The concept of a Russian-American liberal arts college was first born in the minds and hearts of Russian educators who came to the United States in 1990, visited several Christian liberal arts colleges and universities, and were so impressed with both the quality of the education and the integration of moral values and ethics with living and learning that they approached the leadership of the Christian College Coalition (now the Coalition for Christian Colleges & Universities) with the request that a similar institution be established in Moscow. Five years later, this concept became a reality.
The Russian-American Institute’s mission statement reads as follows:
As the plans for the Institute were jointly formulated by Russian and American educators, the following educational goals were approved by the Institute’s Board of Trustees as guidelines for its development:
- To establish a cooperative educational venture through the combined efforts of Russian and American educators, a venture which would bring together the strengths of each educational system and would result in a vibrant community of scholars and students.
- To engage Russian university students in vigorous liberal arts education that would promote lifelong Christian service to church and society.
- To produce quality scholarship by faculty and students, scholarship which would enhance the best insights of Russian culture and historic Christianity and engage issues in the intellectual and public spheres.
- To create a caring and diverse educational community where faculty and students would be challenged to acquire knowledge, cultivate aspirations, and practice lives of service. To offer to Russian society an intellectually credible Christian witness, a witness that would bear testimony to historic Christianity, through lectures and publications of its faculty.
With leadership from a voluntary Board of Trustees made up of both Russians and Americans, The Russian-American Institute (formerly the Russian-American Christian University) opened its doors in the Spring of 1995 with four evening courses, and then a four-week summer English Language Institute in July 1995 which served almost one hundred students. Evening courses were offered during the 1995-96 academic year, a second English Language was held in July 1996 and the beginning of the four-year undergraduate program took place in September 1996.
On December 3, 1997, the Russian-American Christian University was granted its educational license by the Russian Ministry of Education and this license authorized RACU to offer university-level undergraduate courses. After several years of preparation, the Institute applied for state accreditation and, on November 12, 2003, the Ministry of Education granted the Institute full accreditation for five years. This is an historic milestone in the Institute’s development – as far as we know, the Russian-American Institute is the first private faith-based liberal arts institute to be accredited in Russia.
In the fall of 2009, after many years of hard work and overcoming many obstacles, the Russian-American Institute was finally able to move into its own campus facility in the Northeast part of Moscow. Conveniently located close to metro station Babushkinskaya, the facility was built to accommodate up to 500 students.
However, major changes were made by the Russian government in 2008-2010 that had a substantial negative impact on RAI. Because of a dramatic reduction in birth rates in the early 1990s, Russia experienced an unprecedented decrease in college-age young people, and this 50 percent drop in potential applicants resulted in a series of federal policies designed to protect state universities at the expense of small private institutes and universities. The loss of its tax-exempt status as a private institute and the change in re-accreditation regulations that no longer recognized Ph.D. degrees for the more than 120 American faculty who taught at RAI meant that the Institute was forced to suspend its undergraduate programs in November 2010.
The Board of Trustees subsequently decided to sell RAI’s new facility and use the net assets from the sale to fund new priorities in Russia. For a description of these new priorities, see the January 14, 2015, letter sent to RAI’s supporters and friends.