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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ambassador Bids Adios to Moscow

When he leaves Moscow, it is the Tchaikovsky Conservatory that Arnoldo Listre is going to miss the most. During his time in Moscow, he has been a weekly visitor to the concert hall.

A classic music lover in his free time, Listre is the ambassador of Argentina during working hours. Having represented his country in Russia for five years, his tour of duty here will end on Oct. 9.

Listre, 61, started his diplomatic career in 1963 when, after graduating from the University of Bue?os Aires with a degree in law, he became assistant to Argentina's minister of foreign affairs. In 1982, almost 20 years later, having worked in Costa Rica and Paraguay, he was promoted to ambassador. He has since served in Nigeria, Hungary and the United States.

Russia, Listre's sixth diplomatic posting, has undergone some dramatic changes during the five years Listre has served here.

"I think I have been privileged to witness the process of transformation that has been and continues to occur in Russia," Listre said. "In some ways this process is contradictory. There are ups and downs, and it is not an entirely smooth process, but, in general terms, it is occurring with all the pros and cons this situation [ought to] involve."

Having spent so much time in the Russian capital, Listre would probably agree with Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev, who first uttered the now well-known maxim, "It is impossible to understand Russia with one's intellect."

"I will not pretend or claim to understand the Russian people completely," Listre said. "There are two things that are very important to understanding this country: reading history and literature and, of course, ordinary human contact, human connections."

As for the former, Listre said that reading the work of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Nikolai Gogol in his youth equipped him with a certain knowledge of the Russian people. Especially useful, he said, was his favorite passage in Tolstoy's "War and Peace" - a conversation between Pierre Bezukhov and Platon Karatayev - as well as the last chapter of "Anna Karenina."

"This is the chapter in which Levin realizes the extent of the wisdom that lies within ordinary human beings," Listre said.

Listre, known within diplomatic circles for hosting grand parties at his residence on Prechistenskaya Naberezhnaya, said he enjoyed the chance to meet and make friends with Russian people. "If you say you are an Argentinian, it effects a positive reaction," he said, adding that there are a lot of similarities between Russians and Argentinians.

"Russians are like us in many ways, for better or for worse," Listre said with a smile. "Russians are very sentimental. They are not very organized, and nothing is completely structured."

"The most attractive thing about the Russian people is their openness, their generosity," he said. "Ordinary people here have great spiritual values and a great level of human decency."

Another trait shared by Russians and Argentinians is their passion for soccer - although Listre is a rare exception. "I am not a fan," he said with a laugh, adding that he still likes the sport and watches televised matches occasionally.

Despite the serious nature of his diplomatic work, Listre has a number of humorous anecdotes about his tenure in Russia. One of them refers to Listre's first days in Moscow, when his wife received a portrait of Grigory Rasputin as a gift. His wife put the portrait in the bedroom - with all the other family photographs. When the maid entered the room, she was horrified. "She must have thought we were some kind of a Rasputin cult or crazy people who believed in witches and the paranormal," Listre said, between bursts of laughter.

Yet, as the day of his departure nears, the ambassador, whose replacement will arrive in Moscow only after the Argentinian presidential elections in December, says that he has mixed feelings about leaving. "On the one hand, I am very happy to be returning to my country," said Listre, who has three children and a granddaughter in Argentina. "On the other hand, I am leaving this country with a sense of melancholy. I am going to miss Moscow, for sure. I am already missing it."