The first visit of a delegation from Papua New Guinea in the contemporary history of Russia has taken place!
It has become possible through the efforts of Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay’s descendant and full namesake, founder and Director of the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation, who organized this visit with the support of the New Generation program of the President of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Rossotrudnichestvo, and the partners of the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation.
Five delegates: Michael Kabuni, Laurelle S. Pentanu, Midelit Okole Pius, Russel Yangin, and Betty Fatima Isikiel – active public figures of the island state, lecturers in Political Science and Social Sciences at the universities of Port Moresby and Madang, visited St. Petersburg between 21 and 31 October, 2018, in order to develop and enhance social, business, and scientific ties between the Russian Federation and Papua New Guinea.
The New Guinea Island is familiar to millions of Russians owing to the books about Miklouho-Maclay’s exciting journeys to the area and his first meetings with the local population, who afterwards called him ‘the Big Great Russian’ − Tamo boro rus or Karaam Tamo.
What do we know about this Island in the XXI century? As it turns out, very little. The information that we can glean from the Russian web is largely unreliable, and the stories about Papua New Guineans still living in the Stone Age, are untrue.
What are they like, these people we know so well from Nickolay Miklouho-Maclay’s book Travels to the Maclay Coast, from the 1984 film The Coast of His Life with the acclaimed Soviet actor Yuri Solomin as the lead actor, from Tynyanova’s book The Moon Man?
In the XIX century, when the great scientist and explorer Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay came to New Guinea, the local people were curious to know what the place where he lived was like and when they would be able to see ‘Maclay’s village’.
This question was as relevant in 1971, when a research expedition organized by the USSR Academy of Sciences visited the Maclay Coast.
The year 2017 saw a research expedition led by the great explorer’s descendant and namesake and joined by the leading scientists from Moscow and St. Petersburg. The expedition team visited Papua New Guinea and the Maclay Coast (Rai Coast) and heard the same question, ‘You keep coming here, but how do you live?’
And finally, having returned from the distant Maclay Coast, Miklouho-Maclay Jr set himself a goal – to bring Papua New Guineans to Maclay’s homeland. Frankly speaking, this was not an easy task, and the preparation took nearly a year. It was important to select active and progressive citizens of Papua who were motivated to forge bilateral relations between our countries, so that this historic visit would not simply remain a pleasant memory, but would lead to contacts between the people of the two countries; we had to provide visa support, secure funding for the delegates’ trip, arrange cultural activities, but also working meetings with organizations interested in establishing ties with Papua. While preparing the trip, the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the University of Port Moresby at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum 2018, including the selection of delegates to Russia. Russia’s contacts with this insular nation could not be described as regular, but thanks to the islanders’ memory of the Russian explorer who lived among them and later fought for their rights, lost ties could be restored.