Kuopio, Finland and Minneapolis, MN — Over 40 Years of Friendship

Lake Valkeinen in Kuopio, Finland. © iStock.com/Andrey Shevchenko

It has been said that the word Minneapolis means the “city of lakes.” The same thing could be said about the Finnish city of Kuopio, since one-third of the Kuopio area is covered by water. Water is just one of the common features that unites the cities. The two cities became sister cities over 40 years ago, and have common interest in arts, design, and education, with many organized activities to show for it.

The partnership between the city of Minneapolis and the city of Kuopio started in 1972–73. This sister city relationship is the second oldest for Minneapolis, which has 11 sister cities around the world. Since the cities became friends over 40 years ago, they have organized many activities together. Here are some milestones of the cooperation over the years:
In 1990, two cities arranged a book exchange. They collected hundreds of books and sent them to each other. The books were then distributed to local libraries and schools.

Minneapolis, MN. © iStock.com/RudyBalasko

From 1995 to 1998, the Minneapolis Sister City Committee helped students from the North Savo Technical College secure internships in Catering and Food Services at the University of Minnesota.

In 2001, the city of Kuopio organized “America Days”, and brought 25 people from the U.S. to Kuopio for the event. At the time, people living in Kuopio had a chance to get to know American culture a bit better, as the Kuopio Central Library had a special exhibit of Native American culture. A year later, nearly 20 people from Kuopio travelled to Minneapolis to participate in the FinnFest festival, an annual gathering for Finns and Finnish-Americans in the U.S.

Education has also been a common interest for the cities. In 2012, two Finnish teachers, Satu Nissi, a primary school teacher, and Ulla Tervo-Desnick, an elementary school teacher, visited Minneapolis and shared their experiences about being teachers.

Satu Nissi on a visit to Minneapolis in 2012. Photo by Satu Nissi.

“In Minneapolis, I gave a speech about Finland’s education system in 2012. I spoke about our national core curriculum and its regional specificities. I also talked about my work as a class teacher in primary school and how teachers are generally highly respected in Finland. The audience was eager to discuss these topics and they asked many additional questions. I hope the cities will strengthen the sister city relationship and hope the schools in Kuopio and in Minneapolis could cooperate more in the future,” Satu Nissi said.

The cities celebrated their 40th anniversary together in August 2013 in Kuopio.

In 2013, a delegation from Minneapolis travelled to Kuopio for their 40th anniversary celebration. Photo by Karl Reichert.

“On the occasion of Minneapolis and Kuopio’s 40th anniversary as sister cities, I was among nine community leaders from Minneapolis who traveled to Kuopio in August 2013 for a three-day jubilee celebration that left us in awe of the outstanding quality of life Kuopio provides to its residents. Our hosts introduced us to a vibrant and beautiful city that shares so much in common with our own, including first-rate educational, medical, cultural, and civic organizations that embrace innovation, care for environment, and use of cutting edge technology,” said Karl Reichert, Chair of the Minneapolis Kuopio Partnership and Executive Director of Textile Center in Minneapolis.

Clearly, sister city cooperation has been rewarding and inspiring for both cities. Let’s see what forms of cooperation the cities plan in the future!

Read more about the city of Kuopio: https://www.kuopio.fi/web/english 
Read more about the city of Minneapolis: http://www.minneapolis.org/

This story is part of the #SisterCitySunday series on Medium. Each Sunday from October 2, 2016 to May 7, 2017, new stories from the 28 European Union Member States will be published. Stories will also be shared on social media using #SisterCitySunday.

To join the conversation on social media, make sure to use #SisterCitySunday and tag @EUintheUS and @SisterCitiesInt on Twitter and Instagram, andEUintheUS and SisterCitiesInternational on Facebook. Let us know about your experiences in twinned cities and share your partnership stories with us!