I am delighted to introduce this exciting volume edited by Sergey Tarutin and produced under the banner of Nasha Gazeta.
There are many valuable links between Ireland and Russia. Considering the great physical distance between us, the level of trade and investment in both directions is remarkable – a microcosm of what is happening at a wider European level. Ireland and Russia are developing political relations through bilateral meetings, at the OSCE, at the UN, and of course through the European Union’s dialogue with Russia. Our current European Union Presidency coincides with Russia’s chairmanship of the G20.
This book reminds us that economic and political cooperation are grounded in friendship. What brings a particular excitement to the Irish/Russian relationship, and underpins all the rest, is the genuine attraction that has characterised so many of our personal contacts over the centuries. Almost a hundred years ago, Zinaida Gippius wrote:
О Ирландия, океанная,
Мной не виденная страна!
Почему ее зыбь туманная
В ясность здешнего вплетена?
Ireland, ocean-bounded, my unseen land…For Gippius, Ireland was a place of mystery and promise at the far end of Europe.
The affinity between us can be illustrated in many other ways. Marshall Peter de Lacy was the most influential, and most trusted, foreigner in 18th century St. Petersburg. Pushkin’s friend Vyazemsky was half-Irish. The Russian poets of that great generation were familiar with Thomas Moore – and of course with the composer John Field. Oscar Wilde wrote a Russian play, Vera, or the Nihilists, whose lessons apply equally to Ireland and Russia. Nikolai Gumilyov knew Yeats; his Gondla has an Irish theme.
These contacts at a cultural or a personal level continue strongly today. The St. Patrick’s Day parade is a fixed element in the Moscow calendar. Maslenitza is celebrated in Dublin. We have a range of connections in every cultural sphere, from music, poetry, and dance to film and comedy. Both in Russia and Ireland we see a growing number of ‘mixed marriages’ between the Irish and the Russians, a growing number of children who are both Irish and Russian. Exchanges in the spheres of tourism and education are developing steadily.
Sergey Tarutin and Nasha Gazeta have worked hard in the cause of creating community among the Russian-speakers of Ireland and promoting understanding between Russia and Ireland. This book is a symbol and continuation of that work. I hope it achieves a wide and appreciative audience.
Ambassador for Republic of Ireland in Russia