Russia and Northern Europe
The region is a diverse grouping of 14 countries, all of whom are seeking, in different ways, to define their futures in the context of a next-generation Europe. Our focus is on creating and sustaining networks of young, influential people who will play a part in shaping the new Europe.
This year our staff in Russia were subject to intimidation and undue pressure from the Russian government. In light of this we took the difficult decision to suspend operations in St Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. Despite this, we continued to deliver arts, education and English programmes for our customers and partners in Moscow and through our online presence. We remain committed to our work in Russia.
The BRIDGE programme facilitated 53 active partnerships including 46 dual degrees and seven research collaborations between Russian and UK universities. The aims of the project are to increase collaboration, build sustainable partnerships and agree on mutual agendas in line with the Bologna Process. The project is sponsored by the UK’s Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and is supported by Russia’s National Training Foundation.
In July, we brought Lily Allen to St Petersburg for the British–Russian Music Festival as part of our UK Flavours Festival. The concert celebrated the diversity of popular music in the city and was attended by 4,500 people. Our Russia–UK Film Festival premièred 11 films in seven cities and was seen by 12,000 people. We linked the UK’s National Film and Television School with the Moscow International Film School and facilitated a number of industry networking events, resulting in the sale of three British films to Russian distributors. We supported a sister Russian film festival in the UK, with a producers’ and directors’ networking event at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Following the success of the Whistler and Russia exhibition, in 2006–07, a collaboration between the State Russian Museum and the British Council, the Foundation for Art and Sport (Moscow) has offered sponsorship of £1.5 million to bring a major exhibition of J.M.W. Turner to the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in 2008. We have been working with Tate Britain and the Pushkin Museum throughout the year on this high-profile event.
Work in English language training continued. We ran a summer educational school, sponsored by the Hornby Educational Trust, for English language specialists from across Europe and Asia, which focused on using online resources and, in particular, British Council global websites, more effectively. We also initiated a three-year programme in partnership with the Goethe-Institut and the Moscow State Linguistic University on using the Common European Framework for teaching modern foreign languages. This programme will increase the UK’s contribution to international co-operation in the implementation of the European multilingual policy. However, through the year, we came under renewed scrutiny from the Russian authorities as a result of the escalating political tension between the UK and Russia. Finally, in January 2008, out of a duty of care to our staff, we decided to suspend operations in St Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. The British Council continues to work on a not-for-profit basis and is committed to full compliance with Russian and international legislation. Most importantly, we believe that our work as a cultural relations agency is more important than ever when political tensions rise.
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