What are Russia's relations with Cuba

HavanaRussia's comeback in Cuba

Manuel skillfully balances the tray with the coconuts and the rum bottle over the beach of Santa Maria del Mar. The slalom run between the parasols has long been routine for him. And he has a nose for it, or rather sharpened ears, in order to head for those parasols under which the potentially best customers have settled.

Russian men, he knows from experience, are not only hard-drinking, but also extremely receptive to more or less high-proof exotic drinks. And there is no shortage of Russians at the Playas del Este - the house beaches at the gates of Havana.

Manuel skillfully balances the tray with the coconuts and the rum bottle over the beach of Santa Maria del Mar. (Henning von Löwis)

The four Russians who are currently setting up their loungers - as they say - only arrived in Cuba yesterday and still have to get used to the climate and the Cuban times.

Sergej is Muscovite, like his three companions. This is not his first time in Cuba. The tattoo on his chest - the portrait of Che Guevara - demonstrates that he apparently feels particularly attached to the country that was once the brother country of the Soviet Union.

Where in the world is there a rum museum where the tour of the exhibition rooms ends at the bar. Guided tours through the museum in the port district of Havana are offered in all world languages ​​- including Russian, of course.

The gong signals that it is now the turn of the tour group from Moscow. Cuba's young tourist guides cannot avoid doing what their fathers or grandfathers did: they have to learn Russian.

He studied at the foreign language faculty here in Havana, says Pavel - and regrets that his English is not as good as his Russian. Pavel only travels with Russians in Havana - with the Russians who wanted to experience more than sun and sand on vacation, he adds. Does the influx of Russians also have a political dimension or is it just tourism? - Pavel doesn't think twice:

"I would say yes. We are renewing our relations. Not to the extent that it was in the days of the Soviet Union, but we have good relations."

Things have been looking up since Putin

Since Vladimir Putin took over the helm in Russia, bilateral relations have been steadily improving.

August 2013. The cannons of the Cabana military fortress fire a salute for ships of the Russian Navy arriving in Havana for a friendship visit. At the head of the squadron the missile cruiser "Moskva" - the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet.

Cooperation in the energy sector is particularly important for Cuba, underpinned by agreements recently signed in Saint Petersburg. The spectrum of cooperation extends from nuclear medicine to space travel.

Vladimir Putin met Fidel Castro several times. And Putin's close confidante Vladimir Yakunin, head of the Russian Railways, makes no secret of his sympathy for Cuba's revolutionary leader:

"I met Fidel Castro personally and was impressed by his personality. That was a long time ago, when he was still a strong man. He saw that I was smoking cigars back then and he knew that when I smoked cigars I breathed the smoke into my lungs . He wondered because you don't smoke cigars that way. He then gave me a box of his personal cigars and we talked for a long time. "

Yakunin has not heard any criticism of Cuba's authoritarian system, human rights violations or the repression of dissidents. In his opinion, Cuba has achieved something that failed in the Soviet Union or in Russia:

"I do not presume to claim that the Cuban way is a guideline for the development of the world. But one should certainly take into account a very important lesson from the history of Cuba: There is a limit, your own values, your own mentality To give up one's own convictions without ceasing to exist, the individual or society. That is the very important example that we can take from the history of Cuba's development: the preservation of one's own identity. "

Priest Dimitrij Orechov (Henning von Löwis)

The most visible symbol of the new old friendship between Cuba and Russia is Havana's Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Its golden domes over the rooftops of Old Havana herald that - after years of alienation - a new chapter has begun in relations between Cuba and Russia at the beginning of the 21st century.
Priest Dimitrij Orechov sums it up:

"This cathedral is an expression of the close friendship between Cuba and Russia. It was built by the Cuban and Russian governments."