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The Daily Tar Heel

Russian Politician Speaks on Changes at Home

Kostantin Alekseyevitch Titov, governor of the Russian province Samara Oblast, and a delegation of advisers came to campus as participants in the International Visitor Program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State and the Russian government.

Titov has had an extensive history of promoting democratic influence over Russian politics. The diplomat is the leader of the Russian Social Democratic Party and ran for president in the last presidential election, winning 1.5 percent of the vote.

UNC's Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies planned Titov's campus visit, which included a lecture on Russia's economic and political situation.

The non-Russian speaking members of the 50 person audience in Union 226 on Monday were equipped with earphones through which an assistant translated Titov's speech, although many members of the audience spoke Russian.

Much to the audience's surprise, after a short introduction -- most of which was lost during technical difficulties involving the earphones -- Titov posed a request that left the audience silent. "Tell me what it is that you want to hear from me," he said.

Receiving no response, Titov then segued smoothly into Russian politics and economic policy, which he said is in a time of difficulty and change. "(Russia) is transitioning from planned economy to free life, free entrepreneurship, free economy," he said.

Already on its way toward democratization, the Russian government is composed of a two-chamber parliament and led by a president directly elected by the populace, Titov said.

After describing Russia's general political and economic areas of improvement, Titov discussed issues that he said needed to be addressed in his own province of Samara Oblast.

Located southeast of Moscow, Samara Oblast is an agriculturally and technologically inclined province specializing in the production of both grains and rocket engines.

Titov said he plans to use "the economic laws the whole democratic world utilizes" to promote the area's economic stability. With economic growth in Samara Oblast increasing from 2 percent to between 8 and 10 percent a year, the diplomat said his plan is already producing results.

Titov ended his lecture by presenting his audience with a question regarding last week's terrorist attacks and the possibility of American retaliation. "What should America do (about terrorism) -- strike on terrorist camps?"

Professor of surgery Michael Peck answered Titov's question by saying the United States needs to look outward and bridge the gap with the rest of the world.

"Violence will not solve this problem ... but deeper than that we need to come to an understanding of why problems exist," Peck said. "This is a challenge for us to learn how we fit into the world -- we are no longer an island, and that is new to us."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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