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The Irish Paint Moscow Green

The Irish paint Moscow Green
The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Moscow may not seem like something rather obscure. Not if you happen to live in Moscow, where the Irish, their special day and friendly spirit have made a real impact onto Moscow’s culture.

Dave Pearce, an Irish, Moscow-based business coach and one of the founders of the Irish community in Moscow, joins the program.

Dave tells the story of how the celebrations in Moscow started: "Shortly after Perestroika and the advent of western businesses and culture, a number of the quite large Irish expat community thought it would be a great idea to hold a parade and went about convincing City Hall that this was a good idea. Fortunately, the mayor agreed and hence Moscow St. Patrick's Day Parade was started. This has continued for 25 years with the exception of 2 years during the crises in the 1990's and 2009."

Irish and Russian links are deep on a cultural level; however there is even a military operation in which soldiers from both countries took part in. Dave explains: "Peter Lacy, or as he was known in Russia, Pyotr Petrovich Laci was the son of an Irish Lord. At 13 he was already a lieutenant fighting the British and during the Siege of Limerick, Peter and his family fled to France. Most of the Irish who were soldiers joined the French Military and like many French soldiers joined the Russian Army. At a still very young, in age but not in experience, Peter rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Russian army."

"He fought in the campaign against the Crimean Kahn in 1737-1738using unconventional tactics which he had learned fighting the British in Ireland. Nowadays this could be called Guerrilla warfare. After this Victory he was made a Count and was appointed Governor General of Livonia, which is present day Latvia and Southern Estonia."

"This Irish-Russian cooperation was significant as it started a period of good relations, which continue today. Dave says: "It probably started a love affair that continues to this day. The music connection in another fascinating aspect of this relationship. A very famous composer pianist and a teacher was John Feld, He moved to Moscow, taught here, and died here, and he's buried at the Vvedenskoye Cemetery. It continues today with Irish Dance Schools and the many Russian musicians who have adopted Irish instruments, because some Irish instruments are not played anywhere else, and have become as proficient as real Irish traditional musicians. Every week there are music Seisiúns in many pubs and venues.

"During the Cold War, Ireland was one of the few countries that allowed Aeroflot to refuel on transatlantic flights. We joke that the Irish coffees served at the stopovers made it easier for the Irish to be accepted in the new Russian State. It certainly convinced the Russian Government to allow Aer Rianta, which is now Dublin Airport Authority to develop the Duty Free Operation in Sheremetyevo Airport. In the early 90's many Irish Companies opened up in Moscow. Ireland is a small country and we have to go somewhere to do something. The Irish House on Novy Arbat will be remembered by older Muscovites because it was one of the few places that you could purchase western goods, at slightly inflated prices, but they were available. Many Companies that were setting up here had an Irish influence, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola and many of the financial services had Irish Managers and personnel. Ireland is the only country Russia allows to celebrate its National Day on the streets of Moscow. I think this because of the great esteem they have for our little country and it's greatly appreciated."

The creation of a special ‘St Patrick's Day' this year by the Russian Orthodox Church adds additional status to this festival. "The Russian Orthodox Church has always recognized St. Patrick as a Saint, because this stems from events before the Schism [The East-West Schism of 1054, was the break of communion between what are now the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches], but only last year the Russian Church elevated St Patrick to the position of having a ‘special saint day'.

Dave describes how St. Patrick's Day is going to be celebrated in Moscow this year. "First of all our famous St. Patrick's Day Parade is not taking place on the 17th March due to the Presidential Elections but is now on the 24th March at Park Sokolniki at 12.00. There will be the Parade, then two hours of Irish music, and festivities going on in the park. It's a beautiful park and it suits us now to hold it there. Irish Week is held from the 14th to the 25th March; and only the Irish can make a week last 11 days. The week has already started with the opening of the Film Festival at the Karo 11 on Novy Arbat, featuring 10 Irish or Irish influenced films. Besides the traditional Patrick's Day Parade it will be followed by the 8-hour gala-concert Day And Night!"

There will be something for everyone during this special Irish Week'. If you happen to be in Moscow, check it out!

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