China’s New Silk Road: Weekly Arts & Culture Round Up – June 26, 2020

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The Great Game: The Epic Story Behind Today’s BRI Headlines
Peter Hopkirk’s spellbinding account of the great imperial struggle for supremacy in Central Asia has long been regarded as essential reading with that era’s legacy playing itself out today along China’s Belt & Road Initiative. The Great Game between Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia was fought across desolate terrain from the Caucasus to China, over the lonely passes of the Parmirs and Karakorams, in the blazing Kerman and Helmund deserts, and through the caravan towns of the old Silk Road—both powers scrambling to control access to the riches of India and the East. When play first began, the frontiers of Russia and British India lay 2000 miles apart; by the end, this distance had shrunk to twenty miles at some points. Now, in the vacuum left by the disintegration of the Soviet Union, there is once again talk of Russian soldiers “dipping their toes in the Indian Ocean.”  In this gripping narrative Hopkirk recounts a breathtaking tale of espionage and treachery through the actual experiences of its colorful characters. Based on meticulous scholarship and on-the-spot research, this is the history at the core of today’s geopolitics. Available on Amazon here

Boris Grebenshchikov – Russia’s Bob Dylan
Boris Grebenshchikov is one of the most prominent members of the generation which is widely considered the “founding fathers” of Russian rock music. Due as much to his personal contribution as to the undisputed and lasting success of his main effort, the band Aquarium, he is a household name in Russia and much of the former Soviet Union. In 1997 his album Lilith was recorded, by way of a chance meeting, with his idol Bob Dylan’s backup band, The Band. He has also worked with the Eurythmics and numerous other Western musicians including Gabrielle Roth. His album Lilith can be found on YouTube here

Leningrad – Louboutin
Sticking with this weeks Russian theme, be introduced to Leningrad, probably the baddest ass band in Russia right now. Their song / video “Louboutin” was a number one for weeks in Russia and is both hilarious, very naughty, danceable, subversive, sexy and rather wonderful all at the same time. Plus it takes the piss out of Victoria Beckham. The excellent video, with English subtitles, is below.

Robbie Williams – Party Like A Russian
The ‘Rock DJ’ meets Prokofiev. Really. Apparently inspired by a real party Williams attended thrown by a Russian Oligarch. Spasibo!


The White Sun Of The Desert. The Film Cosmonauts Watch Before Blast Off.
This Middle-Eastern, or rather a Central-Asian action film, about the Red Army fighting counter-revolutionary robber bands has become not only a cult movie, but also one of the favorites for several generations of viewers. With Russian cosmonauts, it is a tradition to view this film before going to outer space. The films success paved the way for a genre of national ‘Eastern’ style films . A demobbed soldier, Fyodor Sukhov, is making his way through the desert to his home village. The brutal Abdulla is raging war in that area. Sukhov is responsible for escorting the chiefs harem to safety, because Abdulla intended to kill his women rather than let them go free. Sukhovs mate, a young soldier Petrukha, dies at the hand of Abdulla. But at the decisive moment, Sukhov gets help from the former customs officer Vereshchagin and a poor peasant, Said. Chaos and love ensue. The sub-titled film can be found on Amazon here

Chris’s Colonial Cocktails – Bolor Vodka
Today I feature just a simple straight up chilled vodka in line with the rest of this weeks theme. But what a Vodka it is! Bolor – ‘Crystal’ in Mongolian, was originally distilled in Ulaan Baatar to commemorate the first Mongolian Cosmonaut in space, J.Gurragchaa, in 1981. The original bottles had a yellow label with an image of the Soviet Space Station on it, these days they are artistically shaped like a Crystal bottle. There are variants, such as Cranberry and so on, but the plain Vodka is the best. It is also the best Vodka available in Mongolia. Drink chilled, and yell out ‘Toktoy!’ Repeat. (Often).


About Us

Silk Road Briefing is published by Dezan Shira & Associates. Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the practice Chairman. Please contact Chris at or through his Linked In account, or visit the firm at


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