Patron: His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent, GCVO
Honorary President: To be announced.
Honorary Vice Presidents:
The Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams, FBA, formerly Rt.Hon. The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury
Professor Geoffrey Alan Hosking, OBE, FBA, FR.Hist.S.
Sir Roderic Lyne, KBE, CMG
The Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, KCMG, QC, MP
The Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, GCMG,
The Rt. Hon. Baroness Williams of Crosby
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In the Soviet Union, the more visible an institution was, the less power it wielded. Parliament, in the shape of the Soviets, was a facade. Government ministers were only as powerful as their standing in the Communist Party allowed; the Party Politburo's decision-making process was itself concealed behind many screens. It was nonetheless essential in the Cold War for Western governments to know as much as possible about who the main players were and how decisions were reached. For this the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had a small staff of expert analysts. This talk offers a personal perspective from one of them, who worked in the Research Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Russian Secretariat of the British Embassy in Moscow in the 1960s and 1970s. It will also touch on similarities and changes in the post-Soviet period.
Martin Nicholson learnt Russian as a national serviceman and studied at Cambridge University, and at Moscow State University as a post-graduate student before joining the Foreign Office Research Department in 1963. He did two tours of duty at the British Embassy in Moscow in Soviet times, and was for seven years adviser on Soviet and Russian affairs in the Cabinet Office before returning to the Moscow Embassy as Minister-Counsellor, from where he retired in 1997. After retirement he worked on Russian regional Affairs at the International Institute of Strategic Studies and on the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House. His talk is based on the third volume of his memoirs Activities Incompatible. Memoirs of a Kremlinologist and a Family Man 1963-1971 (www,amazon.co.uk).
2017 marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution. It is hard to justify another event which has so shaped today's Russia and today's world. It gave birth to the Communist system which at one point ruled one third of humanity, provoked the rise of Naziism and the Second World War, and stood as global opponent to the West through the 40 year Cold War. In Tony Brenton's recently published book "Historically Inevitable? Turning points of the Russian Revolution" a group of distinguished historians identify key moments in the revolution, and reflect on how things might have gone differently. In this talk Sir Anthony will assess what was, and was not, genuinely "inevitable" about the revolution, and will explore the parallels between 1917 and the 1991 collapse which gave us the Russia of today.
Sir Anthony Brenton, who last addressed us in 2010, was a British diplomat for over 30 years. He served in the Arab world, the European Union, Washington DC (through the 9/11 crisis and its aftermath) and twice in Moscow, the second time, from 2008 to 2012, as British Ambassador. In the Foreign Office he held responsibility for a number of key international issues including the United Nations, Human Rights, Global Climate Change and the International Criminal Court. He has written an earlier book "The Greening of Machiavelli" on international environmental politics; he is an Honorary Fellow of Wolfson College Cambridge and a regular commentator on Russia and other international topics. We hope to have either hardback or paperback copies of "Historically Inevitable? Turning points of the Russian Revolution" on sale at the meeting - at a special reduced price to members.
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