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New Zealand - Russia Relations - Page 8
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The growing importance of the Soviet relationship was a factor in the decision by Wellington to substantially upgrade the Moscow Embassy in a major renovation in 1978 and 1979.  This is period is graphically described in Ambassador Jim Weir’s memoirs of the period.  (A New Zealand Ambassador’s Letters from Moscow, Hodder and Stoughton, 1988.)  

International political events continued to affect the New Zealand/Soviet relationship.  These were often factors in an internal political debate within New Zealand over the country’s foreign policy directions in the changing global situation.  The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979 led to series of decisions by the National Government of the day, led by Prime Minister Mr Robert Muldoon, to restrain the bilateral political and economic relationship.  In this period of heightened concern on New Zealand’s part about Soviet intentions globally and with respect to the Pacific region, Wellington introduced a range of practical restrictions to the bilateral relationship.  Additionally, the Government declared the Soviet Ambassador to New Zealand, V.N. Sofinsky, persona non grata on the grounds of political activities incompatible with his diplomatic status, and asked him to leave the country.  This was followed by the Soviet request that the New Zealand Ambassador, Mr Jim Weir, leave Moscow in January 1980 and the Soviet withdrawal of agrement from Mr Weir’s successor.

Both the Soviet Embassy in Wellington and the New Zealand Embassy in Moscow remained under Charges d’Affaires until both sides agreed to the resumption of full diplomatic relations.  A New Zealand Ambassador, Miss Alison Stokes, returned to Moscow in 1984.

In 1984 the new Labour Government led by Mr David Lange introduced new foreign policy priorities and engaged on a period of major social and economic reorganisation in New Zealand that subsequently became regarded as a New Zealand “revolution”.  At the same time, New Zealand began to take a much closer interest in the Soviet Union as the accession to power of M.S. Gorbachev ushered in the period of “perestroika” and – as seen from New Zealand – “revolutionary” changes in the Soviet Union.


Russia - New Zealand History

Every day that we were there the Zealanders would arrive at our sloops at about 10 in the morning and would remain until evening. Having traded their goods they would have lunch with us. They ate our dry bread, peas, kasha and sugar with real appetite. They did not like our salt beef at all and were not great fans of the pork, nor were they able to drink our rum and wine. From time to time they would help our sailors in their work, for which the hardest workers would be rewarded with nails. Sometimes, making merry, they would give us the pleasure of watching their dances and listening to their songs. For this, about 15 men would stand in a single line. One of them, stamping his foot, would begin to sing. In mid-verse there would suddenly be a common, quite quick and wild shout, then they would lift their arms up, extend them, and let them fall, while strongly stamping their feet, distorting their whole bodies and making fierce faces. They would finish this song by going down on one knee and making a frightful, lingering laugh. Our sailors adopted their dance and song very well indeed, and on our sloop at the South Pole where the daily dangers depressed the spirit, they would sometimes cheer everybody up with their imitation (of the haka - translated by Prior Group). N.Galkin, surgeon on board the Russian vessel “Mirny” (Peaceful), during their stay in New Zealand, Queen Charlotte Sound, Russian Expedition, 1820

Stuart Prior, Honorary Consul for Belarus in New Zealand

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