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In Europe, the pairs of towns are called twin towns, but other languages say friendship towns or partner towns; in North America and Australasia, the towns are called sister cities. Brother cities was the name of twinned cities in the old Soviet bloc.
Twin towns often (but not always) have similar populations, industries and other characteristics. Sometimes, even larger areas enter into "twinning" agreements, such as that between the provinces of Hainan in China and Jeju in South Korea.
The earliest form of town twinning in Europe was between the German city of Paderborn and the French city of Le Mans in 836, although this was not officially established as a modern town twinning arrangement until 1967.
After the Second World War twinning was a way to bring European people into a closer understanding of each other and to promote cross-border projects and peace.
For example, Coventry twinned with Dresden as an act of peace and reconciliation, both cities having been heavily bombed during the war. Each twin city country is represented in a specific ward of the city and in each ward has a peace garden dedicated to that twin city.
Twinning is more popular in Europe than anywhere else, but the idea has now spread to other continents.
The first city in North America to establish a sister city relationship was Toledo, Ohio, United States, with Toledo, Spain in 1931. In 1944, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada twinned with the Ukrainian city of Odessa, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union. This was to show support and to help the allied port city during World War II.
- Town-twinning information from the European Commission
- Sister Cities International (cities twinned with cities in the USA)
- Germany and the town twinning movement
- List of UK twin towns
- Toledo Sister Cities International
- Two Toledos Documentary
- Town twinning in Europe's municipalities, towns and regions