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U.S. Senator Ted Stevens and U.S. Librarian of Congress Dr.James H. Billington Announce Expansion of Open World U.S.-Russia Exchange Program
April 14, 2003

For Immediate Release
PR: 03-009

U.S. Legislative-based program to include Russia’s Emerging Cultural Leaders

St. Petersburg, Russia – In a major expansion of an exchange program that has brought 6,265 emerging Russian political leaders to the U.S., the OPEN WORLD program announced a new initiative to bring Russia’s cultural leaders to the U.S. for extended visits in 2003. OPEN WORLD program founders U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, and U.S. Librarian of Congress Dr. James H. Billington made the announcement at a press briefing in St. Petersburg.

The OPEN WORLD program, managed by the Open World Center at the Library of Congress, is the only exchange program housed in the U.S. Legislative Branch. For nearly five years, OPEN WORLD has brought emerging Russian policymakers and opinion-leaders from all of Russia’s 89 regions to all 50 U.S. states for a firsthand look at the U.S. democratic process and to exchange ideas with their American counterparts.

"The OPEN WORLD program’s purpose – to forge a better understanding between citizens of the U.S. and Russia – has never been more important than it is today," stated Senator Stevens, who authored the Senate legislation creating the OPEN WORLD program in 1999. "The friendships and relationships between Russia and the U.S. created by OPEN WORLD will prove stronger than any short term disagreement between our two countries on global issues."

Stevens, who serves as Honorary Chairman of the Open World Center’s Board of Trustees, announced that the 2003 OPEN WORLD program will bring an estimated 1600 political leaders from across the Russian Federation to the U.S. The U.S.-based programs will continue to focus on such key themes as rule of law, economic development, women in society, health, education reform, environment federalism and youth issues.

In addition, for the first time, up to 100 cultural leaders will be invited to the U.S. under the auspices of OPEN WORLD for extended stays of up to 30 days, where they will be hosted by major American cultural institutions throughout the U.S.

"There is no better place than St. Petersburg, Russia’s cultural heart and soul, to announce the expansion of the OPEN WORLD program to include Russian cultural leaders," stated Dr. Billington, who is the co-founder of the program and Chairman of the Open World Center’s Board of Trustees.

"We will work closely with Russian Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoy to bring emerging Russian cultural leaders to the U.S. The visits will focus on the vitality of the arts in both countries and the means to sustain them. The Russian visitors will observe first hand how their American colleagues work with the government, business community and educational institutions on management, economic and programmatic issues," stated Dr. Billington.

Continued Dr. Billington, "Americans will have the wonderful experience of working with the next generation of Russian cultural leaders in the visual and performing arts, literature, music, folklore, dance, and film."

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow hailed the program as an exciting new addition to the broad array of academic and professional exchanges with Russia supported by the U.S. Government. "We are delighted that the OPEN WORLD program will now provide opportunities for the vibrant cultural and artistic sector of Russian society to work with Americans who share their dedication to the arts. Both Russia and the United States have rich cultural traditions that have often intertwined to produce extraordinary results. This program will nurture future cultural innovators and strengthen the bonds between our two countries."

The OPEN WORLD Program will consult with the Russian Ministry of Culture and Russian cultural institutions, as well as U. S.-based organizations with extensive experience in cultural exchanges with Russia to identify candidates to be nominated for the program. Traditional "high-culture" and "popular culture" in the U. S. will be explored, as will the rich and varied folklore traditions in Russia.

Dr. Billington concluded, "It is imperative that we continue to share our experiences and ideas and discover our commonalities. Through OPEN WORLD, the U.S. and Russia will foster the cooperation and understanding needed to meet the challenges of this new century."

The OPEN WORLD Program at the Library of Congress brings emerging political and civic leaders from all 89 regions of the Russian Federation to communities across the United States to experience American community and cultural life, as well as to learn about the responsibilities of and interrelationships between the three branches and different levels (federal, state, and local) of the U.S. government. The program participants also explore how the U.S. private and nonprofit sectors help meet social and civic needs. Participants engage in hands-on experiences, direct observation, and substantive exchange with their professional counterparts.

In 2002, 2,530 OPEN WORLD Russian participants were hosted for intensive ten-day visits focusing on economic development, education reform, environment, federalism, health, rule of law, women in society, and youth issues.

The Russian Leadership Program in 1999 was authorized by the U.S. Congress as a pilot program by U.S. Public Law 106-31. In 2000, the U.S. Congress authorized the creation of the permanent Center for Russian Leadership Development to manage the program, now known as the Open World Program. In 2003, the U.S. Congress expanded the activities of the Open World Program to include an exchange for Russian cultural leaders and an expansion into new countries in the former NIS and the Baltics. In accordance with this new legislation, the Open World Program will be managed by the new Open World Center. Total funding appropriated by the U.S. Congress for the program from 1999 through FY 2003 is $51 million.

Other members of the Open World Program Board of Trustees include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senator Carl Levin, Representative Amo Houghton, Representative Robert E. "Bud" Cramer, former Representative James W. Symington, Mr. George Soros, and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia James F. Collins.

For more information, please contact Katya Sedova at (202) 466-6210 (USA) and Tatiana Nikulshina at (095) 775-00-77 (Russia) or visit the OPEN WORLD website at