Libmonster ID: UK-1304
Author(s) of the publication: Yu. M. SOKOLOV

Yu. M. SOKOLOV

Retired Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

New Zealand Keywords:PolynesiaSamoa, Cook Islands

The inhabitants of Western Samoa (now the Independent State of Samoa) are similar to Tongans and dress much the same. For some reason, it was here that my attention was first drawn to the feet of men (below the skirts they are open to traditional sandals), often covered with incomprehensible blue spots. It turned out that they were lovers of fishing on coral reefs. Toxic coral pricks cause long-term ulcers that do not heal, after which such spots remain.

INDEPENDENT STATE OF SAMOA

According to Michener, "on the island of Upolu (the main island of the country. - Yu. S.) preserved, perhaps, the most refined Polynesians. Men and women walk like gods with incomparable dignity. In London or Paris, you will never see such beautiful old men as these Samoans. They are politically active and intellectually capable. And their island is an example of calm charm. The road from the airport to Apia is a dream trail, permeated by the sun"1. But the excitement wanes when he adds, "Samoa is a very hot, very wet, sometimes tropical place."2. However, it turns out that it was the islands of Samoa that made the deepest impression on American soldiers during the Oceania War.

Quite a different opinion was held at the end of the XIX century by the English writer R. L. Stevenson (1850-1894) and his wife Fanny in the collection of their letters and diaries "Four years in Samoa", in which they characterized the Samoans as easy, carefree, always ready to rejoice people-the most cheerful, although far from the most capable and not the most the most beautiful (!) people among the Polynesians. And Fanny has traveled extensively in Polynesia, both with her husband and on her own, from Hawaii to Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Tokelau, and Melanesia. Therefore, for my part, I tend to listen more to the opinion of a woman. However, these estimates differ in time by almost 60 years. Fanny's diaries also contain references to the free handling of their property by Samoans who worked for them.

As Stevenson joked, in order to get to Samoa, you need to get to America, cross the continent to San Francisco, and from there take a second right turn. We didn't use this hint. On my first trip to Western Samoa, I asked the attached driver if he could deliver our souvenirs to the people I would be visiting (as was done in Moscow). It was a good thing he didn't hesitate to correct me by saying that they were supposed to give their presents in person.

In Apia, we sometimes stayed at the large Tusitala Hotel (approximate translation - "Storyteller of tales"), so fondly called Robert Louis Stevenson in the islands. It is there, by inviting to the reception part


Ending. For the beginning, see: Asia and Africa Today, 2011, N 11, 12.

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I learned from my local leadership that Polynesians like to be late. The first guests began to arrive slowly, more than an hour late, when my assistant and I had already decided to close the failed event. In the future, everything went according to plan, including an exchange of brief speeches. Much to my surprise, the hotel was Japanese-owned.

But most often we lived in separate bungalows at the Aggie Grey Hotel on the famous waterfront. It turned out that Aggie Gray is a very famous hostess of the largest hotel, and by my first visit she was already 90 years old. I saw her from afar in a wheelchair, but I was too shy to approach her. She died shortly afterwards. It was made famous by the same Michener, first in his war reports, and then in the book "South Pacific Tales". The fact is that her bar and restaurant were especially loved by American soldiers, who were regularly taken to Samoa to rest between battles. Her youngest granddaughter, Aggie Gray, a tall, beautiful half-breed who now runs the hotel, gave me a book about her grandmother, "Aggie Gray. The Samoan saga "("Aggy Grey. The Samoan Saga"). It was written by the aforementioned Faye Alailima, author of My Samoan Chief. A well-illustrated edition with a foreword by "Michener himself" about Aggie reads in one breath; it is fascinating and sympathetically tells about the fate of a Samoan family against the background of historical events in Western Samoa and around this country. The events that took place, wars, civil strife and unrest are described according to well-known historical facts. The appendix contains a bibliography; notes; a short glossary of Samoan words, names, expressions; the structure of family relationships, etc.

When I was in Wellington, the High Commissioner (Ambassador)was the doyen of the diplomatic corps almost all the time Of Western Samoa, he is also a significant Samoan chieftain. He was well versed in protocol issues, spoke smoothly and with humor. Fei Alailima in the" Samoan saga "tells that in every village or tribe, or large family, there were "speakers", whose duty was and remains to report news to the tribesmen, discuss emerging internal and external problems. They can usually talk for hours, have well-reasoned and witty discussions, and hold competitive debates with colleagues. Therefore, they are popular and respected people. To me, our doyen was like such a speaker.

Once I invited him to the residence with my wife for a dinner, which was fun and useful. It turned out that the colleague was a big fan of jokes about mothers-in-law, which we exchanged with him to his sincere surprise and pleasure. Practicing diplomats should know better that, for example, in Vietnam, mothers-in-law are respected family members, so jokes about them would be perceived with resentment, and not in the same way as in Russia. The friendship that developed helped me get the latest news from Samoa, and solve various issues during two annual trips. For example, about the preparation of the visit of the delegation of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR headed by the chairman of the State Committee for Hydrometeorology and Industry Yu.A. Izraelsm. In one of the Samoan villages, the head of the delegation was elected honorary chief, with the presentation of a long carved staff and a multi-tailed whip, a kind of scepter and power. Soon another typhoon caused damage to this village, and our "honorary leader" received a request in Moscow for material assistance, including the purchase of a schooner. Even if I know the Samoans only a little, I can guarantee that they laughed among themselves when they made the Russian chief a "leader", and when they sent a request for help.

After this visit and a closer acquaintance with the Speaker of the Parliament, I was approached on his recommendation by a young girl leader who needed data on the policy of the USSR in the region (for writing a dissertation). I was happy to tell her about it and provide her with materials. The speaker himself, a friend of our doyen, paid me a visit later in Wellington, which was unusual.

According to one unpatriotic quote by Michener, "the Germans have owned Samoa for less than a generation, but they have done more to improve the island - better medical care, better roads, a better economic system-than the United States has done on its own (American) Samoa in 40 years." 3 However, the Stevensons gave them modern German, as well as English the authorities have the most unflattering assessments. One way or another, the staff of the local Foreign Ministry, like all Samoans who spoke English, regularly went on internships in the (then) The Federal Republic of Germany, apparently, retains friendly feelings towards the Germans.

Despite my German training, the Foreign Ministry of that country almost let me down once. On behalf of Moscow, I had to fly specially to Apia in February 1988 and hand over to the Prime Minister of Samoa, Waai Colon, the instrument of ratification of the signing by the Soviet Union of the 2nd and 3rd Protocols to the Rarotonga Treaty on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific. He usually visited the island states in spring and autumn, during periods of good weather. I was ordered to hand over the mentioned documents immediately (when they had the summer). Here I was "lucky" to experience tropical downpours and strong winds. When we came back to this question a few months later, the Samoans could not find the papers I had given them at all. Our Foreign Ministry was noticeably tense, apparently suspecting a flaw on my part. Thank God that they were still found in the rubble of the local foreign ministry.

But enough of the sad stuff. Inte-

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Fun fact: Maugham's dramatic short story "The Backwater" describes a popular swimming spot on the outskirts of Apia, where a small river flows into the sea and where the hero of the story committed suicide. We went swimming there several times, but it took us a long time to compare the facts, and we didn't realize that we were swimming in a historical place. Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, is also described in Maugham's action-packed short story "Rain" and the Alailima Fairies ' book "The Samoan Saga". I got there quite by accident, flying with an assistant from the Cook Islands to Western Samoa. After taking off from Awarua (the capital of the Islands), our Polynesian Airlines plane landed a short time later. Since this flight usually goes directly to Western Samoa, we got off the plane. The fact is that there are several airfields in Samoa, in addition to the central one, so it was possible to make a mistake in appearance. We got off, the plane flew away, no one met us, and we begin to understand that there was some mistake. Indeed, it turned out to be American Samoa, a major US naval base, where, of course, the Soviet man did not set foot, and where this foot was completely undesirable. It seems that we needed at least an American visa, but with the assistance of military sailors, we managed to stay for a day in a hotel while waiting for the next flight to Western Samoa. I think it was no accident that the hotel was recommended on the very outskirts of Pago Pago, so that we would not be active in the center of the town. It rained all the time, just like in Maugham's story. Coincidentally or not, the host was not very friendly, which is not typical for Polynesians.

One of my business trips took me to the second major island of Western Samoa, Savai'i, whose leaders resisted, though unsuccessfully, the hostile machinations of imperialism in the nineteenth century (Stevenson's Diaries and Letters, Four Years in Samoa, The Samoan Saga). Two buildings of a large hotel where we stayed were almost completely destroyed by a typhoon a year later.

Stevenson's large house in Western Samoa, named "Vailima", was bought after his death by a Russian merchant with the German surname Kunst, then sold to the German government; during the First World War, it was confiscated by the British, and it housed their administration. It was also subsequently handed over to the Samoan Government and turned into a reception house for the Head of State. There I had to drink tea several times, feeling a sense of awe, because I loved Stevenson from childhood. I am told that the building has been expanded many times over the past hundred years, so that the original Stevenson house is only a quarter of the one I have visited.

In 1991, the house was damaged by a typhoon, after which a special fund was created to raise funds for the restoration of the building and the creation of a Stevenson Museum on the second floor. It was meant that the executive premises for the head of state would still be located below. All this was intended to attract tourists, especially in connection with the approaching 100th anniversary of the writer's death in 1994. The fund's directors, in addition to the head of state and the prime minister, were three rich American businessmen who organized the whole thing. By a strange coincidence, all three were Mormons or Latter-day Saints. An interesting coincidence.

By the way, in New Zealand, which provides "development assistance" to a number of island countries, I was told that after another natural disaster, many of the island states deliberately exaggerate the amount of damage (typical Polynesian tricks). During my trips to Samoa, I was also contacted for help. As a rule, he replied that we pay millions of dollars to the UN, whose specialized agencies are called upon to distribute funds. Once I went to one of these organizations, either UNICEF or UNIDO, but was greeted not as a representative of one of the major donor countries, but rather with suspicion.

COOK ISLANDS, WHERE THE FAMOUS CAPTAIN DID NOT DIE

Listening to the" Polynesian " song by Vladimir Vysotsky, I used to think, like all Soviet people, that the famous Kapi-

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tan died a gastronomic death in the Cook Islands, a small country consisting of 15 islands. Of course, this turned out to be very far from the truth, and once again testified to my lack of knowledge of such an important issue. Having clarified this issue, I visited all three island states without any concerns.

However, the Russian press expressed a different opinion. For example, the weekly "Big City" in 2002 published a note by a representative of a Russian travel agency who visited New Zealand for a period of three weeks at the invitation of the Ministry of Tourism (I deliberately do not mention his name). His conclusion is: "There is a special Mount Cook, that is, the place where the aborigines, according to legend, ate it" (find three errors).

The main island of the country with the fabulous and affectionate name Rarotonga, located in the southern group of islands, has an almost rounded shape, and the picturesque, overgrown volcanic mountains towering in the center are surrounded on all sides by a narrow plain strip with the local version of "MKAD". It was here that we repeatedly rode around the island (about 30 km) on light motorcycles belonging to the hotel, dodging barking dogs, although I was allocated a car with a driver (I had my motorcycle driving license with me, obtained in Vienna in 1957).

Most of the island's perimeter is lined with beautiful white sandy beaches, delightful lagoons with picturesque islets, where it is convenient to swim up on a single small canoe. Further out to sea - coral reefs. Thus, outwardly it is one of the most ideal examples of paradise. However, Thor Heyerdahl in 1936, choosing with his wife a place where they intended to live for a whole year away from the noise of the city, refused the option of Rarotonga due to the fact that there was already a ring road around the island. Too much civilization, you see, that he was just trying to escape from!

When you first step down the plane ramp to land in Rarotonga, you are immediately captured by the unforgettable sweet, thick aroma of tropical flowers with a predominance of hibiscus. In addition, all passengers wear wreaths of fragrant flowers around their necks. You can immediately feel that this smell is not the same as in Tonga or Samoa. The men and women of the Cook Islands, who are also called Maori, are smaller than in Tonga and Samoa, not at all plump, they are more slender, agile, very witty, literate, and speak good English. Kukovtsy are friendly, like to joke.

For example, on one of my visits I went to their parliament to listen to a debate. I sat down not in plain sight, but on one of the visitor's seats next to the Japanese tour group. Shortly before that, the government changed there after the elections. Another speaker from the opposition suddenly offered to "welcome our friend Soviet Ambassador Yuri", which was done. I had to stand up and bow. He further expressed the hope that the new Government would pay the Ambassador as much attention as the previous one. The members of Parliament (all men) laughed together, and so did I. The Japanese tourists looked at me in fright, not understanding what was going on. The next day, the local Foreign Ministry sent me a small but very well-made carving. This is what a well-established and well-functioning legislative and executive vertical (or spiral) means.

While sincerely respecting the Crown Prince and the King of Tonga, I couldn't help but fall for the unobtrusive charm and humor of Geoffrey Henry, the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands. We have established both friendly and business relations with him. It was he who, after the Spitak earthquake, offered us a free one-year license to fish in their economic zone. I thanked him for this on behalf of our government, even though I knew that such fishing was unprofitable for our fishing vessels. In late 1991 or early 1992, due to reports of food difficulties in Russia, he expressed his readiness to send several containers of breadfruit to Vladivostok. In fact, it was for these trees that Captain Bligh sailed to Polynesia in the sloop Bounty, after which the mutiny occurred. I remember how I racked my brain for a long time, imagining the appearance of these unknown fruits at the Vladivostok customs.

page 62

Geoffrey Henry was also an expert on good manners. One day, he invited me to the seaside restaurant "Fire Tree" along with a number of ministers and their wives. Waiters gradually brought in snacks. Suddenly, I noticed that some of the people present were already eating, without waiting for the food to be served to the prime minister as the host of the event. I confess that I took this behavior for their democratic tradition and also began to eat a snack. Finally, the food was served to everyone, and Geoffrey Henry raised his glass of wine and smiled.: "Bon apeti!". They all laughed. I want to point out that on my next visit, it was pretty much the same, except that I didn't start eating until Henry raised his glass. Before that, we exchanged glances with smiles. However, it is possible that other ministers or other wives were present for the second time.

One day, the Foreign Secretary, Norman George, introduced me to the Ministers of Justice and Finance of the Kingdom of Tonga at a reception. When the guests left, George conspiratorially informed them that the Tongans had come to learn from the experience of creating a "tax haven" in the Cook Islands, where, if I'm not mistaken, a number of foreign banks were entrenched at that time. With a sly smile, he said that it was their duty to help their neighbors, but they wouldn't tell them all the details. So much for Polynesian solidarity.

At first, the leaders of Western Samoa and the Cook Islands asked me with pessimism during meetings whether there would be a "superpower clash"in Oceania. He responded negatively, referring to the absence of the Soviet Navy in this region, to our proposals for arms reduction, etc. However, it took time for the fears to disappear.

James Michener, who denies the post-war damage caused to the Polynesian way of life by the" invasion " of Oceania by American troops, cites the example of Aitutaki Island, where in 1943-1946, according to his data, about 76% of newborns were children of Americans stationed there. According to him, everyone on the island was happy, and the children turned out to be good and healthy.

Maybe that's why the island with its picturesque huge lagoon and white beaches later became a vacation destination for New Zealand "bosses", for example, Prime Minister David Longy. According to their recommendations, I flew there on a small plane, but I can't confirm or refute the above statements of the writer. But local fishermen made me happy with the news that a Soviet submarine had recently surfaced in the sea nearby. When asked how they identified it, I was told: "Whose else could it be?"

Once I also visited a small island in the same southern group of Atiu, where I had to sleep under nets and with mosquito candles burning. Mosquitoes lived not only in bungalows, but also in cars, in underground caves and on the open beach. In the evening, we were mysteriously invited to get acquainted with an old island custom. After wandering through the night forest, we came to a small hut, where about 15 locals were already waiting with a metal barrel of brewed braga (I'm not sure if it was the famous kava*). The "toastmaster" treated each of those present in turn, drawing a rather weak drink from the same half of a coconut shell. It was inconvenient to refuse. I had to answer questions about our country.

At some point, my assistant took out a large bottle of Stolichnaya and a pack of disposable cups. We poured our liquid into cups, instructing them to "reach the bottom". We set an example that everyone followed. There was a deep silence. And suddenly, all those present simultaneously "broke out" in a discordant chorus a song that, unfortunately, did not resemble the chorales sung by the Tongans. In the confusion that ensued, we were escorted to the hotel and told that it was forbidden to drink braga in the presence of the British and New Zealanders. Therefore, everything happened in secret places in the forest. Now there is no ban, but the men of the village pretend that they drink in secret from their wives, and the wives pretend that they do not know anything.

Still, Rarotonga is the most beautiful island. Even Michener, who was spoiled by Polynesia, admitted in a moment of weakness: "If I had to go on vacation only on one island of the Pacific Ocean, I would choose Rarotonga. It is as beautiful as Tahiti, but calmer, more conservative. The food may be worse, but the climate is better, and the natives are less spoiled."4. Indeed, there is also clearly felt the slowness of life, bliss and laziness, as in Tahiti, punctuality is not in the price, the concept of" urgency " is absent, and lateness to meetings become a reason for personal pride. As one of the foreigners noted, on Rarotonga, cars move at a speed of 20-30 km per hour, so as not to disturb the sleepy idyll, and not because of "speed bumps". Personally checked: they are not on the island.

In the Cook Islands, no one also knew that Suvarov Atoll was named after the great Russian commander A.V. Suvorov. Even the very intelligent permanent representative of the Islands in Wellington. One day, he requested an urgent meeting and showed us aerial photos of a small warship with two large spherical antennas. The ship was parked on the shore of one of their uninhabited patches of land. According to him, who I could trust, it was a Soviet ship that had entered their waters without permission. He apologized for the obvious mistake of our sailors, said,


* Cava (Polynesia. kawa, kaua - bitter) - a kind of spicy tree, from the fruits of which the drink of the same name is made.

page 63

that I will report this to Moscow. He expressed confidence that the uninhabited island was mistaken for a "no man's land". The matter was complicated by the fact that the pictures were taken by New Zealand patrol aircraft (the Kukovtsy do not have such aircraft, the defense of their country is actually in the competence of the New Zealand military). Given that this was happening in the midst of our perestroika, they didn't raise any fuss, even the local media didn't get anything.

In Rarotonga, in 1988, I was invited to visit a perfume factory. It was located in a prefabricated hangar in the forest. There were two boilers in the room, and two elderly women were sitting in the corner. They manually poured liquids into bottles of various shapes and cut the soap frozen in the trays with a kitchen knife. The owner of the factory, a European, proudly showed off his products-sweet floral perfume and coconut soap. I bought several samples from him, of which the most practical and pleasant was soap. He gave me his business card, then remembered and added the fax number on it, remarking: "How can it be now without a fax!". When he returned to Wellington, he told a diplomatic staff meeting that there was a fax machine in a shed in the woods in the Cook Islands, while the embassy only had a teletype. We bought a fax machine and were happy to join the general flow of development of innovative technologies. Two months later, a strict request came from the Monetary and Financial Department of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We were asked to explain the purposes for which the mysterious fax machine we purchased is being used! Raising his voice, he gave instructions not to answer anything, let them suffer. In this way, the Cook Islands, albeit indirectly, but contributed to the technological progress in our embassy. This happened at a time when the entire New Zealand banking system was already computerized. Even in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Smolenskaya Square, there were already two bulky computer cabinets.

The Cook Islands is an associated State with New Zealand. Foreign relations and defense of the country for many years were entirely in the competence of Wellington. Therefore, foreign ambassadors are accredited in Wellington, not in Awarua. But in recent years, the Prime Ministers and the Government of the Islands have become increasingly independent on these issues.

Now more than 25 thousand kukovtsy live in New Zealand and less than 17 thousand-in their own country. There is a process of washing out the population from small islands and atolls and moving to the main island of Rarotonga. In turn, it is used as a springboard on the way to New Zealand, where Kukovtsy automatically receive New Zealand citizenship as citizens of an associated state. This is reminiscent of our emigration in the 1980s through Austria, and then everywhere else.

In the Cook Islands, both Cook and New Zealand money are officially in circulation. The government, "moonlighting" on postage stamps, as is customary among Tongans, to the delight of numismatists, also issued cute coins, beautifully packaged in klassery. All had the familiar profile of Elizabeth II stamped on one side, a flower (5 cents), a crab (10), a bird (20), and a turtle (50) on the other. Larger coins: round with wavy edges and the image of the god of fertility Tangaroa ($1), triangular with a traditional kitchen mortar ($2) and bronze 12-coal with the image of a sink ($5). The most popular was a one-dollar coin with a god who modestly displayed an exaggerated "organ of fertility" in profile.

Before my first flight to New Zealand, I was approached by several employees with a request to send them such coins for original gifts to friends and necessary people (men). This was repeated every year when I went on vacation. Even the puritanical Foreign Ministry of the USSR had a long hand of Polynesian sexuality. It turned out that in the Cook Islands it is not so easy to find these coins, because all foreign tourists tried to stock up on them. Once I even had to go to the local central bank...

In these countries, he worked as the Ambassador of the Soviet Union and Russia for exactly five years-1987-1992.


Michener James A. 1 Return to Paradise, Corgi Books, London, 1951, p. 59.

2 Ibidem.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., p. 58.


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