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article imageOp-Ed: Myshkin, Russia - Unique appreciation of the mouse for children

By Paul Bradbury     Feb 8, 2012 in Travel
Myshkin - The branding of a Russian town based on its name has led to an unlikely tourism rush and a children's book that has fired the imagination of children internationally.
“Myshka” in Russian means a ‘little mouse’. and the word Myshkin means ‘mouse’s’—as in mouse’s house, mouse’s town, mouse’s world. The legend about how the town got its charming name goes back a thousand years when a Prince fell asleep under a tree and was about to be attacked by a venomous snake. A mouse saw this from the safety of a hidden log, but decided to risk his life and ran up the Prince’s sleeve and tried to wake him up by tickling his nose with his whiskers. As a reward, the Prince named the whole area Myshkin.
How this tiny village of 3,000 on the banks of the Volga about 5 hours from Moscow managed to re-invent itself as a tourist destination that draws more than 100,000 people from around the globe is remarkable.
Myshkin’s branding of its name has not only led to an unlikely tourism rush but a children's book that has fired the imagination of children internationally.
It is a story to warm the heart in the harshest of Russian winters, the tale of a prince whose life is saved by a devoted mouse. And yet the warmer tale perhaps how a rural Russian town managed to transform itself by creating the “world’s only” Museum of the Mouse and an ensemble of other museums that celebrate the town’s turbulent history.
The ancient town of Myshkin can trace its beginnings back to the 8th Century. Although Catherine the Great herself officially recognized the town as Myshkin in the 1700’s, it fell into such serious decline during the Communist era, it almost became an abandoned village like many of its nearby neighbors. It was only saved from total desolation by the opening of a compressor factory in 1969.
The Town Named Mouse  a unique children s story
The Town Named Mouse, a unique children's story
Robert Aronson
Despite the winds of political change in the early 1990s, the town was still on the edge of survival. But a group of local enthusiasts thought of a way to save the town—why not open a museum to attract tourists to “the only museum in the world dedicated to the mouse”?!.
Their vision and hard work was so successful that less than a decade later, the town was attracting more than 100,000 visitors! The museum held an International Mouse Festival in 1996, and now boasts a collection of more than 2,000 mouse-related objects that visitors bring in from all over the globe.
Every 10-15 years when the Chinese celebrate the Year of the Mouse, Myshkin holds a big celebration. The last festival was in 2008, when Russian President Medvedev was invited.
The Town Named Mouse  a unique children s story
The Town Named Mouse, a unique children's story
Robert Aronson
The visit of Medvedev, apart from the irony of President Bear coming to Mouse Town (medved means 'bear’ in Russian) included the gift of the children's book which commemorates the town’s legendary founding and has helped export the name of Myshkin all over the globe.
The Town Named Mouse was written in English by an American, Robert Aronson, who lived in Russia for a decade and worked for a nonprofit organization there, and was translated by his Russian wife Natasha. Beautifully illustrated with two page spreads by Marina Zorina, a Russian children’s theatre designer, it’s a delightful tale based on the actual legend but includes a back story of how the mouse met the Prince because of their mutual fascination for unique buttons. In Aronson’s imaginative story, unable to wake the Prince by tickling his nose, Myshkin the mouse uses his mirror button to catch the sun’s rays and dazzle the snake's eyes causing him to stop his attack..
The Town Named Mouse  a unique children s story
The Town Named Mouse, a unique children's story
Robert Aronson
Digital Journal met the author last week in Croatia and gratefully accepted a copy of the book. It has been mandatory reading every night at bed time since, as two wide-eyed children's eyes are opened to a magical kingdom of princes, mice and special buttons.
The legacy of the decision to re-invent their town and open a Museum of the Mouse has not only helped revitalize Myshkin (it’s now a regular tour stop on the river cruises between Moscow and Jaroslavl) and touch the hearts of children all over the world, but was used as a fund-raiser to collect more than $50,000 to help Russian orphans by the Russian charity started by the Swedish cosmetics firm Oriflamme.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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