Journey of Papua New Guineans in Russia

Premieres on national television of Russia April 2020


A documentary film about the historic visit of Papua New Guineans and their acquaintance with the homeland of the outstanding scientist and traveler Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay, who introduced their own country to the whole world. A descendant and full namesake of Nikolay Nikolaevich Miklouho-Maclay, the founder and  Director of the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation, becomes their guide. The visit was organized by the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation with the support of the Russian Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) as part of the New Generation program, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the partners of the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation.


Country: Russia
Running time: 26 minutes
Subject: Essay film
Location: Russia, Papua New Guinea
Language: English, Russian

Directed by Nickolay Miklouho-Maclay
Original idea by Nickolay Miklouho-Maclay
Screenplay by Elena Nupreichik
Camera operators: Alexei Bogdanov, Evgenii Bogatov
Music by Sergei Potekhin
Edited by Aleksandr Snegirev


This documentary is an essay film about the historic visit of a  Papua New Guinean delegation to Russia in October-November 2018 and their acquaintance with the homeland of the outstanding Russian humanist and scientist Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay, who launched several scientific expeditions to the New Guinea Island at the end of the 19th century. This fascinating journey to Saint-Petersburg and Moscow in the company of the descendant and namesake of the great traveler, Nickolay Miklouho-Maclay Jr., is bound to strike a very real chord with all viewers. You will see the emotions of our guests who were deeply impressed by the majestic historical sights of Saint-Petersburg and Moscow.  You will find out what Russian cuisine and traditional Papua New Guinean cuisine have in common. Together with our guests, you will take a stroll along the streets of the two capitals, visit St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Hermitage, the Red Square, and the Moscow State University, where the PNG team had an opportunity to meet and socialize with Russian students. You will see with how much emotion and cordiality ordinary Russians welcomed our guests in the streets – a whole new world for our friends, unraveling in an entirely different dimension and upending all their previously held perceptions of it.

After watching the film, the viewers will also learn what Papua New Guineans think about Russia and what we, Russian citizens, know about that distant country and the people who live there. And why have so few Russians ever visited Papua New Guinea? Our travelers will tell you how and why their perceptions and beliefs about Russia changed after their visit.

The film demonstrates how much the people of Papua New Guinea cherish the memory of our compatriot, the humanist, and scientist from Russia Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay, who became a hero for many New Guineans back in 1871 after his first expedition to the distant shores of the North-East of New Guinea.

You will learn about the history of relations between our countries and the achievements of Russian researchers in the 19th-21st  centuries, who carried out ethnographic research of this region, and you will see how actively and fruitfully the Russia – Papua New Guinea relations are developing today thanks to the efforts of public figures, diplomats and researchers of both сountries.


A group of five young people from Papua New Guinea (Michael Kabuni, Laurelle S. Pentanu, Midelit Okole Pius, Russel Yangin, and Betty Fatima Isikiel) arrive in Russia at the invitation of Miklouho-Maclay Jr. They have heard a lot about the largest country in the world, read about it, studied its history, but have never seen it with their own eyes. The Papuans are going to spend about two weeks in Saint-Petersburg and Moscow  – a unique experience that will support or debunk the existing stereotypes about the country and help find answers to a lot of questions. What is Russia really like? Is it really that cold here? What kind of people live in the homeland of the famous ethnographer and anthropologist Miklouho-Maclay, who is still well-remembered and respected in Papua New Guinea and Australia after more than a century and a half? What kind of culture do Russians have? What is really important and valuable for them?

The viewer, in turn, will also have an opportunity to discover the identity of modern Papuans. Because naturally, the film characters are not wearing grass skirts or beads around their necks. They are dressed in modern clothes, they are well-educated, speak fluent English; most of them studied Economics at the university in the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, and even went on to work as lecturers.

The camera captures our Papua New Guinean guests in different settings – the meet & greet at the airport,  receiving down jackets (because you wouldn’t survive the Russian winter without one of those!), sightseeing and exploring the city. For the first time in their life, our guests, will taste “this odd Russian food” – mustard and holders (Russian jellied meat dish), as well as other dishes of authentic Soviet cuisine, visit the Saint-Petersburg Pyshechnaya (a soviet-era doughnut restaurant), climb up to the colonnade of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, walk along Nevsky Prospekt and Red Square.

In the famous book store, located in the historic Singer House building in Saint-Petersburg, they will find a book authored by Maclay Jr., The Journey to the Maclay Coast, , written after the expedition of 2017, that tellsabout the studies conducted on the Maclay Coast, about the local people who cherish the memory of Maclay and historical ties between Russia and Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guineans will visit the exhibition From Miklouho to Maclay, housed at the Moscow Train Station and dedicated to the 200th anniversary of Nikolay Ilyich Miklouho, the first chief of the Nikolaevsky (now Moscow) Train Station, the father of the great traveler Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay.

No one could imagine that the guests would be given a chance to fire a 12 o’clock cannon shot from the Naryshkin Bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress! Nr that they would have a chance to meet Yuri Solomin, People’s Artist of the USSR, Director and leading actor in  The Coast of his life, a film about N.N. Miklouho-Maclay.

The film characters will be especially impressed by their visit to the Russian Geographical Society, where they will see the skillful drawings of the famous anthropologist, as well as to the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, whose exhibits will remind them of their own homeland.  Papua New Guineans will reiterate that their country represents a truly unique cultural space: for all the modern lifestyle and progress of big cities, the remote villages have managed to preserve the ways and practices deeply rooted in the centuries-old civilization. They have no electricity, but instead, they have tribal chiefs (though they their own name for them); they still perform initiation rituals and keep their traditional clothing, which they proudly wear on local holidays.

Narrative and presentation:

The main narrators of the film are the Papua New Guineans themselves and, of course, Nickolay Miklouho-Maclay Jr., the man who masterminded and organized this historic trip.

Casual, unrehearsed dialogues, comments and conversations of the main characters will be the best expression of their sincerity. These Papua New Guineans are, in fact, a new generation, people who live in the country that is also homeland to the Maclay’s best Papuan friend– Tui. These ‘new-generation’ Papua New Guineans no longer live in stilt houses, they grew up in a much more civilized world – which, nevertheless, makes it all the more interesting to pore at their portraits trying to trace the echoes of “old” and “new” Guinea:  the one seen by the great researcher Miklouho-Maclay, and the other seen by his descendant Miklouho-Maclay Jr.

The camera does not tell the characters what to do and what to say – on the contrary, it follows their flow, accompanying them on all their adventures, documenting their meetings, dialogues personal thoughts and impressions.

The documentary will also feature sincere, intimate interviews with the characters, snippets of their daily “exciting adventures”,and reflections on their visit in the quiet coziness of an evening get-together, Here and there throughout the film, characters’ dialogues will be elaborated by accompanying videos.

The film Papua New Guineans’ Journey to Russia is not just about the young Papua New Guineans’ visit to Russia as such. It is about the mutual interest of the peoples of both countries that doesn’t fade away. It is about the bond that did not get severed, but grows stronger and stronger with every passing year, across the continents and through the centuries,

Even though Russia might seem like a country of freezing colds and harsh climate, Papua New Guineans will find the warmest and most hospitable welcome among the locals. The film ends with the main characters setting off on their homeward journey and sharing their most touching and profound impressions. The Papua New Guineans, as well as Nickolay Miklouho-Maclay Jr., will embrace the significance of this historic visit to Russia, the visit that Miklouho-Maclay Sr.haddreamt so much about. And his dream has finally come true.

We thank our friends and partners for their support.
Technical support by SONY.
The film was created with the support of the “ST. PETERSBURG COMMITTEE FOR CULTURE”.