In a small portable furnace, on a deck overlooking the Annapolis waterfront, a 45-pound bell was cast yesterday that Annapolis city officials say will serve as a symbol of international friendship.
The bell, made by John Meneely, owner of a Deale marina and president of the Meneely Bell Co. of Annapolis, will be rung in Annapolis City Hall at 9:30 a.m. today when a group of Russians from Annapolis' sister city of Togliatti visits the mayor's office for the first time.
The bell, with the official seals of Annapolis and Togliatti on it, will remain at City Hall as part of Project Friendship, a partnership program that encourages economic, professional and educational exchanges.
Togliatti, a city of 700,000 along the Volga River, has been Annapolis' sister city for about a year. A similar bell will be placed at the Togliatti City Hall.
At a reception yesterday at the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront Hotel, Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins and Togliatti City Council Chairman Vladimir Zhukov stood side by side to pledge mutual efforts to share knowledge helpful to each other's economic development.
Tickets for the event were $35. The reception raised $2,000, for seed money to help Togliatti merchants start small businesses.
In brief remarks, officials of each city gave a glimpse of what is important to their communities. The Russian officials spoke through an interpreter.
"Russia now is like a baby that was asleep and is now awakening.
"Now, we have new feelings and new sensations everywhere," Mr. Zhukov told the reception of about 50 people.
Mayor Hopkins noted that the former Soviet Union became an ally to the United States during World War II, a friendship forged by conflict.
"Today, we are friends because of peace, and it is a very good friendship," he said.
After the officials spoke, Mr. Meneely drew the 45-pound bronze bell out of the furnace, where it had been cooking for an hour at 2,000 degrees.
The five officials from Togliatti will be in Maryland until May 14, visiting schools, hospitals and businesses and getting tours of facilities such as Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
There also will be a trip to New York, where they will meet with members of Congress, said Nikolai Utkin, head of the city administration for Togliatti.
Mr. Utkin said he thinks the recent Russian elections, which gave President Boris N. Yeltsin a vote of confidence, will mean more support for the Russian leader and more stability for Togliatti's economy.
"We have new laws that will encourage joint ventures," he said. "I think most of the people support his reforms."
He said the group, which arrived in Maryland Saturday, is hoping to pick up some pointers on how to diversify Togliatti's regional economy, which is now based around the Volga car plant. One of the world's largest, the auto plant employs 150,000 people and produces a Russian passenger car known as the Zhiguli.
"We'd like to open restaurants and cafes," Mr. Utkin said. "All the sorts of tourism that are here."