Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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#13 - JRL 7244
Gainesville Times (US-Georgia)
June 29, 2003
Russian visitors get lessons in business, democracy on tour

It's been more than 10 years since the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics disappeared under the wave of self-determination that swept across eastern Europe.

One by one, the nations swallowed up by the USSR and its leader, Josef Stalin, after World War II broke the authoritarian chains that bound them and ripped away the Iron Curtain that separated them from their democratic neighbors in western Europe.

The movement brought down the monolithic USSR, dooming the Soviet government and ushering in the promise of freedom and democracy. The Soviet stranglehold on hundreds of millions of people was broken permanently when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the regime's eighth and final leader, relinquished power on Christmas Day 1991. It was an event that many people around the world had long dreamed of, but had never expected to witness.

The transition of Russia from seven decades of Soviet totalitarianism to a system of democratic principles and a free enterprise economy has been anything but smooth. In fits and starts, the Russians have cast off Bolshevik V.I. Lenin's ideological dream, which became official doctrine on Dec. 30, 1922, and have moved slowly, but resolutely, toward a system that represents freedom and liberty.

Much of what the Russians have achieved in the past decade has been with the assistance of its former adversaries, the democratic nations of the West. Principal among them has been our own country, long recognized as the world's most advanced and enlightened democracy.

The help from the West continues as the United States provides a classroom for Russians leaders, seeking ways to improve on the work they've started. Last week, lessons in democracy and free enterprise were conducted in Gainesville and Hall County.

Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge J. Owen Forrester of Atlanta accompanied Russians jurists Nikolay Kosilov, Valentina Krylova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nikolay Mezhevalov and Irina Zarubina to Gainesville where they observed Hall County's judicial system and learned a little about poultry. The visit was part of the Open World Program.

The program was instituted in 1999 by the U.S. Congress. Open World Program is operated the Library of Congress and is intended to expose Russian leaders to opportunities in democracy and free enterprise.

The five judges who toured Hall County are part of a 24-member legal delegation from Russia that is visiting Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Illinois, said J.D. Smith of Gainesville, chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals.

The Russians also were treated to a luncheon reception at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, where they learned of the importance of the poultry trade relationship between their nation and the United States.

Abit Massey, executive director of the Georgia Poultry Federation, based in Gainesville, emphasized the urgency of addressing a trade dispute over poultry products between Russia and the U.S., an issue that has had a negative effect on growers and processors in Northeast Georgia.

"Unfortunately, there are some trade issues that need to be resolved between friends," Massey diplomatically pointed out.

The assimilation of Russia into the free market and democratic world provides incredible opportunity for that nation and virtually every country around the globe. Decades of tyranny and isolation imposed by the Soviet system make the effort difficult, but, as the Open World Program demonstrates, promising.

We're pleased that our guests were provided with the opportunity to see how democracy and free enterprise works in our part of the world. And we hope the visiting Russians saw examples in Northeast Georgia that can work in their own country.

We wish them success. Or, as they might say: Uspekhov!

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