The (UD) Review, May 15, 2001
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David Hoffman

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Foreign editor speaks about Russia


Staff Reporter

"When something as big as the transformation of Russia happens, it's important for people to understand exactly how and why."

University alumnus David Hoffman, foreign editor for the Washington Post, discussed how Russian capitalism was born and the changes Russia has faced throughout the years Thursday night at Clayton Hall.

Hoffman, the final speaker in the Global Agenda lecture series, said Russian capitalism was born on the ashes of the Soviet Union. He described it as one of the most unusual transformations in history.

"While the flaws and dangers were real, are real and will be real," he said, "the truth is that something else really remarkable happened when the Soviet Union fell apart."

Hoffman said after the Soviet Union collapsed, a system was changed "without a bloody revolution.

"A country with the world's largest land mass threw up a failed experiment in socialism," he said.

Hoffman said three lessons can be learned from Russia's failure and the resulting changes.

"One, what we say and do about Russia has impact," he said. "Our voice matters.

"Two, the real signs of change are often not at the highest level of power.

"Three, there is no easier way to make shock therapy less shocking."

Ralph Begleiter, distinguished journalist in residence, who coordinated the lecture series, said he chose Hoffman to speak because he had a variety of experiences.

"How often can you get someone [like this] in one package?" Begleiter said.

Senior Jennifer Marzouk said she thought Hoffman was interesting.

"I didn't know much about Russia," she said. "It was nice to see what daily life was like and the changes that need to be made and have been made."

Begleiter said this event, which was attended by approximately 200 people, benefitted the students.

"[Hoffman] is a gold mine," he said. "This is the reason why journalists are proud to be journalists."

Prior to his position as foreign editor, Hoffman served as Moscow bureau chief and Jerusalem bureau chief. He was also an editor for The Review.

Hoffman was extremely critical of the United States and the Clinton and Bush administrations, Begleiter said, and he believed the U.S. was giving up on nuclear negotiations.

"This was an unusual circumstance," he said. "Having spent five years living and traveling through Russia, he is an expert in the area."

Hoffman said he was glad to be back at the university to discuss a familiar topic.

"I enjoyed talking to the students because they were very curious," he said. "Curious in a good way, that is."