Utah-Russia Institute

Utah-Russia Institute - CLOSED

The Utah-Russia Institute (URI) was housed at Utah Valley University and administered through the Office of International Affairs and Diplomacy from 1993 to 2016. It was established by former Russian Federation Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Yegor T. Gaidar and by the former Utah Governor Michael O. Leavitt, co-founder of the Western Governors University.

The purpose of the URI was to promote mutually beneficial humanitarian, cultural, educational, commercial and technological projects in order to foster greater understanding, friendship, free enterprise, civil society and a strong democracy among and between the citizens of the Russian Federation and the state of Utah in particular and the United States in general.


Official Declaration of the Utah Russia Institute

Seal of Utah

Michael O. Leavitt Governor

Whereas, the citizens of the Russian Federation and the state of Utah share common values of industry, thrift, strong families, and

Whereas, we share a deep appreciation for both our noble heritages, and while springing from distinct histories, our cultures were conceived and nurtured in trial and hardship.

Whereas, both our peoples share a profound respect for education and the arts and

Whereas, our shared goals of democracy, entrepreneurship and self sufficiency spiritually bind our peoples

Therefore, the citizens of Utah celebrate the creation of the Utah-Russia Institute to foster our shared values and goals; to promote cooperative commercial, entrepreneurial, educational, and cultural ventures fir the mutual benefit and uplifting of our peoples.

I set my hand and the Great Seal of Utah to this document as the Governor of the state of Utah and as Honorary Co-Chancellor of the Utah-Russia Institute this first day of December, 1993 in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States of America.


Seal of Utah

Russian Version

Губернатор Майкл О. Левитт


Принимая во внимание, что граждане Российской Федерации и штата Юта разделяют общие ценности промышленности, бережливости, прочных семейных уз, и

Принимая во внимание, что мы разделяем глубокую ценность благородного и исторического наследия и культуры наших народов,

Принимая во внимание, что, наши люди разделяют глубокое уважение к образованию и искусству, и

Принимая во внимание, что, наши общие цели в достижении демократии и свободного предпринимательства духовно связывают наш народ,

Граждане штата Юта решили праздновать создание института «Юта-Россия», чтобы способствовать нашим общим ценностям и целям, чтобы продвигать коммерческо-кооперативные, антрепренерские, образовательные и культурные мероприятия для взаимновыгоды и поддержки наших народов.

Как Губернатор штата Юта и в качестве Почетного Канцлера института «Юта-Россия», Я собственноручно заверяю этот документ Государственной Печатью Штата Юта в первый день декабря, 1993 года в городе Солт Лейк Сити, штата Юта, США.

Губернатор: Майкл О. Левитт

Projects and Exchanges

Educational Projects

Teleconference with Kuzbass Pedagogical Institute in Russia

November 22, 2010

On November 22, 2010, UVU hosted a videoconference with Kuzbass Pedagogical Institute in Russia. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of IT technicians at both universities and Lyubov Mikhaltsova, The Director of the Russian American Center in the Kuzbass Pedagogical Institute. Also, assisting Lyubov Mikhailtsova was Olga Millinis, a researcher at the university. This conference was the first of many to be orchestrated by Lyubov Mikhailtsova and her colleagues, for the purposes of raising students' awareness of other cultures, and also for the improvement of curriculum in Russian and English language classes between the two universities. The videoconference serves as a cost effective venue for the transfer of vital information between students and faculty of both universities. Mrs. Mikhaltsova proposed the idea for this initiative through the Office of International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU, and through its Associate Vice President, Rusty Butler.

The videoconference was held at 8:00 AM Mountain Standard Time in Utah, but it was 9:00 PM in Novokuznetsk, Russia. Several members of the faculty and administration of Kuzbass Pedagogical Institute participated, and Russian students from many fields of study attended the videoconference, including students in engineering, metallurgy, architecture, economics and business management. UVU was represented by many students belonging to the Russian Club, as well as those fluent in Russian, Russian Language professors and two orchestrators of the project, Tcholpon Akmatalieva and Maryna Storrs. Shortly after introductions and pleasantries, there was a question and answer period for students of both universities. During the 45-minute exchange, the students of UVU learned that the English language and the history of America are taught in the Educational and Behavioral Science departments in Russian universities, rather than in Languages and History/Political Science. Russian students described that they learn about modern America not only through textbooks, but also through popular media and the Internet, and they added that the Internet is their prime source of knowledge about other cultures.

In turn, the Russian students were interested in how Americans learn about the Russian Culture and language. One student, Travis Zerker, of UVU mentioned that much of his knowledge about Russia was taught in foreign policy classes, where a section on bilateral relations was dedicated specifically to the US and the former Soviet Union. When the Russian students asked for further details about the Russian Club, the Vice President of the club, Dallin Kauffman, described how a Fulbright Scholar from Siberia helped start the club, in 2009. Among the biggest events the UVU Russian Club holds are the celebration of the 8th of March, which is the traditional day for women in Russia; a Russian dinner night where they cook "Borsch" and other dishes from Russia; and they also hold fundraisers for disabled people in the Ukraine.

One Russian instructor at UVU, Olga Jarrell, noted that the videoconferences could be a valuable tool to help augment learning Russian and English by offering both universities a chance to have a glimpse at the other culture and the subtleties and colloquialisms of both languages. The faculty and administration at the Russian University also noted that videoconferences could help build tolerance and acceptance, two virtues highly needed in a politically tumultuous world. As you can see, the videoconferences can be a valuable tool to help dissolve cultural, ethnic and national barriers and promote the ideals of an open, pluralistic society and the ultimate betterment of society all over the world.

Student Body Presidents to Russia

Richard Portwood


Genelle Pugmire - Daily Herald | Posted: Sunday, October 17, 2010

OREM -- Utah Valley University student body president Richard Portwood is taking one of the great adventures of his life. He and 14 other student body presidents from around the country will be guests of the Russian government in November.

According to Rusty Butler, AVP International Affairs and Diplomacy, this trip came about because of the relationship UVU has with the Open World Leadership Program through the Library of Congress. UVU has hosted numerous groups and individuals through Open World Leadership over the years.

"Through my own connections and the Library of Congress we became aware of a concept that became a reality," Butler said. "The suggestion was made that university student body presidents could go to Russia. The Russian Agency for Youth Affairs wanted to connect with youth leaders to cultivate relationships."

The Russian government indicated it would host 15-20 student body presidents and wondered if Butler could pull something together. Butler said he thought he might get five or six students. Then he said he decided to turn it over to Portwood to see what he could organize. Portwood belongs to state and national organizations for student body officers.

The students would have to already have their passports, and be approved by the Russian government. "I credit Portwood with saying, 'Let's see what kind of a mix we can get,' " Butler said.

Portwood said he started e-mailing and calling all of his contacts and getting the word out for presidents to apply. More than 20 qualified, of that the Russians picked Portwood and 14 others. Portwood ended up being the originator and communicator with the Russian liaison. The schools being represented are about as diverse as you can get in a public setting and reach from coast to coast.

Schools include: Columbia, Amherst, MIT, Stanford, University of Massachusetts, Carthage, University of Colorado, University of Minnesota, Harvard, Georgetown, Berkeley, and four from Utah -- Utah Valley University, Snow College, Dixie College and Westminster College. Portwood and Butler were surprised that four Utah schools were chosen as part of the delegation.

"Richard is the one that put this eclectic group together. He shows remarkable leadership skills," Butler said. "Richard has carried weight for this, [but] this is not a UVU effort; it was initiated by the Russian government."

Portwood, 24, and a former LDS missionary, currently serves as the president of the Utah Student Association.

"A lot of people thought, 'This is just some guy from Utah. It's to good to be true,' " Portwood said.

He let them know that this was for real and they did qualify.

"I asked them when they thought they could attend and Nov. 13-20 was the consensus," Portwood said.

Since then its been a whirlwind of organizing, studying and preparing for the trip.

"I have been trying to learn some Russian and study their politics, culture and history. I talk to anyone who has been there or speaks the language," Portwood said. "There are so many issues. I started a dialogue [with those going] so we all have a unified vision."

Portwood said they would definitely discuss student governments and their functions. Russian universities typically don't have student government or councils. The students also want to address the commercial nature of technology, a subject that is big in Russia, according to Portwood.

While all the students are considered equal partners, Portwood reluctantly admitted, "I was initially the go-to person. I have taken the initiative. It's important to talk about these issues. I am very honored to be affiliated with these youth leaders." He said that while there are representatives from Ivy League schools and internationally recognized universities, he doesn't feel inferior or less equal coming from UVU.

"I anticipate it will be a remarkable experience. It's a huge honor as the president of UVU," Portwood said. "It shows where the university is going as a serious institution."

In a recent conversation with the Library of Congress representative, Portwood was concerned about the political unrest in Moscow with the current oust of the mayor there. He asked if the political climate would affect the trip. The response was, "No, your trip will affect the political climate."

Efforts in the Russian Artic

A major health care, business and vocational training, and exchange project in the Nenets Okrug located in the western Russian Arctic-made possible through a USAID grant and in cooperation with United Way International.

The Nar'yan Mar project was designed to strengthen the Nenets Regional Committee of the Red Cross Association and to enhance its activities and services in the Nenets Autonomous Region of the Russian Federation. The project was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and was administered through United Way International.

The Utah-Russia Institute, representing Utah Valley State College, offered international educational, teaching and administrative opportunities in health-care related fields to students, faculty and administrators.

Some of the goals of the project were to

  • Develop opportunities for trans-cultural nursing experiences for faculty and students through student exchanges and faculty participation in continuing education
  • Enhance faculty knowledge of global health-care issues
  • Allow the faculty the opportunity for participation in continuing education presentations
  • Provide an opportunity for faculty research on trans-cultural teaching/learning approaches
  • Increase faculty and student knowledge and examples of trans-cultural nursing for classroom presentations

The program also included English as a Second Language training for residents of the area, donations of medical supplies, medical treatment and training courses for medical personnel, marketing opportunities through UVSC's business department and cultural exchange.

In addition, the project focused on the establishment of the United Way program and teaching volunteerism. The Institute also helped establish fundamental business education and entrepreneurial training, as well as organize relations between Russian student groups and U.S. high school Deca clubs.


The Daily Herald: Mark Eddington

Nar'yan Mar

Although it is situated above the Arctic Circle and is largely isolated from the rest of Russia, the city of Nar'yan Mar is well within reach of Utah Valley State College faculty and students.

Since Jan. 19, UVSC students Daniel Torgersen, Mary McCubbins and Joseph Bird have been staying with Russian families in this frontier community on the frozen tundra, laying the groundwork for a project aimed at helping locals acquire more knowledge and better skills to develop internationally. Nar'yan Mar's isolation has been both boon and bane to its 30,000 residents and the 10,000 nomadic natives, called "Nenets," who live in tents outside the city and make their living by herding reindeer.

There are no roads or railroads linking Nar'yan Mar with other cities. During the short summer season, the only access to the city is by ship; during the winter, the only means of travel to and from Nar'yan Mar is by a twin-engine plane that makes the trip on an irregular basis.

Student Help As a result, the people of the region have a lifestyle and traditions that are largely unsullied by outside influences. They are largely self-sufficient, subsisting largely on meat and milk from reindeer. To ward off the Arctic chill from sub-zero temperatures and bone-chilling winds, they wear the pelts of fur-bearing animals. They are also garrulous, inquisitive and eager to learn.

Unfortunately, this same isolation has prevented people in Nar'yan Mar and elsewhere in the Okrug (province) from acquiring badly needed technology and medical supplies, from learning English language skills and from receiving adequate teacher training. These are areas where UVSC will be focusing its efforts.

Nar'yan Mar Group

UVSC's involvement is at the invitation of Conoco, which began pumping petroleum in the Okrug region in 1994. Conoco wanted to help the people take full advantage of the opportunities posed by their new-found riches derived from the oil. In the fall of 1995, David Rossiter, Conoco's vice president of International Operations, and Rusty Butler, director of the Utah-Russia Institute at UVSC, happened to be attending the same meeting in Washington, DC. Rossiter asked Butler if UVSC would help by providing direction and personnel for an aid project to the people of Nar'yan Mar.

Rossiter was interested in UVSC because Utah has many LDS Church returned missionaries with Russian language skills. After one visit to the Orem campus, he was convinced that those skills and the service-oriented attitude at UVSC made it the ideal institution to provide services for the project, which is being administered by United Way International.

UVSC's interest stemmed, in large part, from the fact that the project was funded by a $2 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. As Malan Jackson, director of the UVSC Center for International Studies, noted: “With that amount of money already allocated, we could jump in immediately and get things started. We usually have to raise money and then pay our way as we go.”

Last November, Jackson, Butler, and Ian Wilson, dean of the business school, accompanied UVSC President Kerry Romesburg to Russia to discuss the organization and administration of specific projects with local officials, health professionals and educators. The UVSC contingent was impressed with the hospitality. “It was a refreshing experience because the people were so far removed from any other population center that they seemed innocent and unspoiled by things that could have upset the way they lived,” Jackson recalled. "We felt when we were there that even communism didn't reach them. If it did, it had a very light impact."

In December, Mark Spencer, UVSC dean of Learning Resources and Services, visited Nar'yan Mar, addressing Okrug educators and making plans for further educational assistance to them. He also brought textbooks and instructed them how to teach English as a Second Language curriculum. While their training in English-language instruction was lacking, Spencer was impressed with the enthusiasm of local educators. So were Torgersen, McCubbins, and Bird when they arrived in Nar'yan Mar the following month to teach English and develop future service opportunities for UVSC faculty and students. Almost immediately after their arrival, the students were herded into a large tent on the tundra and treated to a luncheon of reindeer meat and other exotic foods.

“I've never been fed so much in all my life, but who is complaining,” said Torgersen, who is still in Nar’yan Mar and answered questions about his experiences by fax. The UVU students won't be returning home until April. Another three students will take their place next September. The students spent their first week getting to know the people in the area, testing local students and organizing new English courses. Torgersen was particularly excited about the recent appearance of the sun, saying it was the first time he had seen it in over a week and will probably be his last glimpse of it for some time. Darkness in the Okrug this time of year lasts about 18 hours.

Visitors to the area, like Torgersen, are also taken aback by the weather, which is often severe and foreboding. Jackson recalls trying to work in the middle of a howling blizzard while it was pitch dark outside. It was only 5 p.m. The delightful demeanor of the people and their willingness to learn, however, has been more than adequate compensation for the weather. “The people we met during our visit were wonderful,” Jackson said. “President Romesburg was teaching one English class. To get the people to talk, he asked them what they liked for breakfast. One woman who was a dentist replied, “The best thing for breakfast is a bottle of beer.”

English language training for teachers and students in Nar’yan Mar is only the beginning of UVU's involvement. Over the coming year, the college will provide training for doctors and nurses and help obtain more supplies and medical equipment. A training assessment team from the UVU nursing department will travel to the area next fall to assess the training needs for health care projects. Representatives of the Central Utah Chapter of the American Red Cross will accompany them.

UVU’s efforts will also carry over into the Okrug business community. Members of Delta Epsilon Chi, the student club of the college's business school, have agreed to help the Nenets market their winter wear handicrafts made from reindeer skins, bones, antlers, wood and stones. UVU will be providing business training and advice on tourism and environmental issues to the Russian residents of Nar’yan Mar. “This provides a phenomenal opportunity for UVU students, faculty and administrators to gain invaluable experience as well as provide outstanding humanitarian efforts for the people in the Russian Arctic,” Butler said.

The UVU Office of College Relations contributed to this story.


Utah County Journal - Sunday March 10, 1996

Nar'yan Mar Teaching

The untouched city of Nar'yan Mar, in far north European Russia, has become a service project for UVSC students. On Jan. 19, UVSC sent three students, Daniel Torgersen, Mary McCubbins and Joseph Bird to Nar'yan Mar to begin laying the foundation of a project that will help the locals develop internationally.

They are teaching English and assisting United Way International develop future projects for UVSC students and faculty. The entire project is funded by a $2 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. “The people here are so friendly. They treat us like royalty. What a wonderful culture,” said Torgersen. “Being able to live with these people has helped me experience the world through their eyes.”

The students are living with Nar'yan Mar families in a community that is isolated from the outside world other than an occasional airplane flying overhead during the winter months. Due to the arctic tundra, there are no roads or railroads to the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Thirty thousand people live in Nar'yan Mar, the one major city, and 10,000 live in the tundra areas of the Okrug. The majority of Nar'yan Mar population are Russian, and the people living on the tundra are mostly Nenets, nomadic natives who make their livelihoods by herding reindeer. “The families we live with are great, and we appreciate the sacrifices that they are making,” said McCubbins.

Upon arrival in the Okrug, the Nenets hosted the students for lunch on the tundra. In a large teepee, the group had reindeer meat and other “strange things to eat.” Following the meal, the Nenets performed some of their native dances and songs. ldquo;I've never been fed so much in all my life, but who's complaining?” Torgersen said. The students said the town is small, but extremely comfortable. Its compactness makes everything easily accessible. The climate has been a new adjustment for the students. Torgersen said they saw the sun for the first time in a week and probably the last for quite a while.

Prior to the discovery of oil in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug region, the local economy depended on fishing, lumber, reindeer and handicrafts. But, with the discovery of oil, the people of Nar'yan Mar and Okrug will experience many challenges and problems along with their new-found riches. After Conoco began pumping petroleum in the Okrug region in 1994, Conoco officials saw the need for a program to help the people of this area use their income for positive and meaningful development.

David Rossiter, Conoco's vice president of international operations, asked Rusty Butler, director of the Utah-Russia Institute at UVSC, if the school would help the company by providing direction and personnel. Rossiter said there were many reasons UVSC was asked to assist in the project. Many people in Utah speak Russian due to the abundance of returned missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Utahns have a sense of service and UVSC's Utah-Russia Institute made it a logical place. After one visit to the campus he said the attitude of the students and faculty was something he wanted to become involved with. “I like UVSC and the philosophy of ‘let's get things done.' I know it will be done efficiently,” said Rossiter. “UVSC is a college for the community and the community is the world, so this project gives a chance to build the community.”

The students are making it possible for Nar'yan Mar students to come to UVSC, which will be an ongoing part of the project. In addition to teaching English, UVSC will provide training for doctors and nurses throughout the Okrug and help obtain badly needed medical equipment and supplies. A training assessment team from the UVSC department of nursing traveled to Nar'yan Mar this month to attend a health-care conference and do specific assessment of training needs regarding health care projects. “This provides a phenomenal opportunity for UVSC students, faculty and administrators to gain invaluable experience as well as provide outstanding humanitarian efforts for the people in the Russian arctic,” said Butler.

UVSC is also trying to help the Okrug region in the area of business. The Nenet people are skilled in creating winter wear and handicrafts out of reindeer skins, bones, antlers, wood and stones, which DEX, the student club of the UVSC school of business, is going to help them market in the states.

Healthcare Education Envoy

In a partnership with Utah Valley State College, Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, and Deseret International, URI sent registered nurses, nursing educators, physicians, dentists, pharmaceutical executives, and other health-care professionals to Russia to assist in educational and medical projects. Abbott Laboratories donated thousands of dollars worth of pharmaceutical products as well as medical expertise.

Partners in Education Program Sponsored by ACTR/ACCELS

January 30 - March 7, 1998

Six teachers from Rostov-na-Donu (and surrounding regions) arrived at the Salt Lake International Airport on Friday afternoon, January 30th. This was the beginning of their five week stay in Utah as a part of an exchange sponsored by ACTR/ACCELS and the Utah-Russia Institute at Utah Valley State College.

The six teachers not only had a very enjoyable experience, one which they will not soon forget, but had a great learning experience also. They were able to interact in an aggressive manner with faculty, students, and administrators at Utah Valley State College, Brigham Young University, and at schools in several Utah school districts. By the end of the five weeks they eagerly sought the opportunity to be in the schools teaching, learning, participating, and planning with their peers and others. They were virtually "adopted" by their respective schools in the greater Provo/Orem area where they became popular with students and faculty.

Just as importantly, the Utah participants who interacted with the teachers were unanimous in their favorable comments and enthusiasm for the teachers and for the program. Truly, the "Partners in Education" program worked both ways: Russia to Utah and Utah to Russia.

Host Schools:

  • Orem High School, Orem, Utah
  • Timpanogos High School, Orem, Utah
  • Pleasant Grove Junior High School, Pleasant Grove, Utah
  • Barratt Elementary School, American Fork, Utah

Other schools visited:

  • Lakeridge Junior High School
  • Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, Pleasant Grove, Utah
  • Jordan High School, Sandy, Utah

Supplies to Armenia and Bolivia


From the International Student Service Club at Timpanogos High School

In cooperation with the American Councils for International Education, the Utah-Russia Institute has supported Timpanogos High School‚s International Student Service Club students in their efforts to help the less fortunate in other parts of the world.

On March 24, 1999, Geoff Bury, the counselor who spearheaded the project and his students loaded up a truck with 1000 pairs of corrective eyeglasses, hearing aids, artificial limbs, eye exam equipment, 30 computers, software, skis and mountain bikes, to be shipped to Armenia and Bolivia.


England Trucking Company shipped the supplies to Florida free of charge. Once there, the donations were transported to Armenia and Bolivia by the United Armenian Fund and the Bolivian Air Force, respectively. The supplies will be distributed to schools in both countries.

Mr. Bury and the students spent many hours seeking out and refurbishing the computers and gathering the supplies to send to these countries. Not only supplies, but people are being sent out to make a difference. As a part of the project, Mr. Bury, who has been appointed as Special Envoy to the Utah-Russia Institute and Mr. Randy Davis, Special Envoy and Program Coordinator to the Institute, have traveled to Armenia where they will help set up those computers for use. They will stay there until the end of June. In return, two Armenian teachers will visit Utah in the fall.

Humanitarian Projects

Russian Adoption Fundraiser Dinner Feb. 26, 2011


University Marketing & Communications: Mike Rigert (801) 863-6807

Written by: Heather Wrigley, 801-863-8504

Utah Valley University's Russian Club and the Office of International Affairs & Diplomacy will host a Feb. 26th benefit dinner in an effort to rally around UVU alumna Veronica Pierce and her husband Darrin in their efforts to adopt Katya, a four-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. The fundraiser will be at 6 p.m. at Centre Stage in the Sorensen Student Center.

Katya is currently living in an orphanage in Kirov, Russia. The Pierces' total cost of bringing her home will be approximately $35,000. "This event is not only about raising money. It is also about raising awareness for the heroic adoption efforts of the disabled orphans into American families, where the children will have a shot at a normal life," said Maryna Storrs, program coordinator with the Office of International Affairs & Diplomacy. "UVU is proud to support their efforts".

The evening will feature guest speaker Mike Ramsdell, author of the national bestselling novel, "A Train to Potevka," a story about an American intelligence agent, espionage and survival. The story focuses on the sacrifice and compassion in Russia at the end of the Cold War.

"This is what community and global engagement is all about. We are excited to work with a great author, Mike Ramsdell, to help a family from our own community change the life of a young girl on the other side of the world," said Dalin Kauffman, co-president of UVU's Russian Club. "We feel privileged to be a part of this event and hope that to some degree this will help in narrowing the distance between international communities."

The "Bring Katya Home" benefit dinner will be donated by Outback Steak House in Orem, Utah with some food also provided by Texas Roadhouse Grill. Tickets are $20 and will be available for purchase through Campus Connection in the Sorensen Student Center in person or by phone at 801-863-8797.

Russian Adoption Support Group RSGA

A resource for families who have adopted or plan to adopt children from Russia or the Former Soviet Republics.

Established in 1999, the Russian Adoption Support Group offers activities and opportunities for families to exchange ideas and experiences pertaining to adopting children from Russia and the Former Soviet Republics.

URI Share A Smile 2003


Humanitarian Dental Project: Transforming More Than Smiles

- A Travelogue by Amy Barnett

October 9, Day One: We left Utah on the morning of October 8th. With 72+ bags containing such things as an x-ray unit, medicines, portable dental equipment and items for orphanages, we were a bit nervous as we arrived in Moscow. Luckily, our group of 18 made it through customs at the Moscow airport without so much as a glance from officials. Moscow City Government sent a representative from the International Relations Department to help, just in case. After getting settled in our hotel we walked around Red Square to get oriented with the city and to keep us awake until night time.

Day Two: The Hotel Ukraine, one of the "Seven Sisters" Stalin buildings, was filled with traditional Soviet style décor. It was the first time in Russia for most of the group and so traveling on the subway to work was exciting and new. The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints' mission office assisted in finding us a place to work at the Center for Families and Children with Special Needs. Everyone did remarkably well the first day of dentistry, considering the jet lag. Dental professionals performed everything from sealants and fillings to root canals.

Day Three: Dr. Rimma Egoshina, a dentist from the Ural city of Ufa, was doing a remarkable job. She surmounted language barriers as she performed dental procedures and learned new techniques for root canals from Dr. Daniel Burr. The first time Dr. Eric Vogel rebuilt a little girl's broken front tooth, we all gathered in awe to see the transformation and to watch the tears of joy well up in her eyes. A woman from the Health Department and a television crew stopped by to see what the Americans were up to. All was well. That evening we saw a fantastical musical show at the New Circus.

Day Four: Peter Shpanchenko, president of the Charity Fund Resurrection met us Sunday morning. He did an wonderful job of arranging our accommodations, working facility and all other needs in Kostroma. We waited several hours for a bus which, unfortunately, ended up in an early morning accident. The Kostroma Administration sent another bus, which would arrive that evening. We had the afternoon free so we walked across the bridge and down Old Arbat street to the Kremlin for a tour of Cathedral Square. The second bus got stuck in traffic for hours so we didn't leave the hotel until around 11:00 pm. With creative packing, cramped seating and positive attitudes, we somehow managed to stuff ourselves and our bags into the small 20 passenger bus (by this time our numbers had increased to 21).

Day Five: We drove all night (8 hours) to Kostroma. A few of us were able to doze off for a moment here and there, but most were once again working with only a few hours of sleep. Quality never suffered, however, as the doctors, and support personnel worked long into the evening on children from orphanages, temporary care facilities and centers for families with special needs children. We all opted for a quite evening to do some hand laundry and to catch up on our sleep.

Day Six: Our "hotel" was a sanatorium for the local auto factory workers. It was a real plus to have our accommodations, meals and work space in one place. Some of the "breakfast" foods took a bit of getting used to (salad, hotdogs and pasta) but , all in all, our meals were hearty, tasty and very Russian. A local TV crew came with cameras to interview us and promote the work we were doing. The entire Kostroma Region was talking about it. After a late dinner, we managed to make a quick trip downtown to see the main square and to walk along the Volga river in the fog.

Day Seven: By now our work was very efficient. It is too bad the same couldn't be said for transportation in the city. The children were often over an hour late due to buses breaking down or just not showing up. We adjusted our schedules as needed and were sometimes able to offer more comprehensive care as we waited for children to arrive. It was apparent that many of the children had extremely traumatic experiences, and not just with dentistry. Much care was spent to make their time with the dentists as pleasant as possible. We worked all morning and then after lunch, we visited the ancient Ipatiev Monastery and a museum of wooden buildings nearby. Kostroma is over 850 years old, and is known as the birthplace of the Romanov Dynasty. We worked well into the evening again and then headed back to the center of town for a late dinner at a Russian-English restaurant called "Camelot".

Day Eight: We decided to extend our time in Kostroma since the need there was so great. We worked in the morning and then visited an orphanage after lunch. Supported by the Baptist church, this orphanage was very well kept and looked rather bright and cheery. We passed out toys to the children and received hand made gifts from them in return. The blankets, clothes, and school supplies we brought with us were given to Peter to be distributed to the most needy orphanages after we left. We finished up work that evening at around 10:30 pm. We had given dental care and education to about 160 in Kostroma and to nearly 300 individuals in total.

Day Nine: In the morning, we were met by our bus, a real tourist bus this time. The ride back to Moscow was the most comfortable one yet. We passed roadside villages with their elaborate wooden widow decorations and domed churches. We stopped at Sergeyev Posad, the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church, and made it back to Moscow by late afternoon. The Hotel Ukraine now seemed like a palace compared to our humble accommodations in Kostroma.

Day Ten: Our last day in Russia. We headed out to Izmailovzky Park and the enormous outdoor souvenir mall called Vernisazh. It was our only real chance to pick up a few trinkets to take back to friends and family. We also managed to visit the World War 11 Memorial, Poklonaya Gora. With its massive obelisk, statue of St. George and the Dragon and war museum, the memorial was a sobering reminder of just how much Russia and it surrounding republics suffered in WW11. Some of the group even made it to the Pushkin Museum in the evening for a bit of European culture.

October 19, Day Eleven: Customs was a bit more challenging on the way out, but we managed to board the plane without an international incident. We saw children's smiles and lives transformed by the work we did in Russia. We also experienced a personal transformation and many of us left our hearts in Russia, especially with the children in Moscow and the foggy city on the Volga, Kostroma.

Kostroma Orphan Center


"The rebirth of Russia and its future integration into the world community needs to begin with education of the young adult generation in Christian ideals, good work ethics and employable skills."
--Peter Shpanchenko, president, Charity Fund "Resurrection"

Project Goal: The organization of the Kostroma District Orphan Social Integration Center will help orphans, neglected children, and children from low-income families to find a better quality of life through psychological, practical educational and material assistance in the hope of preventing at-risk children from ending up on the streets, where they often become prostitutes and criminals to survive.

Family Adaptation Program

This program will prepare orphans to live productively in society upon leaving the orphanage. To begin, 40-45 orphans, transferred to a central orphanage from other overcrowded orphanages in the Kostroma district, will be divided into 5-6 "families". Each "family" will have 2 primary caregivers (a "mom" and "dad"), a separate living facility, their own budget, rules and specific jobs within the "family", such as food preparation, cleaning and laundry. Since living in a family unit helps to build skills for home management and expects mutual respect and responsibility from its members, it remains one of the best ways to aid children as they make the transition from the orphanage into society. All programs will be supervised and maintained through the Center.

Master-Apprentice Program

This program will provide opportunities for young adults to learn practical trade skills while receiving a specialized high school education. The "Master-Apprentice" program consists of grouping young adults with skilled local craftsmen who will maintain the following manufacturing shops: carpentry, masonry, sewing and tailoring, farming and agriculture, artistic metal forging, printing production, auto mechanics, and a bakery. The students will work along side craftsmen obtaining practical business skills, earning wages, and paying taxes as required. Graduates can either enter institutions of higher learning or continue to work and live for a fixed amount of years in a family, until they can live on their own in society. After the manufacturing shops begin to earn money, the Center will be able to finance and feed itself, needing practically no additional outside contributions.


The Kostroma City government has offered a spacious building on the outskirts of town to the Charity Fund "Resurrection" for the purpose of establishing an Orphan Integration Center. Partners are currently being sought to fund the reconstruction project.

When renovated, the Center will contain a dental clinic, psychological support clinic, cultural hall, vocational and technical skills training facilities, a shop to sell goods produced at the Center, class rooms, kitchen and dining facility and beds for temporary housing.

Located in the village of Karavaievo, just outside Kostroma city limits, the building to be renovated is approximately 77,500 sq ft (38,750 sq ft per level). The property has access to several acres of farmable land and a nearby river.

To learn more about the Kostroma District Orphan Social Integration Center contact the Utah-Russia Institute.


The Charity Fund "Resurrection" was founded in 2001, humanitarian work, however, began long before the organization was officially registered with the administration of the Kostroma District, Russia. The Charity Fund's president, Peter Shpanchenko, along with Father George from the local Russian Orthodox Church, started receiving humanitarian aid in 1991.

The Charity Fund has worked with many respected international humanitarian organizations such as, the Norwegian Red Cross, the Irish Historical Society and the Ireland based "Aid for Chernobyl Suffers", the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, as well as with German and American Government support departments. These organizations have donated everything from clothes and general hygiene products, to children's food and medical equipment. Their contributions primarily aid children in the region and are distributed to people according to the specifications of each individual organization. Financial assistance for repairing children's hospitals and orphanages has also been received in the past.

In October 2003, Charity Fund "Resurrection" hosted the dental humanitarian group, Share A Smile. They organized the transportation, accommodations, working facility and schedule of patients for the 21 dental professionals and support staff. In the five days they were in Kostroma, the group treated approximately 160 individuals, performing everything from sealants and fillings to root canals and cosmetic build-ups. Share A Smile also contributed dental hygiene products, blankets and toys, which Mr. Shpanchenko personally delivered to regional orphanages and children's shelters.

Since processing shipments through Russian customs is a major hurdle for many charitable organizations, the expertise and integrity expressed by the Charity Fund "Resurrection" in doing this has enabled long-awaited aid to reach those in need. Most recently, the Charity Fund "Resurrection" has begun a relationship with the Humanitarian Services of Utah, which plans on sending 200 shipping containers of humanitarian aid to the Kostroma Region in the near future.

While still working on receiving and distributing humanitarian aid throughout the Kostroma District, the Charity Fund "Resurrection" has embarked on a new endeavor, that of establishing the Kostroma District Orphan Integration Center.

Dental, Pharmaceutical and Optometry Envoys

Sent U.S. dentists to Russia to instruct on the use and care of state-of-the art portable dental equipment generously donated by the Exxon Corporation.

At the request of the Afghan Veterans Union, URI coordinated the transfer of thousands of dollars of pharmaceuticals contributed by Zenith Goldline and also sent physicians and dentists to administer aid.

The Institute has sent eye surgeons and others to remote areas of Russia where they performed free operations, donated thousands of dollars worth of equipment, and instructed local surgeons and medical schools in Western techniques.

A New Life

Used funding from Conoco to bring a Russian child with serious medical needs to the U. S. where the Shriners Hospital performed free surgery and successfully corrected the problems.

In 1996, Utah Valley State College nursing students and faculty, working through the Utah-Russia Institute, traveled to Nar'yan Mar, Russia on an exchange program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and administered through United Way International. While there, they met a young girl afflicted with scoliosis since childhood.

In the fall of 1998, this young girl, Oksana Martyn, through the efforts of those who had traveled to Nar'yan Mar a few years previously and the Utah-Russia Institute, came to America to get a new lease on life.


The Daily Herald - October 25, 1998

OREM - Oksana Martyn, a Russian teen-ager, was born on May 1, 1983. But she said her new birthday is Oct. 6, 1998. America has given her a second birth, she said.

"My life will be completely different," Oksana said of her scheduled return to Russia in December. "Society plays a big role in life, and society would have looked down on me.

"Everyone knows everyone in my village, and I would be known as the girl with the lump on her back." Oksana, 15, doesn't have to worry about people staring anymore. On Oct. 6, she received a special surgery at Shriners Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Oksana, from the Russian village Nar'Yan Mar, was 7 years old when she was diagnosed with scoliosis. Scoliosis is a severe curvature of the spine and, if it's not corrected, can result in death. As Oksana's condition worsened, Russian doctors told her there was nothing they could do. They said she could never run again, go to "regular" school or have children. She was devastated. In Russia, you are sent to boarding school when you have a severe medical condition and you are not able to plan your future. "I had no plans before I knew about the operation because I didn't know about my scoliosis," Oksana said. "I didn't know if it would get worse or better."

Before she came to America with Alene Harrison, associate dean of the School of Science at Utah Valley State College, Russian doctors had already put Oksana on a surgery waiting list at a Moscow hospital. Had she known, Oksana probably would have made them take her name off the list. She said doctors there can't guarantee any results, negative or positive. But American doctors did, and Oksana received her 9-hour surgery, free of charge, on Oct. 6.

Before the operation, she was at least three inches shorter than her mother, Vera. Now she stands about an inch taller and can do all the things she was told she couldn't. "If I had the operation there (Russia), there would not have been a second birth," Oksana said. Harrison met Oksana on a trip to Russia with the Utah-Russia Institute. Oksana's disease isn't rare there because about 50 percent of the village's children are diagnosed with scoliosis, Harrison said. "She had the worst scoliosis in her village, so they asked us to see her to see if we could help," Harrison said.

On Aug. 31, Oksana came to Utah County to live with Harrison until the surgery. Her mother is also here on a leave of absence from her job in a laundry mill. Oksana's father works in the oil fields and his salary, combined with Vera's usual salary, adds up to the American equivalent of $1,000 per year. Just coming to America was a dream come true for Vera, let alone the operation for her daughter donated by Shriners.

"If I had a dream like that at home, I would wake up in the morning and say 'I had the weirdest dream'," Vera said with the help of a translator. "I'm very grateful to America."

Scientific, Commercial and Governmental Projects

Members of the Kyrgyz Opposition Party Visit UVU - February 11, 2008

The UVSC Office of International Affairs and the Department of History and Political Science will host members of the Kyrgyz opposition party February 9-11, 2008. Utah Senate President John Valentine will co-host the group.

Omurbek Tekebaev, former Speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament (Jogorku Kenesh) and chairman of the Motherland Party (Ata-Meken) - the leading opposition party in Kyrgyzstan, will head the delegation to Utah. Tekebaev is an outspoken critic of the Kyrgyz government and a leader of the “For Reforms” movement.

Tekenbaev resigned on February 13, 2006, after an escalated criticism outbreak toward President Kurmanbek Bakiev. According to Radio Free Europe, “Tekebaev's central criticism of Bakiev has been over constitutional reform. Tekebaev argues that Kyrgyzstan needs a rebalancing of power in favor of parliament.”

Despite the resignation from a politically-powerful post, Tekebaev is still considered by many as one of the most influential parliamentarians in all Central Asia. Radio Free Europe states, “Tekebaev has long been one of the most powerful figures on the Kyrgyz political scene. He has led a number of opposition parties, ran for the presidency in 1995 and in 2000, and commands considerable respect and support within parliament.”

Tekenvaev will be accompanied by two of his former deputies who are also members of the Motherland Party, Bolotbek Sherniyazov and Erkinbek Alymbekov.

The delegation’s visit comes in the midst of the power struggle in Kyrgyzstan between the President and the Parliament. President Bakiev has recently dismissed the Parliament in October 2007 following a national referendum on a new constitution. The new constitution, which represented third variant adopted during last two years, was criticized by civil society as the one which endorsed changes to the election law that could benefit Bakiev's new party.

Since the creation of balance between the legislative and executive branches of power is so crucial to the rapidly emerging democracy such as Kyrgyzstan’s, UVSC students will get a unique opportunity to hold a discussion with the delegation on complexities involved in establishment of the separation of powers. The dialogue will take place on February 11, 9 a.m., WB 126. Students of all majors are invited to attend providing the seating availability.

“The U.S. has important strategic interests in Central Asia,” explained Dr. Rusty Butler, associate vice president for international affairs at UVSC. “Kyrgyzstan is home to the United States air base (that provides critical support to the war effort in Afghanistan) as well as to a growing Russian military base. A strong democracy is crucial for the stability of Kyrgyzstan as well as the entire Central Asia region.”

The Kyrgyz delegation will also have a chance to meet with UVSC faculty and explore ways in which the school’s community can become more involved with that nation in a number of areas, including Central Asian legislative affairs.

“In a democracy we must look at both sides of a question,” said Dr. Alex Stecker, coordinator, Political Science Department. “We can not and must not accept a one-sided answer. This is what education is all about. The delegation will help students and faculty understand the other side of the issue. The delegation will look at such areas as human rights, democracy building, legislative process and religious tolerance. We share this world with so many, we can and must share our ideas and hopes and they will do the same with us. In this way we become a variable nation and they will also.”

President Valentine will host the delegation at his Capitol Hill office and share his expertise on Utah’s legislative procedures. Last year UVSC and President Valentine hosted the speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament Meret Sultanov. The visit led to a legislative exchange - Valentine and UVSC AVP for International Affairs Rusty Butler were hosted in the Kyrgyz Republic in October 2007 by Speaker Sultanov. A subsequent delegation of Kyrgyz judges came to UVSC as part of a Library of Congress program – Open World.

Kyrgyzstan is seen by the Westerners as the most politically liberal in ex-Soviet Central Asia because of the participation of opposition parties in government, a strong civil society, and the lack of a ruling party.

President of Utah Senate, John Valentine, is accompanied by Dr. Butler to Kyrgyzstan - October 2007

Summary of Activities

Dr. Butler visits prominent Russian Aerospace sites

  • In 1992, Dr. Rusty Butler visited prominent Moscow Aerospace sites-- Khrunichev Enterprises and Sukhoi Design Bureau--as a guest of the Russian Government This event was a precursor to the foundation of the Utah-Russia Institute.
With Proton Rocket

Dr. Butler with the PROTON rocket on the assembly line Khrunichev Enterprise, Moscow.

At Sukhoi

Dr. Rusty Butler with Sukhoi CEO and General Designer Mikhail Pl Seemonov at the Sukhoi headquarters in Moscow.

Touring MIR space station

Dr. Butler touring the MIR space station- Khrunichev Enterprise, Moscow.(right)

  • Maintains a formal contract with TsAGI (Central Aero-Hydrodynamics Institute) in Russia working on management training, marketing, technology transfer, and defense conversion.

Tupelov 204 lands in Utah

Brought the Russian-built Tupelov 204 commercial aircraft to Salt Lake City for its first ever exhibit in the West.

Tupelov 204

In November 1999 the Utah-Russia Institute brought the Russian-built Tupelov 204 (Tu204) commercial aircraft to Salt Lake City for its first ever exhibit in the West. The aircraft came from Cairo, Egypt where it is in service with Air Cairo, owned by Sirroco Aerospace. Sirocco has the exclusive marketing rights to the Tu204 with Western engines and avionics.

A number of officials from Rolls Royce (engine manufacture), Honeywell (avionics manufacturer), Tupelov, TsAGI, and other companies accompanied the aircraft. Egyptian General Riad, CEO of Air Cairo and former Chief of Egypt‚s Joint Military, and Mohammad Kamel, son of Dr. Ibrahim Kamel, owner of Sirocco, also accompanied the aircraft.

Tupelov 204 Cockpit

UVSC Academic VP Dr. Brad Cook in the Tupelov 204 cockpit.

Butler, Kamel, and Riad

URI Director, Rusty Butler, Mohammad Kamel and General Riad.

  • Successfully completed a NASA contract involving work with senior Russian aerospace and government executives at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.
  • Joined Michigan State University in a project to link Russian engineers and technicians with their academic and corporate U.S. counterparts in a high speed CAD/CAM/CAE training project. The project has drawn the support of numerous large U.S. corporations and the Russian government.
  • Also worked with the U.S. Air Force, General Electric, Novell, Brigham Young University, Conoco, Exxon, Utah State University Space Dynamics Laboratory, LDS charities, and other U.S. entities on scientific, technological, educational, and humanitarian projects.
  • Hosted a conference of top U.S. experts on Russian policy in Park City, Utah, one of the sites of the 2002 Winter Games. Recommendations from the conference became important working documents on Capital Hill.
  • In conjunction with the Heritage Foundation, URI hosted a Washington Round Table on U.S. policy with U.S. Senate Foreign Appropriations Chairman Senator Mitch McConnell.