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PIR Center Founder holds Seminar on the Legacy of ‘Russian Hawaii’


MOSCOW, NOVEMBER 13, 2018. PIRPRESS. “The history of ‘Russian Kauai’ hooked me with the fact that there is so much involved: the geopolitics of the early nineteenth century, sea otters, China, St. Petersburg’s ‘decision-making’, Boston captains and Hawaiian intrigue. There is of course Fort Elizabeth, where you can imagine the Russian flag being raised on May 21st, 1816 in the presence of a huge number of Kauaians. The adventures. The romance. The beauty of the ‘Russian’ Hanalei valley. Even the humble river Hanapepe, which received a new name: ‘Don’” – PIR Center founder, Head of the Center for Global Trends and International Organizations, Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, MGIMO Professor Vladimir Orlov. 

On October 4th, the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry held a seminar titled “Russian America: Hawaiian Diaries – 200 years later.” The meeting was organized in collaboration with the PIR Center and became part of the project initiated by PIR Center founder Dr. Vladimir A. Orlov on the study of the Russian presence in Hawaii in the early 19th century: “Hawaiian Don River Flows”. At the seminar, Vladimir Orlov detailed the activities of representatives of the Russian-American Company (RAC), their relations with the population of the island of Kauai and also raised the issue of preserving Russian heritage on the island. 

Comments were made by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, First Vice Rector and Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry Tatyana Zakaurtseva, Director of the Center for Humanitarian and Business Cooperation with Compatriots Abroad – Moscow House of Compatriots, member of PIR Center’s Advisory Board Dr. Vladimir Lebedev and guests from Hawaii – Kauai-based documentary filmmaker Cynthia Lazaroff, Harvard University Professor Bruce Allen and Honolulu-based Honorary Consul of Switzerland in Hawaii Niklaus Schweitzer. The opening speech of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to the USA Anatoly Antonov was read out. “The study of common cultural heritage and the perpetuation of the memory of historical ties between the two countries is especially important in the context of the ongoing crisis in Russian-American relations. The initiative of Vladimir Orlov to study the history of the Russian presence in Hawaii and the relations of our ancestors with the indigenous people of these islands can become the basis that will support the joint work of representatives of the Russian and American public,” – Mr. Antonov said in his welcoming speech. 

The opening speech of the Chairman of the Committee on Education and Science of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav Nikonov was also presented to the participants. “I sincerely hope that the efforts of the PIR Center and the Center for Global Problems and International Organizations of the Institute of Topical International problems of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry to maintain such a dialogue at the level of experts and scientists, as well as the seminar organized by them, will be a significant contribution to the development of the human component of Russian-American relations,” Nikonov said. 

“Fort Elizabeth (Elisaveta) – when I first saw the remnants of this huge structure, I was astonished. Why a Russian fort on the island of Kauai? I asked myself. Of course, we knew about Russian Amerika, and I recalled stories of the Bering Strait and the Far North. Then, when I began to learn the Hawaiian language, I came across an interesting proverb or saying, meaning ‘astonished at the Russian sailors’. Indeed, Russians impressed the Hawaiians greatly, beginning with the two ships of Adam Johann von Kruzenstern, the Nadezhda and the Neva”, told Schweitzer about the way he used to discover the history of Russian Hawaii. Dr. Schweitzer came to participate in the seminar from Honolulu. 

Sergey Ryabkov spoke about the importance of initiatives on the common history and heritage of Russia and the United States. “We must admit that this is one of the few areas where established bilateral relations continue to develop. Such cultural, humanitarian and educational activities are, of course, positively perceived by the citizens of both countries and help to strengthen mutual understanding between peoples. It is especially in demand today, given the extremely difficult situation of current political relations”, – said the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia. 

At the seminar Ryabkov announced that the Russian Foreign Ministry is considering the creation of a specialized Fund of Russian America, which would provide targeted support to joint projects in the field of heritage preservation, interacting with sponsoring companies and other structures that provide grants. “We expect to involve prominent public figures from both countries, including actor Steven Seagal, who was recently appointed special representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry on Russian-American cultural and humanitarian relations,” – he said. 

In November 2017, the island of Kauai celebrated the 200th anniversary of the construction of Russian fortresses on the island and the raising of the Russian flag. Vladimir Orlov published an article “Hawaiian Don River Flows…” about this event in the journal “International Affairs”, presenting the first results of the project. After that, work on the project entered a new phase with new materials being posted on the PIR Center website devoted to the history of Russia’s presence on the island.

The seminar was accompanied by the presentation of a video documentary, as well as a photo exhibition about the past and present of the island of Kauai and Fort Elisabeth. The photographs were taken by the main speaker of the seminar Vladimir Orlov and Tatyana Zhdanova. Information about the photo exhibition can be found here.

“It is in our plans to display the photo exhibition for various audiences, both in Russia and in the United States. We are also thinking about the release of a calendar with our Kauai photos, so that Russians can learn about this distant, but not alien, part of Russian history. Americans might also learn from this fascinating chapter in the history of Russian America”, shared Dr. Orlov. 

For questions related to the project “Hawaiian Don River Flows”, you can contact the Project Coordinator Yulia Tseshkovskaya, by phone +7 (499) 940 09 83 or by e-mail [email protected]