Russians and ecotourism
The Citizen of Laconia (Laconia, NH)
Posted on December 13, 2007
PSU provided a tour of the campus, along with a luncheon and a chance for the guests to meet with faculty and staff members as part of their New England visit, which began Friday and continues through Saturday.
Yuri Surikovi, who is the Solovki Museum education director, as well as a faculty member at Pomor State University, also noted that they were studying ecology and social science issues. The visit was sponsored by the Open World Program at the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
The visitors received a campus tour that included a stop in the Boyd Science Center to learn about PSU's meteorology program, and lunch at Heritage Commons with a variety of faculty and university officials, including President Sara Jayne Steen. Afterward, they visited the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness before heading to Portsmouth and back to Maine.
They had come to America to learn more about promoting eco-tourism and sustainability in their region, a rural area in Russia's far north near the city of Archangel and the White Sea, which is close to Finland and the Arctic Ocean.
There was a wide array of fields represented by the Russian visitors, which included Natalia Yakovleva, the Vice Mayor of Solovki, which is another name for the archipelago, Alexander Shayev, Director of the Malye Kareli Museum, Elena Kuznetsova, a business media professional, and the group's facilitator and translator Ivan Tabanin.
Mary Ann McGarry, a professor of science education at PSU's Center for the Environment, said that the day was excellent and that the trip to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center was a highlight because the live animals. She said the Russians asked every imaginable question about how the Center operated so they could take the most successful ideas back to their community and implement them in their World Heritage UNESCO site.
"I was so impressed with the quality of questions the Russians posed about everything they saw and experienced," McGarry said. "They were focused on learning and sharing, to make the most of their experience."
Surikovi said through his translator that he hoped the visit was the beginning of a collaboration with PSU. He noted that it could be interesting to have a student exchange, which would be a valuable way to educate students about the Solovki Islands.
Surikovi talked about his home, saying that it is a unique place with a lot of legends.
"The facts and myths sometimes interlace," Surikovi said through translator Ivan Tabanin. "It is often difficult to interpret myth from fact."
The Solovetsky Archipelago has a year-round population of only 900 people and is comprised of roughly 100 islands, although fewer than a dozen are actually inhabitable.
Surikovi explained that the islands are rich with Russian history. He said that the region is home to a unique northern ecosystem he described as unlike any other in the world.
He also noted that the region had a dark point in its history. It was one of the experimental sites for labor camps in Stalin's gulag system. The system eventually spread throughout other remote sites in the former Soviet Union, as well as being studied by Nazi Germany. However, he also noted that a restoration project at the Solovetsky Monastery sparked democracy which swept through Russia.
Surikovi said much of this history is displayed in the Solovki Museum displayed. In Russia, there are museums divided into three levels: Municipal, Regional and Federal. Solovki is classified as a municipal museum. He explained that the museum is not just one building of artifacts, but an archipelago filled with history. He noted that there are currently about 20,000 objects displaying historic, natural and architectural history.
"Solovki is a valuable monument of the world's heritage," said Surikovi.
The group's visit to America also includes a stop in Portland, Maine.
Dennis Marrotte, the vice co-chair of the Sister Cities Exchange program in Portland, said that Greater Portland was a sister city to Archangel. He was traveling with the visitors to help with translation and serve as a guide to the unfamiliar country. The group spent most of its trip in Maine, visiting spots such as the Portland Herald, Chebeague Island, the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and several government services. He said that Chebeague Island was especially notable because there are many similarities between the islands.
Thad Guldbrandson, director of the Plymouth State University Center for Rural Partnerships and research assistant professor of anthropology, said that he enjoyed meeting with the group, adding that he learned about their particular region. He also said that having an exchange program could be very useful.
"It is useful to compare our region with another part of the world," Guldbrandson explained. "Both regions have similar and rich amenities."
McGarry helped facilitate the visit to Plymouth State thanks to her involvement with the Lakeside Summer Academy in Maine Ч a weeklong program for high school teachers that had hosted a couple of Russian visitors.
She explained that the main focus of the visit to America was to explore eco-tourism and business. She noted that with a wide contingent of people visiting, it was interesting in ways of history, culture and municipality. She noted that the Center Disciplinary Team is interested in organizing a trip to the islands as part of an exchange program.
Surikovi said that he would be interested in working with PSU to allow students to participate in a Summer International School to learn about the country's customs.
"The background of Solovetsky is unique," said Surikovi. "The students could learn languages and cultures from each other.
[Reprinted with Permission]