VLADIMIR (pop ca. 300,000) dates from 1108 and is a former capital of Russia, 115 miles east of Moscow, and the seat of Russian Orthodox Christianity - hence the choice of the Canterbury twinning. It has two World Heritage Site 12th century cathedrals on the north bank of the Klyazma river, and nearby is the World Heritage town of Suzdal. The centre of Vladimir has many fine old buildings resembling British Georgian style; the steep riverbank is unsuitable for modern development and has numerous traditional old painted wooden houses. The suburbs are a mix of industrial works and residential flats - the new ones are very fine. The Soviet regime provided combined heat and power long before it became fashionable in the West for ecological reasons.
The conjoined American sister cities of BLOOMINGTON (70,000) and NORMAL (50,000) are in the corn belt, about 130 miles south-west of Chicago. Bloomington grew out of 'Blooming Grove' in the 1830s, and Normal dates from 1865, and derives its unusual name from what is now the Illinois State University, founded as a teacher training college modelled on the French Ecole Normale. The founding fathers were teetotal nonconformists, and Normal was 'dry' till quite recently, a situation that managed to persist owing to the proximity of Bloomington. University-based Normal forces collaboration between the Democratic island of Normal and Republican Bloomington, which appears to work well. The main industries are agricultural insurance, Mitsubishi motors, and the two universities (the other being the Wesleyan University in Bloomington). The hinterland is not all corn: there is interesting countryside around the nearby Mackinaw River. Abraham Lincoln and Adlai Stevenson had strong associations with B-N.
We attracted national attention in 1988 when promoting a world-first school pupil exchange with the former USSR when pupils from the two Simon Langton schools exchanged home stay visits with counterparts in School No. 23, Vladimir, documented by the BBC and winning a Sunday Times award.
There have also been exchanges or study visits by clergy, choirs, musicians, dancers, doctors, dentists, teachers, social workers, police officers, archaeologists, footballers, boxers, photographers and university lecturers. One of our members has provided medical supplies to Vladimir, and a Bloomington-Normal medical team has participated in re-shaping Vladimir’s local health service policy in Vladimir. Pupils from Russia regularly spend an academic year in Bloomington-Normal. With Foreign Office funds, Canterbury College helped to create an English oriented Business School within Vladimir State University. An American House has been built there, hosting visitors and language classes.
In June 2010, we had an outstandingly successful Silver Jubilee concert tour, including a specially commissioned “3 Conversations for Piano Trio” by the gifted young Canterbury composer, Matthew Brown. This was performed, along with Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No 1 in D, and other works by Franck, Massenet, Menotti, Rachmaninov, Sviridov, and Hussey, by young musicians from the three linked cities. A two-CD recording is available (£10). Our most recent major event was a pilgrimage to Vladimir at Easter 2011.
Visitors are welcome at most of our social and lecture meetings; for further details, view our events via the "Member Events" link below.
- Member Type:
- John Kemp (3CA Publicity Officer)