Augusta college students don't have to travel to Russia this year to study the country's history and current political environment.
Russian professor Igor Kuzmin is spending a semester at Augusta State University, teaching classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and participating in the Cullum Lecture Series. It is the first time in decades that the university has had a visiting Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence.
On Tuesday, he provided lectures on changes in the Russian elite and the Kremlin's modern world view. In the morning session, he talked about the Beslan school hostage tragedy, which left more than 330 people dead in September, and the impact it had on President Vladimir Putin.
"Compared to 9-11, the event was even more sadistic because the children were killed along with the women," Dr. Kuzmin said. "What followed? Nothing. Nobody was removed. Nobody even offered their resignation. The elites remained intact, and so there is a sense in the general public that they don't actually feel responsible for all these failures."
Dr. Kuzmin, 59, is from St. Petersburg, Russia, where he is an associate professor of historical and political sciences at the St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University. He is fluent in English and teaches classes in English to American students studying abroad.
He has been in Augusta since January and brought along his wife, Helen.
The Garden City, with 250,000 people, is much different from St. Petersburg, with its 4.5 million people and constant traffic jams. He said he feels like he is living in a "high-class resort."
While here, he is working to dispel myths about Russia and teach students that his country is in transition.
A week ago, President Bush scolded Mr. Putin for backsliding on democracy and curbing press and political freedoms.
But Dr. Kuzmin said Mr. Putin is trying to stabilize the country and prevent its disintegration.
"What happens now is a stabilization movement, like in any disorderly country," he said. "Take Iraq. Can we say that is an orderly country? There is the insurgency and lots of killing and bloodshed. According to theory, in fact, you must instill some stability."
Dr. Kuzmin also will teach a summer course at ASU and take time to travel to Washington, D.C.; Arizona; and California.
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.