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We are delighted that five speakers have agreed to present talks by way of the Zoom video-conferencing facility. We are inviting members, their guests and non-members to book these Zoom talks in the same way they book physical talks. Those who book will receive an email from our Hon Secretary, Henry Pares, with a link to the Zoom event, two days before the talk, inviting them to take part by clicking on the link.  As this will be somewhat experimental, we would like to invite you to participate in the first talk of the Summer Programme without charge. Subsequent talks will cost £5 per household booking. If you would like to use a credit from a cancelled talk from the previous session please contact our membership secretary, Ute Lynch. We will still need advance notification/booking that you would like to attend as we will need to send you an on line invitation in advance of the talk.

The timings and format will be similar to our physical talks; the speaker will address the Society for around 45 minutes, and this will be followed by a half-hour question and answer session.  When participants join, we request that they mute their microphones for the whole talk.  During the question and answer session, anyone wishing to ask a question, should click on the ‘Raise hand’ icon that will be visible on the screen and wait to be invited by the chairman to speak.  They would at that point, unmute their microphone. 

Talks will all start at 19:00 (but participants are asked to click on the Zoom from 30 minutes beforehand).

1. Tuesday 28 April – Professor Dan Healey: “Being queer in the Soviet Union after Stalin.”

Despite styling itself as the most ‘progressive’ of nations, the Soviet Union criminalised homosexuality for most of its existence and the Communist Party remained officially hostile to the LGBT community. Despite regarding homosexuality as a ‘bourgeois perversion’, LGBT Soviet citizens still formed pockets of social existence and culture.

Dan Healey is Professor of Modern Russian History at St. Antony’s, Oxford. His research focuses on the social history of the Soviet Union, including penal institutions, psychiatry, and medicine. An alumnus of the University of Toronto, he is a pioneer in studying the history of LGBT life and issues in the Soviet Union. His books include Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The regulation of sexual and gender dissent (2001) and, most recently, Russian Homophobia from Sochi to Stalin (2017).
2. Monday 11 May – Dr. Uilleam Blacker: Memory after Maidan – The politics of memory in post-revolutionary Ukraine.

As nations are all what Benedict Anderson once called ‘imagined communities’, the collective memories and shared experiences of their members are vital to binding them together and forging their identity. Events combining both trauma and upheaval, such as the ‘Revolution of Dignity’, form powerful focal points in determining these identities. Dr Blacker will discuss how this process has unfolded in the five years after the Revolution of Dignity. 

Dr. Uilleam Blacker is lecturer in the comparative culture of Russia and Eastern Europe at UCL SSEES, from which he received both his MA and his PhD. He is the author, most recently, of Memory, the City, and the Legacy of World War II in East Central Europe: The ghosts of others (2019), co-author of Remembering Katyn (2012), and co-editor of Memory and Theory in Eastern Europe (2013). 

3. Tuesday 26 May – Dr. Bettina Renz: Russia’s military revival

At the end of the Cold War the once formidable Red Army was divided up among the successor states. While Russia could boast the largest number of weapons and men under arms, corruption and demoralisation drastically reduced their effectiveness, while the US and its allies raced ahead. Only with the invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and subsequent campaign in Syria have Russia’s conventional forces begun to demonstrate their potential. Dr Bettina Renz explains how this happened.

Dr Bettina Renz is an associate professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh and the University of Birmingham, where she completed her PhD, she previously taught at King’s College London and the Royal Air Force College. She is an expert on post-Soviet Russia’s security and defence policy and has published widely on Russian military reforms and thinking, most recently authoring Russia’s military revival in 2018.

4. Thursday June 11 – Catherine Belton: Putin’s People: How the KGB took back Russia and then took on the West

Catherine Belton is a special correspondent for Reuters, and served as the Financial Times’ Moscow Correspondent from 2007-13, and has contributed to the Moscow Times and Business Week. Her book Putin’s People: How the KGB took back Russia and then took on the West was published in April 2020 and is a Sunday Times best-seller.

As the Soviet Union crumbled and Russia transitioned to a market economy, most observers assumed that the massive security apparatus of the KGB had followed the Communist Party on to the “ash-heap of history”. The rise of a relatively obscure former KGB agent who spent the Cold War in a provincial East German backwater to the height of power was regarded as the result of a series of turns of fate during the chaotic last days of the Yeltsin presidency. However, in her new book Catherine Belton demonstrates that, far from being blindsided by the fall of the USSR, parts of the KGB had been preparing to go into the shadows before the Soviet collapse, and remained a force to be reckoned with.Eventually, under Putin’s rule, they could continue the struggle with the West in a ‘new form’.

5. Wednesday June 24 – Dr Sergei Guriev – The Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on the Russian Economy”.

Above and beyond its public health impact, the coronavirus is ravaging economies across the globe. In Russia the impact is likely to be more pronounced, since the pandemic has also accelerated a substantial drop in the price of oil. Sergei Guriev, one of the most celebrated Russian economists of his generation and a highly-respected commentator on current events in Russia, joins us at the GB-Russia Society to discuss the prospects for the Russian economy in the light of the pandemic and evaluate the government’s policy response thus far.

Dr Sergei Guriev was the chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 2016-2019 and is currently a professor of economics at Sciences Po in Paris. Prior to leaving Russia in 2013 Dr Guriev was the rector of the New Economic School as well as serving on a number of corporate boards (including Sberbank) and government advisory committees. “

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