The Liberty prize for an outstanding contribution to the development of Russian-U.S. cultural relations was presented at a formal ceremony in Washington on Tuesday to director of the library of Congress and honorary member of the Russian Academy of Sciences James Billington and to director of the Solomon Gugenheim Foundation Thomas Krens. The prize which is awarded by an independent jury sponsored by the American media group Continent USA is the only award specially designed for those who actively help interaction of the USA and Russia in the cultural sphere.
Speaking on behalf of the jury, well-known writer and culturologist Solomon Volkov stressed that this year's winners were to a great extent pioneers in the field of study of Russian culture in the USA. As he said, already for more than 35 years James Billington's work an Icon And an Axe has been the greatest book on the history of Russia's culture in any language, while the exhibition of Russian avant-garde Great Utopia, organised by Thomas Krens at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1992, still remains unsurpassed. Volkov pointed out that both laureates continue actively working to further cultural cooperation of the USA and Russia.
For his part, James Billington noted that the rich cultural legacy of Russia has considerably enriched the United States' culture. The director of the Library of Congress expressed confidence that the flourishing of creative activity in diverse spheres of art which is observed in the Russia of today, and the high level of entrepreneural activity guarantee a rich and captivating future of the country.
After the presentation of the prizes the Valaam artistic company from St. Petersburg performed Russian folk songs before the participants in the event.
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the USA Yuri Ushakov, well-known cultural figures, businessmen and representatives of the public were present at the ceremony.