In 1995, I taught a non-credit night course in Russian church history for what would become the Russian-American Christian University (RACU). It was a memorable experience on multiple counts.
The class was held in rented space on the old campus of the Patrice Lumumba People’s Friendship University, where a larger-than-life bust of the school’s namesake Congolese communist martyr was on display in the lobby. Outside my classroom windows were the walls of the Donskoi Monastery, where the Bolsheviks imprisoned Russian Orthodox Patriarch Tikhon until his death in 1925. I team-taught in a stimulating partnership with a friend, Orthodox journalist and future priest Yakov Krotov. And I was teaching unusually attentive students as eager to learn as any I have ever encountered.
For a few short years, less than two decades (1996-2011), an American-style Christian liberal arts university sought to plant seeds in Moscow, where the soil would grow increasingly rocky and thorny. Explanations for RACU’s demise are easy to come by. They include an evangelical constituency limited in size and financial wherewithal, economic instability (including the 1998 ruble crisis and the 2008-09 recession), a political order devolving from pseudo-democracy to authoritarianism, deteriorating Russian-American relations, growing xenophobic nationalism, and a declining pool of college-age youth.
Above all, RACU could not overcome increasingly crippling state restrictions on private higher education and the lack of an established rule of law, which fueled (and was fueled by) pervasive corruption. Though the school was predominantly evangelical, it made earnest efforts to develop positive relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, efforts ...1
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