area is an important component of the efforts to shape a positive international agenda. I think everybody agrees that the UN Security Council resolutions that outline specific measures against violations of non-proliferation must be strictly observed. Resolution 1540 remains the basis for this and contains obligations for the member states to take specific measures to prevent non-government agents from accessing weapons of mass destruction and their components. The UNSC decisions taken in pursuance of this resolution are particularly important as they include sanctions for handing over any types of weapons to terrorists. There have been incidents of such handovers and they must be thoroughly investigated.


07.09.2018 - Remarks by Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, following the UNSC meeting on the incident in Salisbury

Q: Do you expect British sanctions on Russia soon? A: We are not expecting or afraid of anything. Taking to the account how things have been developing during the recent years we do not exclude anything. This discussion and yesterday’s speech by the British Prime-Minister in the British Parliament are not coincidental. I think that’s looks like a prelude to a new political season. Q: So, Ambassador it’s really coming from the highest level in the UK. A: It always comes from the highest level. Last time when the incident took place it also came from the highest level. Q: But it seems that you are not taking it seriously. A: We are taking it very seriously. We were saying it all the time. Why we’ve been asking for cooperation with the UK from day one. Only few minutes ago Ambassador Pierce was referring to an ultimatum that Boris Johnson made in his letter to the Russian Ambassador in London when the incident took place presented as a request by the British site to cooperate while in fact it was a demand to to accept the gilt. At the same time our requests which we sent to British authorities constantly through OPCW and bilaterally were ignored.


06.09.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at Bolshaya Igra (Great Game) talk show on Channel One, Moscow, September 4, 2018

Question: Today we have a special guest in our studio, one of the main participants in the “great game”, someone the future of the world really depends on in many ways: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We are happy to welcome you in the Great Game studio. Sergey Lavrov: Thanks for inviting me.


22.08.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's comment on UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's anti-Russian claims

At a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's urges to European partners to slap their own sanctions on Russia in connection with the Salisbury incident.


16.08.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Salisbury Journal"

The Russian Ambassador said he stands together with the people of Salisbury in a meeting with the Journal last week, as the United States announced new sanctions against the country. Speaking at his official residence in Kensington Palace Gardens on Thursday, Alexander Yakovenko said: “We are together with the people of Salisbury.”


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.



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