East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 3, No. 3, Summer 1995, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe

U.S. Aid to Former Soviet Bloc States:
What Works

Serge Duss

We should understand that U.S. assistance--in fact all Western assistance to the NIS but especially to Russia--is merely a stimulant for free market development and civil society.  Therefore, the U.S. must use diminishing resources to till and cultivate the grassroots so that whatever seeds of aid are invested will be nourished by communities to develop and promote trust, fairness, cooperation, tolerance, and inclusion.

I would suggest that, during the remaining years of the U.S. assistance program, it focus more on smaller scale privatization--the shopkeepers of NIS--and target sectors of society that will impact the largest number of people.

1) Help rebuild educational systems.  Schools are starving for new textbooks and curricula free of communist ideology.  Funds should be redirected to create books, videos, and films that explain democracy, free markets, and political, ethnic, and religious pluralism.

2) Enthusiastically support legal reforms.  Legal systems in all the republics continue to reflect the arbitrary nature of Soviet justice.  Legal reform programs should be strengthened.  Support must be provided for building an adequate court structure and creating legal associations.

3) Significantly increase the number of exchange programs for NIS students and budding community, political, and business leaders.  And let's not be shy about incorporating the study of ethics and the vital role of moral values in civil, democratic society.

In Russian there is a single word that characterizes all of the envy, hate, and tired mediocrity of the Soviet legacy.  The word is "sovok."  It's a slang term derived from "sovyet", as in Sovyetskiy Soyuz...Russian for Soviet Union.  A 1992 article in one of Russia's first independent newspapers Nezavisimaya gazeta described a sovok as a person with "a crazed thirst for equality, a deep hatred for the success of others, and a flourishing laziness."

Ultimately it's the sovok mentality that stands as the greatest obstacle to political and economic reform and the steady emergence of civil society and democratic institutions.  Only as U.S. assistance programs--in business, government and social sectors--are able to help citizens of post-Soviet republics shed the sovok mentality, can we have any real hope of long-term success in the NIS and achieving its goals for the benefit of future generations? 

Source:  Testimony of Serge Duss, Associate Director for Government Affairs, World Vision, in "Briefing on U.S. Assistance to Central and Eastern Europe and the NIS:  An Assessment," Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Washington, DC, 17 February 1995, p. 49.

Serge Duss, "U.S. Aid to Former Soviet Bloc States:  What Works," East-West Church & Ministry Report, 3 (Summer 1995), 11.

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1995 Institute for East-West Christian Studies
ISSN 1069-5664

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