Twin cities or friendship cities are those who have strong friendly ties. The twin cities constantly cooperate with each other in various fields, such as culture, sports, history and in other areas where there is mutual interest. As a rule, towns belonging to the same country cannot be twinned, but there are some exceptions.
Cooperation of twin cities is primarily expressed in exchange of delegations, art and sports groups, exhibitions, literature, films, photographs that help in familiarizing with the life and traditions of another city.
This status gives “privileges” not only in the field of culture. It also means trust in the city, readiness for cooperation, strengthening ties in the tourism sector and the business community. In addition, twinning status implies supporting a city that has suffered from natural disasters, technological disasters, etc.
A list of twin cities can be very large, for example, the capital of Crete, Heraklion has 19 twin cities, according to Wikipedia. The twin cities of Heraklion in Egypt are Alexandria and Suez, in the USA—New York and Los Angeles, in the UAE—Dubai, in Somalia—Mogadishu. Heraklion has the largest number of twin cities in Russia: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Sochi, Chelyabinsk, Vladivostok, Perm and Novorossiysk. A careful study of the list does not confirm a long-term cooperation with Heraklion, excluding Nizhny Novgorod. The twinning agreement between Heraklion and Nizhny Novgorod was signed in June 2018.
Another city in Crete—Rethymno—has also a partner in Russia. This is the town of Pushkin (named Tsarskoye Selo until 1918), which now became part of St. Petersburg. The partners of Rethymnon are also the town of Ayia Napa in Cyprus and the town of Castenaso in Italy, in the region of Bologna.
International organizations of twin cities
The movement of “town twinning” dates back to time of World War II. The first agreement on friendship and cooperation between cities from the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition was signed in 1944 between Stalingrad (now named Volgograd) and Coventry in the UK. These cities were almost completely wiped out during the war. Residents of Coventry made a tablecloth on which they embroidered the names of 830 women of the city, as well as the words “Better a little help than a big regret”. The tablecloth from Coventry as a symbol of unity and friendship together with the money raised was transferred through the USSR Embassy in London to the city of Stalingrad. This tablecloth is now stored in the Museum of the Battle of Stalingrad. In 2008, the inhabitants of Volgograd made their “Stalingrad tablecloth” and handed it to Coventry in honor of the 65th anniversary of twinning relations between the two cities.
Representatives of twin cities in 1957 in Aix-les-Bains (France) founded an international non-governmental organization—the World Federation of twin towns. Initially, it included only representatives of twin towns from 12 countries of the world. Their center was located in Paris. The federation included both towns and collective members—divers associations of towns. The goals and objectives of the federation were set out in a charter, the so-called Charter of twin towns, and in the Political program of twin towns. Every year, starting in 1963, on the last Sunday of April, the World Day of twin towns is celebrated. By 2000, the federation had already united over 3,500 towns in more than 160 countries.
World Federation of Twin Cities
In 1964, the Soviet twin towns merged into Association for Relations of Soviet and Foreign Cities. This association has become a collective member of the World Federation of Twin Towns. In 1991, the International Association of “Friendship Towns” was established as an international non-governmental organization, the assignee of the Association for Relations of Soviet and Foreign Cities. More than 180 towns of Russia and the CIS countries are now participating in the Association’s activities.
It is believed that the international municipal movement started even earlier, in 1913, when the International Union of Cities was founded at the International Congress on the Art of Urban Building and the Organization of Public Life in Ghent (Belgium). In 1928, this union changed its name to the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA). In 1948, the IULA Secretariat was located in The Hague (Netherlands), where it remained until 2004.
The merging of the largest world organizations uniting cities, local and regional authorities, municipal associations around the world ended in 2004 after the creation of the world organization—“United Cities and Local Governments”. The united organization was established by the World Federation of Twin Cities, the International Union of Local Authorities, as well as the Metropolis Association of Large Cities (Metropolis.org). The first leader, the founding president, is Bertrand Delanoe, the then mayor of Paris. The headquarters of the organization is in Barcelona. It consists of local and regional authorities and their national associations. Currently, it brings together more than 240,000 participants. The main decision-making body is the World Council. It has more than 300 members from all regions of the world and meets at least once every three years. The World Council now includes from Russia the president of the non-profit organization United All-Russian Association of Municipalities (Congress) and representatives of 34 towns.
The Eurasian regional branch of the organization “United Cities and Local Governments” (UCLG EPO) is the youngest and dynamically developing one, includes more than 100 towns and associations of local authorities of the CIS countries and Mongolia. The headquarters of the Eurasian Branch is in the city of Kazan (http://euroasia-uclg.ru).