Moscow | October 2017
From Manchester, we flew to Moscow, which Hal had first visited in 1959 as a member of the
official USA-USSR youth exchange program, for an international African Studies conference. Hal
was participating as presenter and panel co-organizer with his friend Dmitri Bondarenko,
Deputy Director of Moscow’s Institute for African Research. Hal has been communicating with Russian scholars in African Studies since 1961 when the pioneering African American scholar, W.E.B Du Bois, gave him a letter of introduction to the Institute’s founding Director, I. I. Potekhin. Update on a significant change in the financing of research on Africa in Russia: the business sector has begun to assume some financing as the Russian government pulls back its funding support. Anne, on her first visit to Russia, was able to visit the Kremlin and Red Square and other historical sights while Hal focused mostly on the conference that drew scholars from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the USA.
We visited the campus of Friendship University (see photo above), established in 1960 to aid the decolonization process in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This university has provided students with training in natural, physical, and health sciences, as well as agriculture and other technical areas that were not available to them in their home countries and elsewhere in most of the world. Our visits to the State Central Museum of the Contemporary History of Russia and a large art gallery provided us with some glimpses into the rich history of Russia. We witnessed what seemed like a popular Putin and a busy Russian economy despite Western sanctions. Perhaps, our biggest surprise was at the iconic Bolshoi Theater, attending the theatrically innovative Hayden opera, ALMIDA (1783). We did not expect two things: (1) to see gay and straight couples and groups simulating sex on stage in a country well known in the USA for its puritanism, homophobia, and anti-gay laws and (2) to learn later that ALMIDA--or for that matter, no Hayden opera--has ever been staged by a major USA opera house, including the Met.