First Ladies Get History Lesson in Library Tour

From Associated Press

Barbara Bush and Raisa Gorbachev leafed through the pages of history in Finland's national library on Sunday while their husbands tried to find a peaceful solution to the Persian Gulf crisis.

The U.S. and Soviet first ladies, touring the Helsinki University Library, pored over ancient books, manuscripts and maps, including the oldest known Moscow city map and an early American map showing California as an island.

Barbara Bush wore a royal blue dress, while Raisa Gorbachev was wearing a severe gray suit and a violet blouse, appearing less stylish than she has on previous visits to the West. She has drawn criticism in the Soviet Union for her fashionable attire.

Librarian Esko Hakli escorted the women through the domed, neoclassical library, pointing out the rarest of its 3 million books and 2 million other documents.

Raisa Gorbachev, a former university professor, repeatedly prodded him for historical tidbits as they strolled past stack upon stack of books, including the most complete collection of Russian works outside the Soviet Union.

She corrected Hakli when he pointed to "Asiatic Russia" on a map, saying of her ethnically diverse homeland, "We are one Russia, not Asian Russia and European Russia."

Helsinki University Library, as Finland's national library, receives copies of all books published in the country, including one of the first Finnish language books, a religious primer printed in the mid-1500s.

From 1820 to 1917, when Finland was a province of czarist Russia, the library also had the right to a copy of all books published by Russian printers, and it now has more than 400,000 works in Russian.

The university was founded in 1640 in Turku, the former capital of Finland, but a fire destroyed the entire city in 1827 and the university was moved to Helsinki.

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