Cities Begin International Friendship

September 03, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Michael Mallinoff felt right at home as he followed the mayor around the historic seaport, admiring the old Navy base and 18th-Century architecture.

He was more than 3,400 miles from Annapolis, looking out on the Gulf of Finland instead of the Chesapeake Bay, but everything seemed so familiar that he was ready to order crabs. Except he couldn't speak Russian.

"The similarities are striking," said Mr. Mallinoff, Annapolis' city administrator, who hopes to set up a sister-city relationship with jTC Kronstadt, a quaint waterfront city near St. Petersburg.

Like Maryland's capital, Kronstadt was built in the early 1700s and boasted a thriving maritime industry.

It was home to the Russian Navy and still has a training academy, though smaller than the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

The potential agreement is being touted as an opportunity for long-term economic ties and cultural exchanges, as well as a chance to promote tourism between the two cities.

In recent years, Kronstadt has been struggling to find a new role. Tourists have discovered the old seaport's charm, and city leaders want to restore the harbor and brick homes to capitalize on Kronstadt's new renown.

Even the mayor, Victor L. Surikov, gave Mr. Mallinoff a sense of deja vu. He sounded just like Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins as he told war stories and spilled over with enthusiasm about his hometown.

"The residents were afraid of letting in a flood of tourists, and they were all talking about a main route coming in, like the Eastern Bypass. I kept saying, 'Doesn't this sound familiar,' " said Mr. Mallinoff, who returned Saturday from his two-week visit to Russia.

For Mr. Mallinoff, the journey gave him a chance to explore his heritage while establishing cultural and economic ties with Russian cities. He had long wanted to visit the homeland of his grandparents and decided to join a group of Annapolis businessmen who went to Russia with Jeff Collins, founder of a partnership to help small businesses in the former Soviet Union.

The expedition was the second this summer for Mr. Collins, a human rights activist who set up Project Friendship to match small businesses in the splintered Soviet bloc with American sponsors.

In July, he took Scott Allan of Doyle-Allan Sailmakers and Annapolis physician James L. Rivers Jr. to Togliatti, an industrial city south of Moscow.

Mr. Allan is helping a Russian sail company, and Mr. Rivers is exchanging information with the Togliatti hospital. Mr. Mallinoff and Mr. Collins brought more supplies in August.

The sister-city agreement with Kronstadt would be the second for Annapolis, which has a similar relationship with Dumfries, Scotland.

Mr. Mallinoff said Annapolis stands to benefit culturally and economically from its new trans-Atlantic ties.

"There are tremendous opportunities for local business people," he said. "From a government end, we can invite them over and do cultural exchanges, we can share information and for tourism reasons, it will be reciprocal for us."

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