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Home > News > 2006 > Russian Day

Our Second Annual Russian Day

By Gregor Smith

Russian Day Poster

Two dozen paid registrants attended the Kotlas Connection's Second Annual Russian Day on a sultry September Saturday at Colby College. Co-sponsored by Colby's Russian Program, Russian Day is based upon Russian Sampler, our perennial, springtime program for middle schoolers, but is intended for adults.

During the morning, each participant selected two hour-long sessions from among eight offerings. The choices included painting Russian Easter eggs, watching a newly released documentary about the Gulags in Kotlas, conversing with Colby students who had studied in Russia, learning the Russian alphabet and a few Russian words, viewing Russian Orthodox icons and learning about the history of icon painting, and learning more about Kotlas itself. The presenters included past visitors to Kotlas, Colby students, a Russian exchange student at Messalonskee High School, and the day's principal organizer, Colby Russian professor Sheila McCarthy.

After a Russian lunch prepared by Colby's Dining Services, attendees heard presentations from Madison business consultant Michael Poland and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, both of whom had recently visited Russia. Poland spent 16 days in Russia in August, most of them in Petrozavodsk, a city 185 miles northeast of St. Petersburg. There he met business and governmental leaders to talk about waste disposal and recycling and investigate prospects for joint ventures between Maine and Russian businesses. He also talked to academics and representatives from two nonprofit organizations that aid handicapped adults and promote volunteerism.

Dunlap spent two weeks in Russia in June and July, as part of a five-member Rule of Law delegation. Funded by the United States government, the Russian American Rule of Law Consortium currently supports exchanges between ten U.S. states, including Maine, and their respective sister regions in Russia. These exchanges are designed to strengthen legal institutions in both countries. Maine's Rule of Law Connection with Russia's Archangel Region dates to 1997.

Dunlap's delegation visited St. Petersburg, Arkhangelsk, Novodvinsk, and the Solovetsky Islands, just below the Arctic Circle in the White Sea. According to the introduction of Dunlap's online trip journal, the themes of this exchange were "municipal governance, parliamentary procedures, the work of non-profit organizations, and the role that government plays in supporting libraries and museums." One can read Dunlap's travelogue and see photographs of the trip on the Secretary of State's web site.