In 1987, Dikson, Russia Mayor Nikolai Kartamyshev and Dixon, Illinois Mayor James E. Dixon first exchanged cordial letters of introduction. In the midst of the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union, this friendly contact was very unexpected.
The story that unfolded was almost unparalleled, and made front-page news in both localities. In 1988, Mayor Kartamyshev and Mayor Dixon signed a document in Dixon, Illinois, to initiate a pioneering Sister City relationship. The full story is told in the 1994 book “From Fear to Friendship,” by journalists William Shaw and Boris Ivanov, published in English and Russian.
Thirty years after the document was signed on Aug. 29, 1988, between two distant towns with similar names, Dixon Sister Cities Association is pleased to be the guardian of that effort to hold together as sister cities Dikson, the northernmost Arctic settlement of the Russian Federation, and Dixon, our town on the banks of the Rock River.
How did this breakthrough in citizen diplomacy come about? Dikson, Russia made a courageous overture in an open letter to U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Those first exchanges of letters in the positive climate of Glasnost and Perestroika set lofty, peaceful goals, hoping to break down walls of ignorance and fear through people-to-people visits featuring mutuality and respect.
These goals have been partially realized. The citizen-to-citizen exchange, while diminished today, lasted years. The memory of two large Russian delegations descending on Dixon, Illinois has not been forgotten. Dixonites who traveled the 8,000 miles to Dikson still love talking about adventures on the Siberian tundra. The late police sergeant Harry Ulferts worked valiantly to keep the conversation going when communication began to lag.
We ask our community for patience and support while we attempt to re-establish regular communication with the very first of our four Sister Cities of the world: Dikson, Russia; Herzberg, Germany; Castlebar, Ireland; and Thika, Kenya.
Note to readers: David Nelson is president of the Dixon Sister Cities Association.