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ST. PETERSBURG, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) ---- ""Art is one of the best means of exchange available to Russia and China,"" -- these words by a famous Russian sculptor Albert Charkin are as relevant today as they were spoken almost four years ago, when Charkin was opening the exhibition of Chinese and Russian art at St. Petersburg's Smolny Institute.

The outstanding 79-year-old sculptor passed away a week ago on Jan. 9, but he will always remain in the hearts of Russian and Chinese people, whom he had connected with a solid ""art bridge"", said Shao Changchun, Secretary General of the Beijing-based Peace Tour Cultural Exchange Center, while recalling Charkin, a friend of his as well as of China.

""Charkin was the most open-hearted European man I have ever met,"" Shao told Xinhua in a recent interview in St. Petersburg.

Shao said he first met Charkin in 2004 in St. Petersburg, when they were co-organizing a Chinese-Russian cultural event in the Repin Academy of Fine Arts.

Being passionate about promoting cultural exchanges between China and Russia, Charkin, then rector of the Repin Academy, suggested the idea of attracting Chinese artists in the educational process of his academy.

""With the support of the rector, our event had a great success. Subsequently, several Chinese artists, namely Wang Zhong, Zheng Yi and Liu Guohui, have been conferred the title of professor of the Repin Academy of Fine Arts,"" Shao said.

Later, Charkin has established the posts of a Sinologist professor and a professor of Chinese traditional painting ""guohua"" at the Repin Academy and invited Chinese specialists to these positions.

""I'm still under the pleasant impression of his friendliness and large-heartedness. His personal qualities helped greatly to the Peace Tour in holding a series of exchanges with Russia in the field of fine arts,"" Shao said.

However, the visit of Chinese art professionals to Russia and the organization of frequent art exhibitions between the two nations are not the only ways, in which Charkin has demonstrated his dedication to China.

The Russian sculptor has installed several sculptures in China, including his prominent work ""The morning of the life"".

What's more, Charkin became a teacher and a mentor for dozens of young Chinese artists, who studied at the Repin Academy in St. Petersburg.

""You can find the students of Charkin and the followers of his art all across China,"" Shao emphasized.

For his outstanding contribution to the development of cultural ties between China and Russia, Charkin was meant to get a humanitarian prize of the Silk Road, but health problem has kept the legendary sculptor from attending the official prize awarding ceremony in Beijing.

""According to the regulations, the winner shall personally receive the award, but Charkin could not come due to health problem. That's why we lost a precious opportunity to express our gratitude to him,"" Shao said.

He emphasized that Charkin will be very much missed not only in Russia but also in China.

""Many Chinese people who know Charkin are in grieve while he is on his way to the paradise,"" Shao said. Enditem


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