Bangkok Post, 17 Oct


Saint Petersburg: This year marks the 120th anniversary of Thai-Russian diplomatic relations and activities are being held to celebrate ties between the two countries.

Among the highlights was a khon classical masked dance performance staged at the Mariinsky Theatre in Russia's Saint Petersburg on Oct 4.

The khon performance featured scenes from the Ramakien, the Thai version of the ancient Hindu epic The Ramayana.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn also attended the performance, which underlined the importance of Thailand's long-established friendship and cordial ties with Russia.

The khon performance was among several activities jointly held by the Culture Ministry and Foreign Affairs Ministry, in collaboration with the Russian government.

Formal diplomatic relations between Thailand and Russia began in July, 1897 when King Chulalongkorn, Rama V of Siam, visited Russia during his first tour of Europe.

The royal visit came at a time when Siam was confronted with the threat of colonisation, particularly by France and Great Britain.

King Rama V's visit to Russia was seen as a bid to enlist the help of Russia to preserve Siam's independence in the face of the colonial expansion of the European powers. 

The personal friendship between King Rama V and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was close. 

During his visit to Siam in 1891, Russian Crown Prince Nicholas, the future tsar, was impressed by the grand reception and the hospitality accorded by King Rama V. 

When King Chulalongkorn visited Russia, Tsar Nicholas II reciprocated by according an equally regal and warm reception to the Siamese monarch, which was widely publicised at the time. 

Tsar Nicolas II also allowed the French newspaper, L'Illustration, to publish a photo showing him and King Chulalongkorn side by side, and this was believed to play a part in easing tensions between Siam and France.

Currently, Thai-Russian relations have gone from strength to strength at all levels. 

Several members of the royal family have also paid visits to Russia. 

But in modern-day Thailand, no event was more important than the visit of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit to Russia on July 2-11, 2007, at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin. 

Her Majesty represented the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the 10-day visit on the 110th anniversary of Thai-Russian relations. 

Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat said the Oct 4 khon masked dance performance was well-received by the Russian audience. 

He added this was not the first time a khon performance had been staged in Russia. 

When St Petersburg, Russia's former imperial capital, celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2003, Thailand also sent a khon masked dance troupe to stage performances there, which proved to be a big hit with the Russian people, Mr Vira said. 

On the subject of people-to-people relations, about one million Russian travellers visit Thailand annually, ranking them among the country's top three largest visitors by country, observers say. 

National carrier Thai Airways International resumed direct flights between Bangkok and Moscow in October last year after the route was cancelled in March 2015 due to business reasons. 

The culture minister also said Thailand and Russia have signed a memorandum of understanding on cultural cooperation to enhance their ties. 

The agreement covers cooperation on museums, archaeology, as well as exchange of cultural personnel, Mr Vira said. 

He said the Culture Ministry has a plan for a second-phase expansion of the Thailand Cultural Centre and officials will be sent to learn about the management of museums, libraries and theatres in Russia which is well-equipped with resources and management experience in related fields. 


Original article at the Bangkok Post website: 





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