World Twin Cities Day has been celebrated for 55 years, and the exchange of experiences really produces positive results.
Since 1963 twin cities day has been celebrated across the whole world on the last Sunday of April. Nowadays, the number of twin cities has increased. This is not a surprise as they help to maintain links between cities in different situations, break down stereotypes and help people understand that seemingly distant points on the map have much in common.
One of the first Russian cities to establish twinning links was Moscow, but it is not only large cities which are successful in setting up links. For Perm it all began in 1992 with the establishment of contacts with the city of Amnéville-les-Thermes in north-eastern France. Now Perm has five more twin towns and cities besides Amnéville: Louisville (since 1994), Oxford (since 1995), Qingdao (since 2003), Duisburg (since 2007) and Agrigento (since 2012).
Over the years of cooperation, Perm has learned a lot from its twin cities. The city’s call centre was modelled on Louisville’s call centre, and Louisville gave Perm both the idea and the plan for construction of the Extreme Park. Public meetings with the mayor, where the citizens have an opportunity to talk to the authorities or ask any questions, also follow the example of the mayor of Louisville. Oxford gave us the idea of creating community centres in various districts where urban activists and ordinary people come together. The Ars Vivendi project started in Duisburg, and now there is a project in Perm, and people with disabilities work in workshops and gain social experience as well as work experience. Perm’s higher education institutions work closely with the University of Oxford, and last March there was a conference for journalists organised jointly by the “Oxford Perm” association, the consulting company “Oxford Global Media” and the Business Class newspaper.
It is not only organisations but also individuals who take the initiative in setting up communication and contacts. For example, in February Perm schoolchildren sent a parcel with Chinese New Year gifts to their peers in Qingdao. These were much appreciated in China and they asked us to send another 30 paintings by young Perm artists so that they could organise a full-scale joint exhibition of children’s art.
Christian Vassalo, Agrigento’s cultural events organiser says: “We immediately realised that there could be a friendship between our cities. In June 2013, a delegation of Italian artists arrived in Perm, and more than 80 musicians organised a five-hour concert. Every year friendship between the cities has become stronger. For the last eight years a festival called ” Sicily Russian Week” (La Settimana Russa) has taken place, and in October 2018 businessmen came from Agrigento to Perm to seek out and establish partnerships with companies from the Kama region.
Sarah Guttler-Zakharova, the head of Ars Vivendi in Perm thinks the partnership contacts provide a new experience and an excellent opportunity to learn from each other. Cities are showing that they are open and willing to move forward. When there are people really interested in building relationships and developing joint projects, then success is inevitable.