Churchill described Russia as "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." This past summer (June 1997) I had the opportunity to see for myself and to learn more about Russia through a faculty development seminar conducted by the Council for International Educational Exchange. The seminar, titled Russia through the Eyes of the Media: Reform and the New Social Landscape, was a one-week cooperative venture between CIEE and the Russian-American Press and Information Center (RAPIC). The participants in the seminar included faculty members of varied disciplines from across the United States.

This is collection of images and ideas from my trip to Russia in a personal journal.Please note that the links in this page lead to a scrapbook of photographs with captions. Many of the photographs are large and may take a few moments to load.

Getting to Russia: My trip began in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on May 31 when I boarded an airport shuttle to JFK in New York. As one might anticipate, this would be a long journey to the other side of the globe. The first leg of the trip was an overnight flight from New York City to Paris, which took about seven hours. The flight arrived in Paris 30 minutes behind schedule.

It was quite a sprint to make the connecting flight to St. Petersburg. On the shuttle around Charles de Gaul airport, my fears of missing the flight were reduced when I met a number of my group members also in transit to the second leg of the journey. It was a four-hour flight from Paris to St. Petersburg.

Our immediate entry into Russia was rather uneventful. Our passports were stamped at Customs and we were on our way to find our luggage. At the baggage claim we met our seminar hosts for St. Petersburg: Karen Dubrule, a CIEE representative, and Anna Sharogradskaya, regional coordinator of RAPIC's St. Petersburg office.

Our adventure began at baggage claim. One after another, members of our group were delighted to find their luggage cruising along on the small luggage carousel. A number of sad souls, myself included, could not locate all of our luggage. Just as we were about to file lost luggage claims (which were not a guarantee that our luggage would be found), a second wave of luggage from our flight was announced. All but one member of our group left the airport with all their luggage in tact. Dr. Gary Brock, an associate professor of sociology at Southwest Missouri State University, spent one night in St. Petersburg without his belongings. A true group bonding experience, everyone tried to accommodate Gary by sharing comfort items. His luggage was located the following day and returned to the hotel.

During our five days (four nights) in St. Petersburg (June 1 - 5) we stayed at the Hotel Moskva, located at the end of Nevsky Prospekt and across the street from the beautiful Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Hotel Moskva overlooks the River Neva, but does not meet with high recommendations from travel guide books. Its best features include the view of the River Neva and its convenient location to the Ploshchad Aleksandra Nevskovo metro. Some times we had hot water; on other occasions the tap water was brown and left a gritty residue in the sink. Telephone service in the rooms was excellent. The towels supplied by hotel housekeeping were thread bare and toilet paper was a luxury.

White Nights: It really stays light all the time. That shouldn't surprise me. As a child, my father used to tell me stories about living in Alaska and how days lasted for months, followed by month-long nights. The nights are like an extended twilight between dusk and dawn. Even with the curtains drawn I found it difficult to sleep. Maybe it was the excitement of being in Russia, or the scramble of my body clock, or just the White Nights.

Around St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg is a beautiful city set on more than 100 islands, which are connected by more than 60 waterways. Between scheduled meetings (CIEE Seminar Agenda), our guides and interpreters -- Irina Pyaro and Katya Pouzyreva, gave us sight-seeing tours of the city. I especially enjoyed the Church of the Resurrection and The Hermitage. Other highlights of St. Petersburg included Kazansky Cathedral, Mariinskaya Palace, and Mariinskaya Theatre where we enjoyed the ballet "Silfida."

The Hermitage: The Hermitage is one of the world's largest art museums. According to our guide, a person who spent one minute viewing at each object on display in the museum would need an entire year to see everything. That's not difficult to imagine when you consider the more than 1,000 rooms and halls that comprise the Winter Palace. During a brief two-hour tour, our guide Katya showed us great works that ranged from paintings of Van Gogh and Picasso to Michelangelo's "Crouching Boy" statue and a remarkable collection of the Impressionists. A highlight of the visit to the Hermitage was the Unseen Treasures Collection, a collection of art works taken from Germany by Soviet soldiers at the end of World War II.

Novgorod :We met with the mayor of Novgorod and learned about the region's interest in attracting foreign investors and companies. Formerly an important trade route for Russia, Novgorod would like to regain that title and improve the living conditions for its citizens by attacting new business growth.

Media in Russia
Russian American Press and Information Center (RAPIC) was founded in 1992 as a joint project of the Center for War, Peace and the News Media in 1992 (New York University) and the Institute for U.S. And Canadian Studies (The Russian Academy of Sciences). Its mission is to promote the development of a professional, effective, free and economically viable media in Russia as a necessary component of democracy. Moscow is the headquarters of its regional network.

RAPIC in St. Petersburg was founded in December 1993. The center works with practicing journalists and with teachers and students of journalism. The center coordinates programs to promote media partnerships between Russia and the U.S. Through regular seminars, briefings, round tables, and news conferences the center acts as a liaison between political, economic, cultural, social and environmental groups and the Russian media. RAPIC also provides training programs for journalists.

Gaudeamus, a city-wide university newspaper, is also run out of the St. Petersburg RAPIC office. The newspaper is part of the European Journalism Network, which supports student-based press in Eastern Europe.

In 1994, the center opened its computer resource library in connection with The Freedom Forum. The library is intended for journalists, students of journalism, the interested public, and scholars. The library holdings include reference books, periodicals, and on-line computer access to a large number of Russian and Western databases with full texts of thousands of newspapers, magazines, and journals.

Russian Media and New Technology: According to Dmitry Ruschin, an associate professor in the School of Journalism at St. Petersburg University, and Matt Bivens, editor of the St. Petersburg Times, the Internet is the new revolution sweeping across Russia. It is a revolution that is quickly giving Russian journalists the power to exchange ideas, educate citizens and promise change in their media practices.

Russian journalists are taking advantage of the Internet as a source of information as well as a vehicle for distributing traditional news products. Not only are Moscow and St. Petersburg newspapers and magazines sailing across international borders, but also a variety of regional media. Some examples: The official St. Petersburg Vedomosti (http://www.dux.ru/enpp/newpapers/spbved/) appears on-line about two days after publication and contains local and national news and commentary. The independent but pro-reform Bryanskoe vremya (The Briansk Times-- http://www.btime.bryansk.ru/) is available weekly. In the Far East, Sovetskii Sakhalin (http://vladivostok.com/sovsakhalin/index.htm) appears a week or so after publication in hard copy. There is a growing and wide variety of other newspapers available as well.

However, the system is not perfect yet. One major problem for Internet readers is that the local press often assumes an understanding of the story's context, which may not exist outside the local region.

But the Internet still allows for the quickest access to any article published in the national and regional presses of Russia, Ukraine, Belorus,the Baltic States, the Trans-Caucasus region and Central Asia.

According to Ruschin, the Mass Media Center at St. Petersburg University is scrambling to keep up with current technology by providing education and training to Russian journalists concerning online issues.

According to Bivens, an American living in Russia, English language newspapers compete head to head with Russian newspapers. The staff of the St. Petersburg Times includes journalists from around the globe. This was not by design. This English language paper (and its sister publication in Moscow) has a broad audience of native Russians and expatriates and is an independent news organization, unlike some Russian newspapers that are owned by industrial conglomerates.

Media Monopoly and Politics: A major issue in media development in Russia of concern to both Ruschin and Bivens (from an educational side and the professional practice side) is the current media monopolies. As large corporations and multi-industry conglomerates purchase media organizations such as newspapers and television stations, the concern is one of political influence. According to Bivens (and recent accounts from Radio Free Europe) corporations that have purchased news organizations are now using those media to support their political causes. The effect of this practice is censorship of the news and a movement toward propaganda. (For an indepth discussion of this topic see the Radio Free Europe and the St. Petersburg Times web pages.)


On to Moscow: Thursday, June 5, we boarded a night train in St. Petersburg -- destination Moscow. Our accommodations in Moscow were much more attractive than those in St. Petersburg. The Hotel Ukraina, located in one of seven Stalinesque Gothic skyscrapers on the Moscow River, was very modern with cable (featuring CNN International) and plush towels. Our rooms had a wonderful view of the city and the Russian White House -- just across the Moscow River. The highlight of our stay in Moscow was a visit to the Kremlin and Red Square.

Political Parties: In one of the roundtable discussions we learned about the many different Russian political parties. Representatives from 11 different parties spoke to us. There are at least 60 parties represented in Russia today. There is even a registered Beer Drinkers Party that ran a candidate in the last election. Surprisingly, the Bolshevik Communist Party still gets about 15 percent of the vote.

Culture Clashes: No where have I experienced more clashes of culture than in my brief visit to Russia. Surrounded by western influences and advertising, Russians struggle to make a living wage by holding down multiple jobs. In conversation, one vender at the bazaar we visited claimed to be a school teacher by profession; selling Matryoshka dolls at the bazaar was her second job. The use of Latin and Cyrillic alphabet in signs -- both public service and advertisements -- added to this clash of imagery. It was possible to get around St. Petersburg and Moscow without speaking Russian or holding Russian currency. Yet there is a movement in Russia to preserve the purity of the Russian language, which President Yeltsin and others claim is being spoiled by American and other western advertisements. Yet vendors spoke or at least understood English and preferred crisp American dollars to the Russian ruble. In the eight-days of my stay, the exchange rate varied from 5500 ruble to the dollar to 5800 ruble to the dollar.


References
This research experience was made possible by a grant from the Elizabethtown College Faculty Grants Committee. Some information used to document this page came from Fodor's Exploring Moscow and St. Petersburg (1995), the St. Petersburg (Russia) Times and Dr. Chadd Stebbins, associate professor of journalism, Missouri Southern State College.

This page was created by Tamara L. Gillis, Ed.D. September 24, 1997. Copyright 1997. This page will be available until November 15, 1997.


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