Social Movers Autumn 2016 – Don Craig

Don Craig

Well folks I got to tell you this has been one of the most enjoyable summers that I have ever experienced in my 23 years here in Moscow. That being said it did have a big effect on the Bars and Restaurants here that didn’t have a patio readily available for their clients, some places kept treading water but a few took a big hit.

Krisha Mira still amazes me as I walk by weekend morning as the crowds continue to party through the morning and the embankment is flooded with people. Kraft beer places seem to be the rage so I can’t really say that anyone is better than the other, but if you have a favourite drop me a line (dcraig@list.ru) and I will check it out and if the hype is valid I will add it to my next issue’s write up.

The New Hudson Bar labelled ‘H2’ has recently opened so it is definitely worth checking out. ‘Chicago Prime’ is still a great place to meet up with friends and to make some new ones especially popular during their Happy Hour from 5pm-8pm. ‘Imagine Café’ continues to bring us great nightly entertainment with some of the best bands Moscow has to offer and Jim ‘N’ Jack’s remains to be a favourite of the younger Expat set. Papa’s Bar & Grill still remains the king of Friday nights, though their week nights are still popular and from what I hear soon to be rebooted with some fresh ideas so stay tuned.

Until next time take care and enjoy!

Follow me in twitter at @DonCraig777 & runaway777 on Instagram

Social Movers Autumn 2016 – Maria Ushakova

Maria Ushakova

This fall is my last season in Russia, I am leaving to Paris for work, starting on the 1st of January 2017. It’s time to say my goodbyes. Endings provoke anxiety in me, I am not very good at them. Well, I will be very brief. So, yes, Trump will win the presidential election in America. By the way, the politics of the future are synonymous to the politics of show-business. There is a place for both as in the entertainment industry!

Major events this season: 14th of October, a public talk on problem solving and decision making at the British Embassy, (free for all to attend), 15-16th of October, a group therapy workshop run by Illi Adato from the UK.

On the 21st of October, Bolshoi Opera singers and Luka Latanzzio will perform at Arbat 13 Karaoke Jazz Cafe. On the 27th of October, Good Food Club amazing dinner at Burov&Sova exclusive Russian restaurant, Kim rules, as usual.

5th of November, it’s my birthday party and a concert of the Armenian diva Di Dikovski (free bottles of wines as gifts to every guest).

That’s all from me, folks. I ask my enemies to forgive me and my friends not to forget me. It’s high time for me to go! Keep in touch, yours faithfully, Saint Mary de Louvre:) maushakova@gmail.com

Irish Ambassador McDaid

Mr. Ambassador, what are then main differences you notice about Moscow between when you last served here, in the 1980s?

It has been a long time since my last posting here, and I have since worked in Bagdad, Brussels, New York and then Washington, and I have gone back home to Dublin between postings. Memories of the city back in the 1980’s are of a grey city, not lit up at nights with neon lights or, in some places, not even street lights. None of the effort which is made now to highlight the beauty of the buildings was evident then.

The other big difference is traffic, which seems to be very bad here. In my days, fewer people had personal cars and any foreign cars were driven only by foreigners; there were a lot of lorries, but the streets were nothing like as congested as they are now. I am somewhat surprised when I hear that the traffic problems now are a lot less than what they were a few years ago.

When I was preparing to come back here again and was looking at what I needed, one of my colleagues who had served here in the interim period said: “you don’t know where you are going.” Moscow has become a consumer society. That’s the big difference I suppose. Moscow has very much become a consumer society. In those days we used to import quite a lot of our essentials from Copenhagen or Helsinki. There was a special diplomatic store for diplomats, but the range of goods you could buy was quite small; now however, there is wide availability of products.

Also, the streets here, for pedestrians, were actually quite dangerous, some cars drove through pedestrian crossings, whereas they seem to be a lot safer now. But in general, the way that the city looks is quite different.

In my experience, the winters have been getting milder and milder, and also later and later. What about the people, how has Russians’ attitudes to foreigners changed?

I’m not sure, I think that there is a book published recently ‘Why Don’t Russians Smile.’ This is all about people’s perceptions of Russians not always being correct. I personally always found Russians to be very helpful and friendly. There is an initial stage where you have to break the ice. I find that there is a lot of similarities between the Irish people and Russians. I think also there is a very strong sense of family and a pride in their culture that we also have in Ireland.

On my return, I think and this is based on early impressions, that there is a greater openness. Partly because now there is a greater interaction between Russians and people from other countries and much more familiarity with foreigners. Of course, equally important is that more and more Russians travel abroad on holiday or on business trips, or on other forms of cultural exchanges. All of that is extremely important, and we [in the embassy] try to promote cultural and people to people contacts as much as possible.

I remember, that in the Soviet era, most foreigners came here on Intourist trips. They would be ferried around on busses and trains, taken to their hotels, and the interaction wasn’t very great or sometimes didn’t exist. You would get chaperoned to museums where there might be a guide book in English or, if you were lucky, an audio book might have been available. Otherwise, you would have to find your way around on individual tours, a daunting prospect without a good command of Russian.

 What’s it like being a diplomat here now in comparison with the late 1980s when you were here last?

My first job here as a very young diplomat was my first posting. In those days we had a very small embassy. Now the embassy is a much larger operation including a visa office and three Irish state agencies. In addition, we didn’t establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union until 1973, so I came at an early stage, when we were still in the process of building political, economic and cultural links. Those linkages have developed quite rapidly since then.

The Irish community is much larger than during the Soviet era. The Irish community, then, was limited predominantly to a small number of students who were attending Russian language courses after which they returned home. There was no real resident Irish community. It was only after I left, during the perestroika period that the community began to grow, and more and more people came. I think the community peaked in the 1990s when there were about 3,000 Irish here.

Irish citizens were involved in many different areas of life, business operations, teaching, self-employed etc. Some got married and settled down here; that is much different to my first term here. Numbers have now fallen, they are probably about 350 Irish in Moscow. It is a small community, but very active.

To give you an idea of the changes that I am talking about our St. Patrick’s Day events were generally held in a single reception room in the embassy, where we would have a small group of people attending (less than a dozen in 1981). In contrast, this year, I hosted a reception on the 17th of March, and over 500 people were present.

We are very lucky to have St. Patrick’s Day as a national holiday, as we have a whole ‘Irish Week’ of celebrations around it. Now we have a parade, a week of Irish events; a music festival, a film festival and cultural events, and also events in St. Petersburg.

One of the other events held during that week is the charity Emerald Ball which is organized by the Irish Business Club, headed by Avril Conroy, a long standing resident of Moscow. This year over 375 people attended and raised 8 million roubles for charity.

We are very grateful to the Moscow city government for their assistance in organising these events and we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the City’s support.

One of the first events which I attended following my arrival here here, was the Moscow Feis – which is the Irish term for an Irish dancing competition. 700 contestants from all over Russia participated and adjudicators travelled from Ireland to judge the competition. Irish dancing is very popular here. So also is traditional music and we host music events here in the embassy throughout the year.

Do you think that the number of Irish expats has bottomed out?

The general impression I get is that the current situation is quite challenging, economically and professionally but some people who have been here for a lengthy period tell me that it is important to stay the course. Some of our citizens are well established in Russia. Russia is now home for them. That is quite a different profile from those who were here previously. We encourage people to register at the embassy, but not everyone does, so the figures we have are only approximate.

Ireland has always been a popular place for Russians to go to, because of its rich culture. Is travel to Ireland by Russians still going on, or has that also suffered because of the economic and political situation?

It still goes on, and it’s one of the things we try to push as much as we can. We hold a number of tourism events, promoting both educational tourism and more general tourism. In 2014, before the crisis began, our visa office here were handling about 17,500 visas a year. In fact this was our largest visa office in the world. That has of course been impacted by the depreciation of the rouble. The most recent figures show about a 15% drop in figures. Another issue which impacts is the absence of all year round direct flights between Russia and Ireland; S7 has direct flights to Dublin over the summer months. Nevertheless, Ireland is an attractive location for Russian holiday makers and offers a quite unique experience for visitors which appeals to Russians.

I find it interesting that the knowledge about Irish culture here is huge, I was aware of this to some extent in the Soviet era, that people knew about Yeats and Joyce, but the knowledge base seems to have expanded tremendously. There are Russian academics who have spent most of their lives looking at Joyce for example. We try to a lot of work with the various libraries and universities here as well, to foster greater understanding of our two cultures.

Autumn and Winter Adventures in Zavidovo

So the summer has come to an end but this fortunately does not mean we can forget about short breaks and holidays especially when there is a place just 100 km away from Moscow that gives you a resort feeling all year round.

Discover the perfect mix of pristine nature and upscale lodging at the Radisson Resort & Residences Zavidovo, a well-placed hotel within a 1,250-square-kilometer nature reserve. Described by UNESCO as one of the most environmentally sound destinations in the world, the area draws visitors who seek respite from the bustle of the city. From the hotel, enjoy what Zavidovo has to offer — water sports, a PGA golf course, tennis, football, horseback riding, hunting, hiking and more. As a year-round resort, the hotel also keeps you active in autumn and winter with golf, basketball, climbing, winter windsurfing, snowboarding, jibbing etc. After a day spent outdoors, unwind in one of 239 chic rooms and 200 apartments, each with top-notch amenities like free Wi-Fi.

Leave the bustle of the city behind for the sparkling lakes and lush forests of Zavidovo. Explore the countryside on horseback, or spend a day fishing or yachting on one of the resort’s lakes and rivers. Practice your swing at the nearby Zavidovo Golf Club, Russia’s only PGA course, or indulge in spa treatments without leaving the comfort of the hotel.
Holding a barbecue is always a great way to bring together your colleagues, family and friends. Breathe in the tempting aroma rising from the grill, and admire beautiful scenery as you socialize or plan your next journey.

Culture, nature and history converge in this resort at the Zavidovo Nature Reserve, an unspoiled national park. From deep forests to monumental architecture, the Tver region of Russia is an ancient tribute to the history of the country. Travel to the Palace of the Empress and the home of the famed 19th-century composer Tchaikovsky. Explore the diverse cultures, archaeology, monuments and nature reserves that are scattered throughout Tver.
The winter season is getting closer and this means we will soon start thinking about Christmas and New Year’s Eve as well as the winter holidays. At Radisson Resort & Residences Zavidovo, dreams will come true for one night with one of the most beloved fairytales of all time, with all its characters, objects and costumes. Inspired by the famous story by Lewis Carroll, the hotel is creating a setting of great emotional and aesthetic impact. The New Year’s Eve Wonderland party will be populated with all the characters of Alice in Wonderland, from the Mad Hatter to Alice, the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts. Under the hotel’s ceiling, an illustrated book will come to life, amid mirrors, clocks and chessboards, stilts, magicians and jugglers allowing adults and children to plunge into a thrilling fantasy world.

Ready to celebrate the arrival of the New Year in the magic and surreal atmosphere of Alice in Wonderland? Book your winter stay in Zavidovo and enjoy the show full of magic and surprises.

IWC Charity Projects

 

The IWC Charity Group is an integral and vital part of the IWC. The Group mainly focuses on charities that are supporting children. In many cases intervention can be life-changing – for the child, for the family and beyond. We support: children in poor or unstable families, children in orphanages or other institutions, children with medical needs.
A third of our funds go to the elderly and destitute (pensioners, homeless etc).

Our aim is to support the charities in a well monitored way, therefore we not only give the donation in exchange of receipts of purchase but we also monitor the charities via monthly on-site visits. We are also audited by a third party auditor on a yearly basis!

UK, EU: What the Brexit does it mean?

Seen from Moscow, the current British-EU crisis may seem strange, illogical. Much of it is, but with a longer perspective, it is possible to glean meaning in the chaos.

By Ross Hunter, with additional reporting by William Shakespeare

1. THE PRESENT
On 23 June, the UK voted, in a rare Referendum, to leave the EU. Few expected this result; nobody planned for its consequences. Since then, we have changed Prime Minister, seen most of the Cabinet/Politburo sacked, watched the Labour party implode, and about our future, learned … nothing. In short, An unholy mess. How did it get to this? The roots of the crisis go back 70 years, or a thousand.

2. DISTANT HISTORY
Britain has always had an equivocal relationship with Continental Europe. Foreign policy was based on isolation, thanks to the sea, backed by a strong navy, and a desire to get involved only with the negative goal of stopping any Continental power becoming too powerful. Since the 100 Years War ended (Calais 1588), England/UK has fought (away games!) with any ally against any ascendant power, including C.17th Spain, Napoleonic France, expansionist Prussia/Germany. Divide and rule. Diplomacy is the continuation of war by other means.

The British national anthem (A&M Hymn 293), has an unsung but revealing second verse: “O Lord our God Arise / Scatter our enemies, / and make them fall. / Confound their politics, / Frustrate their knavish tricks…”

Across the Channel, the partition of the Holy Roman Empire in the late C.9th created an enduring problem. Simplifying ever so slightly, the western Empire was divided to create what became France and Germany with the third son, Lothar, getting the narrow strip between. The ‘Lotharingian axis’ – The Low Countries, The Rhine, Alsace, Switzerland, northern Italy – has been squeezed between the better defined nations on either side. Further, C.19th industrialisation revealed that the vital coal and iron ore deposits underlie this same strip. Control over them was essential for expanding empires, as the war graves from 1870 to 1918 to 1945 along the Rhine Valley bear witness.

3. THE RECENT PAST
After four catastrophic wars in 130 years, the visionaries looking over the ruins in 1945 were determined to end this waste. Euratom, ECSC and ‘BeNeLux’ led to the Treaty of Rome in 1957: France and Germany tied together to make war impossible, with their neighbours eagerly joining in. No war since: a success so total we have come to take it for granted. Further, the post-war economic miracle created prosperous and closely linked set of open democracies. A day’s drive from Calais to Italy meant seven border controls; six currencies. Along Lotharingia, open borders and a single currency make simple sense.
At the EU’s founding, Perfidious Albion was not trusted, and the feeling was mutual. Staying aloof, the UK tried to set up a low-level rival, EFTA. By joining late (1973) and by being only ever a half-hearted member, UK missed the chance to mould the club in its own image.
British politics are a similarly equivocal mess. The Labour Party (social democrat to Marxist) has never reconciled its dialectical contradictions: to fight a capitalist club; to unite with fellow socialist international workers; to enjoy free trade to boost industry; to spread The Word … and have tied themselves in knots. The Conservatives (centre right and further) have always been riven by the idea of Europe: split between Anglo-Saxon ‘Atlanticists’, clinging to the mythical USA ‘special relationship’; traditional Empire nostalgists, whose old school atlases still glow with swathes of reassuring pink (and cricket); and modernisers, who have noticed that the British Isles* are (3000 – 22) miles closer to Europe, in distance, trade, culture and political mores, with shared assumptions of society, the state’s responsibilities, football and even Eurovision. This split is irreconcilable, and has cost the careers of most Conservative leaders.

*Note from a Geography teacher: the islands offshore Europe, including Ireland, are ‘The British Isles.’ The largest of these, logically, is ‘Great Britain’: the largest patch of land. There is no other meaning, no imperial memory, no pretention to superiority… except in the minds of all those who hide behind the fig-flag of national pride.

Apart from during an hour on Sunday mornings, the Conservatives’ idea of a God-figure is of course Winston Churchill. Can he help position his party? Like his biographers, Churchill wrote profusely and contradicted himself frequently. Whatever you seek you can find: ‘If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea;’ but also ‘We must build a kind of United States of Europe.’ If the world’s oldest and most successful political party rips itself to pieces, it will be over its triple schizophrenia: America – Empire – Europe. The Russian eagle has only two heads, facing Europe and Siberia. This is the essential, existential, problem that made then PM Cameron make his greatest political miscalculation: to try and shut up his Eurosceptic, Euro-septic, right wing, he made an election promise of a referendum. Direct democracy? Power to the People? Not a bit of it. A naked calculation that he could win, and unify his party: overconfidence and complacency his downfall.

4. NEXT: ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow?’
The EU didn’t take the threat seriously, and offered insultingly minimal concessions. Behind their braggadocio, the EU is angry but fearful of the disease spreading. Campaigning revealed a nasty, selfish, xenophobic, racist streak in some voters. The white, urban working class, suffering from globalisation and sinking incomes, blamed the EU for it and tipped the vote to Out. Few politicians emerged with much credit (Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon a notable exception), looking a combination of lazy, out of touch, dishonest, complacent or rabid.

Having staked everything on Remain, The PM resigned. Henry IV: ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’ The Labour party are in open civil war, and could split. This may benefit UKIP, or the Liberal Democrats, but guarantees a decade of oblivion for Labour. The Conservatives’ epic backstabbing led to resignations of Leave campaigners and the abrasive UKIP leader Nigel Farage. The Conservatives acted swiftly to choose a new leader, and thus PM: Home Secretary (Minister of the Interior) Theresa May. Her first act was to exile or sack all the plotters. Mrs May as Lady Macbeth ‘Stand not upon the order of your going, but go!,’ or seeing blood on her eye-catching shoes ‘Out! Out, damn spot.’

At the time of writing, UK has a new and untested government. The poisoned chalice of exit negotiations has been dumped on the leading Brexiteers: Mr Boris Hamlet Johnson ‘To Be In or Not to Be In’, and Mr Davis and Dr Fox, sharing the role and mindset of Malvoleo: ‘Be not afraid of Greatness…’ Skulking unheeded in the wings are Mr Farage ‘Something is rotten in the state of … everywhere except my pub’, Mr Brutus ‘Et Tu’ Gove, stab and be stabbed. All’s Well that End’s Well? Not in our Midsummer Night’s Dreams.

BREXIT – A BREMAINER’€™S PERSPECTIVE PAST AND PRESENT

Luke Conner
General Director, Conner & Company LLC

During the U.K.’s referendum on whether to leave the European Union, I found myself becoming an increasingly committed member of the “Bremain” camp, a group also now affectionately referred to as the “Remoaners”. I understand that the EU is an inherently flawed institution. I agree that the U.K. might not ultimately need the EU in order to prosper. I comprehend (although I don’t necessarily agree with) voter concern about migration and a loss of sovereignty. And I certainly don’t think that David Cameron’s newly proposed deal with the EU was a viable solution to any of these problems. It wasn’t, and in fact it really just ended up irritating both sides of the campaign. So why then oppose Brexit?
The overriding reason for my opposition was that there wasn’t, and still isn’t, any clear concept of what Brexit was supposed to mean. The Great British public was never even presented with a basic road map of how the exit process would be managed. Admittedly, this was because the government was pushing for a “remain” vote. However, it is also fair to say that the Brexit campaigners themselves did very little to set out a cohesive plan as to how their dream objective would be achieved in practice. Consequently, we are now left in the position where a majority of voters has voted for something, but where nobody seems to be quite sure what that something actually is, or how the process of disentanglement will pan out.

There are various options available to the U.K. when the time comes to exercise its right to leave the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The first option has to be out and out Brexit, and, to my knowledge, is what most of the voters voting “leave” actually wanted. This would entail the U.K. completely disengaging from the EU political process and repealing those laws that are deemed distasteful to a true British palate. Freedom of movement and labour within the U.K. would be completely off the agenda for EU countries. Her Majesty’s government would then negotiate a separate bilateral free trade deal with the bloc.

Most sane commentators, including those of a Brexit persuasion, will realise that this is completely unworkable in the real world. Firstly, any free trade deal the U.K. agrees with the EU, will need the approval of all 27 remaining members. Each of these other nations will come to the table with their own separate conditions. For instance, most countries have already indicated that they will make ongoing British access to the single market conditional upon freedom of movement for their citizens in the U.K. France and Denmark also want to assure rights for their fishermen in U.K. waters, whilst Spain has said that it will try to strike a deal for joint sovereignty of Gibraltar, and Malta is keen to maintain access rights for its students to British Universities. This is merely the start of it. Keeping everybody happy, will be by no means easy.

This leads to what are known as the soft Brexit alternatives: for example, negotiation of an EU deal similar to that which Norway has. This solution allows market access and many of the benefits of the EU, whilst not requiring the UK to be a member. Instead, it would be a member of the European Economic Area. This solution, along with the Swiss model (Switzerland is not a member of the EEA, but has its own separately negotiated deal), is a far cry from the true Brexit, which the majority of the voting public were asking for. Both models still require payments to be made to the EU in return for access to the single market. Both systems would leave the U.K. unrepresented in the EU itself, but would still require the UK to follow EU regulation. Crucially, both options would guarantee free movement of people, services, capital and goods. That Boris Johnson seems to favour this soft Brexit cop-out, seems highly hypocritical and indicative of the fact that the Brexiteers knowingly offered more than they could ever have hoped to deliver.

Lack of procedural clarity was not my only concern with Brexit. There was compelling and (now it would appear) accurate advice about a resultant short to medium term economic fall-out. At the time of writing, the pound buys a meagre US$ 1.30 and EUR 1.15. This represents a significant devaluation since sterling’s strongest moments during the night of the referendum, before the “leave” result began to become clear. In fact, at its peak, in the early hours of 24 June, the pound/dollar rate was above 1.48, and the sterling/Euro rate above 1.30. This roughly represents a 13 per cent. devaluation of the pound, taking a starting valuation that had already been devalued significantly by the uncertainty surrounding the referendum debate itself. Let’s also not forget that the pound was already running way off its long term high as a result of the huge damage caused by the financial crisis of 2008. The Brexiteers argue that this will aid the U.K.’s export efforts and is a blip that will be rectified. But hardly any analysts are forecasting a recovery in the pound’s prospects any time soon, and the British government has an extremely poor record in improving export figures to anything like where they really need to be.

There are other economic headwinds. At the time of writing, inflation has started to spike. This is exacerbated by the weakness in sterling, which makes imports in everything from oil to tobacco, more expensive. Reliable industry purchasing surveys are already pointing to contraction, from previously positive territory. Further, foreign banks in the City of London are already preparing contingency plans to move their European headquarters if they cannot secure EU passporting rights via the UK. None of this is the scaremongering or hyperbole of so-called “Project Fear”. It is real and documented.

Perhaps the greatest irony of Brexit is that, rather than reducing bureaucracy, at least for a few years (and maybe more), it very much looks like there will be a significant increase. We even have a new government department (the Department for Exiting the EU) to manage this process for us. Then there are the constitutional claims, which are to be heard by the Supreme Court. My view is that these are doomed to failure. They are, however, along with the huge amounts of ministerial and governmental time which need to be allocated to Brexit, a completely unnecessary burden.

In summary then, a significant amount of economic damage has already been done. Further, in all likelihood, any Brexit solution will not be a true Brexit solution at all, but instead a soft-option that will try to appease both the leave and the remain camps, but will end up disappointing both of them, resulting in some form of quasi-EU membership, but with no ability for the UK to shape EU regulation. This unfortunate ensemble, leaves me wondering why Brexit is at all appealing. To me it looks more like an economic, political and constitutional mess for the U.K. And what is worse, it is completely self-inflicted at a time when things were going along quite nicely. Notwithstanding all of the above, this is time for the U.K. government to get moving to try to achieve the best possible Brexit outcome, and it is no time to try to reset the referendum result.
(Sources: Bloomberg; The Telegraph; The Economist)

To Be Or Not To Be In?

That was the question put to the British public on June 23 this year, and on the eve of the election day, the Remainers were some 8 points ahead of the Brexit camp, making the result a foregone conclusion that we would be staying in Europe. However, this didn’t take into account the 20% who hadn’t declared their hand, so the Brexiters still had some hope to cling on to. In all my life I have never witnessed such emotions being whipped up about an election or referendum in the UK. Governments have come and gone in my lifetime, and if the wrong result came in, you merely shrugged your shoulders, cursed a bit in the local pub, then stole yourself for 5 more years of whichever government had won.

Here in Moscow it was harder to find Remain supporters than Brexit supporters, and the ones that were here were rather aggressive in their approach. I myself was ambushed in a well known expat bar by one such supporter and subjected to one way rhetoric, complete with fist thumping on table till another friend sat down and brought a merciful end to my torment! Another teacher friend stated on Facebook: ‘democracy sucks’ after the result came in, which accentuated just how divided the nation had become. On the morning of June 24, the headlines screamed at us the shockingly axiomatic news that Brexit had won by just over a million votes with a 52%-48% majority. If ever there was a result to put a cat among the pigeons, this was it: the tabloids had a field day with even the broadsheets joining in the fray. First casualty was our Prime Minister, David Cameron, who had no choice but to fall on his sword; the Remain camp demanded a recount and held demonstrations as well as being ultra aggressive to any known Brexit supporters in their area.

The fact is no one had truly anticipated this result and there was no plan in place to accommodate this extremely unlikely event taking place. As if the press hadn’t had enough material to feast on, there followed an ugly battle for the PM’s successor, which even by Westminster’s notoriously tawdry standards, had the participants fighting like rats in a sack. One such participant, Michael Gove, had stabbed Boris Johnson in the back in an act of such treachery, plunging such depths, that even Shakespeare would have had difficulty in conjuring up such a fiendish plot. I was at once reminded of that oft-quoted line of Sir Walter Scott’s play, ‘Marmion’ – ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.’

Theresa May managed to keep her head above the murky waters of unadulterated vitriol flying around, and emerged to become the new Prime Minister, and then proceeded to provide even more cannon fodder to the tabloids with her inaugural Cabinet shaping up. One by one people traipsed into number 10 Downing street, and there was the memorable picture of Boris Johnson, assuming the worst, walking nonchalantly to the front door with his hands in his pocket, only to emerge a few minutes later as the new Foreign Secretary, waving happily to the waiting crowds. Next we saw Michael Gove walking confidently to the door, expecting the world, despite his appalling treachery, which was ably assisted by his conniving and Machiavellian wife, but was summarily fired along with George Osborne, and was forced to leave by the back door with his tail between his legs in a delicious twist of fate – Oh what a fall from grace!

The pound plummeted, the EU had emergency meetings and slowly all involved were able to get their breath back after this merry-go-round and palaver had subsided. It’s true to say that no one quite realized on the Brexit side that when they were voting to leave, they were in fact voting for a new Prime Minister. I met up with two people on each side to discuss the fall-out and impact it would have on business in Europe as well as gauge their own personal opinions.

Meet Svetlana Malkarova, Remain supporter, PR guru extraordinaire and CEO of Media Consulting PR agency. Her agency promotes Russian culture and tourism abroad, has been established 6 years, and works alongside Worldcom PR Group who are based in LA and boast many of the top 100 most eclectic PR companies in the world today in their stable. Svetlana herself has 18 years in the PR industry, and Media Consulting adopt the Worldcom adage of of trust, friendship and professionalism while propagating globalization as their predominantly driving force in their bid to unite all people from different cultures. Svetlana’s company works with some government organizations (indeed she can often be found at the geopolitical forums in St. Petersburg), FMCG companies, financial institutions and pharmaceutical companies to name but a few industries.

So what about Brexit I ask her? She admits to being a strong Remain supporter and is sad to see Britain go it alone, believing a collective and united EU is a much stronger operation. She went on to say I firmly believe in unification to assist globalization, but individuality helps preserve a country’s identification. This prompted an ironic smile from my side as this is exactly what Britain wanted to do, in my opinion, in their Brexit vote; she then mentions that no one country should dominate (more smiles from me as I instantly think of Germany!), but instead be in a position to cooperate.

She does however concede that in the current EU migrant crisis, no one had predicted such a stampede, better checks should have been made, and rules should have been in place allowing the migrants to acclimatize and become better employees for the future. The main problem, she feels, is that the EU has been reactive in lieu of proactive – a point she says is amply demonstrated when her clients ask her what her proactive plan is in the event of any forthcoming crisis. In synopsis, she suggests a three-point plan: firstly people should cooperate and learn to work together; secondly, with the economic process in this integrated world, we should be able to depend on each other in this one market; and finally: problems in the EU raised their ugly head because leaders who were meant to be making responsible decisions, didn’t have an assimilated process in place for them.

Next up I met Luc Jones, Commercial Director of Antal International, a highly successful recruitment company that needs no introduction among the business fraternity here in Moscow. Luc is a larger than life, ebullient person who is not backward in coming forward, and was more than happy to dispel a few pearls of wisdom as to why we should leave the EU. He said: “whilst I can see the plusses and minuses of both Remain and Brexit, (seemingly unlike the majority of the UK population) the recent referendum certainly brought out the best and worst in a lot of people on both sides. Remaining in the EU may well sound like the safe option, but in the long run is a road to nowhere fast. Europe has the lowest growth of any continent except Antarctica and as things stand has no chance of improving. Most of the southern European countries are either bankrupt or close to being so, and are simply being kept afloat by ‘richer’ economies, namely Germany and to some extent France.”

He went on to say: “the current EU structure is rotten to the core and in dire need of reform, yet the Brussels elite, who live in a bubble and ride the gravy train, are in complete denial. They love everything about the EU and why wouldn’t they when the mug taxpayer is funding the very lifestyle they subscribe to, so why would they want to change anything? The idea that we are ‘better in’ as we can influence things is completely naive. We’ve never been able to instigate any change when we were in, as the EU couldn’t care less what Britain thinks – all they want is our money!”

The fact that there is no apparent strategy after Brexit is piss-poor. Granted even Farage and Johnson themselves never thought it would happen (nor did the bookies and most of the nation for that matter), but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have had some sort of contingency plan in place. I’m confident that the UK economy will not only recover but will gain in strength, although this won’t happen overnight; global markets don’t like shocks.
The Brexit vote was as much about the situation in the UK as it was about Europe. Large swathes of the population feel utterly alienated by mainstream politics, hence the rise of UKIP. Most major politicians (both past and present) urged the population to remain, so this was in effect two fingers up at them, saying “f**k you, don’t tell us what to think or do!” Outside of the Westminster bubble, immigration IS an issue for many people in the UK, yet unless you are permanently ‘celebrating diversity,’ and all the benefits that come with it, then you are automatically labled a racist, bigot or ‘Little Englander’, in my opinion. The perception is that immigration is completely out of control and the UK is a free-for-all. MP’s haven’t had their wages driven down by millions of (admittedly hard-working) immigrants who are prepared to toil for less, as it’s a whole lot more than they could ever hope to earn back home. And that’s even before the pressure on schools and the NHS by so many new arrivals having landed on our doorstep so quickly.

The bitterness from the Remainers is at first glance laughable, but in fact extremely condescending — ‘oh the working classes didn’t understand what they were voting against, so the result shouldn’t count;’ although such thoughts sum up the loony left. Democracy is great until it delivers the ‘wrong’ result, in which case we should have a re-run until it’s the right one- you lost, so move on! I can’t help feeling it should never have come to this, and in a way I wish it hadn’t. Had the EU done what it was set up to do, i.e., be a free trading body rather than building a political European super-state, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today.

For me, one of the biggest ironies is that the lefty liberals who were baying for British MP’s blood during the recent expenses scandal in the UK, and who believe that MP’s are overpaid, see no problem whatsoever with 10,000+ unelected bureaucrats in Brussels earning more than the British PM. As the old saying goes: ‘if socialists understood economics they wouldn’t be socialists!’ I reckon Brexit is only going to have a negligible effect on British-Russo relations, if at all; in fact a weaker sterling should make life easier for UK exporters to Russia.

I next met Amalia Saftoiu, a legal consultant for Laurence Simons, and a Romanian Remain supporter who has travelled extensively for work in such places as: the USA, Dubai, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Norway and now Russia. She originally studied in Bucharest and has two masters degrees from Oslo and Paris universities; in fact she met her husband when in Norway (he’s Norwegian) and they now have two children – a five year old girl who already speaks Romanian, Norwegian, English, Russian and French (a true polyglot in the making!), and the younger son is progressing well in the same languages.

Amalia says: we like to think of our family as truly international one, which has a global view on the world around us. Romania has been part of the EU since 2007, but the UK maintained visa restrictions for us for a further 7 years until 2014. Where possible I avoided the UK as I couldn’t be bothered with the visa arrangements or to contribute financially or otherwise to a country who went to some extent to make Romanians to feel unwelcome. Many of my fellow white collar workers felt similarly to me and went to other countries in the EU to ply their trade, and this may go a long way to explaining why today the UK attracts the less desirable element of Romanian society.

Amalia goes on to say: some of the things I didn’t like about the Brexit situation are as follows:-
1) The Leavers’ arguments had no factual backing, were sensationalist, with catchy phrases as well as playing on people’s fear of terrorists and ‘immigrants stealing our jobs’ etc.
2) Farage and Johnson stated it’s 2016 and our children deserve to see a better politician and Britain.
3) It brought a big division to the whole country.
4) It validated a hateful message, a dangerous doctrine and instigated racism which never ends well.
5) It was an expensive way for the UK to show Europe they were serious about making real changes.
6) Puts Britain in a situation where they have one of the least desired currencies, and they now face years of business uncertainty while negotiations with the EU take place.
Another staunch Brexit supporter is Robert Knights, a Moscow veteran with 23 years in, a Russian wife and child, and someone who holds dear the values of living in England during yesteryear – the good old days, he enthuses, with a twinkle in his eye. He reiterates the 1970’s which I can easily identify with as we both grew up in a similar era with the IRA dropping bombs on us ‘willy nilly’ as well as the infamous 3 day working weeks and endless power cuts. Robert is the Country Manager for a Polish recruitment company called ‘Work Service’, having started life many moons ago in the car industry around Coventry, where joining a trade union was ‘de rigeur’ if you were offered gainful employment.
Asking him about Brexit he feels that in or out of the EU we’ll still share intelligence with Interpol as well as trading with the EU countries as reciprocal business is still needed by both parties. He maintains it’s difficult nowadays to find a piece of real England that we all know and love. So what about Schengen? He thinks it should be completely restructured and that no decent, law-abiding citizen would ever have a problem with passport I/D. He would like to see trade discussions with Russia kick-started again, this time without Brussels saying ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’

In summary Robert feels that Brexit offers:-
1) Ability to sign agreements without Brussels intervening.
2) Tough border controls will enable the UK to reduce immigration to a sustainable level.
3) The bureaucratic and Neanderthal self-serving EU members are completely dictatorial in their self-aggrandizing ‘omni-culture’ attitutude.
The Remainers pilloried the Brexit supporters in a relentless and aggressive manner, he says – all we said was ‘no thank you!’

So there you have it from various people with a couple of common denominators highly prevalent. Firstly the EU should be completely restructured and then the likes of the EU President, Jean Claude ‘Drunker’ Juncker should be put out to pasture. At 77 years old he’s had more than enough sauce from the EU gravy train (literally and metaphorically), and represents everything negative about the EU. Secondly, Angela ‘Mutti’ Merkel’s open door immigration policy has been nothing short of disastrous, and only her previous popularity has kept her position thus far intact. Hiltaire Belloc, an early 20th century satirist and sometime President of the Oxford student union, stated and was recently quoted in relation to Angel Merkel’s position in power: ‘Always keep a hold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse’ – paradoxically ‘the nurse’ who has been responsible for so much of Europe’s immigration problems of late, may soon find herself in dire need of some of that prescribed medicine if she’s to survive!

Ravshaniya

Nodira Sadikov

For the young and ambitious photographer named Ravshaniya, there are no ugly people. In every character she will find something unique. After completing a 5-year education at the Institute of Arts in the direction of the ‘Cinema, TV and Radio producing’ she has understood that photography is her pure mission and whole life.

She benefitted from a tremendous professional background in the city of love, in Paris, and fell in love with that amazing place forever. Such an opportunity gave her a pair of wings with a wide wing span which she uses to create photographs, trusting in her own perception and principles. At the present time, she is a self-employed and a most wanted top-notch photographer in Moscow. Ravshaniya never attends professional courses or training campaigns, where most other professionals fill their empty brain cells with theoretical and practical skills in photography. She widens her inner horizons of contemplation in her own way.

Ravshaniya is against stereotyped thinking and she always chooses complex ways to reach the highest proximity of professionalism. Basically, she works in the direction of ‘levitation’ and masterfully creates brilliant images. Levitation (from Latin Levitas’s ‘lightness’) is a mental or physical phenomenon in which a subject without visible support floats in space (i.e., levitates) without touching the surface of a solid or liquid. Such an application of this genre begun with Philippe Halsman with his Photo in 1984 called as ‘Dali Atomikus.’ With digital photography and Photoshop, the life of photographers has become much easier. However Ravshaniya creates pictures in the genre of levitation in a skillful manner, and one picture takes 6-7 hours per day and the processing takes 20-25 days. It is important to note that one of the essential tools in her case is a game with daylight. With the help of light, she can present a person from different angles, to emphasize important elements in an undistorted, natural and simple way. Ravshaniya prefers natural beauty, yet she also skillfully creates a masterpiece by applying bright makeup on a material. She creates pure art and transparent pieces, revealing the natural and unfounded elements of the human inherent in nature. One of the significant peculiarities of her work is creating a picture with an unfinished motive. She adds a variety of irreconcilable details, where the audience stops for a long pause by searching some logical ending of the shots. Each piece of a masterpiece has its own life and each time, the viewer receives new emotions and tensions.

All of her works can be found at her official website: http://www.ravshaniya.com and social Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/ravshaniya.

Indian Summer – Бабье Лето

 

For the traveler, tourist, or expat who has ever spent any time at all in Moscow, it is understood that weather is never just weather. Seasons here are ominous, and world changing, and to understand them is to hold the oracle; they are the deciding factor of one’s moods, fashion choices, downtime activities, and even routes to work.

I have always said that native Muscovites hold certain instincts that others lack. They bring their umbrella as they walk out the door when they feel that it will rain—and they are always right, and they are always prepared. They seem to somehow get the memo on the exact day that it is okay to start wearing a шуба (fur-coat), and the exact moment that it is acceptable to wear open-toed shoes again. They all decide on the same slushy afternoon that it is time to re-open the Dacha season, and somehow, something deep-down inside of them, in the midst of autumn, reminds them that Бабье Лето (Indian Summer) will soon arrive.

Indian Summer is a period of warm and dry weather, and it comes to visit Moscow every year without fail. Sometime between mid-September and the beginning of October arrives the perfect combination of autumnal change and welcoming warmth. Aspects of all seasons are delicately intertwined, transporting you to a new world, around which revolves all the perks of fall with none of the consequence. The air is forgiving during Indian Summer; the brisk bite in her wind has been postponed if only for one or two merciful weeks.
Observing your surroundings, all signs point to autumn—this clarification is brought on by the way the skies look, the crunchy to soggy ratio of the leaves you are stomping on, the smells. Brisk air, crisp breezes, and leaves not quite yellow, red or brown begin to plummet to their pre-mature death, their young corpses lying on the sidewalks. You go out of your way to step on the extra-crunchy ones. With childlike strides you wade your boots through the piles and piles with deliberate force to create that beautiful rustling sound. Swish. Swush. Swoosh.

Funny how death brings so much cheerfulness. I have always thought that the whole death/life/rebirth aspect of the seasons in Moscow is especially beautiful during this certain phase of fall. The Indian Summer phenomenon depicts all the stages at one time; different parts of a whole life. It is birth and death, and bad days and good days; it is new beginnings, and mistakes; it is traditions and promises, and those who let you down. This is the cycle that brings those extra crunchy leaves to your path.

Everything including your intuition tells you the season is autumn, however, as they say, “Умом Россию не понять”—“Russia cannot be understood with the mind alone”—and after five minutes outside you will be stripped of your common sense while Moscow’s Indian Summer friend scoffs at your long sleeves saying, “Didn’t you know? Fall is on hold; it has decided to take a little break.”

You frown back at her, perplexed; yet suddenly you comply. During this week you realize your body has forgotten that it knows how to feel cold. Your neck—out of nowhere—feels independent again without a scarf by its side, and your fingers forget that gloves will soon be their new best friends.

The sun that so recently started burrowing away comes back out! Indian Summer-sun shines through the trees quickly yet softly, playing a game of peek-a-boo behind each individual leaf.

Autumn truly has been interrupted by this strange, purgatory seasonette. Just as you put away your summer clothes, hopes, and saunters in the park, you can essentially bring them back out again.

It is in this very moment that everything pauses. Time stops like the long click of a snapshot, as young photographers impatiently wait for colours on the Polaroid to appear. It embodies the paradox of contentment and yet longing for the past. Just as young friends want nothing but to enjoy and remember this very moment, they also wish to move backwards, already distracted, smiling at their goofy faces looking back at them on the sticky film.
Moscow too, cannot make up her mind between this moment and the next; this season or the last. She is ready for the next season; in fact fall has already begun and matured, yet it halts—for she is unsure—nostalgically clinging to the warmth of the past. Abrupt revival creates the hybrid that is Indian Summer.

And today it has arrived. The leaves stop falling. The brisk winds turn toward another direction, and in these few ‘Indian’ days, the sun shines. Our noses do not turn red and we can hang our coats back up. For these few days, the seasons stop. It is a short time where we can wear a turtleneck or a tank top…we aren’t restricted by temperature or seasonal guidelines.

We have an opportunity to start over, to begin again…before the seasons catch up to us. Before it all starts changing too fast. This is our chance to take a moment to catch our breath, before we begin seeing it again.