Voices from Russia

Friday, 29 August 2008

History of Bogorodskoye Toys

Filed under: cultural,popular life and customs,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

Wooden figurines of hens, blacksmiths, and bears… They can be set in motion. These funny figurines are known throughout the world as “Bogorodskoye” toys, as Bogorodskoye is a village near Moscow where they have been made from time immemorial. The way this ancient folk craft developed was shown at an exhibition that opened at the Russian Museum in St Petersburg. On display are over 200 rare exhibits from various museums and private collections.

The craft of making wooden toys in the village of Bogorodskoye, which is some 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) from the Holy Trinity-St Sergius Monastery, emerged under the influence of that world-famous monastery. In the 16th century, it was a major centre of crafts in Russia. The talent of the local craftsmen gradually won recognition, and a tradition developed to bring home toys bought near the monastery’s walls. Even unpainted figurines were in great demand; they showed the natural beauty of the wood since figurines were cut from a whole piece of log. Usually lime-tree wood was used for the purpose because it is mild and easy to work. The main theme of craftsmen was peasant life and everyday labour. Craftsmen depicted what they saw, in the form of toys; they tried to convey how difficult peasant life was. In the second half of the 19th century, genre scenes became popular. Groups of figurines that could be set into motion performed peasant jobs; this was, no doubt, a sign of the respect for labour which was a keynote of the Bogorodskoye craft. Another favourite theme of craftsmen was bears. Numerous variants of the figurine titled “A peasant man and a bear” are considered to be a symbol of the Bogorodskoye craft.

In the late 19th century, folk toys were studied and collected as a kind of peasant art. The Russian Museum in St Petersburg houses the country’s richest collection of Bogorodskoye toys and sculpture. A substantial part of the collection is made up of 20th century figurines and compositions dealing with historical, Russian epic, and biblical themes. That was not typical of the Bogorodskoye craft earlier; they cover almost all major events in Russian history. Being loyal to old traditions, contemporary craftsmen continue a search of new images and forms. Their works are gathered and presented in a separate section of the exposition.

26 August 2008

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

I have even seen a Bogorodskoye figurine of a bear pecking at a computer! It was CUTE. Do we have a Bogorodskoye bear in our house? Need you ask? Sheesh…



Russia Restructures Its Agricultural Policy

Russia’s increased financial and technological opportunities enable it to plan structural reforms in its agricultural sector. In addition, it is re-examining its export-import policy and relations with the World Trade Organisation. Russia’s 2008 grain harvest is expected to hit a record high of 95 million tons, which is enough to meet the country’s demand for food and fodder grain with a surplus of 10 million tons left for export. This year’s grain volumes prompted the government to revise its food import strategy, above all in meat imports, as part of its effort to switch its relations with WTO member-states into more pragmatic channels and make them less detrimental to Russia.

Three years ago, in the course of abnormally-lengthy talks on its accession to the WTO, Russia committed itself to gradually removing barriers to foreign meat imports and completely lifting all restrictions by 2010. Russian agricultural producers protested the deal. But, back then, sweet promises to grant Russia fast-track admission to the WTO tipped the scales. Three years afterwards, not only has Russia not been granted WTO membership, but, calls are now being heard for rejecting its admission over the recent events in the Caucasus.

Sergei Yushin, the head of the Russian Meat Association, believes, “Obviously, it makes no sense to adhere to any previous agreements with the WTO. The latest statements at different levels in Europe and the United States show that Russia is unwelcome in the WTO. A legal question then arises. Why should we continue to observe agreements conditioned by our speedy admission to the WTO?”

Russian farmers raised two main objections to unrestricted food imports. Firstly, Russian agriculture is still not ready to complete with the much better-organised farming sector in Europe. Secondly, high subsidies for European farmers give European farmers enormous advantages in the marketplace. In Europe, these subsidies total 90 billion dollars (2.214 trillion roubles. 61.366 billion euros. 49.415 billion UK pounds) a year, and in Russia, just 4 billion dollars (98.432 billion roubles. 2.727 billion euros. 2.196 billion UK pounds).

With hopes for quick accession to WTO looking pretty dim, the government decided to boost domestic food production. Farmers specialising in meat and dairy products will receive state subsidies, whilst import quotas for foreign meat will be slashed by hundreds of thousands of tons. The move allows for expanded opportunities for domestic producers and is also caused by the absence of proper response from foreign meat exporters to Russian public health requirements. On Thursday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, focused on this in his interview yesterday for the American television network CNN. He noted that 19 US firms would be excluded from the Russian poultry market because of public health violations over the past year. Another 29 firms are under order to speedily improve their standards or face similar measures.

29 August 2008

Konstantin Garibov

Voice of Russia World Service


Business Circles in the West Defend Continued Cooperation with Russia

LUKoil headquarters in Moscow

Business circles in the West defend continued cooperation with Russia, despite the military conflict in the Caucasus and the negative reaction of US politicians and their allies in Europe to Moscow’s conduct. What is interesting about it is the fact that even American companies, because of their wish to export their products, said they are interested in developing trading ties with Russia and asked the Bush administration to be more cautious in its relations with Moscow, Bill Reinsch, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), said. The NFTC unites more than 300 American companies, including Boeing, Caterpillar, General Electric, and Microsoft.

The second positive moment is a statement made by the head of US-based Conoco-Phillips on the continuation of cooperation with Gazprom, Rosneft, and LUKoil. If one of the biggest oil companies in the USA says that it is ready to continue cooperation with Russia, any serious economic or political isolation of Russia is out of the question.

Incidentally, experts say that the military conflict in the Caucasus has not yet led to a decrease in business activity of foreign firms working on the Russian market. First of all, this means Germany. In view of this, Jürgen Tumann, the president of the federal union of the German industry, accentuated the interdependence of Germany and Russia in the economic and energy fields. “Naturally, we can’t do without Russian supplies of oil, gas, and other materials”, then, he added, “Russia needs Germans as consumers”.

Russian expert Igor Davidenko said in commenting on the position of Western businessmen, “The energy sector and manufacturers think correctly because the world can’t do without Russia today. Furthermore, of course, hydrocarbons are Russia’s trump card in the establishment of normal business contacts. Politicians can say whatever they like. But, society is very conservative in the USA. It is so conservative that if it is interested in long-term contacts, it will maintain them. Well, Americans adopt a negative attitude towards Saudi Arabia politically, but, cooperate with it economically. The same is true with Russia. After all, when NATO ships call at Black Sea ports, this is only a demonstration to please their hawks, who are nothing but loud politicians. Moreover, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is one of them. He can say whatever he pleases, but, should he ever become isolated, he shall immediately become a political corpse”.

In the meantime, many Western businessmen dealing with the energy sector voice the certainty that the situation around the conflict in the Caucasus will not affect the Russian supplies of gas and oil products to Europe. Therefore, they said that despite whatever political turmoil occurred, Gazprom has always maintained a continuous supply of gas to consumers. Many people in the West understand that it is impossible to ensure global energy security without Russia.

29 August 2008

Vyacheslav Solovyov

Voice of Russia World Service


European Businessmen Advocate a Pragmatic Approach to Russian Relations

Dominique de Villepin (1953- ), former French PM (2005-07) and Foreign Minister (2002-04), advocate of a sane European policy towards Russia. The Bush stands alone! (Except for his British lapdogs, and they don’t count… they’re from the Anglosphere!)

Business leaders in Europe advocate a pragmatic approach to relations with Russia despite the strident clamour from politicians to “punish” the Russians for their recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Claus Mangold, Chairman of the Eastern committee of the German economy, said, “German business leaders call for more development of economic contact with our most important commercial partner, Russia. The suggestion to oust Russia from the G8 as well as to deny it WTO membership is nothing but populist propaganda. Russia is, and remains, a dynamic and attractive trading partner with Germany”, he emphasised.

Paolo Scaponi, the head of the largest Italian energy concern, ENI, said, “I do not expect negative fallout for my business in Russia nor do I expect such in dealings with Gazprom as a result of the current tensions in ties between Russia and the EU. ENI and Gazprom have been doing business together over the past 50 years and the gas supply by Gazprom has never been interrupted or reduced. Both companies are currently working on the South Stream project to pump Russian gas to Europe”. The previous day, John Brown, the former chief of British Petroleum, said, “Russia shall remain a reliable supplier of oil and gas to Europe”.

Commenting on the mood of Western business circles, Boris Kagarlitskin, Director of the Institute of Globalisation, said, “The situation is quite clear, during the present global economic crisis, Russia serves as a calm harbour. Russia has suffered less than some other advanced nations from the instability on the global financial markets. Hence, it is understandable that a significant part of the Western business community desires to cooperate with Russia more actively. On the whole, the current political crisis over happenings in the Caucasus has nothing in common with the cold war years, because during those years, the war was between two fundamentally different political and social systems, but, Russia is now a part of the world economic system, and globalisation dictates to businessmen new rules of the game”.

“European politicians are gradually coming to terms with the new realities, despite their fretting over Russian actions in the Caucasus. The EU should reopen, as quickly as possible, real dialogue with Russia because both sides want to have normal ties, especially in economic and energy matters”, according to former Prime Minister and ex-Foreign Minister of France, Dominique de Villepin. Even British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is trying to spearhead the creation of an anti-Russian coalition, admits that isolating Russia will be hugely counter-productive, because of its importance to the world economy.

28 August 2008

Vyacheslav Solovyov

Voice of Russia World Service


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