Pertti Joenniemi & Alexander Sergunin
This article examines the unfolding of relations between two northern towns, Kirkenes and Nikel, as a rather recent case of city twinning. Their endeavor, launched in 2008, did not emerge in the standard bottom-up type of fashion with the cities in question defying to some extent the divisive impact of statist borders. It came instead into being as part and parcel of broader schemes of cross-border cooperation between Norway and Russia encouraged by central authorities. It might thus be assumed that twinning project is doomed to succeed. The towns might well turn into a bridge altering decades of closure and isolation, although it is also conceivable that being tied to a broader setting largely outside the control of the towns themselves hampers cooperation. The two towns do not necessarily engage in the production of familiarity and closeness in the way they are assumed and encouraged to do but pursue policies of their own premised on unfamiliarity and bordering rather than de-bordering. Our aim is thus to chart the experiences gained during the initial years of the project implementation as well as the difficulties encountered in this process. Exploring the somewhat particular case of Kirkenes-Nikel arguably adds to the insight concerning city-twinning in Northern Europe, but it also invites for a probing of the various aspects of a rather complicated relationship where interests in cooperation and the established of an in-between space premised on rather far-reaching togetherness co-exists and struggles with feelings of animosity and distrust.
Pertti Joenniemi is a Researcher at the Karelian Institute, University of Eastern Finland, Finland; and Alexander Sergunin is Professor at the St. Petersburg State University and Higher School of Economics, Russia.