Scotland for Russians
Compiled by Ian Mitchell
The best news this month is the appearance of the first-ever Russia-language book for travellers to Scotland: Øîòëàíäèÿ: Èñòîðè÷åñêèé ïóòîâîäèòåëü (Scotland: a Historical Travel-guide: ISBN: 5-9533-1771-9). It is by Irina Donskova, a lecturer in English at the Moscow State Pedagogical University, and frequent tour-guide to Britain. She has sub-titled her book ìèñòè÷åñêàÿ ñòðàíà êåëüòîâ è äðóèäîâ (mysterious land of Celts and druids), which will give the reader some idea of her approach. Ms Donskova told Passport recently that she believes in ghosts, though she was unable to provide a satisfactory answer when Passport further asked why it is that ghosts seem only to appear in castles. Why are there no haunted dry-cleaning shops or exhaust-repair centers?
This, of course, is a frivolous quibble, and indeed serves to illustrate the extent to which Ms Donskova has entered into the spirit of her venture – pardon the pun. Øîòëàíäèÿ provides an excellent overview of Scottish history, with emphasis on those aspects which can be further explored by the visitor where there is a museum, exhibition or accessible place associated with them. This is something which conventional history books never provide. On the other hand, ordinary guide books which do suggest destinations generally do not have the depth of coverage, nor the feel for the subject, which Ms. Donskova brings to her work. The Russian Consulate in Edinburgh said recently that no fewer than 26,000 Russians came to Scotland last year (and an equivalent number of Scots applied for visas to Russia), so the demand is there.
All Russian-speakers who are going to this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, which runs from 11 to 27 August, should scoot round to Biblio-Globus and buy themselves a copy. It is 300 pages long, is extensively illustrated and has a substantial section on practical travel planning at the back. For further information on the Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Art, as well as the concurrent Film Festival, Book Festival, Fringe and Military Tattoo, see www.eif.co.uk
Official tips for UK visas
As the demand for British visas continues to rise, the Embassy in Moscow has published a helpful list of tips for those submitting applications. They are listed in full on the website www.britaininrussia.ru, but can be summarized here:
Fill the application form in English and in capital letters. Submit sufficient supporting documentation. “Most applications are assessed on paper,” the Embassy comments “so the Visa Officer needs sufficient proof that you are going to the UK for the reason you have stated, that you have enough funds to stay there, and that you plan to return. The more information you can provide, the better.”
The third and fourth tips are perhaps obvious: Don’t fake documents, and if called for an interview, tell the truth. Finally, the Embassy says, “If you are refused, don’t worry. Very few applications are refused. And a senior manager checks all refusals. But if you are refused, you have the right to re-apply. More importantly, we will always tell you why you were refused. You can use this information to reapply, providing the necessary additional documentation to demonstrate that you satisfy the criteria for a visa.”
The Embassy has recently reduced the price for visas required by sports and artistic performers by 50%. So if you happen to be going to Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival, try to get invited to put on an act there, as part of the Fringe. I can recommend The Stand, a comedy club in Queen Street, which allows most people – even A.L. Kennedy struts her stuff there – to get up on stage and tell hilarious stories about the absurdities of everyday life. Perhaps you could do an act about applying for a British visa in Moscow and thereby qualify for a reduction in the price of that visa. Applying on that basis might give you enough material to make your act really worth staging, which in turn would make your application legally valid. Just don’t tell the Embassy stamp-wallah that you got the idea from Passport!
Options on Canadian visas
The Canadian Embassy has been kind enough to send us a very detailed account of the latest news about travel to Canada on business. It is far too long even to summarize here, but we hope that those Passport readers who are planning a visit to the land of lumberjacks, Mounties and ice-hockey will take up the invitation to ask for further information which has been generously offerred by Paul Whelan, who is both Minister-Counsellor in Moscow and Ministre-Conseiller in Moscou.
In the meantime, Mr./M. Whelan’s most useful bit of news is the following (in English only):
“Beginning in April, we are now offering applicants the option of applying through one of our Service Providers rather than having to come to the Embassy in person to apply. We have two Service Providers: the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which has offices in Moscow, Almaty, Yerevan, Bishkek and Dushanbe, and Pony Express, which has offices in over a hundred locations across Russia, as well as in Kazakhstan. You can read more about this new service by visiting our web site at www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/canada-europa/russia/
“In brief, the Service Providers will take applications at any one of their points of service, and deliver the passport and visas back to the traveller at the same place. Applicants in Vladivostok, for example, will no longer have to cover eight time zones to come to Moscow and line up at the Embassy to submit their applications. The Service Providers charge a fee for this service, but measured against the cost of time and money involved in travelling to Moscow, or even across town given the by now infamous Moscow traffic, this new arrangement provides an attractive option.”