Kalashnikov vodka in dagger-shaped vials

The Russian-American Chamber of Commerce in the USA hosted representatives of the Smithsonian Institution at the World Trade Center Atlanta to promote an exhibition featuring 16th and 17th century gifts from Turkey and Iran to the Russian czars.

Alla Bereshkova, vice president of public relations and corporate communications at the chamber, told GlobalAtlanta that the Feb. 20 event at the World Trade Center was an extension of the memorandum of understanding that the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery reached with the Atlanta-based chamber last year.

To launch the exhibition, the Sackler gallery is hosting a gala on May 7 that is to attract senior Russian officials from Washington and businesspeople from Georgia and other U.S. states and Russia.

Russian VIPs, including Elena Gagarina, general director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums, is to be at the event. Ms. Gagarina is the daughter of the national hero Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space and the first to orbit the Earth. The Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, also is to attend.

“We are helping the Sackler Gallery by notifying companies both in the United States and in Russia,” Ms. Bereshkova said.

The exhibition titled “The Tsars and the East: Gifts from Turkey and Iran in the Moscow Kremlin” illustrates a historical tradition of gift giving at the highest levels of the respective governments. The exhibition is to run from May 9-Sept. 13.

While gifts in Washington, especially from lobbyists to members of Congress, may result in charges of conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion, the practice at the highest levels, even now, is generally regarded as subject to protocol and etiquette.

“Illegal gift giving, of course, has been an issue in Washington, but gifts continue to be made by trade delegations to further commerce and even heads of state accept them to improve relations,” Jaap Otte, major gifts officer at the Smithsonian, told GlobalAtlanta. Mr. Otte traveled to Atlanta from Washington to attend the event at the World Trade Center.

“Gift giving can be very important in promoting trade,” he added.

Judging by the quality of the objects in the exhibition, it is obvious that there were no qualms about gift giving when they were exchanged four and five hundred years ago.

The jeweled cups, ceremonial armor and decorated textiles were part of a complex ceremonial ritual between Russia and its eastern allies, Ottoman Turkey and Safavid Iran.

The Russian chamber billed the World Trade Center event as a “Taste of Russia.” Representatives of the Atlanta Balalaika Society Orchestra played as did Erik Sootes, a guitarist. Kalashnikov vodka in vials replicating swords and daggers was available, as were various foods from the European Delia in Alpharetta.

Representatives of SOS Children’s Villages USA, which is part of an international organization that aids distressed children in 132 countries, attended the event. Proceeds from an auction and sale of artworks on display went to the organization.

Ms. Bereshkova may be reached at (404) 202-7713 or by email at bereshkova@russianamericanchamber.info.