It is 70 years since diplomatic relations between Egypt and Russia began, and to celebrate the occasion Minister of Culture Mohamed Saber Arab and Russian Ambassador to Cairo Sergei Kirpichenko have unveiled a bronze bust of the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in the gardens of the Cairo Opera House.
On the same day, in Moscow, a monument of Egypt’s 20th century writer and prominent enlightenment figure Taha Hussein was unveiled at the Institute of Oriental Studies.
Despite the bitter cold in Cairo, Egyptian and Russian public figures attended the reception for the anniversary held at the Cairo Opera House under the auspices of interim President Adly Mansour.
The reception was a jointly organised by the Russian cultural organisations in Cairo, the Russian Egyptian friendship association, the Egyptian Culture Ministry, and the Cairo Opera House. The sculptor Usama al-Serwi who had made the bust was there.
In honour of the occasion, a plastic arts exhibition of 66 works by 10 Egyptian and Russian artists, among works by Mrs Kirpichenko, the ambassador’s wife, was opened. Performances by both Russian and Egyptian musicians enthralled the audience.
More than courtesy
A diplomatic protocol was signed in August 1943 between the then ambassador of the Soviet Union to Cairo and Mustafa Pasha al-Nahas, then Egypt’s Prime Minister. Mr Kirpichenko said that since that date relations between Russia and Egypt had seen many ups and downs caused by the dramatic political changes that took place in both countries over the years.
Mr Kirpichenko expressed his hope that relations between his country and Egypt would go from mere courtesy and good intentions to an exchange of interests. He said he was confident that this relationship would have a strong positive impact on the Arab world and the Middle East.
In his address on the history of the relationship between Egypt and Russia, Mr Arab recalled the Russian input in erecting the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, and key industrial projects. As far back as the 1830s, Mr Arab said, Mohamed Ali, the Ottoman viceroy who became the founder of modern Egypt, had sent four Egyptians to Siberia to learn about mining, and they returned to spearhead the field in Egypt and Sudan.
Mr Arab reminded the audience of the hundreds of young Egyptians who went to Russia to study the arts, including opera, cinema and the theatre, and returning to establish Egyptian art academies that were, and still are, true landmarks in the cultural life of Egypt. Even as far as military and economic relations were concerned, he said, the Soviet Union had strongly supported Egypt after the 1967 defeat and up to the 1973 victory. He went on to say that even though relations with Russia had been brought to a brief halt, they were now regaining momentum under interim President Mansour and President Vladimir Putin.
As the culmination of the event, former Culture Minister Gaber Asfour handed to the Russian ambassador a letter of gratitude from the Egyptian people to President Vladimir Putin, for his “positive attitude” towards the 30 June protests.
13 January 2014
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