The state of Florida is finalizing plans for a Russian Heritage Month scheduled for January. Event organizers say they hope it promotes peer-to-peer understanding among Russians and Americans.
Florida Department of State database analyst Eman Vovsi is from Russia. He came up with Russian Heritage Month as a way to honor Russian contributions to Florida. But he says he hopes it does more than that.
"I don’t want to sound like—I don’t know—a beauty contest star or anything like that, but that's seriously what we’re talking about: how to make our world better, how to live happy, how to raise families and children, how to cooperate, not to confront," he says.
Vovsi says the festival would be run by volunteers, and a Russian painter has loaned her work for an exhibition at the R.A. Gray Building in downtown Tallahassee. Other plans being considered are Russian movie screenings, lessons in Russian cuisine and perhaps a roundtable discussion on Russia-US relations.
The plans come as Tallahassee city officials say they’re close to a decision regarding their "sister-city" program with the Russian city Krasnodar. Gay-rights groups have demanded they end the partnership in light of Russia’s anti-gay laws.
Vovsi says he hopes the programs continue.
“I don’t see any reason that because of some political agenda, this program should be shut," he says. "First of all it’s about people, not about politics. And when Krasnodar delegation was here in Tallahassee last year, everyone was very happy. We didn’t really talk about differences between us. In fact, we talked about similarities and how we can work together.”
Russian Heritage Month is scheduled to start in mid- January with events at Tallahassee’s R.A. Gray Building.