25th January 2016
Robert Burns and Russia
I was delighted to host our annual Burns Supper at the consulate in St Petersburg on 23 January. It was a truly international evening with guests from Russia, the USA, Norway, the Netherlands and New Zealand joining us to celebrate the birthday of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. We enjoyed eating haggis, Scottish dancing and listening to some of Burns’ most famous poems, including ‘Address to a Haggis’, ‘To a Mouse’, ‘A Man’s A Man For A’ That’ and ‘A Red, Red Rose’.
Burns Suppers will be held in other cities across Russia. This remains an important part of the rich historical and cultural relationship between Scotland and Russia dating back over many hundreds of years.
Burns first became popular in Russia in the 19th century. His works were translated into Russian and he was seen as a source of inspiration for the ordinary Russian people. In the days of the Soviet Union he became a ‘people’s poet’. Further translations of his works were published and the Soviet Union was the first country in the world to honour Burns with a commemorative stamp in 1956. Burns remains popular today and I always enjoy listening to Russian guests reciting some of his works that they learned at school.
Burns stamp, USSR 1956
Later this month, St Petersburg will host an annual ‘Days of Scotland’ series of cultural events. This is always an extremely popular occasion with Scottish music, dancing, children competition and of course another Burns Supper. We may even manage some curling with our guests from Scotland, a very popular game here in Russia! The theme of Days of Scotland 2016 will be Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the famous Scottish architect, designer and artist, which is highly appropriate given that 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. Mackintosh was an influence on Russian artists in the early 20th century and the Moscow Kremlin Museum hosted a Mackintosh exhibition as recently as 2014.
Let me take this opportunity to send warm greetings to all of the Scottish people and to those in Russia and around the world who are celebrating the birthday of Scotland’s great poet Robert Burns.