Voices from Russia

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The Lari Keeps Falling

Right after the war broke out in South Ossetia economic experts came up with a forecast that the war’s economic aspects are unlikely to be sizeable. So far, their forecasts proved quite accurate today, given that hostilities are over and the major helper of Saakashvili, the United States, despite their official statements, seems to be more and more concerned about promising him more support. The assistance sent by the Pentagon’s this week was military aircraft filled with humanitarian aid to the victims of the war rather than arms and ammunition. There is little hope for the Georgian economy to grow soon.

Disregarding his rather small country’s foreign debt of close to 4 billion dollars (98.448 billion roubles. 2.711 billion euros. 2.139 billion UK pounds) and an economy that is nearing collapse, the Georgian president made a pledge to the nation to do his best to drag Georgia out of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the association of the former constituent republics formed in the wake of the break-up of the USSR. “The Baltic states quit this powerless organisation a long time ago, it and they are only better off after that”, Mr Saakashvili said at the International Conference “The Common View of Neighbourhood” attended by the leaders of Lithuania, Poland, Moldova, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, and Estonia last week. What makes Georgia different is it is a rather poor country. It has a very limited number of mineral resources, exporting chiefly wine and fruit to Europe and the United States, with a foreign trade deficit of close to 3.8 billion dollars (93.526 billion roubles. 2.576 billion euros. 2.032 billion UK pounds). The major source of its revenue is the remittances of Georgians working abroad, who send back home an annual 1 to 2 billion dollars (24.612 to 49.224 billion roubles. 678 million to 1.356 billion euros. 535 million to 1.07 billion UK pounds).

Now, with Saaksahvili pledged to quit the CIS, they would face more and more obstacles to getting registration and work permits they enjoyed as residents of a CIS member state. Georgia’s neighbours, Azerbaijan and Armenia, are not yet willing to discard this membership, enjoying many preferences owing to approved tax, customs, and transport rules. What Georgians are also wary of is rumours that in the wake of the war with South Ossetia the national currency, the lari, may tumble down rapidly. If recently 1.38 laris bought 1 US dollar, today, it is worth 1.7 laris. It is getting harder and harder to buy dollars.

Another important source of Georgia’s revenues could be the NABUCCO project for the construction of oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia to the West across Georgia’s territory, but, potential investors had trouble contracting enough gas for it from Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan. Shipping the gas from Turkmenistan would require building a separate pipeline across the bed of the Caspian Sea, which has yet to be divided by the sea’s five littoral states, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran. Now, Georgia’s vulnerability may have dealt a lethal blow to Nabucco and plans for a trans-Caspian pipeline. According to Konstantin Simonov, director of the Fund for National Energy Security, “Europe was shocked by the instability in the region and realised that hardly anyone would invest money in new projects associated with Georgia”. The BP-operated Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which now carries oil from Azerbaijan to the Turkish Mediterranean, was already out of commission because of an explosion in Turkey last week that Kurdish separatists claimed responsibility for.

The Russia-Georgia trade turnover last year amounted to a mere 647 million dollars (15.924 billion roubles. 438.537 million euros. 345.951 million UK pounds), with only 67 million dollars (1.644 billion roubles. 45.379 million euros. 35.812 UK pounds) worth of Georgian exports to Russia. Russia still has a number of economic levers to bring pressure against Georgia. These include embargoing the tiny imports of Georgian goods, the energy sector where the Russian UES has control of close to 75 percent of Georgia’s entire energy market and Russian ITERA‘s affiliation company engaged in Georgia’s natural gas distribution network. Georgia, too, has political leverage to bring pressure upon Russia. It blocks Russian entry into the WTO, saying it is due to Russia’s support of Abkhazians and South Ossetians with Russian passports. But, that has to do with politics, rather than economy, and can hardly be the pretext for a refusal to grant any country an entry to a global regulator of economic relations.

14 August 2008

Yevgeni Nikitenko

Voice of Russia World Service



Russian Girls Sweep Singles Tennis Medals

Filed under: China,Olympics,Russian,sport — 01varvara @ 00.00

The Russian tennis girls swept all three steps on the podium at the Beijing Olympics-2008. Yelena Dementyeva triumphed in the tennis singles. She made a comeback from a set down to defeat fellow Russian Dinara Safina in a hard-fought final: 3-6, 7-5, 6- 3. After a nervous start with unforced errors, Dementyeva’s win over her childhood friend and frequent sparring partner Safina clinched a Russian sweep on the women’s tennis podium, capturing all three medals, gold, silver, and bronze. This is the first clean sweep in any big tennis event since 1908, even long before tennis became an Olympic sport. That year, Great Britain collected all three women’s singles medals.

Dementyeva ended Dinara Safina’s 15-match winning streak. The bronze went to Vera Zvonareva who had earlier defeated China’s Li Na. Zvonareva came onto Russia’s team at the last moment, replacing star player Maria Sharapova who had to drop out due to an injury. In the Beijing final, both Dementyeva and Safina put on a fantastic performance in a top-class tennis thriller. “I did everything I could”, said Dementyeva. “I can’t believe it. I’ve dreamed all my life to be an Olympic champion, and here it is. I’m absolutely happy. Dinara was great. She had a crazy way to the finals at the Olympics. I wish her luck”. For Dementyeva, these were her third Olympic games. They were the first for Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva, and most probably, not the last.

In the doubles, the American Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, Olympic champions in 2000, made tennis look an easy game to play (which it is definitely not) in defeating Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-2, 6-0, thus, winning their second career gold.

17 August 2008

Voice of Russia World Service


Conductor Vladimir Yurovsky at the Glyndebourne Festival

Filed under: art music,cultural,music,opera,performing arts,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

Vladimir Yurovsky (1972- ), musical director of the Glyndebourne Opera Festival

The world première of Love and Demons by contemporary Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos is presented at the Glyndebourne festival in Great Britain by the young Russian conductor Vladimir Yurovsky. He was only 26 when he was invited to head the major European opera festival in Glyndebourne. Since then, he has become known as “the most popular among the young, and the youngest among the world’s popular conductors”. He was born to a family with rich musical traditions; his grandfather was a composer, his father, a famous conductor. He studied in Moscow, and later in Dresden and Berlin. Today, Vladimir Yurovsky is in demand everywhere in the world. He works at the New York Metropolitan Opera and the Paris Opéra de la Bastille. The maestro is an invited guest conductor of the Russian National and the London Philharmonic orchestras. He is directing two of the performances at the current Glyndebourne festival. His other production is a masterpiece of the classical Russian opera theatre, Yevgeni Onegin by Pyotr Chaikovsky.

The history of the Glyndebourne festival can be traced back to the year 1934. Amongst its leading lights were great personalities such as Rudolf Bing, who once headed the Metropolitan Opera, Fritz Busch from Germany, Bernard Haitink from Holland, the Italian Vittorio Gui, and the Britons John Pritchard and Sir Andrew Davis. Vladimir Yurovsky was the first Russian to be entrusted with the high post of musical director. He sees the festival as unique, and Glyndebourne and its environs as the most beautiful place in the world.

Vladimir Yurovsky said, “There is no such place anywhere else in the world. This is in the very British province of East Sussex. This is a place where, according to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes was involved in bee-keeping. There is a sheep pasture just in front of the opera theatre. The place is unique, not only in the beauty of the landscape, but, also in terms of history, since a caprice of a landlord ended in the creation of a genuine Mecca of culture. This combination of foresight and eccentricity, to my mind, is only possible in Great Britain. In the 20th century, the festival became a kind of hothouse for young opera talents. Practically all renowned British singers of the second half of the 20th century went through Glyndebourne’s school, they began as choir singers, later they sang small parts, and gradually became soloists”.

The festival is held for 4 months, from mid-May to late in August. On the programme are usually no less than 6 opera premières, often world premières. The atmosphere at the festival is remarkable, for it has a combination of formality and casualness. During the long intervals, dinner jackets and black ties do not prevent their owners from making picnics on the grass.

13 August 2008

Natalia Viktorova

Voice of Russia World Service


“Russian Presence” at the Salzburg Festival

Filed under: art music,cultural,music,opera,performing arts,Russian,theatre/circus — 01varvara @ 00.00

“Love is as strong as death” is the motto of this year’s Salzburg Art Festival, one of the oldest in Europe. It opened on 26 July and will last until 31 August. On the programme are dramatic and operatic performances and numerous musical concerts. In keeping with tradition, Russian performers are taking part. A very frequent guest of the festival is the world-famous St Petersburg pianist Grigory Sokolov. “To play in the Austrian city of Salzburg, the homeland of Mozart, is great honour for a musician of any country. This year, over a dozen Russians are taking part in the Salzburg festival. They include several brilliant singers with contracts at the world’s best theatres. Take, for instance, Yekaterina Syurina, a singer of the Moscow Novaya Opera Theatre. Almost all of the critics say that she is a most beautiful woman with a voice that is just amazing. There is also Marina Poplavskaya, a winner of the Maria Callas competition in Athens and an invited soloist of the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre and the London Royal Opera”.

Also popular with world audiences are pianist Boris Berezovsky and cellist Aleksandr Knyazev. They formed a trio with violinist Dmitri Makhtin and they present at the Salzburg festival a programme of works by Slavic composers. Their colleagues violinist Vadim Repin and pianist Nikolai Luganski prepared no less an interesting programme of compositions by Western European classical composers. The “Russian presence” at the current Salzburg festival is not limited to the participation of Russian performers. A proof of this is the festival’s poster. It advertises a performance based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, a production of the German theatre director Andrea Bret. More than once she has demonstrated her love of Russian culture by staging plays by Chekhov and Chaikovsky’s operas.

13 August 2008

Olga Bugrova

Voice of Russia World Service


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