Moscow Caledonian Club
Scottish Culture Centre in Moscow
Founded in 1994, the Moscow Caledonian Club (MCC) is the oldest organisation of its kind in post-Soviet Russia. Our goal is to introduce the historical and cultural heritage of Scotland to the Russian public, as well as to discover and promote Russian cultural influences in Scotland.
The MCC was the first organisation in Russia to focus on Scotland in the sphere of Russo-British contacts. Incidentally, such definitions as first or unprecedented can be applied to many achievements in MCC history, which is rich in cultural and artistic events. Here are just a few examples, which became hits on contemporary Russian and Scottish cultural scene.
In 1997 the MCC, for the first time in Russia, staged the Russia-Scotland Folk Festival in Moscow (later called Festivals of Scottish Culture), along with the Highland Games, which soon became traditional and very popular with both Russians and foreign visitors to Moscow. In the following years the Moscow Highland Games were an essential part of festivals devoted to Scottish culture. These events took place annually in Moscow up to 2004. They were attended by many pipers and other musicians, dancers and athletes from Scotland, Russia and other countries.
In December 1998 the MCC held for the first time the Scottish Folk & Whisky Festival in Russia, sponsored by several Scottish companies, including such world-famous brands as “The Famous Grouse” and “Whyte & Mackay”, with some popular folk bands from Scotland on the programme. These festivals were highly appreciated by Muscovites and happened on a regular basis. Many leading brands of Scotch whisky were represented in this winter festival over the years, and our guests included such renowned musicians from Scotland as Ronnie Browne, Beggar’s Row, Gordeanna McCulloch, Brian Miller, Burach, Lyra Celtica et al.
The MCC is actively involved in promoting Russo-Scottish links abroad, especially in Scotland proper. In August 1998, on the initiative of our Club and with its strong support, the celebrated Edinburgh Military Tattoo invited the dancers and musicians of the Central Band of the Russian Navy. This was actually Russia’s debut at this remarkable festival after half a century of its existence, the most prestigious and colourful show of its kind in the world. Both the audiences and the media welcomed this performance with great sympathy and acclaim.
In the spring of 1999 the MCC launched another long-term project, Russian Cultural Seasons in Scotland. In May of that year in the north-western Scottish region of Lochaber, with support of the local council, we held the First Season of Russian Culture, featuring concerts of Russian folk music by the Grenada group. Its success was followed up in 2000, as part of the Highland Festival, the most large-scale and popular art festival in the north of Britain, with the Second Season of Russian Culture, the highlight of which was the Seasons Moscow Chamber Orchestra conducted by V. Bulakhov. .
Since then virtually every year the MCC pursues its cultural mission in different parts of Scotland. We returned to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2001 and 2005 with Cossack Dancers from the city of Lipetsk, and again in 2007 with the band of the Institute of Military Conductors, Moscow. In 2013 Aberdeen and other cities and towns of north-eastern Scotland welcomed another Season of Russian Culture, as part of our charity festival “An Offering for St. Andrew’s Day”, a project in which many distinguished Russian musicians, singers and ballet dancers took part. They included the Tchaikovsky String Quartet, the State Ensemble of Russian Ballet Soloists, pianist Dmitry Onishchenko, soprano Oksana Lesnichaya (an invited singer with the Bolshoi), organist Alexey Semionov, Cossack Dancers from Volgograd and many others.
Another important sphere for the MCC is research on and commemoration of outstanding figures of Scottish descent in Russian history. In August 1997, at our expense, we presented to the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary in Aberdeen a memorial plaque in honour of General Patrick Gordon of Auchleuchries (1635-1699). He was a distinguished military leader in 17th-century Russia, who largely influenced Tsar Peter the Great as his principal advisor and friend.
In August 1998, as part of the programme of the Edinburgh Festival and in presence of the Central Band of the Russian Navy, members of our Club with support of the Fife Council unveiled a memorial tablet in Inverkeithing, dedicated to Russia’s famous naval commander Admiral Samuel Greig, a native of the burgh. This ceremony, conceived and funded by the MCC, took place at the very house where the admiral lived, in presence of many locals, and was widely covered by the media. Musicians of the Russian Navy band marched down the street, saluting the gallant seaman of whom both Scots and Russians should justly be proud.
In 2005 the House of the Binns in West Lothian witnessed the presentation of another memorial plaque, devoted to General Thomas Dalyell, who faithfully served Russia from 1656 to 1665. He was one of experienced West European commanders who helped to form regular army units in Russia. This tablet, designed and sponsored by the MCC, was officially presented to the direct descendant and namesake of the Muscovite general, Tam Dalyell, formerly Dean of the British House of Commons.
In 2006 the town of Fraserburgh proudly accepted another memorial gift from us, marking the 450th anniversary of the first Russian embassy to the British Isles headed by Osip Nepeya in 1556. This plaque, also sponsored and made by the MCC, was opened at the local Lighthouse Museum, situated close by the ambassador’s landing place, although some of his companions perished in a storm. .
In 2001 the MCC accomplished a unique historical project by donating the icon of St. Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia, to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, one of the oldest and proudest regiments of the British Army. The last Russian Tsar was the colonel-in-chief of this regiment, and thus, after his tragic death, he also became its heavenly patron. This event united two important traditions, i.e. respect for regimental colonel-in-chief in the British army, and veneration of regimental icons in the Russian Army. This icon was one of the first to be painted after the canonization of Nicholas by the Russian Orthodox Church, and was created at the expense of the MCC in the workshop of the Trinity St. Sergy Monastery. It was officially presented to the Commander of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards on behalf of the Russian people. Since then this icon became a relic of this glorious Scottish regiment, and has always been present alongside its officers and men.
Perhaps the highest point in MCC activities was the first Russian International Tattoo, which brought together top performers from nine countries. This happened in Moscow’s historic Red Square in September 2007, and became known as the Kremlin Zoria. The groundbreaking idea of this festival was suggested and carried out by two founders of the MCC, Vitaly Mironov and Dmitry Fedosov. They headed the laborious work of setting up the organising committee responsible for the project, devising the festival programme and directing the actual show. The result, as leading international experts and audiences agree, was a spectacular pageant on an unprecedented scale. The culmination of the Zoria was the appearance on Red Square of the massed bands of 350 pipes and drums from five countries, including top Scottish bands of the British Army, besides dozens of brass bands, dancers, flagwavers and other performers!
Due to the efforts of the MCC, with support of all our friends and partners, we managed to give a new impulse to the development of Russo-Scottish cultural ties. The overall attendance of joint projects achieved by the MCC and our partners, numbers in tens of thousands. As to the mass media public, after coverage by Russian and British TV, radio and press, these numbers are impossible to calculate. So, MCC members are happy to observe that our countries are increasingly interested in the culture and art on both sides, and we perceive a growing sense of understanding of our traditions and kinship, involving the specific traits that unite Russia and Scotland.