Community News – Spring 2017

IWC Interest Groups Sign Up

In February, the fabulous hotel Metropole hosted the IWC’s monthly Meet&Greet. Members were given the opportunity to sign up for wide range of interest groups such as Art & Craft, Mind & Soul, Cooking, Languages, and many others.

The IWC would like to thank all partners for the gifts for the raffle. Over 70,000 roubles for charity projects was raised.

Moscow Dragons RFC’s 20TH ANNIVERSARY! 

Help Moscow’s ‘expatriate’ rugby club (founded by expats; nowadays, a tantalising Russo-Cosmopolitan cocktail blended with a common religion: Rugby) to celebrate this milestone by signing up to play rugby! All shapes, sizes, ages, sexes and hairstyles welcome – help the 1st team go one better than last season’s runner-up spot in the Moscow Championship! Bolster the 2nd XV in its inaugural league season! Swell the ranks of our heroic veterans! Or join our burgeoning women’s section! And come training Tuesdays and Thursdays! Alternatively, you can become a social member — a raft of regular events to enjoy, each one proving the universality of rugby culture. Join us on one of the legendary Dragons’ Tours! And come and watch us — match details on www.facebook.com/mdrfc/. Timur (details as per Ball flier) and Gavin (+7 925 7402471) look forward to hearing from you!

Temple of Sound

(Temple of Sound) Ambient music/digital art @ St Andrew’s Church, April 8th, 7pm.

How does sound affect bodies and space?

Live Sound makers create ambience using instruments, voice,  hi- technology. Workshop by Nikita Stalker from music portal – www.zwook.ru.

Singing bowls, instruments. Pure.Useless.Beauty.

Tickets: Mudramusic.org – Sergei: +7 965 444 6747

TREASURE ISLAND 

Treasure Island returns on Saturday 18 March at the Central House of Writers.

A professional cast led by Jonathan Bex (Royal Shakespeare Company & London’s West End) as Long John Silver.  A one hour romp with pirates, adventure and (of course) treasure!

A Moscow English Theatre/Flying Bananas co-production.

Tickets http://flyingbananas.ru/shows/treasure-island.html

AEB

Upcoming AEB events spring 2017 (details and registration: www.aebrus.ru/en/aeb-events)

HR Conference ‘Effective HR: To A Brighter Future’

14 March, 09:30-15:30, InterContinental Moscow Tverskaya

This year, the conference will be focused on practices applied by leading companies in compensations & benefits, recruitment, assessment, training & development and labour law.

The panel discussion by companies’ CEOs will be a special separate session.

XIII Annual Customs Conference ‘NEW IN CUSTOMS LEGISLATION: FOCUS ON INTEGRATION’

16 March,
10:00-16:00, Marriott Grand Hotel, Moscow

Agenda: current customs legislation and practice topics, new Customs Code of EAEU.

High level representatives of the Federal Customs Service, Eurasian economic commission, Public Council of Federal Customs Service are invited as our distinguished guests.

The Eighth Northern Dimension Forum

6 April, 2017, Sokos Hotel Olympia Garden, St. Petersburg

The Forum will gather more than 250 participants representing Russian and European ministries, agencies, regional authorities, the Northern Dimension area and foreign business circles and civil society. Among the keynote speakers:

Tapio Kuula, Fortum Corporation,  and  Alexey Mordashov, Severstal, – Co-Chairmen of the Northern Dimension Business Council.

US Dental Clinic and Platelet Rich Plasma

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy is a unique treatment that uses plasma that is highly concentrated with platelets. The plasma contains cytokines and growth factors that gives astonishing results in rejuvenation. This cell rejuvenation is natural and based on your own natural blood resources: it promotes collagen production, nourishes and hydrates skin and improves skin lifting. This method has been used in different areas of medicine including surgical dentistry (to increase recover), rehabilitation and many others.

Stay naturally beautiful and young with PRP therapy at US Dental Care.

Interns available!

Russian/English speaking candidates for MA in Global Public Policy and Global Finance seek job experience as interns in Moscow firms. Please contact Natalia Gracheva, RANEPA, for introduction to the students and our English-language Masters programs. ng@ranepa.ru

British Embassy Open Day

“On 20 June 2017, the British Embassy Moscow will hold an Open Day event for British citizens in Russia who would like to learn more about the work of the Embassy and the services it provides for UK businesses and individuals.

 The Breakfast meeting will be hosted by the Deputy Head of Mission, Martin Harris, joined by colleagues from Consular Section, Press and Public Affairs Section, UK Visas and Immigration and the Department for International Trade.

Timing: 08.30 – 09.30

Location: British Embassy Moscow, Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya 10 (entrance from Protochnyy Pereoluk)

 Registration is required; RSVP to ppas.moscow@fco.gov.uk by 14 June, official photo ID or passport is required for entry.”

The Trans-Siberian

The trans siberian

 

Vincent Weightman

Last year the iconic Trans-Siberian Railway celebrated its 100th birthday. To mark this occasion, my girlfriend and I agreed we should ‘have a quiet summer’ and ‘just’ travel the breadth of the largest country in the world by its most famous mode of transport. Somehow within weeks our mums and dads were accompanying us and so without hesitation, I got to work organising the trip of a lifetime for the six of us.

While the trip from Moscow to Vladivostok can take 6 ½ days (if you hide on the train the whole way), we decided to give ourselves 20 days and hoped to indulge in as much of Russia as we could. By the time we had created our own itinerary, booked our train tickets and 9 hour flight back to Moscow, we had spent less than £500 per person.

Here are some of the stops we made along the way.

Vladimir and Suzdal 

I’ve written before about the various reasons everyone should love Vladimir and Suzdal but in the summer there really is nowhere like it. It’s only about 180km from Moscow but get off here, enjoy the relaxing pace of rural Russia in the sunshine and ease your way into this adventure.

Nizhny Novgorod 

400km from Moscow and a mere 6 hour train trip, there is every reason to find yourself in Nizhny. The 5th largest city in Russia was the exiled home of Maxim Gorky (one of Russia’s most famous writers) and Andrei Sakharov (father of the hydrogen bomb as well as Nobel peace prize winner). It is packed with museums, art galleries, an impressive Kremlin and a cable car spanning the breadth of the Volga offering panoramic photo opportunities throughout the relaxing 30 minute return trip. After a busy day cramming in the sights, Bolshaya Pokrovskaya is full of cool bars and fashionable eateries, making it the perfect place to recover and watch the world go by. As the sun sets, aim to be near the Chkalov monument (a tribute to Valery Chkalov who flew 63 hours in 1937 from Moscow to Vancouver via the North Pole) and enjoy the spectacular views of volcanic orange and red skies burning deep into the Volga before disappearing for the evening.

Kazan 

With the most common route via Perm, we took a slightly southern detour to visit Kazan and I’m delighted we did. Kazan is around 800km from Moscow and takes its name from an old Tatar word meaning ‘cooking pot’ as a variety of cultures and religions blend to create this incredibly picturesque city. The undoubted highlight of this stop is the fairy-tale Qolşärif Mosque inside the Kazan Kremlin. Qolşärif was an Imam killed defending Tatar Kazan from a rampaging Ivan the Terrible in 1552 and the magnificent mosque in his name is one of the most visited in the world. Road signs are written in Tatar, Russian and English and while it has long been considered the Istanbul of Russia, walking Bauman Street in the sunshine you could be anywhere. Stretching further than the eye can see from the base of the Kremlin, this main street has been stylishly pedestrianised and is lined with a great variety of bars, restaurants, churches, mosques, people and fashionable designer shops. This was my highlight of the trip and a place I hope to visit again.

Ekaterinburg 

Church upon the Blood (xрам на крови) is 1,778km from Moscow and was completed in 2003 to commemorate the site where Tsar Nicholas II, his family and loyal staff were executed by Bolshevik forces led by Yakov Yurovsky in 1918. As well as being the death spot of Imperial Russia, Ekaterinburg was home to Russia’s first president Boris Yeltsin and has various European and Asian border monuments to straddle for photographs. 40km from Ekaterinburg on the way to Pervouralsk stands an impressive obelisk at the original marker which was erected after Tsar Alexander II famously stopped for a glass of wine on his way to Siberia in 1837. Tradition now suggests you have a glass in Europe before enjoying another in Asia – I suggest going here after lunch.

Novosibirsk 

22 hours from Ekaterinburg and 3,303km from Moscow is Novosibirsk. A fairly unremarkable city, this was a comfort stop featuring showers, hotel beds and as many good meals as we could get in 24 hours. If you do stop here, try to see a performance at the impressive Opera and Ballet Theatre (also known as the Siberian Colosseum) which is the largest and most technically advanced theatre in Russia. Depending on arrival time, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a nice way to spend an hour of an afternoon – it was the first stone built building in Novosibirsk which was dedicated to the memory of Tsar Alexander III and is romantically atmospheric and colourful inside.

Irkutsk 

Irkutsk was originally a gold and fur trading post but is now famous for its wooden architecture and as the stepping stone to Lake Baikal, the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (nearly 2 km) stretches of unfrozen fresh water in the world. All five of North America’s great lakes could be combined and you would still not be close to the vast volume of Baikal. Within the depths of the world’s fifth ocean lies a very special fish. Omul is only found in Baikal and whether you eat it smoked, salted or dried, it’s hard to avoid eating it when visiting the area. Roadside smokers, barbecues and restaurants make this an impressively fresh and incredibly tasty meal or snack.

Having visited Baikal in the bone chilling winter of -27c and slid around the ice in old buses on the clear, thick ice that turned this lake into a highway, it was a real treat to walk Siberia’s Riviera in my shorts, sweating in the hot sun. Diving from a small wooden pier into the refreshing, mind clearing water was a welcome escape from the +25c temperatures of the stony beach.

Ulan Ude

Ulan-Ude is one of the most endearing cities I’ve visited in Russia. The capital of Buryatia is exotic and friendly, comfortable and interesting. Heavily influenced by Mongol Buddhist culture, welcoming Asian faces along with a landscape and climate that feels similar to Vietnam or Thailand makes this a real hidden gem for a holiday within a holiday for anyone on the Trans-Siberian.

The world’s largest Lenin head was unveiled here in 1970 to remind locals who was in charge and since then, even the birds have appreciated his importance and ensured the 42 ton face remains clean. Towering high above the city, a mere 30 rouble marshrutka from Lenin’s head is the Rinpoche Bagsha Datsan. This oasis of tranquillity and calm is a beautiful way to escape the rigours of trains, cities and the general hustle involved in travel. Here the quiet, sprawling gardens are brought to life by colourful butterflies, singing insects, birds, flowers and squirrels. Statues depicting the 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac periodically split up a wonderful panoramic walk around the mountain top with outstanding views in every direction for miles.

Vladivostok 

With a 60 hour trip from Ulan-Ude (enforced by visas and train timetables) we treated ourselves to 1st class for the first time and rolled into Vladivostok in style. Choosing to propose to my girlfriend at the ‘9,288km from Moscow’ monument in the centre of the platform, in front of both our sets of parents ensured my excitement at successfully completing the trip was tinged with some nerves and anticipation. Fortunately she said yes and we were all able to enjoy the last few days of our trip together in this special Russian city that is closer to Pyongyang and Beijing than Moscow.

We took a taxi across Russky Bridge (the longest cable stayed bridge in the world) which connects Russky Island to the Russian mainland of Vladivostok. After a swim in the Sea of Japan’s relatively warm and perfectly clear water, we ate seafood plov and enjoyed a beer in a beach hut as we observed the tropical landscape of thick bushy trees covering mountains from tip to water’s edge with a slither of white sand separating the green and blue.

Having spent so much time organising and then living this trip, it was surreal to be finishing it. With various reasons to celebrate, we had an incredible meal at Zuma featuring King Crab and oysters before one last sleep and a quick 9 hour flight back to Moscow.

For more information about the Trans-Siberian, travelling in Russia or my photographs: feel free to email me at vincent@travellingteacher.me or follow up via Instagram by following travellingteacher.me

you can hardly remember

You Can Hardly Remember

 

By Alexa Shearer

https://www.facebook.com/FindingherSerenity

‘I felt a wish never to leave…a wish that dawn might never come, that my present frame of mind might never change.’  Leo Tolstoy

Moscow has always held for me the closest connotation to the word ‘home.’

And I write this almost in a regretful manner …the way one would write a letter to an old lover or deceased relative; someone with whom you have copious amounts of baggage, and unsaid words you’d wished you’d vocalized, and ones you wish you could take back.

It really is like mourning the loss of a loved one, and being forced to write out embarrassingly emotional few words to say at their wake or funeral, knowing your eyes will fill with tears in front of strangers to get each sentence out.

I know at times people – myself included – have a hard time understanding it. ‘But you’re American, so what’s the problem? or ‘Yeah but where were you born? come as oversimplified questions when my face gets flushed and my mind blank after being asked where I’m from or where home is. Often I’m sure it comes across as a dramatized tragedy or a ploy to make myself seem more aloof and interesting. But, in actuality, the only truth I can capture from the eccentricity of it all is that maybe it is simple, and always has been. I have very American blood and a navy-blue passport, but Moscow will always be my home.

Entering some place as a child and leaving an adult 

It’s all as simple as a fragment made up of ten words and no hyperbole. I’m not sure if this constitutes as ‘growing up’ someplace but it feels pretty damn close.

Moving away and starting each day in this new and foreign world feels like the fog of a cold-medicine buzz. Your eyes are red and puffy; your nose stuffed and you can barely breathe, and yet the cold medicine doesn’t take these symptoms away, it simply numbs you into a state of incoherent drowsiness just so you can possibly get away with sleeping through the night.

Here I am: no cold, my sinuses are clear and my vision fresh as a daisy, and yet this cloudy haze dictates my temporarily idle existence… Jetlag may also have something to do with it.

Arrival 

I don’t remember anything about my first impressions of Russia–even when I try to think back to my 11-year-old self, by getting into the mind-set of a confused quasi-Californian who, when told would be moving, could only fathom a snowy cold world that in her imagination might resemble Georgia.

I can’t remember what I thought the day I landed. All I can see are my dirt-stained white shoes dragging across each individual ridge on a rusty metal drain. I liked the echoey pitch my heels would make as they rubbed along each grate. I didn’t take my eyes off the cracks in the concrete. We were being given a tour of the embassy grounds and I was wearing a purple shirt with little gems on the collar and a faded denim skirt that kept riding up during the endless plane ride.

I don’t remember my first Metro ride or first awe-gaze at St. Basil’s Cathedral, besides some brief musings of how it reminded me of a smaller version of a Disneyland Castle – less impressive to an 11-year old. What I can recollect is that we were walking around trying to find a purpose for ourselves… I suppose how we often did/do when we are still strangers to a new place, unattached to the concept of ‘back home,’ and yet not fully into step with a ritual or routine. We had found a small corner shop or marketplace… to be honest I don’t even remember how, when, where, or why, but my sister was carrying a flimsy black plastic bag full of tomatoes. As we strolled, our feet reaching the black cobble stone (that I always assumed would be red… on Red Square), one cunning tomato slipped out of the bag and dropped to the ground, yet remained perfectly intact, without even making that ‘squash’ sound. Without hesitation, my sister kicked it out of her way and kept walking, shortly before receiving that look from my dad… the ‘are you kidding me? Did you seriously just kick a tomato onto Red Square and walk away?’ look.

I lack exceptional, inspiring first sentiments, but rather possess simple memories…you know the ones… revolving around kid stuff; of moments you didn’t realize were important. I guess some nobody from Idaho doesn’t remember what he thought of Idaho when he was in fifth grade. He just lived his life.

I don’t remember the first time I saw perfectly stitched crystal snowflakes – the kind you’ve only experienced as ones hanging from your classroom ceiling that you cut out with dull scissors – or learning how to carefully wrap my head, neck and mouth with a платок, (headscarf) –  to keep the heat trapped to my face in below-zero conditions – I just sort of always knew how. I don’t know why I associate the bright fragrance of a freshly peeled mandarin with Christmastime, I just always think of crystal glasses full of cheap champagne and blinking lights on a tree when I catch the smell of my hands after I eat one.

I don’t remember the day I learned to read the Cyrillic alphabet, it just feels like it’s something I could always do. I don’t remember ever being interested in Russian history, it’s just always sort of been something I knew about. I can’t tell you the first ballet I saw, or the first time I got dressed up to watch a live orchestra perform, or the first time I noticed the crowds clapping in unison in a packed hall after a jaw-dropping performance, faint interjectory ‘bravos’ being called out in the distance.

I don’t remember the first time I learned about the rituals of чай or the дача, or who Снегурочка is. I don’t even remember noticing just how colossal the buildings on Тверская are, or the first time I tasted the bright purple deliciousness that is Борщ.

I don’t remember growing an infatuation with the sound of a single violin or the day I began to really understand how to read music, or the first time I got those pesky little calluses on my left pointer finger.

I can’t recall the first time I handed someone flowers in an odd-numbered bundle – because heaven forbid you buy an even number. I also can’t recall being taught not to seat someone under an air vent; with their back to an open window; in between two doors. I just always understood that a draft can and will kill you…  and I often casually brushed off comments such as “I was in the hospital because cold air blew on my neck and/or back.”

I guess that’s the benefit of being a foreigner’s child in a place like Russia. You just sort of soak up every minuscule cultural nuance they themselves slowly and tediously must learn, and write down to prevent any slip-ups or faux pas. I suppose I was taught to live as an extremely absorbent sponge, absent-mindedly taking in every piece of my surroundings and somehow just understanding and knowing things without explanation.

For my dad it was a great career move. It was a passionate obsession, a cultural phantom caught and conquered after years of hard work, studying, memorizing, understanding, searching; it was an amazing accomplishment, the fulfillment of so many goals and a calmingly, otherworldly overture compiled of snow-walks, tiny coffee shops, hearty black bread, and after-work pensive thoughts under the shadow of Lenin.

For my mother it was an intricate form of immersion, intense analysis and whole-hearted dedication, compassion, and the preface for so much joy, frustration, discovery, irritation, and lifelong friendships.

But for myself and my sister It wasn’t some time-lined project, we didn’t have goals to fulfill; it wasn’t a scheduled ‘tour’ or duty, it was just…life…and sometimes, believe it or not… it was mundane.

Moscow, instead, transformed from being an adolescent normality to an adult imperfect haven. It becomes a place you’re dying to get out of on your worst days, with the sheep-like mentality and impossible conversations that simply annoy you beyond belief.

But, it’s a place that, when you leave it, you can’t bring yourself to go back for a while, because you need time to heal the loss of leaving in the first place.

Russia is a place that stays with you, unfortunately so, for it is this very nation that will be the cause of your soul’s yearning – тоска. Moscow is not in any shape geared towards the future, but rather usually stops in its tracks looking right back over its shoulder into the cycle of the past. Every essence of each holiday, celebration, and average work day amidst fellow commuters is encompassed by collective nostalgia.

Undoubtedly, Moscow forgot to teach you to live in the moment.

So here you find yourself putting the tea kettle away for a little while because you can’t bear the thought of a steaming cup, far too hot – burning a small dot on the tip of your tongue; leaving a constant reminder of a lovely time spent for the next 24 hours – accompanied by crunchy wafer chocolates leaving a pleasantly subtle taste of dirt on your lips. Spoonfuls of варенья, and dry сушки – that leave a pile of crumbs after every bite escort wildly entertaining conversations, not casual in the slightest, but rather bare your whole soul even if you didn’t feel like chatting in the first place.

You put off cleaning out your wallet and instead just throw a few dollar bills into your purse; your ID and plastic cards float around the bottom in a sea of gum wrappers and hair-ties. The inconvenience is better than dealing with reality: disposing of old receipts – the final remaining possessions on your person of a world soon to be long-gone. You fold up each colorful bill and replace them with simple, uniform green ones. You rummage through each ancient crumpled paper like an old and bitter grandma with a harsh exterior but wells up when going through her old letters or albums; uttering an obnoxious ‘back in my dayyyy.’ Dry-cleaning stubs, a clock-out receipt from your last bartending shift; useless coins and emergency phone numbers now unreachable; three Metro cards – who knows how many rides are left on them: rides to work every day, to museums, and cozy restaurants, or simply a means of quiet; yes… loud, noisy, bustling, fast-paced quiet – an escape from the world above if only for a few minutes.

So here you sit… late at night, listening to Tchaikovsky alone in your room, slowly forgetting complex conjugations and grammatical cases – concepts that tortured your mind every second of every day.

You try… but truly don’t remember when you knew you loved that place, or the moment you realized a blanket of peace would always be wrapped around your shoulders in the most hostile of times, or why you’d wished you could freeze time and stay there for as long as you’d pleased.

When all your strength is exhausted into pulling the strings of an old compartment open, the forgotten moments come pouring out; shattering to the floor like pieces of broken china plates, and so it seems… with all of this not remembering… it turns out you can hardly remember life before Russia at all.

To Be a Resilient and Happy Repat… What, When, and How to Cope

resilient repatriation

Having previously written about the importance of resilience for the successful expat, in this article, Lucy Kenyon SCPHN, M.Med.Sci., RGN explores the planning, challenges and pitfalls of moving home.

Repatriation is the process of returning a person – voluntarily – to his or her place of origin or citizenship. For the linguaphiles among us, repatriation stems from the late Latin repatriat- returned to one’s country, from the verb repatriare, from re- back + Latin patria native land.

In my first articles in Moscow expat Life I discussed the key health issues for expats. In the top 4 was Stress – Stress of global assignments. But nothing and nobody can prepare you for the challenge of moving home.

My first experience of repatriation was as a 13 year old coping with a return to what felt like a completely alien country, speaking a language that I had only used with my grandparents and cousins. I also watched my mother struggle even to re-establish herself in the town where she had grown up. Most of those who had remained behind had not visited us in Belgium and had no familiar reference points on which to reconnect.

In a strange way this helped to manage my expectations on our return from Moscow in 2014. I decided to wait and see who wanted to connect back with us. We sent the girls to school out of town in case teenage friendship groups were turbulent – at least they could concentrate on GCSEs and see the friends they had kept in touch with when not at school.

Expat life is a competitive environment within a highly driven and high achieving community. But this community is also very supportive and that network means it can be OK for things to go wrong! Successful expatriates become different people acquiring new skills whilst on assignment. They often start to behave and think like the locals, to greater or lesser degrees, while on international assignment. On return, some of their habits and behaviours may be unfamiliar or even uncomfortable to people back home. Those who have settled well in their new country don’t necessarily want to return home. It’s really easy to mention things that they believe their adoptive country did better. ‘Reverse culture shock’ can happen when returning to a place that looks like home but has not been for several years or even decades. Because it looks like home, it can be more difficult to manage than outbound shock because it is unexpected and unanticipated.

So when repatriating, it’s important to take the same approach as you would to the next assignment. Since repatriating, I have been a member of a group on Facebook run by Naomi Hattaway Founder of the ‘I Am a Triangle’ global movement. There are regular posts from people repatriating either in anticipation or when they are back home and struggling.

Coping strategies

When you are finding life difficult, it is important to have a toolbox of strategies to have available. As I discussed in an earlier article on expat resilience, it is also essential for both the returning parents, children and adolescents to have appropriate ‘social scaffolding.’ The return home can be stressful because of low interest.

Facts and figures:

According to a 2014 BBC report: ‘16% of employees bolted within the first two years after a global assignment ended, up from 11% in 2012. What’s more, 41% of expatriates returned to the same position they had before they went abroad’ despite working within a global context and dealing with global issues.

“The repatriation process clearly remains the Achilles’ heel of many global mobility programmes. While employers focus on finding the best candidate for the international transfer on the front end, they often fail to help expats make a successful transition to a rewarding new position that capitalises on their global experience.

‘In addition to disappointment with the new assignment, returning expats may also be frustrated by colleagues’ lack of appreciation and interest in their adventure abroad; often coming back from being very big fish in a little pond. ’

When planning your return, think carefully about the following aspects:

DREAMS – how will you achieve them?

FEARS – how will you prevent them from materialising and overcome them when they do?

GOALS – set short term and achievable aims to help you on your journey to your dream based around your Interests.

CHALLENGES – be realistic about your expectations. You can even set yourself challenges as mini achievements towards your goals.

INTERESTS – look for social and group activities around your interests, as it’s easier to strike up a conversation about a shared topic or interest than immediately find common ground with a stranger. Try to find activities and groups where expats may be found, I found our local Toastmasters was predominantly a group of expats in the UK and had a sudden regular weekly fun activity and curry nights out.

Treat repatriation in the same way you your next expat move. Find other expats ‘Triangles’ in your home region, who are looking to expand their friend networks. It’s always nice to meet up with people who have also lived crazy expat lives and ‘get it.’

Steps companies can take to ease the repatriation process

Shell and Adidas are currently leading the way with repatriation practices. ‘The expat has a standard development plan reviewed each year by global skill pool managers, including what the next job might be, according to the BBC report.’  Such a plan might include the following points:

• Acknowledge the value of the returning employee both from a cost perspective as well as gained insight and experience while abroad that is harder to measure quantitatively

• Recognise that the employee and their family may need assistance in readjusting to their home culture.

• Provide repatriation cultural training to raise awareness and provide tools for the adaptation process.

• Provide assistance for not only the returning employee but also to any partners and children so their re-entry process is smoother.

• Ensure that the employee feels they can continue to make a valuable contribution to the organisation. Avoid a situation where the employee feels undervalued or marginalised as an outsider.

• Provide coaching or other professional services so the employee can better integrate into their ‘new-old’ environment.

• Listen. Do not underestimate the frustration caused when few people show interest in the repatriated employee’s experiences, knowledge and expertise gained abroad. It may be hard to quantify the value of sharing new experiences and new ways of looking at things, but the benefits gained by the organisation should not be lost. After all, this is part of the reason why the employee was on an expatriate assignment in the first place!

• Re-orientation (the reverse of cultural awareness training) to get up to date with company, social, political and technology developments back home e.g. out of hours expectations, etc.

• Consider home job mentor.

• Bridge the gap with intranet, internal social networks and technologies.

Conclusion

Be open to meeting new people rather than expecting to fit back in with friends who have not moved from the area.

Announce your return on Facebook – this led to an invite to a cocktail night from a previous acquaintance on my first night back! She was very interested in hearing all about Moscow, unlike many people who were not necessarily able to imagine or visualise my experience and didn’t want to spend the evening poring over photos that meant nothing to them! We ended up laughing hysterically over all my run-ins with the authorities! For those of you who remember me ‘я из понедельника.’

Start with a realistic goal: doing one new thing or something on your to-do list every week.

Biography 

Lucy Kenyon SCPHN, M.Med.Sci., RGN is a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse, with a background in occupational and environmental health. She has a keen interest and expertise in the relationship between people and their environment. Prior to moving to Moscow in 2009 she was involved in pandemic planning for Tier 2 emergency services in the UK. She has written specialist articles on health matters for Croner Special Reports since 1997. She is also an expat spouse, who repatriated in 2014 and understands the challenges of day to day issues when living abroad.

Bibliography

Pavone Chris, ‘The Expats’

Hilton Patricia, ‘Mother Without a Mask’

Russell Helen, ‘The Year of Living Danishly’

Bard Elizabeth, ‘Lunch in Paris’

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ‘Americanah’ – a personal favourite

Declan Mulkeen; ‘2Steps companies can take to ease the repatriation process;’ Training Journal; 8 October 2013 https://www.trainingjournal.com/articles/feature/steps-companies-can-take-ease-repatriation-process

Khalaf, H. (2016). ‘Funny how you miss expat life: a comical look at adapting to home after the UAE.’ The National. Thenational.ae. Retrieved 23 January 2017, from http://www.thenational.ae/arts-life/film/funny-how-you-miss-expat-life-a-comical-look-at-adapting-to-home-after-the-uae

Maura McElhone; ‘Back in Ireland, I feel a sense of belonging I missed in the US.’ Coming back has given one returned emigrant a new understanding of what ‘home’ means; http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/generation-emigration/back-in-ireland-i-feel-a-sense-of-belonging-i-missed-in-the-us-1.2845735

References

The Peace Education Programme

peace education program

Sherry Weinstein, PEP Programme Manager

What does a teenage girl in Soweto, South Africa, have in common with an inmate in a Los Angeles prison, a Commander of the Naval Police in Veracruz, Mexico, and a university professor in Spain?

These are just a few of the people worldwide who facilitate the Peace Education Programme, known as PEP. The program consists of 10 DVDs, themed interactive workshops about innate resources that everyone has; such as hope, choice, and personal peace, designed to promote self-discovery. The facilitators present each theme for the day, play the video, and during the workshop ask participants to reflect and express; if they would like to, what they experienced.

The course has been very successful since its launch in 2012. PEP has been presented in 73 countries, in 27 languages. Braille versions have been prepared and used, as well as versions featuring subtitles for the hearing impaired.

The programme is offered worldwide freely to groups like Adult Learning, Civic Centres, Community Centres, Corporations, Education, Government, Health & Wellness, Police & Law Enforcement, Senior Centres, Special Groups such as refugees and women’s groups, and Veterans.

A statistical research study conducted in 2014 by an independent global research firm concluded there was ‘a tremendous improvement with regard to believing that feeling peace is a possibility. Before the program less than 42% believed that feeling peace was possible. After the program, almost 100% believed that it was.’ Many expressed had they known about these inner resources earlier in life they would have made much better choices.

The workshops topics are: Peace, Appreciation, Inner Strength, Self-Awareness, Clarity, Understanding, Dignity, Choice, Hope, and Contentment. The material is taken from excerpts of Mr Prem Rawat’s international addresses. Prem Rawat has been traveling internationally for over 50 years with the message that personal peace is an inner resource; everybody’s innate right.

PEP courses are available in Russia. Please write to peprussia@gmail.com

There and Back Again

david lynch meditationBy Charles Borden

This is a story, a personal journey, and a bit of history that ties together three themes that have dominated this writer’s life: Russia, my personal and business focus for the past 25 years; Iowa, where I earned my first degree and have called home since 1974; and Transcendental Meditation, which I have practiced twice daily for 47 years and taught for 45 years.

Iowa-Russia

Most would be surprised to hear that Iowa was one of the best-known and traveled of the United States by citizens of the Soviet Union, principally due to the efforts of Iowa farmer Roswell Garst from the early ‘50s. Roswell believed that elimination of hunger was the best hope for world peace, and that Iowa was in a unique position to help achieve that goal. He became active with exchanges, travel and meeting with leaders in the USSR and Eastern European to share agricultural knowledge and farm technology.

In September 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, his wife, and the Soviet delegation visited the Garst farm. The Life magazine cover photo of Roswell with the Premier holding a big ear of corn became a national sensation. This cover graces the wall of one of Moscow’s first Starlite Diners.

In the ensuing years, Roswell’s nephew, banker John Chrystal continued his mission. John visited the USSR often, and arranged exchanges of teachers, farmers, lawyers, businesspersons, scientists and others. Because of the common agricultural interests, Chrystal mainly traveled to southern Russia, particularly Stavropol region. Iowa and Stavropol formed the two rival nations’ first Sister State relationship, and Des Moines and Stavropol city became the first Sister Cities. Chrystal naturally befriended Stavropol’s Minister of Agriculture, and the friendship continued when that young ag minister moved to Moscow as Soviet Minister of Agriculture and Politburo member. The Minister’s next promotion was to head of state: President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Iowa-Meditation

I learned Transcendental Meditation (TM) during a “gap year” after my junior year of study in Civil Engineering at Iowa State University. The results were immediate and profound, and I decided to become a teacher of the technique.  Within weeks I headed off to a one-month course conducted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Poland Springs, Maine. Maharishi informed us wannabe teachers that a college degree was a prerequisite, so I headed back to ISU.

I rushed to finish my degree. At the time an average college student took 15-16 credit hours of classes; I averaged about 23 of engineering courses for the next four terms, and as many as 28. I had about a GPA of about 3.5 for that period, far better than my pre “gap year” days. I found that my 20 minutes twice-a-day meditation gave me an edge, a clear mind. I could sit through a lecture and absorb every word, without what I call “mental white noise”, the distracting meandering thoughts that impede listening, and thus learning. I was focused and better at organizing my time, so the twice a day TM practice was (and still is) an investment.

By 1974, I was an engineer and a TM teacher, and I worked with Maharishi on meditation academy projects in Europe and the United States. Maharishi founded his Maharishi University of Management in Santa Barbara, and it occupied a leased dormitory. When the trustees found a bankrupt college in Fairfield, Iowa to purchase, I was sent to manage the preparation of the campus for its new residents.  Since then, despite travels and residences elsewhere, I still call Fairfield my “hometown”.

By the late 1980s, Fairfield acquired a unique reputation for its abundance of startup businesses, many of them tech, started by its meditators.  Its economic successes amid its dominant agriculture surroundings later resulted in the town being dubbed “Silicorn Valley” by the New York Times. I had a venture capital business in Fairfield and served on two Iowa committees dedicated to development of the state’s entrepreneurial economy.

Fairfield was also the focus of Maharishi’s “Creating Coherence” programs. These special courses were based upon the numerous published research studies that showed the influence that a small percent of individuals practicing TM could have on a larger population – to create World Peace. This “Maharishi Effect” describes the potential for a “phase transition” to a more harmonious state of life for society characterized by decreased crime, violence, accidents and illnesses, as well as improvement of other social and economic indicators.

Meditation-Russia

In the late 1980s, changes were in the air for the world, and walls were falling. On December 6, 1988, USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev’s arrived in New York to meet President Ronald Reagan and newly elected President George H.W. Bush. That night in the very early morning hours, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked northern Armenia, just south of the Caucasus mountains. The quake was the worst catastrophe for the USSR since the Chernobyl nuclear event.

The Soviet Leader formally asked the United States for humanitarian aid, the first USSR aid request to America since the Second World War. Remarkably, President Gorbachev’s humanitarian request reached Fairfield, Iowa. Along with doctors and medical supplies, and rescue teams and volunteers from many nations, the aid invitation also went to teachers of Transcendental Meditation. The first TM teachers arrived in the USSR from Europe, Asia, and America, with dozens of them from Fairfield.

The ostensible reason for the meditation teachers was the great deal of research that had been done on the calming effect of Transcendental Meditation for individuals.  However, scientists in the Soviet Union had long been interested in the potential of human consciousness, so perhaps the leaders were willing to give the “Maharishi Effect” a try.
TM teacher friends and colleagues visited other cities throughout the USSR, where they taught tens of thousands of Soviet citizens the simple, natural TM technique. I was a bit jealous, but business and personal ties kept me in Iowa at that time.

Then in 1991, the director of a Moscow region agriculture institute, after learning TM, visited Fairfield. He was curious to find out more about Maharishi’s university and Fairfield’s entrepreneurial successes. The university president’s office asked me to show its honored visitor around Iowa. We spent several days together visiting Iowa State University and the state capital. I gave him a modem for his computer when he departed so we could exchange emails. In August, just after the Gorbachev coup attempt, he invited me to the USSR. I arrived in the new Russian Federation a few months later in February, and began my work on agricultural projects in southern Russia.

Maharishi advocated training of local teachers of Transcendental Meditation in each country, so now there are TM teachers in many Russian cities, with the National Center located in Moscow. Dr. Maxim Shatokhin, a medical doctor by training, is the National Director for Russia. I have been fortunate to assist Dr. Shatokhin and teach TM in the English-speaking expat community.

In 2009, filmmaker David Lynch visited Moscow for two exhibitions of his work but also a number of TM events including the release of his book Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity. His David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace (DLF) has been instrumental in a resurgence of interest in TM. DLF has sponsored programs for TM for tens of thousands of poor kids in South America, within the military to fight PTSD, in homeless shelters, prisons and schools. Mr. Lynch has organized fund raising events for these projects with meditating celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Hugh Jackman, Russell Brand, Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey, and Martin Scorcese to name just a very few.

Transcendental Meditation is learn-it-and-then-you-have-it; it’s not a club or a social organization with weekly meetings. It requires no faith nor change of lifestyle, and its practitioners come from all religions, political and social backgrounds. The TM technique is learned in four one-and-a-half hour sessions over four days, and then it’s “TM in the AM and PM”, 20 minutes twice a day.

As for me, The Next Big Thing is to develop a consciousness-based community near the Black Sea in southern Russia near the Black Sea modeled on the experience of my hometown, a new Silicorn valley for Russia.

Transcendental Meditation for Russia (Russian language)
http://www.maharishi-tm.ru
Meditation Moscow (English language)
https://meditationmoscow.com
David Lynch Foundation
https://www.davidlynchfoundation.org

Kairos: My Journey to Russian Orthodoxy

russian orthodoxy

 

By Father Christopher Hill

“We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendour or beauty anywhere upon earth. We cannot describe it to you: only this we know, that God dwells there among men, and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places. For we cannot forget that beauty” (quoted in The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware, 1983 edition, p.269). These words, spoken by envoys describing their experience of Orthodox worship in Christendom’s greatest church of the Hagia Sophia, or Holy Wisdom, in Constantinople, were reported back to the ruler of the vast East European realm of Kievan Rus, Grand Prince Vladimir.

Vladimir, subsequently proclaimed a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church and now visually familiar to Muscovites and visitors to Russia’s capital by way of the monumental statue recently erected to him near the Kremlin, is credited with introducing Christianity to his people in the tenth century. Vladimir’s grandmother Princess Olga had also received Christian baptism, but this was something more of a private initiative than state policy. His pagan background notwithstanding (prior to becoming a Christian Vladimir enjoyed war and feasting, as well as numerous wives and concubines) and despite the political context of his conversion (adopting the religion of his wife-to-be, the Byzantine princess Anna, most certainly bolstered his image in the eyes of her brother and potential ally emperor Basil II), this experience of being drawn precisely to the beauty of Orthodox worship holds true for countless people who have made the conscious decision to join the Eastern Orthodox Church.

It is certainly true in my case. The first time I entered a Russian Orthodox church was in September of 1984 when I had arrived in the provincial city of Voronezh with about twenty other British students to immerse ourselves for ten months in the Russian language as part of our degree course. One of my two favourite Russian writers is Fyodor Dostoevsky (the other being Nikolai Gogol), and out of curiosity I decided to visit a Church which initially seemed so exotic and radically different from both the Catholic Church and the various Protestant denominations, and which so informed Dostoevsky’s work theologically and philosophically.

Whilst perhaps not as dramatic as the Russian envoys a thousand years ago in Constantinople, my impression of Orthodox worship nonetheless was a powerful and everlasting one. It was what in Greek is called a kairos, that moment in time when there suddenly comes a penetrating insight, an instinctual realization of belonging. Admittedly, I understood little of the symbolism of the liturgical actions of the heavily-robed bearded priests, nor the words of the unaccompanied choir. Certainly, the majestic chanting, the aroma of incense and the radiant colours of the icons and vestments made for a stark contrast with the grey, drab reality of the Soviet-era urban architecture outside.

But what I was even more struck by was a sense of a community at worship. Above, extending to the heavens was the iconostasis with its images not only of Christ and the Virgin Mary but also of the numerous saints who share in an eternal celestial glory with them. Below was the thronged mass of mainly elderly women, but also some young men, repeatedly crossing themselves, all facing towards the sanctuary and iconostasis. Yet the two elements – the saints depicted in the icon screen and the faithful below – appeared to comprise an integral whole, the Church triumphant and the Church militant, a ‘heaven on earth.’ To this day I can give no better advice to people interested in Orthodoxy than simply to be present at worship in the Orthodox Church in order to get a sense of that oneness of believers united in the Body of Christ. As I stood in that crowded church, people behind me repeatedly tapped me on the shoulder, asking me to pass on their candle to Christ, the Mother of God, St. Nicholas, St. Mitrophanes (the local city saint) and other saints. It took me a little time to realize that I was meant to pass the candle to the candle-stand in front of the icon of the saint. For Russian Orthodox Christians the saints are not remote figures, but living intimate friends whose intercession we ask for before God.

As I left Church that day, I wanted to find out more, but this was 1984, a time in the Soviet Union when the Russian Church lived in a social ghetto, either ignored by the state authorities or portrayed by anti-religious propaganda as a bastion of superstition and obscurantism. At Easter, the main city church would be surrounded by Komsomol activists to discourage people from entering. There were no church book shops or church libraries. The Church could not openly engage in charitable works or education – all this would come much later. I had to content myself with surreptitious conversations with other believers to find out what the Church meant to them.

For the rest of my ten-month stay in Voronezh I attended that same church, at one point copying into a note-book the words of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer set in relief on the outer church walls in the beautiful letters of the archaic Church Slavonic language in order to orientate myself better in the services. It was only shortly before I left Voronezh that I eventually got to talk to a real Russian Orthodox priest called Father Daniel, who advised me to get in touch with the head of the Russian Orthodox diocese in Great Britain Metropolitan Anthony Bloom if I was serious about wanting to join the Orthodox Church. Intriguingly, I was invited to a further conversation with Father Daniel, but when I turned up I was told by church servitors that under no circumstances could he ever see me again. Someone in the ‘organs’ had obviously had a word with him about engaging with foreigners.

So it was back in England that I devoured as many books as I could on the teaching of the Orthodox Church, most importantly Bishop Kallistos Ware’s  classic 1963 book  The Orthodox Church, (my dog-eared old copy of which I am referring to as I write this article!) and, by now sufficiently proficient in the Russian language, I could read theological books in Russian unfortunately not then readily accessible to ordinary Russians.

Eventually I joined the Russian Orthodox Church, in Oxford when I was a postgraduate student. I would not describe myself as a ‘convert’ to Orthodoxy (or, as English-speaking Russians jokingly refer to them, an ‘envelope’, the Russian word for the latter being konvert) as the Orthodox Church, and specifically the Russian Orthodox Church, has been and remains my only spiritual home. Like most people of my generation, I was christened in the Church of England, but it was a church I only ever attended for weddings and funerals. Brought up in Manchester, I cannot consciously recall a time when I was not a believer, but it was in the Orthodox Church in Russia that this belief found articulate expression. Indeed, I would say that being a member of the Russian Orthodox Church has enabled me to view my own English Christian heritage in a deeper and more appreciative way. In the summer of 2015 I visited the shrines of two of the great Anglo-Saxon saints, Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede, at Durham Cathedral. The feelings I experienced there were no different from those from numerous visits to the shrine of St. Sergius of Radonezh at the monastery dedicated to him located some forty miles north-east of Moscow. In both places I felt equally awed and at home in the company of those who had laboured for Christ and his Church.

My first encounter with Russian Orthodoxy was over thirty years ago and it led me on a trajectory towards becoming an Orthodox priest in Russia after the collapse of communism in the early nineties. Along the way, I have had more than one kairos, more than one defining moment in my faith journey, in encounters with people and events. To many it may seem an idiosyncratic choice, especially to those who know about the Russian Orthodox Church only through the prism of the political culture in which she now lives and operates. But I prefer to liken the life of the Russian Church to that of the ocean: on the surface it may appear at times calm, at times stormy making the journey turbulent, but in its depths there is a spiritual harmony and beauty that cannot be easily observed externally. The Russian Church has its imperfections, certainly, as do all organizations on a purely human level, but it is a home and a family, my home and my family, and not to be forsaken. To those who want to know the life of the Russian Church on a deeper level, it is enough to follow the simple words of the Gospel which led me to where I am today: “Come and see” (John 1:39).

The Role of Culture in Politics

culture in politics

 

By John Harrison

Recognition of the role of culture in political thinking is nothing new. Thucydides in the 5th century, for example, discussed the effect of culture as ‘modes of life’ on the political thinking of leaders in the ancient states of Greece (1). Rushing forward to the 20th century, Mamdani linked the end of the Cold War and 9/11 to the rise of ‘Culture Talk,’ which ‘assumes that every culture has a tangible essence that defines it, and explains politics as a consequence of that essence (2). ’

Independent researchers have looked at the connection between individualism and democratisation, and suggested that countries where collectivism is more prevalent historically and culturally are less likely to adopt a western-style democratic system than those countries whose culture is more amenable to that. Hofsted suggests a correlation between individualism and the average polity index (a way of measuring a country’s position on a chart between ‘full democracy’ and an autocracy) (3).

Such discussions have not entered western mainstream political debates, and it is normal to judge other people, countries and cultures based on our own norms. For westerners who work abroad, for example in a country like Russia; what Thucydides, Mamdani and Hofsted wrote, becomes blindingly obvious. The same can be said about Russians living and working in the West, although their lives and experiences remain relatively undocumented. In Russia, derogatory terms such as ‘going native’ are used to describe people who have got to know Russian culture ‘too’ well. In any official role, understanding Russian culture on a deep level is not always encouraged, as it can lead to questioning of western cultural norms. Perhaps for this reason, diplomats are rotated regularly (everywhere, not just in Russia). Top level western journalists and academics are not permanently based here; their articles and reports would be difficult to relate to if they were not firmly anchored in western cultural and political roots.

Maintaining the cohesiveness of our cultural identities is, arguably, one of the many functions of the nation state. Nations; sovereign states have not been around for ever. With the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the idea of the sovereign state was consolidated, and the need arose to justify the existence of state power. Quite often the state used ideology to unite people together around a national idea, which may or may not have been representative of the whole nation (very few nation states were in fact formed based on one nation one state). An example would be the formation of the République Française (First Republic), and the consequential use of revolutionary causes to unite a country which was made up of groups of people, not all of which even spoke French at the time (4).

Some countries have been more successful in uniting around a single, strong mono-cultural base than others. America, which is a multicultural country seems to have united around its own cultural invention: the idea of being an American, which appears to be, or at least appeared to be until quite recently, more important than race. Trump’s difficulties in implementing an ‘Immigrant Ban’ can be explained by a dichotomy between these different priorities, and this is all perhaps indicative of a kind of present day U.S. national identity crisis. Russia is also a multicultural society, only 41% of Russians are Orthodox Christians. At the present time, ethnic and religious conflicts are not visible. Some say that this is because ethnicity was fairly brutally iterated and neutralised over a long period of time during the Soviet Union. Others say, that this may be true, but perhaps it is also true that Russian present-day ethnicity policies are adequate. Whatever the reason is, the ‘Russian Idea’ is stronger than inherent ethnic and religious differences.

When commenting on the present situation, the researcher cannot help noticing some similarities between countries that officially criticise each other. Not only do America and Russia share many cultural common denominators but, as some culturologists have noticed, both countries’ peoples share fundamental personality traits: such ‘big country’ boldness, pride of their own countries, and arguably, conservatism.

Be this as it may, ‘othering’ of Russia seems to have begun well before the Soviet era. In 2000, writer and journalist Anatol Lievan proposed that ‘Russophobia,’ for example, grew out of British attitudes towards the expanding Russian empire in the 19th century (5). In 2010, James Brown from the University of Aberdeen claims that stereotypical views of Russia derive from Cold War period ‘Russian Studies’ which were ‘orientalist’ by nature (6). In 1918, Oswald Spengler suggested that the Soviet Union was a continuation of Tsarist imperialism (7). Godard and Gibbons explained the popularity of communism in Russia being due to ‘the primitive and non-European qualities of that country.’ Such arguments are still lingua franca in some of our best universities of the world, and are a comfortable basis for constructing Russia-bashing arguments.

After the Second World War, many western countries within the group of nations and alliances commonly known as ‘The West’ saw the limitations of ‘nation states’ and united together in causes that spread across borders and boundaries. The main tenants of ‘Human Security’ (not just state security) were incorporated into U.N. charters. ‘Freedom from Want’ and ‘Freedom from Fear’ were only two of the new principles on the new non-state-centric bandwagon. This was all good news for liberals like me, who saw the world at last coming right. By incorporating human rights into international politics, however, we created political space for the adoption of resolutions such as the ‘Right to Intervene’ when one country assumes the right to invade another, if that country was seen to be unable to provide the security of its own citizens. Our ‘othering’ now included the right to deny sovereignty, although that is not the way we see it.

We discovered that security threats are ‘speech acts,’ as was so clearly established by the late 20th century ‘securitisation theory.’ (8) Issues can be made into a threat, ‘securitised’ by a ‘securitising agent.’ Jargon aside, this means that politicians can convince populations that one issue or the other is a threat through rhetoric (yes, you have heard this before; remember Aristotle).

As theories go, this is a very good one, as it shows the power of politics and ideology. A very gifted orator could convince us that Shakespeare’s works are not that good after all, and that red is blue, but probably not for very long. The theory still needs to be updated because it does not take into account certain ‘felicity’ factors, such as culture, history and geography which we separate as separate academic disciplines.

Underlying culture is important; however it is all too easy to take the argument to the opposite extreme. We do not have to look very hard to find politicians, writers and academics who view foreign cultures as enemies. Samuel Huntingdon (1997) writes about future wars being fought between civilisations, (9) and many of us will go along with that. But we also tend to ignore the fact that in many countries, Muslims and Christians, for example, have lived peacefully together for hundreds of years. The necessity of clashes is debatable and may not be fundamentally necessary despite our efforts to convince ourselves that the opposite is true.

Perhaps the most important question is: Does politics inform culture or does culture inform politics? This is a different question to answer, as it depends on the culture, and the politics. In Russia’s case, her culture has two ways of looking at the world by default. One of them, looking towards Russian and Slavic cultural norms, the attitude of the ‘slavophiles’ and the other outward looking – the ‘westernisers.’

Anybody who lived through the 1990s in Russia, when ‘westernisers’ were in power, and our western democratic and commercial norms were adopted lock stock and barrel, does not need to be told that even the Russian ‘westernisers’ were a very long way culturally (and this was reflected in business practices) from ‘western’ westerners. Russian business practices are still a long way from what we consider normal; as a suicidal English man informed me in Chicago Prime late one Saturday night, as he depicted his problems in sacking Russians. Be that as it may, the differences between ‘our’ way of doing things and the ‘Russian’ way of doing things is not, arguably, as great as between ‘our’ ways and Chinese or Arabic ways of doing things. The problem is our binary thinking. For us, if the ‘other’ doesn’t do things exactly as we do, it is totally wrong. Confusing strength with intolerance, we have forgotten about flexibility, understanding and cooperation, not that these qualities ever predominated in foreign policies directed at countries outside of our own blocks of countries. We have to dominate, or nothing. Clearly, the same problems exist when analysing similar situations from the other side, however it is a matter of capability and degree. More research needs to be done.

Perhaps the beauty of today’s situation is that it may mean a re-examination of foreign policy. It is becoming harder to justify ourselves by criticising others, simply because it is difficult to cover up our own faults to the degree that we were able to earlier. If all else fails (and one could say that we are in such a position now; we are, and have been for some time on the bring of a new major international war), a start to rekindle common understanding between our countries can be made by encouraging more communication between cultural and scientific groups. We can see organisations like the British Council and ELE (www.elemoscow.net) in Russia doing this, however there is a feeling of too little and too late. In Russia, acceptance of the perspectives of long term expats in all the relevant institutions could also be useful. They directly challenge the need for ‘othering,’ and in general point out that civilisations do not need to clash. More about them will be mentioned in my next article.

We westerners must learn to take off the stereotyped, tunnel-vision-glasses, and this is difficult, and at times confronting. As we all hurtle full throttle backwards to realist international politics, which Russia never left, understanding ourselves more fully and thus understanding everybody else may be of great help.

1 Thucydides, Thucydides, and Bc, 1999: 2

2 Mamdani, M. (2005b) Good Muslim, bad Muslim: America, the cold war, and the roots of terror. New York: Three Leaves Press; Doubleday.

3 Hofsted quoted in Brewer and Venaik, 2011

4 https://sputniknews.com/radio_brave_new_world/201612021048105668-nation-states-countries/

5 Lieven, A. (2000) ‘Against Russophobia’, World Policy Journal, 17(4), pp. 25–32.

6 Brown, J.D.J. (2010) ‘A stereotype, wrapped in a Cliché, inside a caricature: Russian foreign policy and Orientalism’, Politics, 30(3), pp. 149–159.

7 Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1918, 1922), translated as ‘The decline Of The West; Stritzel, H. (2007) ‘Towards a theory of securitization: Copenhagen and
beyond’, European Journal of International Relations, 13(3), pp. 357–383

8 Buzan, B., Waever, O., de Wilde, J. and Woever, O. (1997) Security: A new framework for analysis. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

9 Huntington, S.P. (1997) The clash of civilizations: And the Remaking of world order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

The Untapped Resource for the Moscow Expats: ZIL Cultural Centre and Creative Cluster

zil cultural center moscow

 

By Lyubov Zolotova

Do you wish to explore a new, cutting-edge arts space in Moscow? Head to Metro Avtozavodskaya and walk for about 10 minutes to the ZIL Culture Centre. The Centre stands out from the rest of the Moscow creative clusters.  Having emerged back in the early soviet times as a ‘Palace of Culture,’ today it presents a fascinating combination of old and new, public and private. It is a modern space of an impressive scale which today collaborates with an impressive number of local and international partners, offers residence to creative industries and pursues commercial arts projects, as well as provides public services.

The founding: history and soviet heritage

The space has a long history, its founding dating back to 1930s when it was set up as a ‘Palace of Culture’ of the ZIL automobile society (Завод имени А.И. Лихачова) on the grounds of the partly demolished Simonov Monastery. This was the time when networks of the so-called houses and palaces of culture were beginning to spread across the country, helping to shape the new ideals of well-rounded and culturally educated Soviet citizens, but also acting as an important propaganda tool. Some of the largest of these public arts and education facilities were set up as a part of the community infrastructure of large industrial centres and factories. ZIL is a perfect case in point.

The venue itself is a major landmark, a fine example of ‘Soviet constructivism’ designed by the Vesniny brothers, and is a heritage site. The project, completed in 1937, was of ambitious scale: spreading across a territory of 23,000 square meters, it housed several theatre halls, a lecture hall, a movie theatre, two libraries, a spacious pillar hall, numerous studio rooms, a winter garden and even a small observatory set up in a roof dome. For many decades, it served as a community arts and entertainment centre for generations of employees of the ZIL automobile factory and their families, as well as local residents of Avtosavodskaya district. However, it was not really present on the Moscow arts map and remained a fairly closed and low-impact establishment until fairly recently.

2012: redefining identity

Things really began to change when, in consistency with the Moscow Government’s new cultural policy, ZIL Cultural Centre became the city’s flagship project to modernize the off-market ‘houses of culture.’ The Centre changed ownership, now being under the economic jurisdiction of the Moscow City, received a lavish government grant for redevelopment purposes (around 170 million roubles, or $5 million) and a new forward-thinking management took over. The key rebranding goals included turning the space into an up-to-date urban arts centre, attracting a wider audience, and boosting public awareness1.  Some of the key target audience now included the new ‘culture vultures,’ Moscow’s solvent middle-class with sufficient cultural capital to enjoy.

The modern day: fusing the old and the new

ZIL Cultural Centre today presents a truly unique blend of different things. Whilst remaining a part of the large network of Moscow community arts centres co-funded by the government, it has been reinvented as a modern-day creative space, thus combining traditional  —  and still very popular —  activities of the ‘houses of culture’ (such as children’s arts studios,  young engineers and science clubs, and summer city camps) with new formats. It has also opened doors to creative industries, offering them residence and PR support and thus turned into one more creative cluster of Moscow.

Present-day identity and activities. Largely because of its direct association with the major automobile producer and its unique architectural heritage of Soviet constructivism, ZIL Cultural Centre positions itself primarily as a centre of modern urban and industrial culture. Its key activities are thus consistent with these priorities, and much emphasis is placed on promoting urban and industrial culture.

Over the past few years, the Centre has virtually exploded with creative initiatives. By turning its face to the outside world it has managed to set up numerous partnerships, both local and international, and launch hundreds of new exciting projects. Some of the highlights include innovative art and design studios, a robotics technology lab, an automobile design studio, contemporary dance and music studio, art house cinema projects, lectures and workshops by leading field professionals, and visual art projects (including installations). Of particular interest is the annual arts contest, whereby the prize winners (typically, young promising visual and performing artists) receive a grant for executing their ideas and then exhibiting their work at ZIL for 4 months, as well as benefit from significant PR support offered by the Centre. Another fascinating initiative is the Fashion Factory ZIL; Moscow’s first fashion designers’ incubator and a communication platform for fashion-bloggers and designers. Overall, the Centre carries out over 2,000 projects annually.

The Centre has much benefited from offering permanent residence to creative industries and independent non-profit organisations. Some of these include:

• Ballet Moscow (Балет Москва), a well-established contemporary dance and ballet company featuring Russian and international choreograhers  www.baletmoskva.ru/en

• Polytech (Политехнический Музей), a leading science and technology museum in Russia www.polymus.ru/eng

• Smart Moscow (Умная Москва), a company which offers interactive science programs and workshop for children and adults  www.smartmsk.com

• Selivanov art and design studios (Мастерские художественного проектирования Селивановых) www.art-edu-studio.com

According to Ksenia Filimonova, Deputy Director of ZIL Cultural Centre, collaboration with such groups has had a powerful synergy effect on reaching a wider audience and enhancing the Centre’s image. The residents benefit from PR, administrative and infrastructure support as well as reasonable rent costs.

The Centre’s international partnerships are also impressive. It holds international film, art and theatre festivals, and the so-called ‘Culture Days’ of different countries and liaises with international partners as well as embassies and cultural centres in Moscow. ‘Culture Days’ generated particularly strong interest with Moscow audiences.

Economics

Roughly 60% of the Centre’s annual budget is government subsidy which covers all of the Centre’s free-of-charge activities, full time staff salaries and maintenance costs. The remaining 40% is generated through commercial activities. These include ticket sales, charged services, winter and summer children camps, film festival revenues etc. The Centre is very popular with film companies thanks to its atmospheric interiors (like Brezhnev-style offices), so that accounts for a good part of ZIL’s revenues. The Centre also has several sponsorship contracts. All in all, the Centre generates around 80 million roubles (around $1,300,000) of its own income.

Changing local landscape and community

Since its rebranding in 2008-2012, ZIL Cultural Centre has had a noticeable effect on the local district and its overall image in Moscow, says Ksenia Filimonova. The Avtosavodskaya district used to have a somewhat dubious image as a dodgy and marginalized industrial area of the city. Since ZIL arts space became much more visible on the Moscow arts map, generating up-to-date arts content, public attitude towards the area began to change as well. It now attracts visitors from around the city. It has become particularly popular with arts management students who come here to do various placements and internships and enjoy the free Wi-Fi area and a reasonably priced café.

The Centre has also been approached by local businesses, and several interesting partnerships have already taken place. Of particular interest was the PURE ART image project carried out in partnership with a local shopping mall. This was an environmental exhibition featuring professional art installations made from trash. The installations were exhibited at the Orange shopping mall and it received a fairly good media coverage.

What’s there for Moscow expats? 

ZIL Cultural Centre remains an under-explored space by us, and yet can offer a plethora of entertainment, educational and collaboration opportunities to the city’s expat community. Top-quality contemporary dance performances (staged by leading Russian and foreign choreographers),  an international film festival and art exhibitions, to name but a few activities, are held there regularly.  Though English language activities are limited, the centre holds regular talks and lecture series conducted by English speakers (e.g., Art Talks for Teens by a Latvian Ph.D.).  The Centre has recently launched an English language audio guide that takes you around the ZIL venues, available through  izi.travel (www.izi.travel/en/app). There are tons of activities for children, and if you don’t know how to keep your kids busy during the long summer months, consider the ZIL summer art camp where children can engage in theatre, film, media and animation workshops, not to mention receive 3 hefty meals a day!

The Centre has still a long way to go to reach out to the expat community in Moscow, starting with its website which for now is only available in Russian. Yet, this is a fascinating place to explore, with plenty of resources and opportunities to tap on.

To learn about the ZIL Arts Centre activities, check out its official website www.zilcc.ru  or follow on FB www.facebook.com/zilcczil

To discuss possible collaboration ideas, contact Ksenia Filimonova k.filimonova@zilcc.ru

The author kindly thanks Elena Melville, Director of ZIL Cultural Centre, and Ksenia Filimonova, Deputy Director of ZIL Cultural Centre for sharing valuable insights on various aspects of ZIL Cultural Centre life and activities.