The “Russian Weekend in Portsmouth” opened on Saturday with the dedication of a memorial plaque to 19th century Russian writer Ivan Goncharov (1812-1891), the author of the classic novel Oblomov.
The Russian Navy is represented in the British port by the large antisubmarine ship Vice Admiral Kulakov, which is returning from anti-piracy duty in the Gulf of Aden.
Goncharov visited Portsmouth 160 years ago while serving as the admiral’s secretary aboard the frigate Pallada, which sailed from St. Petersburg all the way to Japan.
The log book from the expedition, which it was Goncharov’s duty to keep, served as the basis for The Frigate Pallada, a travelogue still considered one of the finest in the Russian language.
Portsmouth was the first stop on that voyage and Goncharov’s first visit to a foreign country. During the month the Pallada was in port, Goncharov was able to visit London where, among other things, he witnessed the funeral of the Duke of Wellington.
The Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko and Portsmouth Lord Mayor Frank Jonas dedicated the plaque, which was a gift from the city of Goncharov's birth, Ulyanovsk (formerly Simbirsk).
The Russian Weekend coincides with festivities surrounding the 200th anniversary of Portsmouth native Charles Dickens, who was born in 1812, the same year as Goncharov.
The Vice-Admiral Kulakov will be open to the public on Sunday and on Monday its crew will play a football match against the crew of the HMS Illustrious.