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February 2006

Release Date: February 7, 2006

AEP Distinguished Professor to Speak on Challenges Facing Russia

Angelo State University’s AEP Distinguished Professor Igor Tolochin will give a public lecture on the challenges facing modern Russia at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, in the Mathematics and Computer Science Building Room 100.

Tolochin is visiting ASU from the University of St. Petersburg in Russia, where he teaches English and cognitive linguistics.

His lecture, which is free to the public, will examine the unique challenges facing post-Cold War Russia and why the country has socially, politically and economically progressed at a slower rate than other East European states.

Modern Russia bears the burden of a heritage rife with oppressive political systems from the imperial czars to totalitarian Communists, Tolochin said. Since the fall of the Communist regime almost 15 years ago, the elected government has run in the manner of a corporate state, with few checks and balances.

A selected few have great power, and the structure of the government limits leaders’ accountability. The president, head of the executive branch, also controls the court system, allowing for a legal system of “selective justice” where the law is not applied equally and citizens can be prosecuted with little more than the whim of a bureaucrat.

“The Russian heritage is one that carries centuries of oppressive political systems,” Tolochin said. “The state has a select group of people – similar to a board of directors – who control the levers of power, and they are unaccountable. The system reaps dividends, but they are distributed among the few in power. This has been a major brake on economic and social development.”

The solution for Russia, Tolochin said, is for Russia to accept its place in the global community.

“ Russia should become more open to the outside world,” Tolochin said. “People should not think of Russia as a community different from the outside world, but rather as a nation interacting with the outside world where interaction is favored over isolationism.”