When the Soviet Union disintegrated in December 1991, the world was shocked as the once major global power split into 15 separate countries. Cañon City, having already established a sister city with Cuidad Serdán, Mexico, and in the process of establishing another with Kahoku, Japan, jumped at the chance for a third sister city relationship. With the Soviet Union disbanded, this became a possibility. According to Sister Cities International a sister city relationship “is a broad-based, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries. A relationship is officially recognized after the highest elected or appointed official from both communities sign off on an agreement to become sister cities.” A resolution supporting a sister city relationship with Valdai, Russia was passed by the Cañon City Council in May 1992. The invitation was delivered to Valdai by board member Charles Walser who visited Russia in June of 1992.
Valdai is located in the Novgorod Oblast, 240 miles northwest of Moscow. Historically, a major industry of the city was bell making, from big church bells to small coachman bells. When the mayor of Valdai, Anatoly Jakovlevich Favorsky, and other delegates arrived in Cañon City to formalize the sister city agreement, their gifts to the city included a set of bells. One of their major industries now is based around a plant that produces optical products according to the official website of the Administration of the Valdai Municipal District [in Russian]. The agreement was finalized in December 1992 and programs began moving forward quickly.
Many programs were focused on students and throughout the years, many Fremont County exchange students have gone over to Russia and Russian students have visited here. Delegates between the two cities have also frequently visited one another. The delegation from Cañon City in 1995 participated in the 500th anniversary celebration of Valdai which included historical reenactments featuring an appearance of Catherine the Great. The goal for the delegations from both cities was that the trips would be economically, politically, and culturally beneficial.
One successful program was a police exchange funded by a grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. According to an article in the Cañon City Daily Record on December 4, 1997, the program was designed to “provide the Valdai Police Department and citizen volunteers with training in community policing, citizen assisted law enforcement and youth-oriented drug abuse prevention”. Members from the Valdai police department traveled to Cañon City for training and then members of the Cañon City Police Department had the chance to visit Valdai. It allowed the departments to see how the other functioned and learn from one another.
Sister city relationships allow cultures to be shared, community involvement to be fostered, and bring people together. If you have any photos you are willing to share of the trips between the delegations of Valdai and Fremont County, feel free to contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (719) 269-9036.
The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.