Airedale Terriers were the first breed of terriers to appear in Russia. At the beginning of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, the Russian embassy in London approached Lt. Col. Richardson, the recognized authority in the field of military dog-breeding at the time, with a request to help provide the Russian army with dogs specially trained to take the wounded away from the battlefields. Richardson promptly responded, and, in due course, his terriers were sent to St Petersburg, the Russian capital at the time. Most of these dogs were Airedales, which were soon accepted by the Russian army as the best dogs for communication and sanitary services. These Airedales had been imported from England.
Both the original Airedale Terriers and their masters/breeders perished in the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917. Airedales were reintroduced in Russia in the early 1920s when the breed was recognized as useful for defense departments.
Special Red Army units of service dogs were created in 1923, and Airedales were also used successfully as demolition dogs, guard dogs, police tracking dogs and casualty dogs. Russia brought dozens of Airedales through official channels from Britain and Germany, and began target-breeding of Airedales. As a result, this breed grew in numbers and popularity.
After World War II, Russia had to restore the breed from two sources: a handful of Airedales remaining in Moscow and those just brought in from Germany, some of them captured during the war. Until 1959, Russian breeders relied too heavily on inbreeding, which brought forth accumulated genetic defects and resulted in loss of a distinct breed type.
In the 1960s, international contacts first became possible for Russian dog breeders. Several dogs were brought to Russia from East Germany and Czechoslovakia. All the new Airedales had close genealogical links with Europe. They originated from key sires in the breed, such as Warland Protector of Sheltrock, Brineland Bonnie Boy, Clie Courtier and Warland Ditto, some of the greatest sires of the 1920s.
By the mid-1980s, the Airedale breed was well established in Russia and was immensely popular. The Czech Airedales, tracing their origin from Din First Fire and through the line of his son Bumbarash, constituted the majority of the Moscow Airedale community.
In fact, the situation with Russia's Airedales was not quite as good as it seemed. Foreign contact was very limited and Russian Airedales were effectively sealed off from the rest of the world, getting an occasional injection of fresh blood from East Germany or Czechoslovakia. These infrequently imported dogs were certainly not up to a high standard. There was little or no information about winners of major international shows; few dog yearbooks or catalogues of dog photographs were available. Yet the Russian judges were popularly considered competent Airedale experts overseas.
Domestic breeders followed a set of homespun standards approved by the Ministry for Agriculture rather than the internationally accepted FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) standards. The Russian Breed Standard required a greater height, with subsequent changes in shape and proportions. Lack of information on Airedales and absence of reliable benchmarks prevented domestic breeders from identifying and correcting a number of deviations and defects. Domestic Airedales tended to follow very old standards, long-since abandoned elsewhere.
In the early 1980s, five pedigree Airedales recently descended from English true bloods came from Finland (four) and France (one). They helped update the Russian breed of Airedale and made them look more like their cousins overseas. Their names were Teinikedon Ulimus (a prize-winner, later dubbed 'Tobik', who made an especially great impact on the breed in Russia; owner S. Smolanitskaya); males Scherzo De Franc Sablon, Big Lady's All Attention, and bitches Echo-Lotta (owner Ms Larshina), and Big Lady's Covergirl Elisa. The grandsire of Scherzo De Franc Sablon and Echo-Lotta was Jokvl Smart Guy, an excellent Airedale. Other dogs hailed from the leading Finnish kennels with excellent Scandinavian lineage. Swed. Fin. Nor. Ch. Bengal Mogul was grandsire to Big Lady's Covergirl Elisa and great-grandsire to Big Lady's All Attention through his son Royal Tan Roderick, also a Champion of Sweden and Norway. Through his other son, Boogeyman, he was grandsire of Teinikedon Ulimus. Another popular Finnish Airedale was in Tobik's pedigree - Malmangen Goldpowder, tracing his origin to dogs raised in the best known English kennels, Krescent, Bengal and Siccawei.
These bloods soon improved the quality of the breed and the Russian Airedale became more modern and elegant and more like proper terriers.
Tobik's participation in breeding was particularly valuable. In appearance, he was materially different from other Russian Airedale Terriers at that time, even from locally acknowledged best specimens. He had strong genes, passing his best qualities on to his offspring: a beautiful head, a great body, a good coat of hair, etc. Teinikedon Ulimus was the first Russian Airedale Terrier to produce descendants of such quality and uniformity. The Ulimus children and grandchildren won at dog shows wherever Finnish blood was added to Airedales. Matings of Tobik with Finnish bitches also produced some outstanding results, as his blood was mixed with that of Scherzo De Frank Sablon.
By the 1980s, Moscow and Leningrad were no longer Russia's only centres breeding Airedales. Large Airedale sections were organised in Saratov, Rostov, Minsk, Vladimir, Ekaterinburg and Perm.
Dogs from Saratov often won top places at major dog shows. Saratov's breeders widely used Teinikedon Ulimus, in-breeding on him 2-2 (where Tobik was the grandsire on both mother's and father's sides). Their competent breeding soon produced good results; Saratov dogs from the Style club led at the largest shows in the country. Echo-Lotta's offspring from Rostov-on-Don were an important factor in successful breeding of Airedales in Saratov. Echo-Lotta produced a large progeny, including bitches Pifaldina Pride (owner Kostyuk), Duchess Pride (owner Kuropatkina), and Pifaldina's daughters, Michaela Style (owner Yerokhina) and Minion Style (owner Kvasha). Michaela and Minion's litter-sisters Marjolene Style (owner Kanniniex, Riga), Marilyn Style (owner Pryzhukova, Odessa), and Musetta Style (Rostov-on-Don) won at the dog shows in their respective cities. They had many litters and gave birth to large families.
Tobik's lineage was further developed in Moscow-based clubs - MGOLS (Russian abbreviation for Moscow City Society of Dog Enthusiasts; Chairperson for Airedale Division N. Kirsanova) and Elite (Head Breeder S. Smolanitskaya). Dogs raised and trained in these clubs won at many dog shows. The winners include Hunter Pride (owner Ms Rubina), Negoro Ergunt (owner Mr Terentiev), Lisbeth Pride (owner N. Kirsanova), Tornado Twist (owner Ms Budnik), Trassy Twist (owner M. Khokhlova), and many more.
Perestroika of the late 1980s brought a crisis upon Russian dog-breeding which soon began to take its toll on Airedale Terriers. Before then, most Airedales had been concentrated in official DOSAAF dog clubs, of which the DOSAAF club in Moscow was the largest and best-equipped. Moscow held two city shows every year, plus two regional shows, which attracted many participants, with some of the finest specimens of the breed in Russia. This made the title of a Moscow show winner very prestigious. The dogs exhibited at Moscow shows reflected the actual state of affairs in the breed; those shows registered successes and failures of breeding. Between 50 and 60 dogs in each age group took part in the shows from 1985 to 88.
Between 1987 and 1989, dog associations and clubs sprouted everywhere across Russia; the breed became split into sub-breeds. People involved in Airedale breeding were not always competent, and changes and divisions in the breed were not always for the better. Moreover, the names of Teinikedon Ulimus, Scherzo and Echo-Lotta were becoming ever more distant in the family trees, and the effect of English blood was waning.
Recent political change meant that Russian breeders could now cross borders at will and see European Airedales. Foreign literature about the breed became more available, as well as providing more reliable comparisons. It became clear that our 'Finns' did not possess some of the very important features of a modern Airedale's appearance.
From the late 1980s to date, more than 40 Airedale dogs and 20 bitches were brought to the USSR (and later NIS) from 12 countries around the world. Few other breeds in Russia can boast of such extensive imports.
The first imported dogs opened a new page in history of the breed in Russia; it was not merely a transition to new dogs with different lineage, to a new vision of the Airedale breed, to new organisation of breeding, to stricter criteria for selection and breeding. Thus Russia joined the civilised dog world.
New private and co-operative kennels replaced the centralised authoritarian dog clubs where often-misguided staff 'zootechnicians' would arbitrarily impose a set of breed criteria. The new private kennels specialise exclusively in Airedales, gathering dogs with the most interesting exterior, which represent valuable breed material. Stiff competition has propelled several Airedale kennels into eminence: Style (Saratov, head breeders Alla Yerokhina, Galina Kuropatkina,) Bright Nose (Moscow, breeder Elena Lapina), Catherina's (Tallinn, breeder Ekaterina Kantievskaya), Stunning (Ekaterinburg, breeder Natalya Stafeyeva), Cornels (Moscow, Elena and Sergey Nikulina), Basidale (Saratov, breeder Vasili Turin), Modern Type (Moscow, breeder Natalya Kirsanova), Excellent (Moscow, breeder Nina Chichkova), Quick Fly (Moscow, breeders Elizaveta and Irina Elizarova), Gypsy (Moscow, breeder Inna Danilova). Local clubs, private kennels and breeders unite into National Airedale Clubs.
The winners display careful trimming and training. Presentation of dogs at shows is becoming increasingly important. It is often hard to say (even for a casually observing expert) how much in the winner comes from nature, and how much from hard training, trimming and handling by the ambitious master. Even foreign experts note that the beauty of Russian Airedales is now on a par with the best Airedales overseas.
Though modern Russian Airedales have totally different origins, the current success is not totally isolated from previous achievements. 'Old' Airedales made the breed well known and much loved in Russia. Dedicated Airedale enthusiasts have accumulated a wealth of experience over the years: Natalya Kirsanova, Emily Nogachevskaya, Sergei and Elena Nikulina, Elisaveta and Irina Elizarova, Julia Lakatosh, Ekaterina Senashenko, Anna Stouit (Moscow), Galina Kuropatkina and Alla Yerokhina (Saratov), Marina Bezukladova (St Petersburg), and Natalia Stafeyeva (Ekaterinburg), among others, have devoted more than fifteen years of their lives to Airedales.
Russian breed material now includes some of the best modern blood in the breed. Airedales have become serious competition to other breeds in Best in Group and Best in Show inter-breed contests. Nobody is really surprised any longer that our Airedales win such contests. Strongfort Xterminator, Basidale Sea Rover Of Constanta, Kornels Great Beauty, Kron Berry, It's My Life Kornels, Spicaway Brutus have all won in the Terrier class; others are poised to win in the near future.
Some Russian dogs have participated in foreign shows, and won top places and awards. Soft-Air Vichy, Britham Pendragon Wrath-Amon, Epoch International Time, are all .Finnish Champions.
Eight Russian male Airedales and ten bitches took part in the 1998 World Show in Helsinki, and were described as excellent by the jury. Five dogs and six bitches won prizes: Quick Fly Temptation (Rollingstones To Russia With Love x Rotbi Darfly Bright), owned by Lisa Elisarova, won Res. CACIB. All this gives us hope that Airedales, this favourite breed, has a great future, and that new, more numerous Airedale generations will be capable of winning at the world's most prestigious shows.

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