Putin surprises the Kon-Tiki Museum

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has been known for surprises that have been far from welcome in recent months, but on Monday he surprisingly charmed staff at the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo. They were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of explorer Thor Heyerdahl on Monday when they suddenly received unexpected, warm and personal greetings from the controversial Russian leader.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been much in the news lately, but took time to congratulate the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo on the occasion of what would have been explorer Thor Heyerdahl's 100th birthday on Monday. PHOTO: Presidential Press and Information Office

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been much in the news lately, but took time to congratulate the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo on the occasion of what would have been explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s 100th birthday on Monday. PHOTO: Presidential Press and Information Office

Putin sent a letter to the director of the museum that houses Heyerdahl’s famous Kon-Tiki raft, congratulating the museum and its staff with the jubilee and calling Heyerdahl “a real friend” of Russia.

“In Russia we remember Thor Heyerdahl as a real friend,” Putin wrote in Russian, in a letter that also came with translations into Norwegian and English. Putin went on to write that Heyerdahl did a lot “to develop Russian-Norwegian relations.”

Putin said it was no coincidence that the famous Russian doctor and biologist Yuri Aleksandrovich Senkevich took part in Heyerdahl’s Ra expedition and was a close friend and colleague of Heyerdahl for many years. Putin wrote that Heyerdahl, who died in 2002, left a rich legacy for all of mankind, adding that it was difficult to overestimate the contribution Heyerdahl made to the study of history and relations between civilizations.

“I was very touched, and very glad,” Maja Bauge, director of the Kon-Tiki Museum, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), adding that the letter was personally delivered by two people from the Russian Embassy in Oslo.

Putin, who’s been harshly criticized in the west over Russia’s recent military intervention in Ukraine, went on to call Heyerdahl a “genuine patriot” of Norway who took part in the fighting for the liberation of Northern Norway from the Nazis. Putin wrote that it is “symbolic” that Russia and Norway together will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of East Finnmark later his month. That event is moving forward despite the recent tensions between Russia and many countries including Norway over Ukraine.

Putin ended by wishing Bauge success in her “noble” job at the museum, which he claimed contributes to “strengthening mutual understanding and trust among people.”

Bauge told NRK that the museum, which is in the midst of celebrating Heyerdahl’s 100th birthday with special events and exhibitions, occasionally receives letters from other national leaders. “But it was quite special to hear from Putin,” she said. “I think it’s impressive that he took the time to write.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund