Dr. John A. Bernbaum, President
John A. Bernbaum, in partnership with Russian and American educators, founded the Russian-American Institute (RAI) in Moscow, Russia in 1995 and currently serves as the Institute’s President. The Institute’s mission, as a private faith-based, liberal arts university, is to equip young Russians for leadership roles in their local communities, in the marketplace, in their churches, and in their nation. Dr. Bernbaum works out of the U.S. office of the Russian-American Institute in Wheaton, Maryland, and spends approximately one-third to one-half of the academic year in Moscow; the remaining time is spent traveling across the country sharing the Institute’s mission, recruiting faculty, and raising financial support for the Institute’s programs.
Prior to his work in Russia, Dr. Bernbaum worked for the Department of State from 1972-1976 and then spent nearly two decades with the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities in Washington, D.C. During his time there, he founded and directed the American Studies Program, established the Latin American Studies Program and the Los Angeles Film Studies Program, served as the organization’s Executive Vice President, and finally headed up their Russian Initiative and developed the Russian Studies Program.
While working on the Russian Initiative, Dr. Bernbaum spent a semester teaching at Nizhni Novgorod State University.
In addition to his work in Russia, Dr. Bernbaum has written many articles and has authored two books, Why Work? and Perspectives on Peacemaking. He also writes monthly “Reflections on Russia.” Dr. Bernbaum lectures on college and university campuses, and is a speaker at seminars, workshops, and weekend retreats.
Dr. Bernbaum received his undergraduate degree in history from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He earned his Master’s degree in European History and his Ph.D. in European and Russian History from the University of Maryland. Dr. Bernbaum also received the first Honorary Doctorate degree issued by Nizhni Novgorod State University in Russia in 1995. In May 2009, Dr. Bernbaum was given a third doctorate when Huntington University (Huntington, Indiana) awarded him with a Doctor of Humane Letters for his work in international education.
Dr. Bernbaum lives in Wheaton, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., with his wife Margery. Through the deaths of Margery’s sister and brother-in-law in 1974-75, they inherited and raised a second family of six children, in addition to their own three offspring, all of whom are now adults. The Bernbaums have thirteen grandchildren.
Dr. Vladimir Obrovets, Vice President for External Relations
Dr. Vladimir Obrovets is a native of Belarus and is currently employed as RAI’s Vice President for External Relations. Dr. Obrovets has been part of the leadership of RAI from its very beginning and was one of its founders. Dr. Obrovets has a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Leningrad Electrical Engineering Institute as well as a Doctorate in Engineering Sciences with a specialty in Radio Engineering. Among other things, Dr. Obrovets has been Laboratory Director at the Scientific Research Institute, Senior Lecturer at the Moscow Institute of Radioelectronics and Automation and author of 70 research papers and several inventions.
Alexander Y. Smirnov, Vice President for Administration Alexander Smirnov was born and raised in St. Petersburg where he graduated from the Mining Technical University with a Master’s degree in Mining Engineering. After spending seven years in the United States, including additional education at Purdue University, Smirnov came back to Russia and has been employed by the Russian-American Institute since 2004. He supervised construction of the Institute’s campus facility and eventually was appointed Vice President for Administration. Smirnov recently completed a Master’s degree in business administration (MBA) at the Moscow Finance and Economics Institute “Sinergy.” He is married and has three children.