In our russian version of Irkutsk you can listen to the interview on the Voice of America given by the member of EISCC, Yuri Pantioukhin and the head of International Relations and Tourism Department of the Irkutsk City Duma, Ludmila Kurbatova. For those who do not know Russian and don't have a personal interpreter there is a translation of the interview right here.
Voice of America.
I.D. - Inna Dubinskaya is speaking in a live broadcast on the Voice of America. Last Wednesday the annual Sister Cities International Conference was opened in Spokane, Washington. How does the cooperation of the USA on the municipal level with the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) including Russia influence their economy, social sphere, education and culture?
We invited to talk about this by phone a manager of the program “Open World” and coordinator of the Eurasian Department of SCI from the Conference in Spokane – Arina Dmitrieva, a member of Eugene-Irkutsk Sister City Committee – Yuri Pantioukhin from Eugene, Oegon, the head of the International Relations and Tourism Department of the Irkutsk City Duma – Ludmila Kurbatova, and
a member of Ashville-Vladikavkaz Sister City Organization from Ashville, North Carolina – Constance Richards.
In the year 1956 the program of sister cities cooperation called “From nation to nation” was initiated by the president Dwight D. Eisenhower. The program was aimed in the development of cultural, economical, academic and other relations between different bodies of the USA and other countries. Since that time 10,000 cities and towns set up such kind of relationship.
Hello, and the first question to everybody – How do you estimate the success of cooperation of sister cities in the USA and Russia? Please, the floor is yours, Constance Richards.
C.R. – Things are going very well. In the 1990-s when we just started, the relationships between the USA and the Soviet Union were quite tense. So the idea appeared to connect cities of the two countries by the sister cities program. Unfortunately, because of the war in Chechen Republic it was quite difficult to have any relationship with our sister city Vladikavkaz which is close to it. We couldn’t send a delegation over there, and they couldn’t come to the USA.
I.D. – Yuri, what is your opinion?
Y.P. – Originally I come from Irkutsk. My business led me to the USA. In Irkutsk I worked in the International Relations Department of the Regional Committee of Komsomol, that’s why it’s close to me. I know how it all started, yet in 1988 Irkutsk and Eugene became sister cities. In the very beginning both parties were quite enthusiastic. Gradually, in the middle of the 1990-s, probably because of economic reasons, the enthusiasm smoothed down. In recent years we have been working in close co-operation with the Sister Cities International and received several grants. Not only did we recover the relationship but we set effective co-operation in such fields as art, sport, and education. At the moment our co-operation with Irkutsk is on the top level. We have a lot of opportunities for the development of many programs.
I.D. – Ludmila Kurbatova, you are Yuri’s partner. Would you comment on the relationships between Irkutsk and Eugene?
L.K. – The co-operation between our cities began on the 22nd of July, 1988, when Irkutsk City Council of Deputies and Eugene City Hall considering the diplomacy as a prerequisite for the development of culture, education, and economy signed an agreement about sister-cities relationship between the two cities. Since that time the permanent co-operation between our cities began. We had many official exchanges, exchange programs for school students with the aim of the acquaintance with foreign peers and having friendly relations, cultural exchanges, exchanges by medical delegations in order to advance in skill and percolate innovations, business exchanges to find partners. With the help of media we get acquainted with the city of Eugene, its citizens, sights, and vice versa. Many years’ co-operation between Eugene and Irkutsk started with individual visits and led to wide-ranging projects of the Committee and Eugene Rotary Clubs, which during the hard 1990-s helped Irkutsk with milk-powder, wheelchairs, vacuum bottles, medical equipment and dressings. All this was sent to orphanages, hospitals, social institutions. Nowadays, we give top-priority to the development of internship programs for students of Irkutsk and distance learning project.
I.D. – Thank you Ludmila for such a full overview. The question to Arina – What countries most succeed in the co-operation of sister cities?
A.D. - Good afternoon! To be honest, all depends on the enthusiasm. It’s difficult to say that this or that country succeeded most.
I.D. – At the moment, nobody from Russia has registered for the participation in the conference in Spokane. Meanwhile, there are a lot of participants from other countries – China, Latin America and Western Europe. Would you comment on that?
Y.P. – It’s difficult for me to explain why there are no participants from Russia. Probably, some economical reasons are involved. By the way, two years ago in St. Louis when the same kind of conference was held, Russia was represented only by delegates from Irkutsk. I think, it gives us a credit. And it definitely influenced our further relationship with Irkutsk. I’d like to recommend other cities also to participate in these conferences.
I.D. – Arina, and why do you think nobody from Russia hasn’t registered?
A.D. – I can suggest several reasons - the registration has just started, probably, there are financial problems, and it’s not convenient time. We co-operate with the Russian City Union and would like to see its representatives on the conference, but they are going to introduce some reforms beginning from the 1st of January, 2006 and they’re now busy working on this. Next year Sister Cities International celebrates its 50th anniversary, and we will try to do so that more people from Russia come to the conference in such an important year for us.
I.D. – And now calls of our listeners. Let’s listen to the 1st call.
- Hello, my question is the following. Are there any programs of helping children from orphanages and children with mental retardation?
A.D. - We give a lot of attention to this problem. There are a lot of projects we are working on, and the help to children is no exception. For example, sister cities Petrozavodsk, Karelia and St. Louis, Minnesota have a program which is called “Uncles and aunts” aimed in helping children. This program appeared 5 years ago when the toys and books were sent to Petrozavodsk orphans.
I.D. – It’s a very good idea, and, I think, other sister cities should use it as well. I’d like to return to the question of participation in the international conference. Constance, how do you explain the success of the conference held in Ashville with the participation of Russian cities?
To be continued...