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09 April 2020

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FRANCE-RUSSIA MAKE 2010 A YEAR OF CULTURAL EXCHANGE

VLADIMIR BOLSHAKOV, Business mir #16 - 2010-05 MAIL PRINT 
Spring 2010 marked a landmark event in Franco-Russian diplomatic relations with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s state visit to Paris on March 2nd. French President Nicolas Sarkozy will be returning the gesture in May. It is symbolic that these two important visits take place in 2010, the Year of France in Russia and the Year of Russia in France.
Russia and France are bound by longstanding ties. Cultural exchanges between the two nations never ceased, not even during the worst of the Cold War years. Fashion designer Pierre Cardin once told me that he had invited Moscow’s Lenkom Theatre Company to perform the famed musical Juno and Avos at his Espace Cardin Theatre, during the height of 1983’s diplomatic crisis following the Korean airline disaster over Soviet territory. The young Russian acting troupe played for a full house from the very first show on tour, despite gloomy predictions of a failed opening night.
Russian words and terms are common to the French from the Bolshoi Theatre to Russian ballet; names like Diaghilev, Ulanova, Nureyev, Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Prokofyev, Kandinski and Malevich are familiar to them. They are part and parcel of French language and culture now as well. But the current cross-year project is inarguably unique in terms of scale — this series of events is the first of its kind in the long history of FrancoRussian relations.
Over 400 events are scheduled to be held simultaneously in both Russia and France this year. The two countries will maintain a cultural dialogue in various forms throughout this year. The Holy Rus exhibition in the Louvre is paralleled by a display of the Paris Museum’s Picasso masterpieces in Russia. Paris’ Grand Palais will be holding a national Russian exhibition and St Petersburg is hosting the International Economic Forum. There will be exhibitions of children’s artwork and French writers will be travelling on the Trans-Siberian Express to mark the occasion.
In France, the cross-cultural exchange year officially opened on January 25th with a 3-day long performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s symphonies by the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev in Paris’ Salle Pleyel. Gergiev claims that Tchaikovsky’s symphonic opus played as one cycle for three days running is a very rare event.
From May 21 through June 19, St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre will be featuring the Stars of the White Nights music festival, with performances dedicated to the Year of France in Russia.
The Year of France in Moscow was inaugurated on February 25th at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, giving the public an unprecedented three-month long opportunity to view over 200 Picasso masterpieces. The 240 pieces exhibited include 88 paintings as well as graphic works, sculpture and ceramics. It is the most extensive collection of Picasso’s work ever to be shown in Russia, although Russian art lovers have collected quite a few Picasso masterpieces.
St. Petersburg inaugurated the Year of France with a premiere of The Jewess, an opera by French composer Jacques Fromental Halevy at the Mikhailovsky Theatre on February 19th. Halevy's opera was performed in Russia for the very first time since it was banned 70 years ago, which can definitely be regarded as an important cultural event in the history of Russian musical theatre.
It’s virtually impossible to list the extensive events planned, but a sampling of some of them may convey the grand scale of this year-long cultural exchange programme. For example, three Russian music companies — the Urals Symphony Orchestra, the Novosibirsk Chamber Orchestra, and the Russian National Show Dance Company — have already toured a number of French cities.
The Russian stand at the Paris’ International Agricultural Exhibition opened in February as well.
A Russian theatre company is currently touring France with a production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, directed by Jean-Philippe Vidal. The Victory Exhibition, honouring the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII will be shown for over six months in Cannes, the very place where the Allied forces vailiently fought the Nazis in 1944.
Moscow, along with four other Russian cities, will be hosting the 6th LeJazz French jazz festival, featuring accordion virtuoso Richard Galliano and his Tangaria Quartet, which is well known in Russia. Moscow will also be participating in the Russian Season’s Cultural Festival at the Jardin d'Acclimatation, an amusement park for children in Paris.
Moscow’s Deputy Mayor Lyudmila Shvetsova affirmed: “In return Moscow is planning an open air concert featuring French techno/house music producer and DJ Laurent Garnier in Vasilyevsky Spusk Square near the Kremlin. An exhibition at the Manege Centre entitled l'Art de Vivre à la Française (The Art of Living French-style) is scheduled as well”.
Space launching grounds in Kourou (French Guinea) and Baikonur will host seminars and conferences on FrancoRussian cooperation in space.
The Urals-based Perm Ballet Company is touring around France, and the National Dance Centre in Paris is featuring an exhibition devoted to Russian ballet. Strasbourg will be holding a festival dedicated to Russian Christmas and Easter traditions, and the Dijon Opera House is featuring a Russian Season. The Orthodox Singers Male Choir will be performing at the Fontainebleau Royal Palace near Paris this summer.
The French have visited and even settled in Russia since time immemorial. Madame Clicquot, the widow of industrialist Francois Clicquot (Veuve Clicquot) supplied royal courts throughout Europe with her wines, including that of Imperial Russia. Jean-Baptiste Camus, producer of famous La Grande Marque brand of cognac, also supplied the Russian Imperial court.
Thousands of French noblemen and their faithful servants fled the Guillotine and escaped to Russia during the French Revolution of 1789. Russian women nursed hundreds of French soldiers who were wounded and frost-bitten in the 1812 war back to health; many of them decided to stay.
Many members of the Russian nobility fled to France in turn, escaping the Red Terror after 1917’s October Revolution. As a result, many French citizens became Russians, and many Russians ended up becoming French nationals.
This is a story told by the small display at the Moscow History Museum. Every Russian is familiar with the French Dubois and Armand family histories. In the 19th Century Alexander Dubois became so Russian-ised that he even composed some Russian Gypsy songs that are still popular in Russia today.
The Armands brought more to Russia than the several well known Russian merchants and industrialists of French descent the family produced; Lenin himself was in love with Inessa Armand, another revolutionary. Lenin’s affection for Inessa Armand was so sustained that he had her remains transferred to the Kremlin Wall Necropolis a year before his own death. Renee Armand, her modernday descendant who works for the Russian Culture TV Channel, spoke to an audience of French immigrants’ descendents gathered at the Museum. “Preserve your ancestors’ memories. Both France and Russia need that,” she stated.
But the most important aspect of this exchange is personal contact, which promotes cooperation between nations. Russian President Dimitri Medvedev’s official state to France from March 1st to 3rd involved more than the launching of a year-long cultural exchange programme. It provided the two governments with an opportunity to pursue negotiations and sign contracts, as the Russian president came accompanied by officials including the Foreign Minister as well as the Ministers for Education, Communication and Agriculture. Top managers and important businessmen like Gazprom’s Alexey Miller, Russian Railways’ Director Vladimir Yakunin, and Basic Element’s Director Oleg Deripaska as well as Renova’s Viktor Vekselberg, VTB Bank’s Andrey Kostin and many others also joined President Medvedev in Paris.
The Russian president’s trip to France has had numerous positive results. Dimitri Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to impose “intelligent sanctions” on Iran if the nation refuses to act more reasonably. They began “exclusive” negotiations on Moscow’s purchase of French Mistral-class boats and worked on a cooperative project for construction of the “North Stream” and the “South Stream”. Furthermore, they drafted a strategic accord for cooperation between Alstom and Transmashholding (Russia’s largest locomotive and rail equipment manufacturer), which entails Alstom’s acquisition of 25% as well as one share of Transmassholding’s holding company.
Shortly before President Medvedev’s trip, sources at the Kremlin revealed that the Russian leader and his French counter-part would be focusing on the entire spectrum of Franco-Russian interaction. French President Nicolas Sarkozy will be visiting Russia in May 2010, and the breadth of mutual issues is bound to widen even further by then.
VLADIMIR BOLSHAKOV, Business mir #16 - 2010-05  MAIL PRINT 
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Ежедневные новости и аналитика из Швейцарии и Европы, политика, экономика, интервью

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