‘I decided to go to Russia because I want to help realize the dream of the great humanist and explorer Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay. He dreamed of uniting the people of New Guinea and Russia. This is a historic moment…’

Midelit Okoli Pius

member of the first delegation from Papua New Guinea in modern Russian history

 

The first visit of a delegation from Papua New Guinea in the modern history of Russia has taken place!

[vc_empty_space]It was made possible through the efforts of Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay’s descendant and full namesake, founder and director of the Miklouho-Maclay’s Foundation, who organized this visit with support from the New Generation program of the President of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, and the partners of the Miklouho-Maclay’s Foundation including the Melanesian Foundation.

Five delegates, active public figures of the insular 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 independent nation of Papua New Guinea is familiar to millions of Russian 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 of this island in the 21th 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 lead character played by the acclaimed Soviet actor Yuri Solomin, from Tynyanova’s book The Moon Man?

In the 19th century, when the great scholar 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 Junior 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 delegate’s 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 for collaboration 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 islander’s memory of the Russian explorer who lived among them and later fought for their rights, lost ties could be restored.[vc_empty_space]

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[vc_empty_space]At last, having overcome all the challenges and spent over two days on the road, the delegation arrived in St. Petersburg in the evening of 21 October, 2018. The guests were welcomed by Nickolay Miklouho-Maclay, staff of the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation, and the students from School No. 606, which takes active involvement in the Foundation’s events. After the much-anticipated meeting and hugs with Maclay Junior, the delegates were immediately taken to the hotel. The guests received warm clothes from Red Fox, the Project’s partner, as the next day promised to be very busy, and the weather in Russia is in stark contrast to Papua with its average yearly temperature of 25 degrees Celsius.
[vc_empty_space height=”22px”]We would like to express our gratitude to all partners and friends of the Foundation, as well as organisations and private persons for their invaluable assistance in bringing this large-scale ambition historical project to fruition.Repost

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