18 March 2018
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In times of official sulk, culture and people lead the way (Ambassador A.Yakovenko for RBTH, 22 September 2015)

The exhibition Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age was launched last week at the Science Museum in London to universal acclaim. It was a moving experience to see Russian and British cosmonauts and scientists whose names went down in history meet to unveil the largest display of its kind ever to be held in the museum.

The British public can see a vast range of items and artefacts (most of which have never been exhibited abroad, and some of which were declassified especially for the event). They tell the story of the space race – which was one of the most epic and thrilling sagas of the 20th century.

As the global powers were still reeling from tragedy of the Second World War, they found themselves locked into the Cold War mindset. From the very beginning, space research was destined to become just one of the aspects of this global competition.

But suddenly, it became more than that. The thrill of new discoveries and mastering new technologies became the universal drive for scientists, engineers and cosmonauts.

Their achievements were seen as crucial steps in mankind’s discovery of the new frontiers. Britain cheerfully greeted Yuri Gagarin – and few were bothered by the fact that he was a communist and a Soviet Air Force pilot.

Gagarin was the first man sent into space, and that managed to outweigh all ideological and political considerations. What was destined to be a field of fierce ideological and military confrontation went much further than that, giving birth to a mighty unifying idea, as well as to a whole range of astonishing commercial opportunities.

Today, this spectacular exhibition is held against the background of serious political disagreements between Russia and Britain. Even though it is not fuelled by an ideological divide, as was the case in the past, the differing narratives are here to stay.

However, this shouldn’t act as an obstacle to cultural exchanges. At the height of East-West confrontation, Moscow theatres staged Shakespeare’s immortal plays and London audiences flocked to the new renditions of Chekhov’s classic works.

Moreover, in the 20th century, all thaws in relations between nations have been ushered in by the holding of landmark cultural events – such as the groundbreaking tour of the Kirov Ballet to Britain in 1956.

Such events have always been a precursor of convergence at a political level, especially in matters of foreign policy and international affairs, where searching for middle ground and seeking compromise has been a cultural norm for a century.

True, culture has a value of its own, but in many ways cultural visionaries define the future more robustly than political leaders. “For a human being there is no other future save that outlined by art,” the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, who was recently honored with a plaque in Hampstead, said in his Nobel Prize lecture. Culture also has an important role in stopping us sliding into a denial of each other’s humanity.

Now, in the absence of political dialogue and intergovernmental co-operation, people-to-people contacts are more important than ever before. A civil forum, like the ones Russia takes part in with other major European nations, seems to be a timely natural vehicle for unofficial bilateral discourse on matters of mutual interest.

This is the way we can maintain and build up trust and understanding between our societies. It would be wrong to be at the mercy of adverse political weather. Let people help bring about a change for the better in our overall relationship.



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.

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.

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