Cultural diplomacy beyond the crisis

Russia Beyond the Headlines held a meeting dedicated to the Russian-British Bilateral Year of Culture in its Moscow office yesterday. Over a glass of champagne, cultural workers and representatives of Russian show business discussed how to distinguish art from politics and a political monologue from creative dialogue.

Source: Mikhail Sinitsyn

Culture is often hostage to big politics. And one need not go far to find examples – it is enough to recall the previous Russian-Dutch Bilateral Year, which ended in a diplomatic scandal and remained in the memories of many people as “the year of cold friendship”. One would think that the Russian-British Bilateral Year of Culture – which started against the background of the worsening Ukrainian crisis and the cooling of relations with the European Union – could suffer an even sadder fate and the cancellation of many Russian-British joint projects because of “cultural sanctions”.

However, this has not happened so far and is unlikely to happen, according to one of the honoured guests of the evening, Mikhail Shvydkoy, the Russian President’s Special Representative for International Cultural Cooperation. “Perhaps because of the tough stance on Crimea by several governments, including the British leadership, the Year of Culture will not be attended by senior politicians. Nevertheless, all activities of the Year of Culture will be held.”

Shvydkoy reminded everyone that the Russian-British Bilateral Year of Culture launched on February 24 with  a ceremony at the Houses of Parliament in London, followed by a grand concert by the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Vladimir Fedoseyev, at the Royal Festival Hall. He also noted that an important part of the ceremony was the presentation of the English-language site, designed to cover in its entirety the programme of the Year of Russian Culture in Britain. In addition, the updated English-language supplement of Russia Beyond the Headlines was published on April 1, issued with one of the world’s leading publications - The Daily Telegraph. The Russian-British Bilateral Year was one of the main themes of this issue.

Nevertheless, when speaking about culture, it was impossible to forget about the situation in Ukraine, both in the April supplement to The Daily Telegraph and in the evening organised by RBTH. Shvydkoy said: “Today we are in critical need of platforms for communication between Russians and the British... RBTH is working in this direction. Inserts of RBTH have been issued in a variety of global publications. On our part, we will do our best to implement all the plans intended within the Bilateral Year, despite the difficult political situation.”


For more information about UK-Russia Year of Culture visit The Kompass, special RBTH section for all UK-Russian cultural events

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