Daily Journal (Tupelo, MS)
Posted on May 2, 2000
By Marty Russell
Sweating in the midday sun on the lawn outside Elvis Presley's birthplace in Tupelo, Vladimir Plotnikov, a member of the Russian equivalent of a house of Congress, uses the weather to fashion a metaphor for the differences between his country and the United States.
"This is what we call summer," Plotnikov, a member of the Russia Duma for seven years, said of the Mississippi heat. "In Russia is ithttp://spring...Spring is a time of change. Summer is a time of stability."
Plotnikov and six other members of the Duma, the equivalent of Congress' House of Representatives, have been in Northeast Mississippi for three days as guests of 1st District U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. The visit is part of a national program sponsored by members of Congress to introduce influential Russians to the American way of life.
"We tried a different variation this year," said Wicker, who hosted a similar group last year. "This is a Duma-only delegation whereas last year we had (Russian) city and state officials."
The visit this year is shorter, also. Last year, the visiting dignitaries spent a week in Northeast Mississippi. This year the group spent only three days before heading to Washington to meet with officials there over a five-day period.
"I'm convinced that last year we demonstrated the importance of the program in promoting international understanding between two former enemies," Wicker said.
This year, the group attended an Ole Miss baseball game, toured Action Industries and a Tupelo subdivision, met with banking and economic development directors, visited Mississippi State and Columbus Air Force Base, attended a church service and made the pilgrimage to Elvis' birthplace.
"What impressed me the most was the visit to the church service Sunday," Plotnikov said of the group's visit to First United Methodist Church in Tupelo. He said he had "a very pleasant experience talking to people."
"I'd say the similarities are in how people relate to each other," Plotnikov said of his impressions of the two countries. "Right now we are experiencing a difficult time. I think it is important in this crucial time that we find some mutual understanding and extend a helping hand."
He said he appreciated the chance to visit Northeast Mississippi. I'd like to express my gratitude to Mr. Wicker," Plotnikov said. "It's important for us to try and do everything we can to establish mutual understanding."
Reprinted with permission of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. Reproduction does not imply endorsement.
[Reprinted with Permission]