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NEW ZEALAND- RUSSIA RELATIONS – SIXTY YEARS ON, AN EMBASSY PERSPECTIVE

Stuart Prior, Ambassador (2003-2006), New Zealand Embassy, Moscow


From the New Zealand perspective, for thirty years after the Second War, the USSR was viewed through the prism of the Cold War as an unknowable and distant society.  For those few New Zealanders able to visit the Soviet Union, it was a strange and exotic destination.  The emergence of the Soviet Union as market for New Zealand agricultural commodities of major importance in the 1970s and 1980s stimulated contacts wider broader contacts and prompted the development of a political dialogue to support the overall economic relationship, although this dialogue was always constrained by Cold War perceptions and concerns on New Zealand’s part about Soviet intentions both at the global and regional levels.  For New Zealanders, indeed, much of the mystery of the USSR remained till the end of the Soviet Union itself, in 1991...

This review, which draws on the recollections and comments of previous New Zealand Ambassadors in Moscow, seeks to present an Embassy perspective on a relationship that has over the past sixty years been focused principally on the trading and commercial relationship.

New Zealand’s diplomatic relations with Russia may broadly be divided into four periods: first, the 1940s, when the Second World War brought our nations together as allies and New Zealand established a Legation in Moscow; secondly, the period from 1950 to 1973, when New Zealand was not represented in Moscow, although the USSR continued to maintain a diplomatic presence in Wellington; thirdly, the 1970s and 1980s when, with a New Zealand Embassy in Moscow, trade became the major element of the relationship; and, finally from the 1990s, when the new Russia emerged from the former Soviet Union, bringing in a period of dramatic and far-reaching change.



 

Russia - New Zealand History

We are having long lambskin coats made with outer surface of Gabardine. A good warm cloth overcoat is also recommended by Australian Legation which advises in addition, furlined coat. We have not examined cost of latter but have been informed by a local resident previously living in Russia that they are “de rigueur” for official classes, sheepskin coats being associated with peasantry…Fur caps and furlined gloves are recommended. Top hats are not being taken.
What a country in which the occurrence of queues outside shops is a sign of improving conditions.
It is the most wonderful springtime, the tenderest green on the trees. As always in Moscow, the spring is so fresh, it seems to be happening for the first time.
The Russian language is like a sack pulled over the head of the wretched foreigner. Those like Ruth Macky and me, who have cut an eyehole or two in the sack, have to lead by the hand those who are still living in the darkness. Curious, but the one who shows most promise of all the beginners is Mrs Boswell. For myself I reckon I’ll know Russian well in ten years’ time. It really is a monster of a tongue. Paddy Costello, New Zealand diplomat and linguist, Moscow, 1944

Stuart Prior, Honorary Consul for Belarus in New Zealand

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