Republics of the dismantled Soviet Union need ethics as well as hard currency to build a new economy.

First in a series examining how Western Christians are helping reshape society in what was once the Soviet Union. Future reports will look at church development, education, legal services, medical care, and other social systems.

The scene was a conference on entrepreneurship in the Soviet Union, held last fall in Moscow, The gathering featured several U.S. professionals who presented papers on business ethics, but as the conference was winding down, a businessman from Moscow rose to speak. He told the group he appreciated all the thought that had gone into the presentations, but added, “In my country, we have neither business nor ethics.”

Though the comment was greeted with laughter, it captured the essence of what many believe to be the fundamental problem facing what was once the USSR: a moral bankruptcy too deep for most Westerners to envision.

The pace of the change in the former Soviet Union has taken the world by surprise. No one could have predicted the dramatic chain of events that has led to the formation of a new commonwealth of republics. But the movement in the direction of a freer society was something many inside and outside the country deemed inevitable.

Forward-thinking economic leaders in the Soviet Union realized for some time that their society was, to say the least, ill prepared educationally, socially, and ethically to make the transition to a free-market economy. U.S. Christian business professionals and organizations recognized the ministry potential (and in some cases, the investment potential) and wasted little time rushing in to fill the vacuum, in some instances, years ahead of the recent, radical reforms ...

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