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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

Mr. A. Williams, in the Auckland Herald, gives an account of the visit of British warships to Russia last June, among them being the New Zealand. “When I made myself known as a onetime resident of Auckland and Wellington, I was invariably greeted with the remark. Don't I wish I was there now,” which speaks well for the memories the men took away of our country. The New Zealand was visited by the Czar and Czarina and their daughters, probably because Prince George of Battenberg, a nephew of the Empress's is an officer of this ship, and the Imperial visitors expressed much interest in the many trophies presented by the New Zealand towns, and especially in the Maori curios displayed in Captain Halsey’s quarters. The English colony in Petrograd (late St. Petersburg) entertained the Admiral and officers at a dinner and dance, and in return Admiral Beatty and his officers gave a ball on the night of June 27th. The flagship, the Lion, served as a cloak and supper room, and the New Zealand, beautifully, decorated, was turned into a ballroom. The Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna, daughter of the late Duke of Edinburgh was present with her husband, the Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich. On this occasion, a haka, danced by 20 of the crew of the New Zealand was a decided novelty to the Russians, and had to be repeated. There were many inquiries as to Maori customs and as to the meaning of the names “Cook”, “Tasman” and “Ao-te-aroa”, inscribed on the turrets." Poverty Bay Herald, Vol. XLI, Issue 13482, 10 September 1914, Page 5

Stuart Prior, Honorary Consul for Belarus in New Zealand

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