Russia Day celebrates Russian-American relations with business forum, gala

Russia Day 2013

More than 250 Russian nationals and Americans joined together to celebrate Russia Day with a business forum at the Park Hyatt and black-tie gala at the Drake Hotel on Thursday, June 13.

Russia Day was founded in 2011 by the Moscow Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International, chaired by Aleksandra Efimova and Prince Piotr Galitzine, to honor Russia’s national holiday, which is celebrated on June 12 and commemorates the day in 1990 when the Russian parliament formally declared sovereignty over Russia.

This year, the event increased in size and scope, with more than twice as many corporate sponsors participating than last year. In addition to the black-tie gala, this year’s celebration was expanded to include a business forum, as well as the presentation of Achievement Awards, which recognized individuals who have made a remarkable contribution to Russian-American collaboration.

Ms. Efimova said she believes both of these additions will encourage continued partnerships between the United States and Russia. “Russia has so much to offer the world, espcially in the arts, sciences, education and trade,” Ms. Efimova said. “These new Russia Day events provide a unique opportunity for creating and deepening relationships among individuals and organizations with ties to Russia.”

Co-hosted by the U.S.-Russia Chamber of Commerce, the business forum took place from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and featured discussions about trade between the United States and Russia, investment opportunities in both countries, and a networking session with prominent Russian and American business leaders.

Andrew Pidgirsky, an attorney with Adams and Reese LLP in Houston, said the business forum reflected the growing importance of Russian partnerships in the U.S. economy. “The 3rd Annual Business Roundtable in Chicago… emphasized an increase in the U.S.-Russia bilateral trade and investment,” he said. “Russian companies, including TMK-IPSCO, Severstal, NMLK and others, invested billions of dollars in the U.S. economy and created thousands of jobs.”

David Kronfeld, founder of JK&B Capital, who hosted the business forum at his private residence at the Park Hyatt, said the opportunity to learn firsthand from the leaders of successful Russian companies in the United States and U.S. companies in Russia was invaluable. “Recent evidence of success strongly suggests that opportunities abound, and that now may be a great time for companies from both countries to reach out and work cooperatively to exploit them,” he said.

Later that evening, guests gathered for the black-tie gala at the Drake Hotel, where the opulent Gold Coast room served as a dramatic backdrop for the cocktail reception, speeches, dinner and dancing.

Russian influences were evident throughout the night, including a giant Real Russian Vodka ice sculpture and a Russian-inspired menu featuring borscht, beef stroganoff with mushrooms, salmon in crepes, and napoleon for dessert.

Sergey I. Kislyak, the Ambassador of Russia to the United States, gave the keynote address of the evening, where he spoke about his desire to bring both countries closer together through continued trade and open dialogue.

Additional speakers included Mr. Galitzine, chairman of TMK IPSCO, a Russian company with offices in Downers Grove; and Robert Miller, president of NLMK USA, the American division of a Russian-owned steel company.

Guests were also treated to cultural performances by the Chicago Children’s Choir; baritone Carl Ratner, associate professor of music at Western Michigan University; and the St. Petersburg Trio, part of The Washington Balalaika Society Orchestra. The evening capped off with dancing to the Rendezvous Band.

One of the most exciting moments of the gala was the presentation of the Achievement Awards. This year, the awards were presented to Anna Reznik and Alexei Kremnev, Russian dancers who trained at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy before becoming artistic directors of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, and William Craft Brumfield, professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University.

Mr. Brumfield said he was proud to be chosen as one of the first recipients of the Achievement Award, and he said the entire Russia Day event was a wonderful way to honor the Russian people. “It is especially important in these times to think not just of politics and economics, but also the spirit of a country that has provided so much to our cultural heritage,” he said.

Chicago Sister Cities International coordinates programs and projects with Chicago’s 28 sister cities and is committed to promoting Chicago as a global city, developing international partnerships and networks, and sharing best practices on a city-to-city basis.

Since its inception in 1960, Chicago Sister Cities International has built bridges between the people of Chicago and its international neighbors to achieve greater mutual understanding and to strengthen civic, economic, and cultural ties. Chicago has been a sister city with Moscow since 1997.