Indonesia and the Soviet Union were considered brothers at that time because of their closeness
Moscow (ANTARA) - Indonesia not only shares a business relationship with Russia but also close ties, like two brothers, that have lasted for 77 years since being established in 1945.

Lecturer of International Relations at Brawijaya University in Indonesia Arief Setiawan remarked that the relationship between Indonesia and Russia was like two brothers that cannot be separated from the relationship between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Indonesia during the reign of first President of Indonesia Soekarno in 1956.

"The Soviet Union at that time assisted Indonesia in providing defense equipment for the benefit of the liberation of West Irian as well as related to education issues," Arief told ANTARA.

The Master Alumni at the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia said, one example in the field of education was that in 1960, in Indonesia, the USSR had announced plans to open the Peoples-Friendship University.

The USSR also assisted Indonesia in the construction of the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium and also the Persahabatan Hospital.

“The Soviet Union even gave the Tugu Tani as a prize to Indonesia. The farmer's monument was a gift from the Soviets," Arief remarked.

Arief also said that the close brotherly ties between Indonesia and Russia were reflected in several Indonesian songs, such as “Rayuan Pulau Kelapa” and “Naik Delman,” during the Soekarno era that were translated into Russian.

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“Indonesia and the Soviet Union were considered brothers at that time because of their closeness. Even when Bung Karno gave a speech at the Kremlin in 1956, the Muslim community came in droves because they felt they were part of Indonesia," he explained.

Citing data from the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during the era of independence, the USSR had, in fact, extended significant assistance to Indonesia. During the diplomatic struggle for Indonesia's independence during the 1945-1950 period, USSR was one of the countries that welcomed the country’s efforts to be free.

At that time, the USSR encouraged the United Nations forum to urge the Dutch to stop military aggression on the Earth Archipelago.

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The Peak of Brotherhood
The 1956-1962 period was the peak of "intimate" relations between Indonesia and the Soviet Union. This was reflected in the close relationship between the two heads of state through mutual visits.

On August 28-September 12, 1956, President Soekarno visited Moscow. During the visit, on September 11, 1956, in the presence of President Soekarno and high-ranking Soviet Union officials, such as Mikoyan, Voroshilov, Kaganovich and Malenkov, Indonesian Foreign Minister Ruslan Abdulgani and Soviet Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gromyko signed a Joint Statement.

In February 1960, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev had also visited Indonesia.

As a result of these visits, agreements were reached to bolster relations and cooperation in various fields, including politics, economy, socio-culture, humanity, and the military, such as the disbursement of financial aid, construction of various projects, and the supply of military equipment from the Soviet Union to Indonesia.

Indonesia's closeness with the USSR during the Soekarno era took a beating during the era of Indonesia's second President Suharto due to the issue of communism in Indonesia, though the ties were quickly restored with Suharto's visit to Moscow in 1989.

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Despite politically, Indonesia's relations with the USSR having died out, socio-culturally, Indonesia's relations with the Soviet Union were maintained, for instance, with several universities in the Soviet Union at that time, one of which was MGIMO University (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) that still taught Indonesian language.

“Food Diplomacy”
The history, good relations, and brotherhood between Indonesia and Russia are not only to be remembered but also important to be maintained and improved continuously in various sectors and in myriad ways, one of which is through introduction to the younger generation of the two countries.

Arief said to maintain and boost relations between Indonesia and Russia, gastronomic diplomacy that encompassed culinary arts and culture should be improved.

According to Arief, gastronomic diplomacy is more important than a political approach that is generally based on interests.

“Culture is carried out by the community, so it is difficult to stop. Like during the Suharto era, politically, relations between the two countries did not develop, but socio-culturally, the relationship is still ongoing,” he pointed out.

Arief noted that so far, gastronomic diplomacy had been conducted by the Indonesian Embassy in Moscow, for instance, through wayang kulit performances, including the Indonesian culinary festival in Moscow.

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“(This is) because gastronomy is one of the contemporary diplomacy trends. How to introduce the typical food of a country to a foreign country is important, so that you know Indonesia is like this, Russia is like that. Hence, there is no limit to the knowledge that Russia must be vodka, even though there are Russian pancakes, or something else, for example,” he explained.

He assessed that the steps taken by the Indonesian Embassy in Moscow were good, albeit an improvement was needed to make it more massive.

Giving It to the Young
In line with Arief's view, Director of the Indonesia-Russia Youth Association (IRYA), Dr. Nikita Kuklin told ANTARA that the main objective behind maintaining and improving relations between Indonesia and Russia, including between Russia and the ASEAN, was to create a wider network for the younger generation, diplomats, journalists, politicians, activists, and experts from both countries.

Nikita emphasized that a wide network should be offered to those, who can provide real examples and share from each other's experiences. He emphasized the need to consider the cultural aspect that is not only in the terms of mainstream colorful images but also from the point of deep cultural analysis of each other.

“In fact, there is a question of philosophical concepts and tradition exchange, worldview, and way of thinking. Otherwise, young professionals are able to interact at the level of direct humanitarian ties,” he stated.

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He noted that this can be in the form of promoting political dialogue, helping businesses, or building their own joint business in Russia and ASEAN countries, including Indonesia, as well as developing educational programs, start-ups, creative projects, and events, for instance, religious contacts.

“Young professionals are distinguished from their more experienced colleagues by their greater courage and flexibility to change the world,” he remarked.

Tourism, Culture and more
Meanwhile, Acting Director of the ASEAN Center at MGIMO University, Dr. Ekaterina Koldunova, said that Indonesia-Russia relations could be improved by expanding the information network between both nations.

In this case, she said, people in Russia look forward to the convenience of tourism destinations, for instance, by restarting direct flights between Indonesia and Russia. Thus, the flow of tourists from both countries can return to normal, and all information between both nations can be obtained easily.

“Of course, culture, education, and promotion are very important. Culture (depicted through mediums), such as fashion and films, will be more easily accepted by ordinary people," she stated.

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She emphasized that the promotion and introduction of Indonesian culture that had, so far, been conducted by the Indonesian Embassy in Moscow had to be continued.

“Last August, there was a music, dance, and cultural festival in the heart of Moscow. This must be done regularly. Indonesia is very interesting and presents many opportunities for business, cultural, educational, and other activities,” Ekaterina stated.

She also said that Indonesia, as one of the founding countries of ASEAN and as chairperson of the 2023 ASEAN Summit, is expected to provide strong initiatives for the region to strengthen dialogue with Russia.

According to Ekaterina, in a difficult situation as in the current times, Indonesia's relations with Russia are still going well. She expressed optimism that with Indonesia's chairmanship at the ASEAN Summit, more intensive political dialogue would be held, so that economic relations would develop better and dynamically.

"We hope that Indonesia has close involvement with Russia in public diplomacy, and we also hope that there will be a new wave to improve connections between people through educational programs and student exchanges," Ekaterina explained.

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Russian eastern culture
Some of those who have never been to Russia may not know that the country also has an eastern culture, like Asians.

Lecturer of International Relations at Brawijaya University in Indonesia, Arief Setiawan, who has studied politics in Russia for at least three years during the 2011-2014 period, said that Russia has traditions similar to the easterners.

Russia's eastern culture is one of the factors in the creation of brotherly relations between Indonesia and Russia.

“I do not think Russians are completely western, not completely eastern, so mixed. However, Russia has that eastern culture. A small example while visiting and talking to the westerners is that it is a tradition that visitors do not bring anything, while eastern people definitely bring fruit and other souvenirs. Russians are also like the easterners, who bring something for small souvenirs," he said.

Arief said Russia is also influenced by Central Asian traditions, including of Muslims.

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Furthermore, Arief remarked that so far, the stigma about Russia had been distorted by the western media. The lay view of Russia has always been about communists and that the people are impolite.

“However, there is something else about getting to know Russians more closely. They are not those kind of people, who smile easily at strangers, but when we get to know each other closely, let alone get to their house and talk to them in the kitchen, it means that we are considered brothers," Arief stated.

Russian eastern cultures are clearly visible during direct interactions with Russian citizens.

Based on ANTARA's experience in Moscow while participating in the InterRussia Internship program organized by the Gorchakov Fund, Sputnik News Agency, and the ASEAN Center at MGIMO University, from September 11, 2022, to October 9, 2022, the habits of Russians and Indonesians bear a lot of resemblance.

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For instance, in public transport, including the Moscow underground, Russians are habituated to giving seats to people in greater need, such as the elderly, women, and those with special needs.

Russians would also keep the station doors open to make way for those behind them.

Russian people are far from the stigma that has been given by the western media. According to Arief, Russians have a kind of philosophy that one friend today is better than one thousand friends in the future, so Russians will maintain friendly relations to the best possible extent and will not easily forget. Hence, it is not surprising that brotherly relations between Indonesia and Russia have lasted until this day.

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Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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