MONTEVIDEO – Residents of San Javier, a town founded by Russian settlers in Uruguay’s western province of Rio Negro more than a century ago, are experiencing “conflicting emotions” ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where the two nations’ soccer teams will face off on June 25.
Mayor Anibal Facchin and Leonardo Martinez, the representative of Rio Negro’s Tourism Directorate, told EFE that the community of 2,830 residents is attending to the “last details” for its festivities surrounding the international soccer tournament.
“All eyes are on San Javier these days,” Facchin said, adding that, thanks to the World Cup, there has been a surge of people searching for information about the town, where some 300 Russian families settled in 1912-1913.
Martinez said that the facades of the town’s buildings and its green areas are being decorated with Russian motifs ahead of soccer’s most important championship, in which Uruguay will participate for the 13th time.
“The idea is for (San Javier) to become a link to Russia, to tie it to our customs as a town founded by Russians,” added Martinez, who is also a local tour guide.
He also said that the decorations will remain in place after the World Cup is over to help celebrate the town’s anniversary.
The community – founded by the followers of Vasiliy Semionovitch Lubkov, the leader of a spiritual sect seeking religious freedom, denied to them under the Czar – brought several customs and traditions to Uruguay, including the cultivation of sunflowers.
“They brought the sunflower and built the first sunflower oil-producing plant in the country,” Martinez said. “Then they built a movie theater. They were avid workers but also promoted recreational areas and culture.”