Relations between Ankara and Moscow may still be frosty, but Russian expats in Turkey hope that ties may yet warm - a hope given new life as EXPO 2016, a botanical expo held in Antalya, once a popular vacation resort for Russians, yesterday hosted the opening of a Russian garden by Russian expats. Economic and social ties between the two regional giants were spoiled following Russia's intervention in Syria, and Turkey's subsequent shooting down of a Russian fighter jet that violated Turkish airspace, while carrying out airstrikes in Syria.
The Antalya Russian Association of Culture and Arts represented Russia as a "special participant" in the expo, as Russia did not join more than 30 countries exhibiting their botanical-themed shows and gardens at the event. Yesterday marked the observance of Russia's national day to commemorate the creation of the Russian Federation following the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
Expats and holidaymakers paraded through Antalya streets for Russia Day, before heading to the event venue. Donning traditional Russian costumes, the participants attended a concert at the EXPO 2016 venue. Handcrafted decorations and Russian dishes were sold at the event to raise funds for charities.
The association also hosted an iftar (fast-breaking dinner for Muslims) at the venue. The association's president, Irina Balcı, told reporters that the highlight of the Russia Day celebration was the iftar and the launch of the garden, and these underlined Turkish-Russian friendship.
Indicating the Turkish and Russian flags carried by participants, Balcı said "families of peace" lived in Antalya, and most expats in Antalya were married to Turkish citizens. "We also have a photo exhibition here of children from Turkish-Russian families. They are 50 percent Russian and 50 percent Turkish, and this should be a message of peace for the two countries."