The first organised group of American tourists arrived in Russia 135 years ago, on July 31st, 1867. Alta California reporter Samuel Clemens, later known as Mark Twain, was among them.
A group of 65 Americans came to Odessa on board the Quaker City steamer, cruising over the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea countries. They had already been in the Azores, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey and intended to visit Palestine, Egypt and the Bermudas.
After the cruise Mark Twain published a series of essays in the newspaper and later wrote a book of travel notes "Innocents Abroad". Several chapters of the book were devoted to the visit to the Russian Empire.
Mark Twain's general attitude to Russia was favourable, however, his description of life and customs of Crimean residents is full of irony and sarcasm. For instance, in Sevastopol he was impressed by smoking women from the local society. The writer considered Odessa a typical American town. "There was not anything to remind us that we were in Russia," he stressed.
The tourists aimed to visit the sites of battles of the recent Crimean War. Mark Twain met General Eduard Totleben, a famous Sevastopol defender.
During the visit to Livadia, the American tourists were received by the Russian royal family, taking rest in the Crimea at that very time.
It was an official and brief meeting, with the US Consul to Odessa reading to the tsar the address by the American tourists.
A special committee was formed to draft the address. However, Mark Twain had to do it alone. The writer didn't mind to writing an address to the Emperor or somebody else but believed that other committeemen could have written at least one paragraph for five.
"America owes much to Russia: is indebted to her in many ways; and chiefly for her unwavering friendship in the season of her greatest need. That the same friendship may be hers in time to come, we confidently pray," reads the address by "a handful of private citizens of America". Alexander II expressed hope that Russian-American friendship will last forever.
After that, Grand Duke Mikhail organised an excursion over his palace in Oreanda and treated them with a delicious lunch. According to Mark Twain, the Russian monarchs "are strangely like common mortals." In spite of his ironic and even satiric manner of writing, Mark Twain's description of the royal family is full of respect. "Any man could see that there was an intention here to show that Russia's friendship for America was so genuine as to render even her private citizens objects worthy of kindly attention," he wrote.
However, due to the general ironic mood of the book, the tsar's censorship always abridged chapters about the meeting with the royal family in the Crimea in Russians translations of "Innocents Abroad" /the first one was published in 1897/.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969