25 November 2015
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London: 14:15

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On NT production of “Collaborators”

On 9 November at the invitation of the National Theatre a representative of the Russian Embassy was present at NT Forum on Collaborators сhaired by Martin Sixsmith with participation of Sir Roderic Lyne. After the discussion that provided an in-depth view of the relevant historical context of the play, Minister Counsellor Alexander Kramarenko with other participants watched the performance in the Cottesloe Theatre. We welcome the interest of the British in Russia’s history, including the use of that material for raising truly global, existential issues of universal importance. This interest has been recently testified to by The BBC Radio-4 dramatization of Vassily Grossman’s Life and Fate. These are the impressions and some thoughts inspired by John Hodge’s play:

It was an impressive performance, both from the point of view of the quality of the script and formidable acting by Alex Jennings (Mikhail Bulgakov), Simon Russell Beale (Stalin) and the rest of their company. It was a very convincing laughter through tears satyre, which in no way diminishes the horror of the subject and reasserts the best traditions of the English theatre. The genre seems to be borrowed from Dostoevsky’s “fantastic realism”, i.e. artificial construction of the reality as means of making the point. Overall the production is a huge success, all the actors able to bridge the gap between foreign reality and its perception in the English language, including the choice of words and sensitive treatment of all the characters’ parts.

A play on complex reality of another country always raises for the audience the issue of how to relate to that roughly familiar context. So, it is useful to compare to a similar period of their own history. And in this case it may well be either the break with Rome under Henry VIII or Puritan dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell. 

What seems to be of additional value of this production is that its message goes beyond the particular historical experience of a particular country and raises a universal problem transcending national and societal borders. It is timely now that the issue of corruption is on everybody’s mind and all are anticipating another wave of the global financial crisis. Corruption as corruption of human spirit is treated as absolute evil. The play in its artistic mastery rises to the level of generalization which is rare at our time of complacency, moral relativism and political drift.

What is at issue is the fundamental Christian truth (Christ’s temptation in the desert) about freedom and moral responsibility being always individual. Any attempt to absolve an individual through all forms of collective responsibility, its privatization and nationalization, always in the name of common good, leeds the individual and societies to self-destruction.

In fact, this is about blurring the divide between good and evil. It does not matter whether those are hard or soft methods of such absolution, what the forms and objectives are or when those seeds of institutionalized conformism were sowed. The outcome is pretty much the same, whether we take the collapse of the Soviet system or the present crisis of liberal capitalism, whether it was Russian nihilism or Western revolution, whether in the name of the dictatorship of proletariat, or the Grande Terreur of the French revolution, or the German unity and subsequent patriotism and militarism, or the Reformation, which in the words of Fedor Tyutchev “made people judges in the own case”. This perceived humanism, as an appropriation of the divine moral law which is thus destroyed, is the source of corrupting influence. It does not matter what kind of human activities loses its moral foundation, be it politics or “financial alchemy” in the past decades. Moral responsibility is always about questioning the questionable to the best of one’s own ability and intelligence, whether benefiting from it or merely allowing it to happen. Whistleblowing, leaking documents to the media and resigning in protest are contemporary manifestations of this freedom of conscience. 

One may appeal to the forces of market element, but the market is a set of institutions created by man. For example, someone puts poisonous financial products on the market, somebody else looks the other way or doesn’t feel like regulating or thinking through the consequences of such innovations. And if the latter may amount to economic disruption at the scale of civil war, which was the case of the Great Depression? Anyway markets ought not to strive equally when nations prosper and when they go down the drain.

In a sense, European humanism, with its by-products of political morality, political expediency and other forms of managing the truth and individual conscience, has been a common denominator for the West and the East at the time of the Cold War. Dealing with the consequences within the broader European family makes for a great unifying goal for all of us. Perhaps, it is here that sacrifices of people like Sir Thomas More and many Russians, who stood against tyranny to the bitter end, will find their ultimate vindication.

The European society as a whole is facing a crisis. And it seems that unless we understand its reasons, it would be next to impossible to know what to do. And the factor of individual moral responsibility may be crucial in that analysis. At least, when Russian philosophers tried to make sense of our Revolution they talked about dechristianization. Vassily Rozanov wrote in his Apocalypse of our time in 1918: “colossal voids have formed in the European humanity (including Russia) of the previous Christianity, and everything falls into them: thrones, classes, social estates, labour, wealth”. Christianity may not be an issue, but how to explain that neither the Reformation, nor the Enlightenment, nor rationalism, nor democracy have helped to prevent this crisis as well as the previous ones? Maybe, it is a case of finding some other, more solid foundation, the one that wouldn’t discourage individual moral responsibility?


18.11.2015 - Syrian solution demands truly inclusive compromise (article by Ambassador Yakovenko for the Daily Telegraph supplement, 17 November 2015)

Upon Russia’s insistence, a truly inclusive multilateral process was launched in Vienna on Oct. 30 to help find a compromise solution to the Syrian crisis. Iran, a major player, took part for the first time, as well as China. All agreed to the U.S., Russia and the U.N. co-chairing the meeting. Heated exchanges took place on the issue of President Bashar al-Assad’s future. As was the case three years ago, this could derail the entire process. But ultimately it was agreed to disagree on that issue. Lack of agreement on this subject resulted in three more years of bloody impasse. We should know better than that this time. All the more so that those are the differences between the outside players. Why not leave it to the Syrians to decide?

17.11.2015 - Welcoming points at the Russian-British business forum, dedicated to the 95th anniversary of the establishment of the Russian Trade Mission in the UK (17 November, 9.00, Royal Garden Hotel)

Ladies and gentlemen! I am delighted to welcome you at the Russian-British Business Forum, dedicated to such a significant date – the 95th anniversary of the establishment of the Russian Trade Mission in the United Kingdom. It gives me special pleasure to congratulate our colleagues on this occasion, since this trade delegation established to promote trade links with the United Kingdom in 1920 and headed by People's Commissar of Foreign Trade Leonid Krasin became the first in history Soviet Russia's trade representation abroad. In fact, it set an example for a whole network of Russian trade missions abroad, which are still successfully operating. Ever since its establishment the Trade Mission has continued to work hard to promote business relations between Russia and Great Britain. It helps companies in both countries to find partners and enter each other’s markets.

29.10.2015 - Russian Embassy on the Times editorial

Your editorial, which accompanied Ambassador Yakovenko’s interview (26 October) is full of grossly misleading statements on Russia’s foreign policy. May I set the record straight before your readership?

23.10.2015 - Letter of Minister-Counsellor of the Russian Embassy A.Kramarenko to the “Financial Times”

Letter of Minister-Counsellor of the Russian Embassy A.Kramarenko to the “Financial Times”

21.10.2015 - Letter of Minister-Counsellor of the Russian Embassy A.Kramarenko to the “Guardian”

Letter of Minister-Counsellor of the Russian Embassy A.Kramarenko to the “Guardian”

19.10.2015 - Why Russia had to intervene in Syria (article by Ambassador Yakovenko published in The Independent)

Combating international terrorism has long been one of the top priorities of Russia's foreign policy. We have been consistently advocating genuinely global efforts in countering that evil. The fight against terrorism must be conducted on a universal legal basis, starting with the UN Charter. That is why Russia has been unable to join the US-led “global coalition” against Isis. The coalition was established in circumvention of the UN Security Council, and its operations in Syria violate the sovereignty of that country.

13.10.2015 - "Russian airstrikes won't solve the crisis" because they are Russian? (article by Andrey A. Pritsepov, Consul General of the Russian Federation in Edinburgh, published in "The Scotsman")

Having read your leader comments "Russian airstrikes won't solve crisis" from 30th September and "Effort needed to rein in lone wolf" from 2nd October I cannot help but notice that they represent a U-turn compared to your previous instalments (for instance, from 17th July "Conservatives made to look very bad again" and from 21st July "PM needs to do more to beat IS").

12.10.2015 - Letter to the Editor of The Sunday Times

On 11 October 2015 The Sunday Times published the article “RAF ready to shoot down Russian aircraft over Syria” which referred to “three senior Cabinet ministers and senior Defence sources”. Given clarifications from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, stating publicly that “reports about RAF rules of engagement in Iraq are inaccurate”, one may conclude that your newspaper was spreading rumours, which could have grave consequences for our bilateral relationship with Britain, and far beyond.

11.10.2015 - Answer by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko to Russian media question regarding Syria

- Can you comment on the British media reports that UK Government has given the green light to RAF pilots participating in the operation against ISIS in Iraq airspace, to shoot down Russian combat planes? - These media reports are worrying, as they refer to senior Cabinet members. We have urgently requested explanations from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

08.10.2015 - Ambassador Yakovenko answers media questions on Syria

QUESTION: According to official statements the British Government intends to request Parliament's consent to extend anti-Isis air strikes to Syria. In another development, the 'FT' reported that the West and its allies in the region on the eve of 30 September were planning to establish so called 'safe zones' and no-fly zones to protect them behind Russia's back. What could you say on that? ANSWER: Britain is a sovereign nation and is free to make her own decisions. But it has to be noted that Russia's military assistance is provided at the request of the Syrian Government, i.e. fully in line with international law. Will Damascus request the British to assist in the same way, I don't know.

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