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Russian delegation visits Martinsburg

January 14, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg Mayor Earnest Sparks had a few out-of-town guests in his office Wednesday morning.

Way out of town.

Three members of a delegation from the Russian city of Peterhoff stopped in to visit with Martinsburg officials about potential cultural and economic exchanges between the two cities. Peterhoff, just outside St. Petersburg, became a sister city to Martinsburg two years ago.

"We're trying to develop economic partnerships with Russia," said Sparks. "This is a step toward doing that."

Communicating through a Russian translator, Peterhoff Mayor Anatoliy Yashkov and Sparks discussed the possibility of Russian art exhibits in Martinsburg and student exchanges between the two cities.

Sparks and Yashkov were joined by Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin, Peterhoff Deputy Mayor Konstantin Tcherneoutsanu, translator Andrey Terekhov and David Blythe, the director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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Peterhoff officials hosted Sparks and a Martinsburg delegation in September 1997 and Yashkov said it was his group's turn to visit its sister city.

Yashkov said he had no doubts that economic opportunities exist between the two cities but said such things begin with cultural and educational exchanges. Peterhoff has a university and strong science facilities that might appeal to Americans interested in studying or teaching abroad, he said.

Sparks said the Hermitage art museum in Peterhoff would appeal to many Martinsburg art lovers.

"If you spent one minute looking at each exhibit it would take you nine years to see everything," Sparks said.

Sparks pointed to a small medal given to him by the Russian delegation emblazoned with words he said described the mutual goal of the two cities.

Made from Russian missiles that had been melted down, the medal reads "High quality progress and collaboration for the good of mankind."

Terekhov said cultural exchanges between the two cities are very important and said he hopes joint economic ventures will be an eventual result.

"It would be, in my opinion, mutually profitable," said Terekhov.

The Russian delegation will be in Washington, D.C., today and will fly back to Russia Saturday after its six-day visit.

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