I am delighted to share the GBRS lecture programme for Spring 2021:
22 January 2021 (19.00 GMT)
The Lost Pianos of Siberia
Siberia has become something of a shorthand for hardship and toil, the harsh environment echoing an even harsher history of penal colonies and post-Soviet economic hardship. Travel journalist Sophy Roberts explores Siberia’s contribution to Russia’s extraordinary history of piano music, and the endurance of art in even the most extreme circumstances.
Sophy Roberts is a Dorset-based writer whose debut book, The Lost Pianos of Siberia (2021), is a Sunday Times Book of 2020. Roberts, an alumna of Oxford and Columbia universities, has served as Condé Nast Traveler special correspondent and 1843 travel editor. She remains a frequent contributor to FT Weekend.
2 February 2021 (18.00 GMT)
Ecological Conservation in Russia’s Arctic Circle
Over 20 per cent of Russia’s vast territory is in the Arctic, a unique ecosystem under increasing threat from climate change. Dr. Irina Onufrenya will detail the threats Russia’s arctic is facing and the vital work the Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund is doing to preserve these areas, which are critical to the environmental future of both Russia and the entire planet.
Dr. Irina Onufrenya serves as acting director of World Wildlife Fund Russia’s Biodiversity Programme and oversees the organisation’s Arctic projects. An alumna of Lobachevsky University in Nizhny Novgorod and the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geography, Onufrenya has developed protected area systems in the Russian Caucasus, Altai, the Russian Far East, and Central Asia.
Kazakhstan ‘after’ Nazarbayev
In 2019, Nursultan Nazarbayev stepped down as president of Kazakhstan, becoming one of the Central Asia’s few rulers to leave office voluntarily since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the last of the ex-communist apparatchiks who had ruled since then to depart. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has succeeded Nazarbayev as president, but his authority remains uncertain as the octogenarian former leader continues to pull the political strings — for now. In her matinee talk, Joanna Lillis will walk us through a complex transition that is unprecedented in the post-Soviet space.
Joanna Lillis is an Almaty-based journalist whose reporting on Central Asia has appeared in The Economist, The Guardian, and Eurasianet. She is an alumna of Leeds and Bradford universities and the author of Dark Shadows: inside the secret world of Kazakhstan (2018).
24 February 2021 (19.00 GMT)
Less than 30 years after the collapse of Communism, Russia in 2020 is deeply integrated into the international financial system the Soviet Union shunned. Russia is also a creditor to many allied states. Maximilian Hess provides a history of Russia’s relations with global capital markets, from late Soviet-era borrowing to the present day, and explores how Russia has become one of the most savvy players in ‘geo-economics’ – the use of financial tools and relationships to achieve political aims.
Maximilian Hess is head of political risk at Hawthorn Advisors, a strategic communications consultancy in London. A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and the School of Oriental and African Studies, he also serves as a Central Asia fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a think tank in Philadelphia.
Russia and the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Public Health Assessment
The pandemic has been a challenge for even the most highly developed countries. Prior to the advent of COVID-19, Russia faced a range of public health challenges, from an underfunded healthcare system to a post-Soviet mortality rate that threatened the country’s demographic future. Prof. Christopher Gerry will provide an overview of how an already uncertain public health situation has been disrupted by an unprecedented global crisis.
Prof. Christopher Gerry is ssociate rofessor of Russian and Eurasian Political Economy at Oxford University and Dean of St. Antony’s College. He was previously ssociate rofessor of ealth conomics at UCL SSEES, of which he was deputy director from 2012 to 2014, and ofessor of Health Economics at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Saint Petersburg, whose International Centre for Health Economics, Management, and Policy he set up in 2015. He is an alumnus of East Anglia (UEA) and Essex universities.
22 March 2021 (19.00 GMT)
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union Russia has claimed a privileged sphere of influence in the so-called near abroad, one that it has shown itself willing to defend with military force in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. But 2020 has raised questions about the extent of Russia’s continued ability to maintain this influence, with uprisings in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan’s victory in the latest conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, enabled by Turkish support. Anna Arutunyan argues that Russia’s power in the region is largely a question of optics, and facts on the ground are increasingly showing the limits of its influence.
Anna Arutunyan is an analyst based in Moscow and Washington, DC. She is a former International Crisis Group senior analyst, Kennan Institute fellow, and Moscow News editor and reporter and the author of several books on Russia, most notably The Putin Mystique: inside Russia’s power cult (2013).
Best wishes for Christmas and a happy, healthy and active 2021!