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From the Ground Up: USAID in Post-Soviet Russia

Six months after the fall of the Soviet Union, James (Jim) Norris became the USAID mission director in Russia. Not long before he set foot on Russian soil, though, the hammer and sickle flag was still flying over the Kremlin and Mikhail Gorbachev was still in office. However, the Soviet Union fell just as quickly […]

Presidents, Russians, and Diplomatic Wives: Anecdotes from a Voice of America Newsman

Journalist Euguene F. Karst knew the importance of words. He personally witnessed how communication could highlight the opinions of little known Russian farmers but also lead to embarrassing misunderstandings for the President of the United States. Through the Office of War Information, Voice of America, and other reporting, Karst worked to spread the principles and […]

“A Sea of Golden Grain”: USAID’s Response to Russia’s Invasion of Georgia

In the aftermath of Russia’s five-day war with Georgia in 2008, the National Security Council (NSC) met to review U.S. policy toward both countries.  Some urged elimination of USAID’s program in Russia. But USAID’s Russia program promoted democracy and development in Chechnya–a program Russia’s leaders would be all too happy to eliminate.  Susumu Ken Yamashita, […]

Whistle-Blowing on American Corruption in Russia

USAID unearthed a major corruption scandal in Russia in the late 1990s involving Harvard University’s Institute for International Development.  Dr. Janet Ballantyne, USAID’s mission director, blew the whistle. In her oral history, Ballantyne discusses the consternation this caused with U.S. Embassy leadership, and the repercussions of her reporting on relationships with key Russian officials. Throughout […]

From Russia with Love and Back Again: Rostropovich’s Exile and Return

Mstislav Rostropovich, considered one of the greatest cellists of the twentieth century, was born in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan in 1927. Graduating from the Moscow Conservatory, Rostropovich quickly established himself as the preeminent concert cellist in the USSR, collaborating with composers such as Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Britten. In 1955 he married Galina Vishnevskaya, a […]

Transnistria — Life in a Russian Bear Hug

Transnistria is a small breakaway state located between the Dniester River and Moldova’s eastern border with Ukraine. In November 1990, limited fighting broke out between Russian-backed pro-Transnistrian forces and the Moldovan police and military. The fighting intensified in March 1992, and lasted until an uneasy yet lasting ceasefire was established on July 22, 1992. Transnistria’s […]

Kopeks and Big Macs – Russia’s Move to a Market Economy

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the winter of 1991, the newly-formed Russian Federation took on the challenge of creating a market-oriented economy from the world’s largest state-controlled economy. President Yeltsin’s economic reforms led to hyperinflation and loss of financial security for many who had depended on state pensions, and Russia’s GDP contracted […]