A group of Russian delegates visiting Lawrence expressed positive feelings about American open government and the friendly people, but were concerned about American perceptions about Russia.
The delegates from Russian universities are visiting Kansas University and took time this week to discuss their impressions of America.
The group is here as part of the Open World Program, which seeks to introduce current and future Russian and Eurasian decision-makers and to meet their American counterparts.
Speaking through a translator, some members of the group said they were struck by the open access they had to government facilities.
“If we wanted to do something like this in our country, it would take an immense amount of effort to do this,” said Bronyus Aysmontas, dean of the distance learning department of Moscow City University of Psychology and Education.
He also said he found the American food to be more unhealthy than what you typically find in Russia.
“I may be mistaken,” he said, “but unhealthy eating seems to be a national issue.”
While in Lawrence, they lived with host families, and members of the KU department of Russian, East European and Eurasian studies helped take the group around the region.
They met with leaders from KU, the city of Lawrence, Johnson County Community College and Park University in Parkville, Mo.
They expressed frustration with Americans’ perception of Russians.
“For some reason, drinking always comes up,” said Olga Makashina, vice dean of the department of economics and management at Ivanovo State University of Power Engineering.
She and others expressed concern that most Americans’ ideas of Russia were rooted in a different time. They stressed that modern-day Russia is different from the old Soviet Union.
On the whole, they’re not that different but Makashina said she felt that Russians were more intellectually curious on the whole.
“Russians know more about the current budget crisis in America than most Americans,” she said.