Chapter 8 October 1988. Canterbury Three Towns Association visit to Vladimir

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The Prizyv (The Call) regional newspaper January 5, 1989. Volodya Musatov's article "The Vladimirers' contribution into the citizen diplomacy"

The positive changes taking place in our society, the development of transparency and democracy have a very positive impact on the relations of the Soviet Union with the countries of the socialist Commonwealth, and with the capitalist and developing states. In recent times, in particular to spread efficiently gets a new form of
relations, the so-called "people's diplomacy", which is to expand the informal contacts between organizations, ordinary people from different countries. It was highly appreciated in the speech of M. Gorbachev at the 43rd session of the UN General Assembly. Vladimir also does not stand aside from the "people's diplomacy". In our
city, in addition to long-standing friendship with the North Bohemian city of Usty na Labe, have developed or are developing partnerships connection with the West German Erlangen, English — Canterbury, Finland — Kerava, French — Cent.
Proposals to establish contacts with cities in Sweden, Latin America and the United States are being considered. With Erlangen relations are maintained for 4 years, and with the rest of the cities they are calculated only months. Nevertheless even these contacts have already yielded tangible results. Suffice it to recall such major
events as Days culture of Erlangen in Vladimir in September 1986, the Days of culture of Vladimir in Erlangen, accommodation English students in the families of Vladimir children and the return visit of our students to their peers in Canterbury. Only these events involved hundreds of people of different ages and professions in
international contacts. In addition, official delegations and tourist groups are exchanged. But the main thing, of course, is not in numbers. Main thing, that the outdated stereotypes and ideas about each other are being broken, the planted ones are being overcome decades of alienation and distrust. Our people are personally
convinced of the interested, and often friendly attitude of representatives of Western countries to the Soviet people, their culture. In turn, the people of these countries are increasingly convinced of our desire for peace and social progress. It is noteworthy that this process finds a specific real expression. As an example, it is important to cite the high assessment given by the Prime Minister of the Great Britain M. Thatcher exchange groups of students of Vladimir school № 23 and Canterbury schools Simon Langton, or the words — "we will miss them"— sadly said by a speaker of English television bi-bi-ci-1 program, when on the screens of millions of TVs in the UK with farewell gestures of our guys they went behind the customs desks at London Heathrow airport. I want to cite extracts from two letters written by members of a group from Canterbury who visited our city last October. First of them sent by David Simson to the Minister of foreign Affairs of great Britain Geoffrey Howe.
"Dear Mr. Howe. I have just returned from a trip to the Soviet Union with a group from Canterbury, a city that is associated with the city of Vladimir. In Vladimir and Moscow we met ordinary people, established friendly relations with them, strengthened them, we visited people in their homes, played with their children, prayed to God with them in their churches. We proclaimed friendship and peace. How do we respond to that? The usual political rhetoric. It was reported that the foreign Ministers of the common market agreed to develop economic and political dialogue with the USSR. Nevertheless, the British delegation objected: "the changes in the Soviet Union are far from irreversible, and Mr. Gorbachev is not a democrat." "The Times" statement echoes Your skepticism. We, ordinary people, respecting ordinary Russians people, are building bridges. You politicians are building walls of distrust. Much in our both societies still needs improvement. There is no doubt that positive changes are taking place in the USSR. I think you'd better support such contacts, like ours, to strengthen them with economic dialogue, by all possible means instead of saying political statement. It's just not right, not right at all." Another letter was handed to me before departure of the group to Moscow. Rodney Wood wrote it at night, after spending the night together the night before: "how much our visit was unusual and beautiful! Not only because you have great attractions and are friendly good-natured people. There are other reasons. We lived most of our lives in fear and distrust of each other, and now, despite all the differences, we have become close
friends. Our Association emerged as the only real alternative to blind movement to world fire and death. It seems we are at a turning point in history and we play our modest role in this. Did not Marx and Hegel write about the dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis? Then I wonder where the historical process leads us? From the East or the West? From capitalism or communism? Against dialectical materialism or Christianity? Apparently, the generalizing object of each synthesis is itself man or humanity itself. It comes from our mutual respect, from the love of life, from the possibility dialogue and learning from each other. I think that's the point of life."
The last letter testifies to one more very an important aspect of the ongoing process of developing mutual understanding. It's not easy for people to rethink philosophical approaches to views on life, on the relationship of different socio-economic formations. Therefore, the "public diplomacy" requires a huge effort, actual
diplomacy, a subtle psychological, receptions. It does not allow simplification, familiarity, underestimation of cultural and national differences and features. Vladimirers, organizations and groups of the city, including the city Council and its Executive Committee, gain experience in «people's diplomacy.» And it allows to hope for increase of their contribution to the discharge of international tension, mutual understanding and peace on our planet.
V. MUSATOV, Deputy
Chairman of the Executive Committee.

Graphic design: Anna Zinkovskaya
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