Peshkov, who was once translator for Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, gave a brief lecture on relations between Ireland and Russia. This was followed by a Q&A with topics ranging from the marriage equality referendum in Ireland, the conflict in Syria and relations with the US.
Commenting on connections between Ireland and Russia, Peshkov said that the two have a similar “understanding of the essence of life,” as well as similarities in culture, art, economics and trade.
He spoke about celebrations of Irish culture in Russia, giving St. Patrick’s Day, when a parade and dancing are held in the streets of St. Petersburg, and Riverdance as examples. Peshkov drew comparisons between famous Irish writers, such as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats, and notable Russian writers like Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Gorky. He also noted the strong links between Russian and Irish ballet.
According to Peshkov, Russia and Ireland have similar economies despite their size difference and have always enjoyed good relations with each other. He spoke about the trade relationship between the two nations, which at their most prosperous saw Irish investments in the Russian economy to the value of around 22 billion dollars.
Referring to recent trade sanctions that have seen Irish exports to Russia fall significantly, he laughed and said “life is life… Sorry about this, these sanctions bring happiness to nobody,” setting off laughter among the audience as well.
Asked about his opinion on the passing of the marriage equality referendum in Ireland, he said: “It’s your choice, not ours. We have our laws and our structure and you have yours. We don’t teach you and we don’t want anyone to teach us.”
There were many questions from students focused on Russia’s relationships with a number of other countries.
In response to a question about the country’s relationship with North Korea, he replied that it is “nothing special. We are neighbours.”
Various questions were asked in relation to accusations that Russia bombed peaceful terrorists in Syria, to which he replied: “These accusations are only rumours made by haters. I don’t understand the difference between good terrorists and bad terrorists or moderate terrorists. Terrorists are terrorists.”
On the matter of Russian relations with the United States, Peshkov said that Russia takes a pragmatic approach and that the two countries have not left the table since the fall of the Berlin Wall. “I wouldn’t say we are good friends or enemies,” he said, stating that they are trying to find common ground at the moment. If a war broke out between the US and Russia, “it would be the end of the world,” he claimed. He also criticised the US for not helping Russia enough in dealing with the conflict in Syria. Russia has repeatedly asked the US “where to bomb,” however, the US has been unresponsive, he said.
On a lighter note, Peshkov told students that the best place to have Russian food in Dublin is at Admiral on Marlborough Street: “It’s Ukrainian,Russian, very good. Bon Appetit.”