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The Legacy of Nikita Khrushchev
For those interested in Russian history, especially the history of the Soviet Union, a newly-released biography of Nikita Khrushchev will make for fascinating reading. Richard Pipes’ review of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, written by William Taubman, appeared in the March 26 issue of The New York Times - this review will be enough to make you go out and buy the book! Pipes claims that Taubman’s biography of the Soviet leader will be "the standard study of the man who in 1956 started de-Stalinization that 35 years later ended in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of its empire."
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Russia's Problems of Prosperity
While the economies of many nations are struggling, Russia is in its fifth year of economic growth with a national budget cushioned by a sizeable surplus. Russia, the world's No. 2 oil producer, continues to increase it oil output, which is up 11% from the first two months of last year. At the same time, the flow of cash out of the country has slowed down as Russians have grown in confidence in their own currency and their nation's future. The challenge now is to strengthen other sectors of the economy in order to lessen dependence on volatile oil prices, soon to be affected by a possible Middle Eastern conflict. For insights on the challenges of prosperity facing Russian leaders, see the article by Sabrina Tavernise entitled "Awash in Oil Dollars, Russia Tries to Steady Economy," that appeared in the March 6, 2003, issue of The New York Times.
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Young Russians Form an "Up with People" Group
Following a pattern much like the "Up with People" Group that was formed in the States after the turmoil of the 1960s, a new youth movement has formed in Russia called "Walking Together." The new movement, made up of Russian youth between the ages of 12 and 30, has grown to 80,000 members in 60 cities and towns across the Russian Federation. In an attempt to fill the moral vacuum left by the collapse of Communism ideology, "Walking Together" members agree not to use drugs or alcohol or foul language, to attend six concerts or plays a year, visit four historic Russian cities, and read six books a year from the library. For further insights about this movement, see the article entitled "Russian Group Is Offering Values to Fill a Void," that appeared in the February 16, 2003, issue of The New York Times.
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Muscovites Battle Over Monument to Russian Writer
In a fascinating story by Sabrina Tavernise, entitled "Muscovites' Love for a Classic Ends at the Park," (The New York Times, February 7, 2003), a battle between Russian citizens and city authorities in Moscow is being played out over a monument to the beloved Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov. Feelings for the author and his classic book, The Master and Margarita -- perhaps the most popular Russian novel of the last century -- are butting up against deep-seated suspicions of governing authorities. This story gives insights into Russia's current struggle as a newly-forming democracy.
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Bribery in Russia -- Even in Education.
A recent report estimated that Russian citizens pay about $3 billion in bribes annually -- about half of what they pay in income tax. Traffic officers rake in $368 million a year, beaten only by education employees who take in $449 million annually. This research is described in an article by Sabrina Tavernise entitled "A Russian Tilts at Graft" (The New York Times, February 10, 2003). While the theme of this article is not a new one, the observations about corruption in Russian education are alarming. The key figure in the story, Georgi A. Satarov, notes that "corruption has deformed the [educational] system. Instead of awarding degrees to our smartest young people, we are awarding degrees to our most able corruptors."
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When is Christmas in Russia?
Anna Applebaum, in her article entitled "Santa's Russia" (The Washington Post, December 25, 2002) describes the confusion in Russia over when to celebrate Christmas. This confusion is symbolic of the deeper tensions in Russia over the nation's identity. Should they celebrate Christmas on January 7 using the Orthodox calendar, should they forget Christmas and just celebrate New year's which is what the Soviet regime tried to get the people to do, or should they follow the pattern in the West and celebrate Christmas on December 25? This is just one illustration of a much deeper question: What will Russia become -- part of Europe, part of the Orthodox world separate from Europe, or distinctively something else?
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Russia's Expanding Middle Class
In her fascinating article about Russia's growing middle class entitled "Rising Middle Class Pumping Up Retail" (The Moscow Times, November 21, 2002), Megan Merrill highlights the changing face of Russia and how a newly-emerging middle class of somewhere between 15% and 40% of Moscow's population is impacting the city. The middle class outside Moscow's city limits is much smaller in size, possibly no more than 20% of Russia's overall population. The criteria for defining a middle class in Russia is hardly a settled issue, and, as a result, the estimates in terms of monthly income range from $300 to $5,000 per month. What is clear is that Moscow has a substantially larger middle class than anywhere else in the Russian Federation and salaries in the capital city are two to four times higher than outside the Moscow beltway.
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Teaching Religion in Russia's Public Schools.
Because of the painful experience of state-sponsored atheism and its aggressive persecution of religion during the decades of Communist rule in Russia, church-state relations is a very sensitive subject in the Russian Federation. In an article entitled "Schools To Teach Orthodox Culture" (The Moscow Times, November 18, 2002), Andrei Zolotov, Jr., reports on a new initiative by the Department of Education to offer an optional course in Russian state schools on "Orthodox culture." The intention of the course is to immerse children in the Orthodox worldview and the recommendation is that the course be offered once a week in primary schools and twice a week in secondary schools. According to Education Ministry officials, student attendance is voluntary. For adherents of other religions, even "traditional religions" as defined by state law, the question is whether or not they will also be allowed to offer "optional courses" in their religion in state schools as well. Without this right, the freedom of religion in Russia will once again suffer a major setback.
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Russian Students Struggle to Pay for Tuition.
The struggle facing many Russian students who must raise the money needed to pay for tuition at state and private universities is a pathetic one and the willingness of young Russian women to trade sex for education is just another example of this desperate situation. Byron MacWilliams, in his article "Turning Tricks for Tuition" (the November 8, 2002 issue of The Chronicle for Higher Education), highlights a number of young Russian women who engage in this exchange because they can not find any other way of making the money needed for advanced schooling.
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Foreign Investment in Russia: Things Are Starting to Change
Russia's economy has made a dramatic turn-around since 1998. Russia has seen three straight years of robust growth, its budget is in surplus and it is paying off its debts on time and in full. Last year it had the world's best-performing equity market after China. Yet, foreign investment is lacking, although there are signs things are beginning to change. For insights on these issues, see the article by Guy Chazan in the October 14, 2002 issue of The Wall Street Journal.
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The Importance of Knowing Your Nation's History …
Despite Alexander Solzhenitsyn's observation that "repentance is the clearing ground for reform," the Russian people have still not confronted the violence and terror of the Communist regime. In her article entitled "Russia Keeps Stalin Locked in Its Past," which appeared in the September 24, 2002, issue of The Washington Post, Sharon LaFraniere quoted a Russian activist who argued passionately that the Russian people "simply do not know their history and that means they are completely disarmed against any potential dangers." For those of us involved in higher education in Russia, we have the responsibility of training Russian young people who know their nation's past, to accept responsibility for what occurred, and to learn to say "We're sorry."
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Peace Corps Workers Forced to Leave Russia
On Monday, August 12th, 30 Peace Corps workers were informed that their visas would not be reissued by the Russian government. Last year, 10 other Peace Corps workers were also refused visas. While we have no "insider information" on this news story, we believe this refusal is based on an issue of pride and public image. Russian officials do not consider their nation's status to be equivalent to that of a Third World country where Peace Corps are sent to help with the basics of development. For coverage of this issure, see Sabrina Tavernise's article, "Russia Declines to Renew Visas for 30 U. S. Pace Corps Workers," in the August 14, 2002 issue of The New York Times.
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New Code of Ethics for Public Officials
In a context where corruption is rampant, even among government officials, President Putin made an important statement by signing a new decree outlining general principles of ethical conduct for government bureaucrats. Putin's commitment to reform is evident in this new decree that defines "conflict of interest" and instructs government officials to be polite and attentive toward the needs of citizens. This emphasis on ethics is a theme built into the curriculum of RACU. For a news report on this new ethical code, see Andrei Zolotov's essay "Putin Pens Code for Ethical Conduct" in the August 14, 2002 issue of The Moscow Times.
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Russian Corporations: Charitable Contributors?
One of the most encouraging signs in Russian society in recent months has been the gradual emergence of charitable funds established by Russian corporations.  This is a key component in the emergence of a civil society, especially when newly formed non-profit entities that are doing valuable humanitarian service are supported by corporate grants.  For the story on this exciting development, see "Corporate Russia reaches into its pockets" in the July 19, 2002, issue of The Russia Journal.
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Russians Criticize Capitalism
In an article entitled "Capitalism Under Attack," that appeared in the July 31, 2002 issue of The Moscow Times, the writer, Professor Robert Skidelsky noted how capitalism is now under fierce criticism in Russia for the "first time since the fall of communism."  One facet of this criticism relates to the issue of businesses' social responsibility and Skidelsky argued here that financial accounting needs to be replaced by social accounting, citing the example of Shell International, a corporation that calculates the net value that its companies add to the world in terms of sustainable development and social progress.
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The Importance of Teaching Business Ethics in Russia
RACU was established at the invitation of the Russian government, following an educational exchange in 1990, when Russian educators came to the States and witnessed classroom discussions on business ethics at several member colleges of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).  This need for business ethics and for moral standards was clearly recognized by Russian educators, while at the same time American business schools were backing away from this emphasis on character development and moral training.  For an insightful analysis of this dilemma in American business schools, see Amitai Etzioni's essay "When It Comes to Ethics, B-Schools Get an F" in the August 4, 2002, issue of The Washington Post.
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