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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

26.02.2014

Reinvigorating, Refreshing and Reviving Relations With the UK-Russia Year of Culture (by Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to UK, for Huffington Post)

Two weeks ago, an estimated three billion people around the world tuned in to watch the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics. Like Danny Boyle's acclaimed ceremony for London 2012, our event gave a whistle stop tour through our nation's proud history and culture, albeit with a little less British humour. The popularity and indeed scrutiny of these events is a powerful reminder of the importance of culture and history in shaping both a country's own national identity and its understanding and appreciation in the international community.

The UK and Russia are nations that have both been blessed with rich cultural heritages with great artists, composers, writers and performers known throughout the world. And alongside this history, we also have vibrant contemporary cultures which is why I am delighted that this year, starting on 24 February, has been designated the first UK-Russia year of culture.

Organised by the British Council and the Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs the scope of the festival is ambitious: Over 50 major events will take place across the UK alone including a Kazimir Malevich show at the Tate Modern, the Maslenitsa Festival in London's Trafalgar Square, tours of Maestro Yuri Bashmet and the Eifman Ballet slated for the London Barbican and performances throughout Britain by the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra and the Sretensky Monastery Choir. In April, the British film director Peter Greenaway will open a multimedia exhibition showing 400 works of art from Russian museums such as Moscow's Manege Museum.

In Russia, British imports will include a look into the world's most famous spy, with the Barbican's Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style at Moscow Multimedia Art Museum. A major exhibition of the Young British Artists at the Ekaterina Foundation will also take place and touring stage performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Young Vic and Shakespeare's Globe will be presented across the country.

But what does this blaze of culture mean for the two countries?

Relations between our two great countries do not always run smoothly and we would be mistaken to think that a cultural festival such as this is the answer to all the challenges we face. I do, however, believe that it signals a way in which relations can be reinvigorated, refreshed and revived. Indeed, even during the most testing moments in our recent relationship, cultural exchanges have continued. In 2008, months after diplomats had been expelled from our respective Embassies, the Royal Academy hosted an exhibition of paintings from Russian's four principal museums - the first time works from these museums had been gathered for a single exhibition.

This is important because there are many things that we share culturally. But it is equally important because it helps us recognise and appreciate our differences in a way that builds understanding about each other as well as ourselves. I think this can manifest in two important ways.

Cultural linkages and connections lead to more creativity. From Dostoyevsky to Shakespeare, Pushkin to Dickens, the Romanovs to the Tudors, Thon to Wren - great artists, architects and writers have enriched the dialogue between our countries. This cultural interaction and sharing helps us question the simplistic stereotypes that programmes such as the Fox series - Meet the Russians - all too easily shape.

The second important factor is that cultural linkages lead to better business and trade ties too. In recent years Russia has become an increasingly important trading partner for the UK. The country is the UK's fastest growing export market and in 2012 British exports to Russia increased by 15%, reaching £5.5billion. With trade comes cultural interaction too. Deeper cultural links are the vital grease that oils the cogs and without it the great potential for further business growth could be missed.

And we should not forget the importance of the creative industries to the economies in both our countries. In the UK, the sector is one of the fastest growing industries, contributing 6% of GDP and employing over two million people. In Russia, cultural and creative arts hubs in St Petersburg and Moscow are gaining momentum and filtering into the fabric of these celebrated cities. Greater cultural ties between our countries have the potential to be a catalyst for more growth and collaboration in these sectors too.

In a year when we have opened our country up to the world through the biggest winter sports event ever seen - the Winter Olympics, I strongly hope that by building our cultural and creative links through this cultural Olympiad, our nations will find further understanding, new opportunities and greater awareness of what brings us together rather than what divides. I believe that this can be the legacy of the UK-Russia year of Culture and I for one cannot wait for it to start.




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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