When the first Rotary club on the Kenai Peninsula was chartered in 1979 the Soviet Union was at its height as a world power. Then with the fall of communism in Russia and the dismantling of the U.S.S.R local Rotarians felt there was an opportunity to reach out to our neighbors to the west and sponsored Larry Rockwell, a retired school teacher for an exchange to Magadan Siberia to teach English. The relationship grew and several years later the Kenai/Soldotna Rotary club sponsored the first Rotary Club in eastern Russia and when the new club was chartered it became part of Rotary District 5010 which included Alaska and Yukon Territory Canada, the largest geographical district in the Rotary world.
As Russia transitioned from the leader of the communist world to a free republic where private enterprise was allowed Rotary flourished and the concept of business owners and managers freely returning their profits to help improve the community took root. The one club in Magadan became over fifty Rotary clubs that stretched throughout eastern Russian from Vladivostok to Yakutsk, Omsk to Novosibirsk and many places in between. Rotary District 5010 had grown to cover eleven time zones and the challenges for a District Governor (DG) to visit each club became tremendous. "The entrepreneurial spirit has exploded in Russia especially among the younger generation where we find lots of business people who are interested in service, community support and the Rotary way," says District 5010 DG Ted Trueblood. With the expansion of Rotary in Russia Rotary International last year decided that eastern Russia would become their own district in year 2012 and Trueblood has the historical legacy in the world of Rotary of being the "Last American" DG to serve in Russia.
While the Rotary clubs of eastern Russia will now be their own district, they are not being abandoned or forgotten by Alaskan and Canadian Rotarians says Trueblood, "We have an opportunity that will be called twin clubs where clubs in Alaska and Yukon can form a partnership with Russian clubs similar to a sister city arrangements where relationships will be strengthened and projects shared and Alaskans will visit Russia and in return they will come here and I'm excited and hopeful that the relationship with our Russian Rotarian brothers and sisters will continue to grow over the years," he said. There are three Rotary Clubs in the Central Peninsula and a new Rotoract Club for young business people ages 18-30. For more information go www.rotary.org.