the affection in which our national bard Robert Burns was held in the former Soviet Union is well documented.
Now those charged to promote the cultural legacy of the novelist Sir Walter Scott, who was anything but a socialist, and his under-renovation mansion at Abbotsford, are launching a charm offensive aimed at modern-day Russians.
Later this month, a delegation from Abbotsford will fly out to Moscow and then to St Petersberg to spread the word about the work, worth £10million, being undertaken at the home of the writer.
A visitor centre under construction is due to open this summer and the meticulous refurbishment of the big house is expected to open to the public a year later.
According to the Abbotsford Trust, Sir Walter and his works have been well known in Russia since they were first published there in the 1820s and he is seen by many as the father of modern Russian literature, influencing literary giants including Tolstoy and Pushkin. The latter declared in 1824 that Scott was “food for the soul”.
Until last year, Scott’s works formed part of the Russian school curriculum.
Abbotsford’s marketing manager, Beverley Rutherford, and Ros Dryden, manager of the new visitor centre, will be part of a delegation of Scottish tourism businesses travelling with VisitScotland and VisitBritain on January 23 to meet face-to-face with travel operators from Russia and Russian-speaking countries including Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan.
Trust chief executive Jason Dyer told us: “We believe there is a tremendous opportunity for Abbotsford to attract visitors from Russia and beyond to come and visit the place where the majority of Scott’s great works were written.
“When our new visitor centre is combined with the newly-restored Abbotsford, we will have an attraction with international appeal that will bring visitors from all over the world to the Borders.”