Friday, 5 August 2016

As I was saying...(not that long ago):
We are looking forward to our 5th Moffat Russian Conference 21-23 Oct, in which connection I have just circulated the following encyclical

Hello All
There is apparently a debate going on in the UK press (I am on holiday in France) about a push by the Putin government by fair means or foul to use 'soft power' - ie culture - to influence the British public. Moffat Russian Conferences is by definition (our partners are State institutions) implicated in this debate. 
All I can say is: use your common sense and general reading not to fall into  time-honoured traps such as accepting freebies or indulging in sexual liaisons which render you vulnerable to coercion.
A more subtle form of  persuasion we must be aware of, not least because it has already occurred, is the appeal not to upset the apple cart by (eg) mentioning Stalin in a pejorative way, thereby exposing our partners to criticism that they are being disloyal.
Alexander Etkind , who I hope will attend, deals with the Russian failure to come to terms with the savage realities of a Soviet regime where everyone informed on everyone else. It cannot be said often enough how utterly incomprehensible to us this experience is, leading I hope to a certain amount of humility on our part. Citing the experience of counter-cultural figures such as Ian Hamilton Finlay or Hugh Macdairmid in the same breath as our five Russian poets in this respect is not just ridiculous, it is deplorable.
Soviet visitors would whisper to us on walks in the park 'Don't let it happen here'. 

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