It’s been a very rough time for US-Russian relations. It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago we were witnessing the spectacle and excitement of the Olympics in Sochi. The stunning figure skating performances, incredible skiing and snowboarding feats and exciting hockey games between global rivals were riveting. Russia put its national stamp on the winter Olympics, showcased Russian culture and history to the world and made its mark as a global player through hosting and competing in the Olympics. As the crisis in Ukraine unfolds, the tensions between countries threaten to spill over into sister-city relations.
It’s important to remember that one of the principles of Sister Cities International is that sister city organizations do not get involved in national politics. Sister cities are about people-to-people relationships, not government-to-government interactions. We do not let the geopolitical significance of the Olympics or the crisis in Ukraine influence the nature of our relationships with the citizens of Velikiy Novgorod. As Carolee Conklin, City Council member and president of the International Sister Cities of Rochester (ISCOR) committee wrote in a communication, ISCOR “encourages people-to-people dialogue with citizens of our sister cities about national issues rather than adopting formal positions that can block or undermine open communications that are essential to trusting and long-term sister city relationships.” Linkages continue to keep the lines of communication and dialogue open with our friends and colleagues in Velikiy Novgorod. On both sides, we are prepared to pursue our partnership activities and goals for 2014.
Our close relationship with Novgorod will be enhanced even further during the visit of a Russian teacher of English in Novgorod, Marina Trofimova, who has arrived in Rochester to spend three weeks visiting classrooms, talking with teachers and learning about the US education system. Selected through a competitive process by the Linkages Education Committee, Marina is one of a growing list of teachers who have been hosted by Linkages every other year. Her visit hopefully will make another contribution to Velikiy Novgorod and Rochester’s relationship as collaborative friends dedicated to pursuing activities of mutual interest and benefit.
Linkages has also selected two American teachers to conduct a two week seminar, as Linkages has done for 22 years, for Russian teachers of English in Novgorod in June /July. Barring any problems with visas as a result of the current political crisis, we will proceed with the Education Committee plans to sponsor the seminar.
Linkages will hold a public meeting and goodbye reception for Marina on April 9. Marina Trofimova will talk about her observations concerning the schools she visited and discuss the Russian education system in which she teaches. Information about the event is contained in this newsletter. You are all welcome to attend. Hope to see you there.