Religion and Culture

April 14, 2013

There were no planned activities for our group today, so it was an opportunity to explore Moscow and its many attractions.  Since it was Sunday, I decided to attend a Russian Orthodox Mass at the Ascension Cathedral that was a short walk from our hotel.


Our guide from yesterday had shared that the great Russian Poet was married in this Cathedral.  The service was very interesting since there are no pews.  The worshipers stand throughout the service or often walk from one part of the sanctuary to another to place lighted candles.  The mass was performed by four priests, one of whom bore a striking resemblence to the American chef Mario Batali.  He had the red hair complete with pony tail, but no orange clogs.  The service lasted well over two hours.

Following the service, I made my way to to the Tretyakov Art Gallery.  This amazing Gallery has the largest collection of Russian Art in the world, and was recommended to me by Mel Weissman, a retired History Professor at CCM who had two Fulbrights to Russia.  It did not disappoint.


The collection itself is quite remarkable.

My day was capped off by attending an opera at the Bolshoi Theatre.  This world-renowned theatre has recently undergone a 1 Billion dollar renovation, and it is simply spectacular.

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I had the opportunity to see Ruslan and Lyudmila by Glinka.  This four hour plus opera is based on an epic poem by Pushkin.  The production was very unique in that it mixed the original 15th Century legend with a very upscale modern touch in Acts 2, 3, and 4.

All in all, this was an amazing day and night of religion, tradition, and culture.

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Kremlin and Red Square

April 13, 2013

Today our group was treated to a unique guided tour of the Kremlin and Red Square.  Our guide provided a comprehensive, and often humorous, tour of these world famous landmarks.

The Kremlin

As noted earlier in this blog, other Russian cities have Kremlins which are essentially fortified sections of the cities that date back several centuries.


There are, of course, many unique sculptures and historic buildings.

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Our timing was excellent, as we were able to witness the first changing of the guard of the new season.

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The presence of mounted officers added to the overall impression of the Kremlin.

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The Assumption Cathedral is a major attraction within the Kremlin.

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The largest canon in the world is also a major attraction.

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The Kremilin also features the world’s largest bell.


The falconer makes himself available for photo opportunities.


We also had the opportunity to visit the Kremlin Armory.  This unique museum includes authentic coronation attire of many Tsars and Tsarinas, Royal Carriages, and of course a significant collection of Faberge Eggs.  As expected, photos were prohibited in the Armory, but this link provides a sample of what we were able to see.

More general reference material regarding teh Kremlin is available at this link:

Red Square

Red Square is a short walk from the Kremlin.  In fact, the truly appear to be connected.

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St. Basil’s is, of course, one of the most famous landmarks in Red Square.


Gum, a world famous shopping center, is also an important feature of Red Square.


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Moscow State Agroengineering University

April 12, 2013

The Moscow State Agronengineering University is an institution of about 4,000 students.   Our arrival was delayed by about two hours due to Moscow Traffic.  As a result, our visit was somewhat shorter than planned.

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However, after a brief meeting with top administration and faculty, we were given a tour of their very impressive labs.   Whereas the Agricultural Engineering University previously described focuses on lower level training, this University utilizes laboratories to train for research and design of very large agricultural equipment.

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They also have on display a tractor that dates back to the 1930’s that was discovered and restored by their students.


They also have very sophisicated simulation laboratories to support their research and design efforts.

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Finally, we had a wonderful opportunity to meet with students who are participating an exciting program sponsored by Clemson University.  The program is led by a faculty member from Clemson, and the enrolled students are from Russia, France, the United States and Canada.  They were an enthusiastic group with very good English speaking skills.


This University also has residence halls, and we observed here as in almost all the institutions we have visited very limited access for persons with disabilities.  The photo below is a ramp for deliveries that we have seen very often.  It is not intended to provide wheelchair access .


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Moscow Agricultural Engineering University

April 12, 2013

Our visit to the Moscow Agricultural Engineering University was very unique.  This University like many others is effected by the major reform that is currently taking place in Russia.  In their case, they will be the “hub” of a number of previously independent colleges with a similar mission, which will present a number of organizational and political challenges for the leadership team.  As the name implies, they are primarily focused on agriculture.  They provide training in the operation of farm equipment, as well as soils, horticulture, and landscape design.  As such, they could be a potential candidate for partnership opportunities.


Here is a video of the farm vehicle training facility.

Some of the training involves very sophisticated GPS technology that enables vehicles to self drive in very straight lines for very long distances, as well as laboratory driver training.

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Their students are essentially equivalent to our high school juniors through the equivalent of the completion of an Associates Degree, although they offer certificates of completion as opposed to degrees.  Some students are in programs for two years, and others for the full four year program.

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One unique quality of the student body here, is that it includes a number of orphans who have gone through the foster care programs.  Since they have dorms, these students can attend here and receive training for jobs.  They are fully supported by the government.

Like so many institutions, this University has their own museum where special tribute is offered to World War II heroes.

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Since they are increasingly dependent on tuition, they have established a formal admission office.


Our visit ended with the obligatory lunch which included a toast of Armenian Cognac due to the heritage of the Rector.

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Fulbright 40th Anniversary Conference

April 10, 2013

2013 represents the 40th Anniversary of Fulbright in Russia.  As a result, the Fulbright Russia Office organized a two day conference to celebrate this occasion.  The first days events were held in our hotel, and included representatives of the US Embassay, the US Department of State, and the Deputy Director of the International Department, of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation.


Presentations were made by Ed Rosloff, former Fulbright Program Director in Russia who is now Senior Director of a new initiative of MIT in Moscow, and Victor Demin who is the head of the union of colleges that are most like American Community Colleges in Russia.

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Some of the most interesting presentations were made by former and current Fulbrighters.  They included:

  •  Konstantin Severinov, who is also a Professor at the Waksman Institute at Rutgers
  • Jeffrey Prater, Professor of Music at Iowa State University
  • Igor Tyukhov, Professor at Moscow State Mechanical University
  • Steve Yates, Artist, Curator, Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico

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April 11, 2013

The second day of the conference was held at the National Research University of Science and Technology.

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The format of the program on the second day was to have Fulbrighters from Russia present a brief synopis of the research activities in the US in seven different areas.  I was asked to co-moderate the section entitled Topical Issues of Political Science.  It was an enlightening experience for me in terms of the diverse topics we discussed, as well as the behaviors of Russian academics.

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Kazan National Research Technological Institute

April 9, 2013

We had an excellent meeting with faculty and administrators at The Kazan National Research Technological Institute where there seemed to be a genuine interest in mutual collaboration.


 We also had a lively discussion with students who were taking courses in the culinary area in one of their labs.  A few of them made a deep impression with us, and we felt that with sufficient english language training, they could be very successful in our colleges.



Once again, we had a delightful lunch with administrators in their dining area.



Finally, I did sign a General Agreement on Academic Partnership which I hope will become the platform for future collaboration.

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Dinner with Fulbright Alumni and current U.S. Fellows

April 8, 2013

This evening we had an elegant dinner of traditional Tatarstan cuisine in a fine Tatar Restaurant.

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The Fulbright Alumni were an impressive group, and we were able to make some preliminary acquaintances that could lead to future collaborations.

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