Russian Studies Alum Working in Kyrgyzstan

Russian Studies Alum Working in Kyrgyzstan

Jason Smart, a 2007 graduate with a double major in Russian studies and government and international politics, recently landed the position of Resident Country Director in Kyrgyzstan for the International Republican Institute (IRI).

A 2006 recipient of a David Boren Scholarship for International Study, Smart spent a year in Vladimir, Russia developing advanced skills in the Russian language. He was working as a Russian translator until fall 2009, when he was hired by the Institute to head their democracy-building efforts in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet Republic in Central Asia.

The International Republican Institute is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department, and the National Endowment for Democracy. It has been working for many years to promote the development of a civil society and a multiparty system.

Smart is working with local Kyrgyz in two different offices—one in Bishkek, the capital, and the other in Osh. He is making good use of his Russian language skills, as Russian is one of the two official languages of Kyrgyzstan (along with Kyrgyz). His office works to advance democracy by training political parties in democratic activities such as campaigns and elections, as well as teaching skills in technology and mass communication. 

A Russian Studies alum with excellent knowledge of Russian language and culture, Smart was invited to meet and have dinner with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (see picture above), who came to Mason on March 24-25, 2009, to deliver the keynote address at the GMU conference, "1989: Looking Back, Looking Forward.