Gift to univer­sity marks 100 years of spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia

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The Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

IT was 1916 and Ni­cholas II was still on the throne of Rus­sia as he bat­tled against the Ger­mans in the First World War.

But some of his par­lia­men­tar­i­ans from the newly-elected Duma slipped out of war-torn Pet­ro­grad and headed to the un­likely des­ti­na­tion of Glas­gow, where they dis­cussed cre­at­ing a new trade deal with the city’s many mer­chants.

Dur­ing the trip, the del­e­ga­tion vis­ited Glas­gow Univer­sity and so be­gan a long and en­dur­ing re­la­tion­ship.

As a re­sult of that con­nec­tion 100 years ago, the univer­sity boasts a col­lec­tion of his­toric Rus­sian doc­u­ments, books and arte­facts that are al­most un­ri­valled any­where in the world.

The in­sti­tu­tion’s Depart­ment of Rus­sian Stud­ies is renowned and was es­tab­lished in 1917 by city mer­chant Wil­liam Weir, who had forged the ini­tial trade links with Rus­sia.

He be­queathed £2,500 to cre­ate the school, which cel­e­brates its cen­te­nary this week­end.

Its first lec­turer was Hugh Ge­orge Bren­nan, who had lived in what is now St Peters­burg and was well ac­quainted with Tsar Ni­cholas.

He would never see the Tsar or his fam­ily again as, in 1917, he trav­elled to Glas­gow to be­gin teach­ing Rus­sian stud­ies and found up­ris­ings that had been crack­ling as he left soon erupted into a full-blown rev­o­lu­tion.

The roy­als were im­pris­oned be­fore be­ing shot.

Partly as a re­sult of the tur­bu­lence, Glas­gow was well placed to gather and col­lect troves of arte­facts that had been spir­ited out of Rus­sia amid re­peated Com­mu­nist purges.

Among the Rus­sian trea­sures housed at Glas­gow Univer­sity’s li­brary is the world’s largest se­ries of first-edi­tion works by

Leon Trot­sky, as well as pri­mary source tes­ti­monies from those who es­caped the gu­lag camps.

A swathe of pro­hib­ited news ar­ti­cles and books clan­des­tinely pub­lished dur­ing the Com­mu­nist era also earn pride of place.

Such is its his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, schol­ars and aca­demics travel thou­sands of miles to visit what is one of the most pro­found col­lec­tions of Rus­sian her­itage in the world. Rus­sian lec­turer Dr An­drea Gul­lotta, de­scribed the Glas­gow col­lec­tion as “amaz­ing” and praised the ef­forts of its first lec­turer Mr Bren­nan, who brought to the Scot­land arte­facts that are among the “most in­ter­est­ing and valu­able”.

He said: “It re­ally is one of the most renowned col­lec­tions in the world. It is so large we can­not show all of it.”

The univer­sity was yes­ter­day also pre­sented with a spe­cial col­lec­tors’ edi­tion of the 16th-cen­tury Il­lus­trated Chron­i­cles Of The Rus­sian Tsar, by Ivan The Ter­ri­ble – also known as the “Tsar Book” – of which Rus­sia has made just 100 copies to add to the in­cred­i­ble ar­chive.

It is the largest com­pi­la­tion of his­tor­i­cal in­for­ma­tion ever as­sem­bled in me­dieval Rus­sia and cov­ers the pe­riod from pre-his­tory to the year 1567.

The set of manuscripts was com­mis­sioned by Ivan The Ter­ri­ble specif­i­cally for his royal li­brary.

It was pre­sented by the Rus­sian con­sul gen­eral, An­drey Prit­se­pov, to Glas­gow Univer­sity’s prin­ci­pal, Pro­fes­sor Sir An­ton Mus­catelli.

Mr Prit­se­pov paid trib­ute to the “re­mark­able peo­ple whose de­vo­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism” cre­ated the inim­itable Depart­ment of Rus­sian stud­ies.

He said: “I am con­fi­dent the Chron­i­cles Of Ivan The Ter­ri­ble, be­ing a lit­er­ary mon­u­ment in their own right, would not only find place of pride in the univer­sity’s fa­mous Slavonic col­lec­tion, but also con­trib­ute to an en­hanced un­der­stand­ing of the mul­ti­fac­eted cul­tural legacy of Rus­sia and pro­mote knowl­edge-shar­ing be­tween our peo­ples.”

Mr Mus­catelli said: “We are deeply hon­oured to be pre­sented with the

Tsar Book. The 100th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions fea­ture a packed and var­ied pro­gramme of events from a vir­tual ex­hi­bi­tion of Rus­sia’s first gu­lag at the univer­sity’s Hun­te­rian Mu­seum to a rock con­cert or­gan­ised by Glas­gow’s Rus­sian com­mu­nity.”

Pic­ture: Jamie Simp­son

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