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David Ransel
Russian and East European Institute

Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Former ambassador, other experts to discuss Russian politics

March 19, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A former U.S. ambassador to Russia and several other prominent specialists will gather at Indiana University on Friday, March 21, to discuss the future of Russian politics and democracy.

The Russian and East European Institute at IU Bloomington will host the panel discussion in the wake of elections in which Russian voters overwhelmingly chose Vladimir Putin's hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, to serve as president. It will take place at noon in the State Room East of the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St.

The panel will feature James Collins, who was U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation from 1997 to 2001. Collins, who has a master's degree from Indiana University, has since January 2007 been director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Other Russia experts on the panel will include:

  • Elizabeth Wood, a professor of history at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is currently working on what she is calling "The Performance of Power" under Putin in Russia today.
  • Stephen Hanson, the Boeing International Professor of political science at the University of Washington and academic director of the Program on New Approaches to Russian Security at the university.
  • Regina Smyth, assistant professor of political science at IU, an expert on Russian elections and politics and the author of the 2006 book Candidate Strategies and Electoral Competition in the Russian Federation: Democracy without Foundation.

David Ransel, director of the Russian and East European Institute and moderator of the discussion, said the panelists will shed light on the murky state of Russian politics and the respective roles that are likely to be played by Putin and Medvedev.

"The panelists are very well qualified and will have interesting things to say about the Russian elections," he said.

The discussion also comes as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have been in Russia to meet with Russian officials about disagreements over U.S. missile defense systems and other issues.

The Russian and East European Institute (REEI) was established in 1958 on IU's Bloomington campus. REEI administers one of the country's leading programs in Russian and East European area studies. It has been designated one of 16 U.S. Department of Education-funded Title VI National Resource/FLAS Centers for Russia and Eastern Europe for the 2006-2009 grant period.

For more about the institute, see