Forging strong links between Russia and West Cork

Posted on: 7th April, 2015

Category: Features

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

UCC graduate Brendan Molloy is aiming to forge closer links with the Russian Federation, predominantly through youth exchange and education and cultural awareness programmes, with the overall objective of promoting Ireland, in particular West Cork, as a tourist and business destination. In the last two years, the Durrus resident has facilitated a number of successful visits between the two countries. He talks to Mary O’Brien about his strong belief that we need to reach out to other cultures.

Above: Some of the students Brendan (back centre) had the pleasure of working it on Domodedevo, on his recent visit to Russia.

“We need educate our children and youth to respect and tolerate multi-culturalism, which in turn will strengthen our tourism market and create employment, which will ultimately lead to a stronger Irish economy,” says Brendan passionately.

Always holding a fascination for the intrigue of Russian culture, Brendan delved deeper in to its mystery as part of his Masters Thesis.

“Whilst having worked and continuing to work with Eastern European migrants, from various post-Soviet Union accession states, that is Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, for a number of years, I gathered a lot of useful and interesting information about their lives before migrating to Ireland,” says Brendan. “I would often ask them about their relationship with Russia, as I felt it may be a sensitive issue, in light of the communist era. I was not surprised when I discovered this question would always raise issues of debate both positively and negatively. As my interest developed further, about Russia, particularly over the past two years, I began to study and analyse literature that provided me with an overview of its society, past and present.”

In his research, Brendan states that modern Russia can be considered to be an unknown, a post-communist power that invites comprehensive study and analysis; a society and culture which can only be described as complex or perplexing; a riddle, as alluded to by Winston Churchill. For seven decades it was in the grip of communist control, following the collapse of the monarchy, and following the demise of communism, much turbulence followed during the 1990s, until the reins of power were handed over to current president Vladimir Putin on December 31, 1999.  A new dawn for modern Russia had arrived and its relationship with authority was to continue…

He concludes that “The more the West endeavours to preach to Russia about democracy and Western values the more the Russian Federation, currently under the control of President Vladimir Putin, will desist from ‘becoming like the West’ and continue to adopt and implement their own forms of rule and governance, the model of sovereign democracy or traditional authority which is conducive to its own political, economical, and societal needs, for the foreseeable future.”

Although differences in culture and society exist between Ireland and Russia, Brendan has found one constant — the people and their friendliness.

Brendan’s first visit to Russia in September 2012 cemented his interest in developing links between the two countries. “The hospitality, respect and camaraderie afforded to me, has inspired, encouraged and motivated me,” he says.

In 2013, a small group of young children from Samara visited Durrus, joining in with classes at St James’ NS. This was followed by another successful visit in 2014.

Recently returned from a month long trip to Russia, visiting Samara, which is in the south east and also Domodedevo, which is just outside Moscow, Brendan is excited at the prospect of what lies ahead. “Schull Community College has expressed an interest in sending students on a visit to Moscow,” says Brendan. “Who knows what will happen from here, but it will be a great boost to Schull if we can arrange regular groups of students to visit from Russia. I strongly believe, that as a small nation, which is much respected throughout our globalised world, we need to seek out or source new markets and promote ourselves, culturally and economically.”

Brendan is currently working on securing EU funding to facilitate exchanges between Irish and Russian students.

Any schools interested in participating in future exchanges/visits should contact Brendan by email — brenaussie2000@yahoo.com.

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