Barents guests of the Russian Fair

The brass band Vardø Bymusikk visited Arkhangelsk during the Margaritinskaya Fair. Here in a joint concert with a brass band from Arkhagnelsk. Photo: Andrey Shalyov

Margaritinskaya Fair in Arkhangelsk becomes a brisk meeting place for the partners in the Barents cooperation.


First Russian business card
Margaritinskaya Fair (Yarmarka as it sounds in Russian) is the biggest annual trade event in Arkhangelsk oblast. Its history goes back to the 16th century when it was the biggest in Russia and according to some historical sources gave up to 1/3 of incomes of the Russian national budget. Yarmarka was a visiting card of Russian trade for the Europeans being the only international one in the country. It normally continued for a couple of months - from late July till the end of September. 

In the decades of Soviet period Margaritinskaya was not demanded because even a possibility of open trade seemed an absurd. But some years ago the regional government decided to revive old traditions and since that time every third week of September Margaritinskaya gathers not only traders from all municipalities of the region but also producers from all over the country and many foreign guests. 

The days of the Yarmarka are traditionally used as a possibility to demonstrate the wide international and interregional connections of the oblast and to open and develop new contacts. This year Margaritinskaya presented over 500 producers and traders and delegations from Belorussia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Norway, India, Italy and Poland. 

Norwegians in the city
It has already become a tradition that the Norwegians are the most numerous among foreign guests of the Yarmarka. This year the municipality of Arkhangelsk received delegations from its two Norwegian twin-cities. 

Vardø was 21 years ago the first foreign town to sign a twin-city agreement with the Pomor capital. The ties between Vardø and Arkhangelsk are based on long traditions of Pomor trade when Vardø was one of the main partners of Arkhangelsk in export of bread and other goods in exchange for fish. Up to early 20th century the two cities maintained a regular steamship line. 

Margaritinskaya 2012 had many guests from Vardø. The official delegation was led by Mayor Lasse Haughom. At one time Mr. Haughom served as a Commandant of the Vardøhus fortress, the oldest fortification construction in the North of Norway, aimed to protect the Norwegian borders from the east.  The present Commandant of Vardøhus Major Elisabeth Eikeland maintains close contacts with the Arkhangelsk museum of Novodvinskaya fortress, which is 25 years older than Vardøhus and was built by Tsar Peter the Great to protect Russia from the Swedish threat. 

Mrs. Eikeland took part in a seminar devoted to the history of northern fortification. The heads of the two fortresses-museums have big plans of future cooperation including the issues of restoration and maintaining of historical monuments, propaganda of military history, opening of new exhibitions and tourism development.

Tromsø is the second Norwegian twin city of Arkhangelsk and the delegations from Tromsø are also often guests of Margaritinskaya. The cooperation agreement between them was signed a bit more than a year ago. But both cities are connected by long and fruitful connection so this agreement just fixed a natural common will to develop this cooperation on a new official level. 

Arkhangelsk and Tromsø have much in common and its relations are very promising. First of all, these are two major university centers in the North. The University in Tromsø and the Northern Arctic Federal University in Arkhangelsk have announced themselves “twin-universities”. The cooperation agreement between them was signed two years ago in the presence of the Foreign Ministry of Norway Jonas Gar Støre. Secondly, both cities position themselves as the main centers of Arctic research and development and this opens a lot of perspectives for cooperation currently and in the future. 

Finally, the communities of Tromsø and Arkhangelsk initiate more and more joint projects in culture and sports. Many actors, musicians, painters, dancers and choreographers from these twin-cities know each other already quite well and have a lot of common activities. Recently a new impulse has been given to development of sport contacts. Tromsø is well-known to Arkhangelsk chess players who regularly take part in international tournaments arranged in this city, the future capital of Chess Olympics. This year the volley-ball and table-tennis teams from the two cities met at international competitions in Arkhangelsk and Tromsø. During the days of Margaritinskaya Fair the Vice-Mayor of Tromsø Mrs. Anni Skogman opened a new tournament between the table-tennis teams of the two cities. 

Surprise from Vardø
The most numerous and bright Norwegian group to visit Margaritinskaya this year was a famous orchestra from Vardø. Arkhangelsk became the second Russian city where the Norwegian musicians from Vardø Bymusikk made concerts. The first was Murmansk, where the Vardø orchestra made its first and adventurous visit 53 years ago. This trip to the other side of the “Iron Curtain”, which was a real challenge for the security services and Foreign Ministries of two countries, later became background for the exciting film “From Vardø with Love”, shot by the company “Tundrafilm” in 2006. 

The musicians of the orchestra held a joint concert with the Arkhangelsk city brass band and immediately received the love of Arkhangelsk citizens. At the day of opening of Yarmarka the musicians of the two orchestras marched through the city center and made a spectacular presentation near the Fair’s square. 

The Vardø orchestra has probably not only a special musical talent but also a unique ability to find out symbolic discoveries. When the Norwegian musicians first met the conductor of the Arkhangelsk orchestra Vadim Danelyuk, some of them suddenly recognized in him a young 13-years-old Russian musician who took part in a competition of young talents in Vardø 20 years ago. One of the musicians still carefully keeps and old video where Vadim shows his musical talents to the Norwegian audience. Symbolically that maestro Danelyuk now headed a procession of almost 60 Norwegian and Russian musicians marching along the central street of Arkhangelsk thus demonstrating one of many success stories of 20-years history of Barents cooperation.