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Jyväskylän kaupunki » International » News » Fifty years of cooperation between Jyväskylä and Yaroslavl in 2016

Fifty years of cooperation between Jyväskylä and Yaroslavl in 2016

The cities of Jyväskylä and Yaroslavl signed a sister city agreement 50 years ago in 1966

On Thursday, 15 December 2016, at 2–5 pm, a seminar to celebrate the 50-year partnership of Jyväskylä and Yaroslavl will be held at the town hall of Jyväskylä. The festivities will be opened by Timo Koivisto, mayor of Jyväskylä, and Viacheslav Gavrilov, deputy mayor of Yaroslavl, will express the greetings of the Russian sister city. In her address, Pirjo Karhu, yrittäjäneuvos (President's honorary title of entrepreneurship) recognised by the Russian Duma, will talk about what it is like to run a business in Finland and in Russia. In addition, the event will feature a presentation of the mutual history of Jyväskylä and Yaroslavl and speeches of academic cooperation between the sister cities starting from the 1980s.

Year of celebration 2016

To honour the year of celebration between Jyväskylä and Yaroslavl, the two cities will set up works of art produced in a communal art project in Sepänaukio square in Jyväskylä and in Friendship Park in Yaroslavl in 2016–2017. In addition, a delegation from Jyväskylä visited Yaroslavl (in May 2016) and a delegation from Yaroslavl made a return visit to Jyväskylä (in December 2016).

Yaroslavl – a city dating back more than thousand years

Yaroslavl, an ancient Russian city with more than 600,000 inhabitants, is located 250 kilometres north-east of Moscow. Its mayor is Vladimir Sleptsov. It is believed that the city was founded by Yaroslav the Wise, who 1,000 years ago expelled Ugric pagans from the area and built a fort by the Volga.

Fifty years of cooperation

During the early years, cooperation focused more on sports, with sports teams from Jyväskylä (e.g. ice hockey, tennis) maintaining direct contact with local sports organisations. Later, sports cooperation between the cities has slowed down. Entering the 21st century, cooperation has shifted towards student and teacher exchange, art exhibitions and artist exchange, science conferences and art camps for children and young people, and official visits by city delegations every few years.

P.G. Demidov Yaroslavl State University is the student exchange partner of the University of Jyväskylä in Russia. Since 1999, two students from Yaroslavl have studied annually in Jyväskylä, while students from the University of Jyväskylä have studied in Yaroslavl.
The Harju unit of Jyväskylä Lyseo Upper Secondary School has worked with Yaroslavl school no. 13 since 1990. Yrjö Damskägg, principal of Jyväskylä Lyseo, has acted as contact person regarding the partnership. Finding mutual business interests between Jyväskylä and Yaroslavl has been challenging at times, and the long distance between the two cities is another factor worth mentioning.

People from Jyväskylä are still connected to Yaroslavl in many ways. In November 2016, a group of teachers from Yaroslavl visited Jyväskylä to become familiar with vocational training and inclusive education. Furthermore, the Sobinov Children's Orchestra from Yaroslavl performed in Jyväskylä. Decision-makers from Jyväskylä and Yaroslavl have met regularly, which has laid a solid foundation for diverse cooperation. During the partnership, the City of Jyväskylä has had five different mayors and ten different chairs of the city council.

Contact methods have changed

Entering the 1990s, the method of contacting changed from telephones and fax machines to email and, entering the 2010s, to more real-time conferencing and social media services. The language was a barrier until the 2000s. Finnish is still a rare language in Yaroslavl, but English is being spoken by more and more people. Jyväskylä has a number of fluent Russian speakers.

The first steps of the sister cities

Jyväskylä was one of the first Finnish towns to set up a sister city relationship with a Soviet city in the 1950s. In 1955–1965, Jyväskylä's sister city in the Soviet Union was Gorky (currently Nizhny Novgorod), with Yaroslavl being its sister city since 1966. Cooperation between Jyväskylä and Yaroslavl was fairly active, consisting of visits by delegations and culture, sports and student exchange.

At the same time, the Student Union of the University of Jyväskylä started to set up firm international relationships and, in 1971, its Soviet relations expanded to the Yaroslavl State University, which became its official partner in Yaroslavl. Source: Marko Lamberg (2004): “Nuoruus ja toivo, Jyväskylän yliopiston ylioppilaskunta 1934–2003 (Youth and hope, the Student Union of the University of Jyväskylä 1934–2003)”, p. 398.

For Finnish towns, sister cities still offered significant connections to other countries in the 1990s. After this, our towns have become more international and the world has opened up, for example, through the European Union.

14.12.2016Satu Heikkinen

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