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PHOTO: Free Hugs for Almaty residents 16 мая 2011, 19:23

On Sunday morning hundreds of Almaty citizens passing along Almaty Arbat (Zhibel Zholy) street were hugged by colorfully-dressed young people.
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Photo by Vladimir Dmitriyev© Photo by Vladimir Dmitriyev©
On Sunday morning hundreds of Almaty citizens passing along Arbat (a pedestrian section of Zhibek Zholy street betweenTsum and Silk Way shopping centers) were hugged by colorfully-dressed young people. That is how the Free Hugs campaign started. The city residents have found out about the event via social networks. The organizers suggested a hippie style dress-code: light and romantic summer clothes of the “free 60s” era. Young people walked along Arbat several times carrying Free Hugs posters. Passers-by reacted very differently. Some of them eagerly accepted the hugs and even joined the campaign, others started running shocked by the unusual event. The street part of the event finished at the entrance of Silk Way shopping center, where the participants held a small jam-session. Go by the event's atmosphere, the task of sharing warmth with unknown people and making this world a little better was achieved. The organizers call the event a pre-party to a hippie-festival Peace & Love that is to be held next weekend near Almaty. The FreeHugs history starts in 2004. On June 30 a plane from London landed in Sydney airport. Families and friends were waiting for passengers. Juan Mann was alone. He came back home from a long trip and noone was there to meet him. He felt lonely. He wanted somebody to smile at him or give him a hug. So, he made a sign saying Free Hugs and went to the streets of Sydney. Only after fifteen minutes a woman came up to Juan. Her dog died that morning. She told Juan that it was the one year anniversary of her only daughter's death in a car accident and she was all alone and all she wanted was a hug. Juan got down on his knee and hugged the woman. Mann's idea was widely supported in Sydney. In a few years a video was made with Mann hugging people out in the street with Australian band Sick Puppies' music as background. YouTube Video Awards 2006 gave the video an award as the most inspiring video of the year. After that the movement started spreading in the world. By Vladimir Dmitriyev

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