A guide to the New East


Treasures of the Russian tsars to go on show in London

6 March 2013
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Portrait of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich mounted on a horse (1670-1680) from State Historical Museum, Moscow, and Water pot (1604-5) from The Moscow Kremlin Museum

A selection of treasures belonging to the Russian tsars will go on show at London's Victoria and Albert Museum today, just one of two Russia-related cultural events to open in the capital this week. Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars examines the development of cultural diplomacy and trade between Britain and Russian since the 16th century. It comprises more than 150 objects, each of which provides a window into the pomp and majesty of rulers of that time.

The exhibition, which includes royal portraits, jewellery, luxury goods and armour, marks the 400-year anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, which ruled Russia until the Russian revolution of 1917. V&A Director Martin Roth said: “This exhibition tells us about Britain’s longstanding relationship with Russia as well as highlighting similarities of diplomacy and exchange between both countries — then and today." 

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Dancer confesses to Bolshoi acid attack

6 March 2013 · Moscow
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Pavel Dmitrichenko as Ivan the Terrible. Photograph: RIA Novosti

A Bolshoi Ballet dancer and two other men have admitted to ordering an attack on the company's director, Moscow police have said. In a video aired on television, Pavel Dmitrichenko, 28, said: "I masterminded this attack, but not to the extent that it occurred."

Dmitrichenko did not reveal his motives but said he had provided police with details. He is being held by police along with Yuri Zarutsky, who is suspected of carrying out the attack. A third man, who allegedly drove the getaway car, has also been detained.

A masked attacker threw sulphuric acid at Sergei Filin, 42, the director of the Bolshoi Ballet, on 17 January seriously damaging his eyesight. Filin is currently in Germany where he is undergoing treatment. The attack revealed the bitter rivalries inside the Bolshoi Theatre.

Source: BBC

Artist Philippe Parreno reanimates Marilyn Monroe in first Russian solo exhibition

5 March 2013 · Moscow
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French artist and filmmaker Philippe Parreno's first solo exhibition opened in Moscow's Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture on Sunday, with a film that brings Marilyn Monroe back to life. The exhibition includes Marilyn (2012), which sees the world through the American actress Marilyn Monroe's eyes as she sits at a desk and writes a letter in a suite in New York's Waldorf Astoria where she lived in the 1950s. Parreno created robots to mimic Monroe's voice and handwriting for the film. 

The Algerian-born, Paris-based artist is best known for radically redefining the exhibition by conceiving his shows as a scripted space where a series of events unfold. His exhibition at Garage, which was curated by world-renowned art historian Hans Ulrich Obrist, guides the visitor through the gallery using an orchestration of sounds and images. Sound for the exhibition was composed by Nicolas Becker.

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Chelyabinsk residents want meteor to be their ‘Eiffel Tower’

5 March 2013
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Photograph: RIA Novosti

Ever since a meteor crashed into Russia's Chelyabinsk region, residents have been thinking up ways to capitalise on the event. "Space sent us a gift and we need to make use of it. We need our own Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty," Natalia Gritsay, head of the region's tourism department, told Bloomberg.

So far ideas for tourist attractions include a "Meteor Disneyland" which would recreate the 15 February explosion, an annual cosmic and fireworks festival, and a "Cosmic Water Park". Mayor Andrei Orlov suggested creating a diving centre near the lake where the meteor crashed for tourists to go in search of fragments.

A local company, Sputnik, has already organised two summer tours for Japanese tourists. "One is a two-day tour to the impact site at Chebarkul, while the other includes city sightseeing and will last longer," the company manager Elena Kolesnikova said. "The price is around $800 (£530) per person, which includes a hotel."

The regional museum has already opened a meteor exhibition, displaying a piece of the meteorite next to front pages of international newspapers reporting the events. 

Update: Two of Russia’s liberal news editors quit in one day

5 March 2013 · Moscow
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Left to right: Alexei Vorobyov, former editor-in-chief of Kommersant FM, and Mikhail Kotov, former editor-in-chief of Gazeta (Photograph: RIA Novosti)

The editors-in-chief of Gazeta.ru and Kommersant FM, two of Russia's liberal media outlets, left their posts on Monday, Izvestia news reported, citing unnamed sources in the media. Mikhail Kotov, from online newspaper Gazeta.ru, and Alexei Vorobyov, head of the radio arm of Kommersant newspaper, resigned within hours of each other. Vorobyov had only been in his post for seven months. The reason for the resignations is not yet public knowledge.

Writing on his LiveJournal page, Dmitry Sergeyev, a representative of SUP Media, the company that owns Gazeta.ru, provided some insight: "This morning at the planning session I was appointed the executive director of Gazeta.ru with direct oversight of all departments. Earlier, all departments were subordinate to the editor-in-chief and he was responsible for everything that happened at Gazeta.ru. Now, according to the new chain of command, the editorial, marketing, and commercial departments are directly subordinate to me. Mikhail Kotov disagreed categorically, saying that he can't continue working under these conditions and asked to resign." He later added that under Kotov, the publication's output had flagged with only "100 news stories a day".

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Siberian university undergoes first rebrand since Soviet times

4 March 2013 · Novosibirsk
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Proposals for the branding of Novosibirsk State University

Could the next world famous acronym for a university come from Siberia? If Novosibirsk State University has its way, then NSU could well become the next NYU or LSE. The university is undergoing its first rebrand since Soviet times, working with local agency Melekhov and Filupun to come up with a new logo.

Designs have been narrowed down to two options, which will be presented to the academic council in the autumn for a final decision. The 15 colours that make up the logo represent the university's different faculties. Novosibirsk State University, founded in 1959, is one of Russia's most reputable universities, especially for the sciences.  

Source: Sib.fm
Photograph: Soran

Russia shows soft side, joins US in polar bear campaign

4 March 2013 · Moscow
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Relations between Russia and the US may be icy given recent disputes over child adoptions and the Magnitsky Act, but the two countries have found an area to collaborate on: polar bears. Both countries are calling for greater protection for polar bears under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a global treaty on endangered species, which up for review this week in Bangkok, The New York Times reported.

“It really seems that both countries were willing to put aside their differences in order to work together to help save the polar bear,” said Jeffrey Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. The move is in line with Russian President Vladimir Putin's declaration that 2013 would be the "Year of the Environment in Russia".

The world's polar bear population has dwindled to between 20,000 and 25,000 because of climate change. Russia and the US will push for an international ban on commercial trade in skins, furs and other items made from bears. However, Canada and Denmark, on behalf of Greenland, have said they will oppose the ban. Norway has not yet revealed which way it plans to vote.

One of two of the rare white Bengal tiger cubs born last year. Photograph: RIA Novosti

The news comes on the back of another animal-related announcement. On Sunday, The Hindu reported that the Delhi Zoo would soon be receiving a pair of pumas from Krasnoyarsk Biota Park in Siberia in exchange for a white tigress.

Last July, two rare white Bengal tiger cubs were born in a zoo in Yekaterinburg.

New show by pop art pioneer Boris Orlov looks to past

1 March 2013 · Moscow
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Parade of Sportswomen (2000-2012)

Soviet pop art pioneer Boris Orlov's latest project about the lack of heroic imagery in post-Soviet Russia opens at Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery today.

The exhibition, Phantom-Limb Pains, looks at the Soviet era as a time of creativity with a sense of nostalgia about this period and the country's position as a superpower. The project comes in two parts, Ruthless Kronos and Restoration Experiences, both of which try to define the meaning of heroism today.

Orlov is best known for being one of the key figures in sots art, often referred to as Soviet pop art, which emerged as a reaction to the doctrine of socialist realism. The exhibition runs until 23 June. 

Inaugural London art fair showcases work of Russian artists

1 March 2013
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The interior of the Olympia Grand Hall

A London-based art fair will showcase the work of three contemporary Russian artists in the city's iconic Olympia Grand Hall over the next three days. Art13 London will be exhibiting artwork from Yuri Alexandrov, known for his paintings of Russia's northeastern Chukotka region; abstract painter Vlad Kulkov; and Rostan Tavasiev, a Moscow-based artist whose work has been described as Russian pop art.

Work from all three will be available to view at St Petersburg's Anna Nova Art Gallery stand in the exhibitors' hall from 1 to 3 March. Art13 is London's new art fair for modern and contemporary art, showcasing art from 1945 to the present day. The fair will feature 129 galleries from 30 different countries. 

New cookery school seeks to reinterpret modern Russian cuisine

28 February 2013 · Moscow
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Head chef Yves Le Lay outside Strelka in Moscow

LavkaLavka, the Moscow-based farming collective, has teamed up with Strelka, one of the city's most reputable restaurants, to open a school for young chefs. Strelka head chef Yves Le Lay, a French-Dane who joined in October, will offer eight training sessions to 16 chefs, focussed on how to reinterpret modern Russian cuisine using local, seasonable produce. The school is a non-commercial venture and will provide training to eight students free of charge.

Announcing the programme, which will start in the spring, Le Lay said: "Russia is a country with great potential, a lot of undeveloped land and great traditions that people are starting to forget. Russians should look to the past for inspiration."