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Chairman's Report 2013-14

27th January 2015


         CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2013-2014

                    STUART THOM      


It has once again been a very full year for the Society with some 16 talks covering a wide range of Russian oriented themes.  We started in the  autumn with a talk by Ben Judah on Russia’s love affair with Vladimir Putin.  Dr Andrew Monaghan looked at grand strategy for Russia and by contrast in October Beryl Williams covered “Art and Industrialists in Late Tsarist Russia”.  Barbara Emerson gave us a fascinating account of 19th century decipherment in Britain and Russia.  Mr Alexander Kramarenko, Minister Counsellor at the Russian Embassy set out his views on today’s Russia at Rossotrudnichestvo.  There was a talk in Russian by the Russian journalist, Elena Temicheva, and Janet Gunn gave us an intriguing picture of the role of Alexander Yakovlev in developing “perestroika” alongside Mikhail Gorbachev. 

January saw us welcome Dr Philip Ross Bullock who recounted “Russian Music in London”, while the following month Oliver Bullough spoke about the strange life of Father Dmitry and his campaign to save Russians from vodka and the barren lives they were leading.   Owen Mathews set out the background to Russia’s ambitions in America even if it was a case of “Glorious Misadventures:  Nikolai Rezanov and the Dream of Russian America”.  Professor Sean McMeekin delivered a very convincing account of the responsibility of Russia in the start of the First World War, given their ambitions for the control of the Black Sea straits.  Dr Rebecca Beasley gave a fine picture of Russian literary culture, and Dr Charlotte Alston followed this by looking at the role of Russian and British Tolstoyans  and how Tolstoy’s philosophy had its impact in Britain.  Professor Anthony Cross completed the Winter-Spring programme with an examination of British and Russian stereotypes , particularly focusing on the eighteenth century, his area of expertise.

Our Summer programme saw Robert Brinkley review how the Ukraine crisis had developed and what it means for the West.  Professor Catriona Kelly set out how the dark side of St Petersburg interweaves with its glamorous history .  Professor Michael Hughes examined how the writings of the great Russian novelists and the tours of the ballet groups all had an effect on British understanding of Russia, but given Russian expansion plans in Asia threatening British interests, it was always difficult to know which image would predominate.  Roderick Heather argued that Britain and Russia since the 16th century had always had a somewhat accidental relationship.  The British had come to Russia as traders, adventurers, soldiers or doctors-some had loved it, others loathed it. But all in all the British had made, for better or worse, an impact.  Ian Roberts, a good friend of the Society, gave a talk on the Vorontsovs, father and son who had very close links with London as well as being senior military figures in Russia at the time of Catherine the Great and Alexander 1.  A number of members were fortunate to go to the dress rehearsal of the Mariinsky Ballet through the generous support of the Hochhausers.

Once again I need to record my thanks for the tremendous work the committee does on our talks and Journal.  David Holohan as Talks Organizer always arranges fine speakers on interesting topics, Andrew Sheppard has done  does a first class job on taking on the East West Journal and Ute and Anna as membership secretary and treasurer respectively, maintain a tight ship.

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