Those Russians aren't just coming, they've already arrived and West Jordan residents have whipped up a busy eight-day itinerary for their Eastern European guests.
A delegation of five representatives from West Jordan's Russian sister city, Votkinsk, flew into Salt Lake International Airport Saturday morning to begin a whirlwind economic development and cultural exchange tour.Their visit will be highlighted Wednesday by the dedication of the West Jordan Sister Cities International Peace Center, which has been constructed in the northeast corner of a city park.
Votkinsk is in the independent republic of Urdmurtia, a member of the Russian Federation that is located about 350 to 400 miles east of Moscow.
Matt Ferndandez, chairman of West Jordan's Sister Cities Advisory Committee, said Votkinsk is the birthplace of Tchaikovsky and the home of General Kalishnakov, for whom the famed AK-47 Soviet assault rifle was named.
"It is the home of a major steel production and manufacturing plant, the Votkinsk Machine Work," he said. "The plant is in excess of 250 years old and developed many of the steel-making technologies still used today."
Fernandez said the visit is partially funded by an $8,500 grant from the U.S. Information Agency and Sister Cities International "for a community problem solving/community development program."
The Russian visitors will tour a number of local businesses and industries, meet state and local government officials, stay with West Jordan residents and take in local attractions including a Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsal.
"The goal is to demonstrate and discuss economic opportunities, examine Utah culture and history, and talk about community problems and solutions," Fernandez said. "They will look at how we handle water, waste, traffic control, education and air pollution."
Included in the group are Votkinsk Mayor Valerie Fredrik, a director of a Votkinsk school, the chief executive officer of a manufacturing plant for a defense conversion venture called "Goods for Children," an attorney and a representative of an Urdmurtian manufacturing company.
Fernandez said the ties between West Jordan and Russia have been developing since the city became the home of the Russian missile inspection team established by the Intermediate Nuclear Forces reduction program.
Russians have resided in the community for eight years, mostly working at the Hercules plant now owned and operated by Alliant Technologies. The team has varied in size from two to three dozen inspectors and support staff including translators, Ferndandez noted.
He said one of the Russian team commanders suggested something to commemorate the team and to memorialize the old Soviet Union and current Russian Federation treaty signatories.
"We wanted to do something to recognize their dedication to the ideal of peace, and to the work their inspectors have performed here," Fernandez said.
The result was the International Peace Center, a memorial now being completed in West Jordan Park near the intersection of 2200 West and 7800 South.
It is shaped much like a wedding cake top with multiple tiers, and is crowned with a flag pole.
Fernandez said the 55-foot circle is intended to "signify the unending commitment to the ideal of peace" and provides six pads for the six signers of the INF Treaty. Each will erect their own memorial.
A ceremony dedicating the peace center will be held in the park Wednesday at 3 p.m.