Voluntary and Civic Organizations
Specific agreements between the University of Oxford and Perm State University were signed in the 1990s, and then in 2000 Rector Malanin signed a formal agreement with Vice-Chancellor Colin Lucas. In 2008, having been satisfied that the links with Perm were both wide and deep, the administration of Oxford University arranged a short ceremony for the signing, by John Hood, Vice Chancellor of Oxford University and Vladimir Malanin, Rector of Perm State University, of a new Memorandum of Understanding.
Academic Links 2009-2015
In 2013 a new project between Oxford University and Perm State University saw geologists, physicists, chemists, geographers and biologists from Oxford, both graduates and undergraduates, visiting Perm for a six week summer internship. This project is funded by BP which hopes to encourage bright students into a career in the oil industry. However effective that may be, the feedback from the interns, starting with a handful in 2013, was so enthusiastic that in 2016 more than 30 of them will be spending the summer in Perm. (See, for example, the newsletter Perm News for October 2014.)
In the opposite direction a number of Perm professors continue to spend short periods of research in Oxford, sometimes leading to co-operation with their Oxford colleagues on joint academic projects.
In the 2014 New Year’s Honours list, Karen Hewitt, then Chair of the Association, was awarded an MBE for ‘services to building academic and cultural understanding between the UK and Russia’.
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Voluntary and civic organizations
Meanwhile, a group of active Oxford citizens were discussing the idea of forming a link between Oxford and 'somewhere in Eastern Europe' now that the Soviet bloc countries were open to the west. When they met Boris Proskurnin, now a professor at Perm State University, and who had been invited to Oxford in 1990, it was clear to them that Perm was an obvious choice. Their first contact was with the Perm Society of Disabled People. In October 1990, Liz Brighouse, Director of the Oxfordshire Council for Voluntary Action, and Deb Manley, a tireless enthusiast for practical social links, were invited by the Vice Chairman of the All Russian Society of Disabled People, Vera Shishkina and the Chairman of the Society, Stanislav Pastukhov to visit Perm to discuss the role of voluntary organizations with City and Regional officials. At this time voluntary organizations were just beginning to be established in Perm (and all over Russia) as most had been banned in
A few hundred people were involved in exchanges over the next 13 years and many other developments can be
traced back to the work carried out by OCVA. Many of the people from Perm who were involved at the
beginning continue to be active in the Oxford Perm Link and continue to work with the organizations they were
introduced to through the link. This includes the Hospice in Perm and Sobell House (the Oxford Hospice).
Natalia Pereverseva, from the Perm Hospice, visited Oxford and this contributed greatly to developing the
Cancer Information Centre in Perm and to work with volunteers. The Director of OCVA opened the Cancer
Information Centre in Perm in 2001. During that visit the Director spoke at the Perm Day Celebrations to
several thousand people packed into the square and roads around the Drama Theatre and Legislative Assembly.
Two of the largest projects of this period were:
(i) the setting up of a Disability Information Centre with a grant from the European TACIS (Technical Assistants to the Commonwealth of Independent States) Fund. The project was supported and directed in Perm by the Society of Disabled People with the involvement of Oxfordshire Council of Disabled People and Dialability in Oxford.
During this period Perm set up its first nursery school for disabled children. A Perm police officer came to look at community policing; a Thames Valley Chief Superintendent and a probation officer went to Perm to examine their work with young offenders and drug addicts.
In 2000, Perm hosted their first ever voluntary sector conference for the Perm Region, at which visitors from Oxfordshire spoke on housing issues. In 2001 representatives of Oxfordshire County Council took part in an Environmental Conference in Perm, sponsored by the British Council, and the Oxfordshire Perm Voluntary Action Link Centre was opened. The purpose of the link centre was to support agencies in the Perm Region as they tried to establish new levels of voluntary activity, to meet social needs.
One of the most active links was (and is) between Sobell House (the Oxford Hospice) and the Perm Hospice movement, and they have signed a formal twinning agreement. Members of the Oxford Perm Association have contributed practical financial support to the Perm Hospice since the 1990s. In 2002 medical staff specialising in palliative care visited Perm to train local nurses. In 2003 Rosalyn Roulston ran a workshop on bereavement counselling; she returned to Perm in 2004, and again in 2006 (with funding from the Victor Zorza Hospice Trust and Help the Hospices), to run seminars on wider aspects of bereavement for participants from all over Perm Region and beyond.
In 2008 a group of six from Perm City Council and a local community centre, Dom Druzhby (House of Friendship), came to look into how Oxford runs its community centres. The Perm visitors rated their visit as a great success and Perm has already set up several such centres.
Later that year, a delegation from Perm took
part in a Flood Risk Management seminar in Oxford.
Voluntary and civic organisations 2009 – 2015
During the 1990s our Association was able to give small but significant grants to people in need in Perm and Perm Region. With increasing prosperity in Russia, Perm City decided that it could afford to fund all crucial social needs, so our donations have been cut back. However, for two years we did give money to the Chusovoy schools in which the mainstream school ran projects for the local school for disabled children.
Civic connections have developed in a new way. The visit to examine how community centres worked in 2008 has led to a range of centres in Perm, adapted to the civic and cultural needs of the city.
In 2012 Perm councillors and specialists came to investigate how Oxford dealt with its ethnic minorities, how they tried to encourage both inclusiveness and diversity. The local governance of Oxford (population 150,000) and of Perm (population one million) must be different, but increasingly both sides are looking at ‘how the other side manages this issue’ with more seminars and joint projects in the offing.
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The seeds of city twinning were first sown in 1991. The Rector of Perm State University, Vladimir Malanin,
was staying in Oxford with Cynthia Styles, who arranged a meeting at Oxford Town Hall with the then Lord
Mayor, Queenie Hamilton, and the City Council Twinning Officer. Cynthia's suggestion of a twinning link
could not be immediately effected, for lack of funds. However official letters were exchanged between the
Mayors of both cities, with the enthusiastic endorsement of the Rector.
In 1992 the City Council decided that they wished to establish a twinning link with a city in eastern Europe, and various possible twinnings were considered. When May Wylie was appointed as the International Links Officer in June 1992, she was asked to make a definite proposal. In September 1992 a vote was taken in the OCC Public Accounts Committee to pursue a link with Perm. By the mid 1990s there were many people in Oxford with an interest in Perm, either because they had visited the city or because they had become involved in projects taking place in Oxford. Deb Manley proposed that we should set up a 'friendly association' - and the Perm Association was formally established in 1996. This wide range of activities with a linked city and its region persuaded the leading officials of Perm Region Administration and Oxfordshire County Council to establish a twinning partnership - the first regional twinning in either country. Soon the two cities followed by setting up their own partnership agreement in 1995, followed by formal twinning in 2001. A group of city councillors from Perm visited Oxford from 4th to 12th July 2005, to shadow the work of their Oxford city counterparts and to mark the tenth anniversary of friendship links between the two cities. Their visit included the unveiling of the new sign at Thornhill listing all the twin cities, including Perm, and similar signs were installed at other city boundaries.
In Perm, a Perm-Oxford "not-for-profit partnership" twinning link was created in December 2004, offering a
range of programmes: Arts and Culture, Community Initiatives, Disability Advocacy and Awareness,
Education, Youth Involvement, Environment, Healthcare, Women in Leadership and Sports. Many active Perm
NGOs and municipal organizations and their leaders became members: the House of Friendship, the Hospice,
the Anti-drug programmes, the Committee of Former Teachers, the fund "Zashchita", the Society of Disabled
People, the Centre for Family Support, the Regional Centre of International Projects, the House of Teachers,
the Municipal Social Centre and a school.
Perm City Administration was actively involved from the beginning of the twinning. Tatiana Grigorieva, the city's International Officer, has overseen events in Perm and frequently visits Oxford to meet her counterparts here. In Perm, a Perm-Oxford 'not-for-profit partnership' twinning link was set up by Galina Gusarova and other enthusiasts in December 2004.
In 2008 an 'Oxford Tree' was planted in Perm in the presence of the British Consul and the Mayor of Perm to recognize the twinning link.
May Wylie retired as International Officer for Oxford City Council in 2010. For some years the rearrangements for this post were uncertain, but by 2015 a satisfactory solution had been found. Oxford International Links was given significant responsibilities for distributing council funds to the various twinning links, and a part-time International Officer, Lauren Spiceley, took up the post with all sorts of original ideas.
Various official visits have been made between Oxford City Council and Perm City Council. The most significant has probably been the official attendance of representatives from Oxford at the 70th anniversary Victory Day celebrations in Perm in May 2015. The British government declined an invitation to the ceremony in Moscow, but in Perm, Councillor Colin Cook, Senior City Administrator Tim Sadler and two members of the Oxford Perm Association attended the dignified and moving ceremony.
In October 2015, the Mayor and Sheriff of Oxford, the leader of the City Council, Bob Price, and the deputy leader of Oxfordshire County Council, Liz Brighouse, (remembering her earlier years in Perm) spent some very active days in Perm forging more civic, educational and trade links.
In 2005 two groups of dancers from Perm took part in a production of Leonard Bernstein's Mass, with performers from all of Oxford's European twin cities. In 2006, the Carte Blanche student theatre from Oxford went to Perm to take part in an International Youth Drama Festival; a group of youngsters from the Doyle Academy of Irish Dance again visited Perm; and the folk dance group Yarmarka made a welcome return visit to Oxford. The highlight of 2007 was the participation of members of the Perm Youth Dance Company, working alongside young Oxford dancers, in a performance of Carmina Burana.
In 2009 dancers from Perm were again in Oxford for a multinational performance of Carmen. And Varvara Kalpidi brought over a small team from Perm to make a film about Oxford. In 2010 a group of young actors from the Pegasus Theatre collaborated in performances at a multinational youth drama camp in Perm.
Cultural Links 2012 – 2015
For a few notable years Perm celebrated its ‘White Nights’ and ‘Twin-City Festivals’ with great cultural aplomb. Oxford sent ceramic artists Diana Bell and Marie Darkins, photographer, Simon Murison-Bowie, and George Haslam, saxophonists to take part in these events – and Perm ceramic artists came to Oxford.
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Perm Region has long been twinned with Oxfordshire, and Oxford City with Perm City; theatre and dance groups, environmental research groups and local government 'shadow schemes' have been some of the outcomes. But although celebrations and ceremonies have played their part, what has kept the twinning alive is the fact that it involves so many institutions and so many focused, practical schemes. Out of these schemes have come hundreds of friendships which feed back again into new schemes for the joint enrichment of our two cities and their surrounding regions. The Oxford Perm Association has flourished for more than fifteen years. It is under the competent direction of Karen Hewitt, who (after a five year break when Mari Prichard was Chair) has taken over again in 2013 as Chair of the Association.
The Oxford Perm Association continues to be very active. Membership numbers have exceeded one hundred for the past few years. The Annual General Meetings are well attended and have had several very interesting talks. The annual autumn group visits from Oxford to Perm and of Perm State University teachers to Oxford are focal points of each year. The Association newsletter is published three times each year (in hard-copy and email formats) and receives very positive feedback from members. The web site is kept up to date and now contains copies of all newsletters from June 2001 to the present with an on-line index of each issue.
Oxford Perm Association
Richard Sills, David Roulston, October 2013
updated David Roulston, Karen Hewitt June 2016
We will endeavour to update this history at regular intervals. If you would like to make suggestions or corrections, please contact David Roulston at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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