Monday, September 18, 2000

Russians to learn of culture on visit

By William A. Weathers and Annie-Laurie Blair
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Three Russian political and civic leaders are in Cincinnati this week to get a taste of democracy in action — and to meet with business, farm and development leaders.

        They're also getting a little taste of the culture — such as Reds baseball.

        “It was absolutely marvelous,” said Sergey Viktorovich Usoltsev of Krasnoiarsk, Russia, after attending the Reds' 8-4 win over the Brewers on Sunday. “By the end of the game we were clapping our hands and standing on our feet to support the Reds team.”

        Mr. Usoltsev, 39, Aleksandr Nikolayevich Gatvinsky, 43, and Pavel Nikolayevich Grishin, 39 — both of Saratov, Russia — are among 1,800 Russian leaders participating this year in the Library of Congress Russian Leadership Program Open World 2000 across America.

        They arrived Saturday and are staying with Cincinnati host families.

        Mr. Gatvinsky is minister of labor and social development for the Saratov Regional Government. Mr. Grishin is minister of the trade ministry for the Saratov region. Mr. Usoltsev is director of the International Center of Development Zheleznogorsk Foundation.

        They are accompanied by Yevgeniya Vladimirovna Veretennikova, a Russian program facilitator and translator.

        After the Reds game Sunday, they dined at the home of Karen Turner of the National Council of International Visitors.

        The council, which is hosting the Russians' visit, is a nonprofit group supported by local corpora tions and individuals, as well as the city of Cincinnati and U.S. State Department. It hosts about 300 international visitors to Cincinnati each year, including up to 60 from Russia, Ms. Turner said.

        This week, the Russian group will visit with representatives from the mayor's office, city development office, U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot's office, the Over-the-Rhine business district and Firstar bank, Ms. Turner said.

        Speaking through the translator, Mr. Usoltsev said he and his colleagues have a good initial impression of the Queen City.

        “It's a nice city,” he said. “It's very interesting to learn about the culture.”

        The Russians want to learn as much as possible about development in Cincinnati, and to make contacts with local business leaders and decision makers for future assistance in their own developments in Russia.

        Today, they'll get a tour of the area from Wyoming Mayor David Savage, and later in the week the group will tour Cargill International and a Warren County farm.

        They'll also spend time with Electronauts, a small Newport cellular equipment company that does extensive international business. And they'll meet with directors of the Metropolitan Growth Alliance who can brief them on urban planning issues such as transportation, revitalization, education and quality of life.

        “Most of their imagery of the U.S. is through TV and movies,” said Ms. Turner, explaining why visiting with a range of Tristate leaders provides such an invaluable counterpoint.

        The group will depart for Russia on Sunday.


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