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Russian authorities seize US Embassy’s American Cultural Center

The US Embassy in Russia is no longer in charge of the Moscow American Center, a cultural center that provides materials and reference services based on a US-library model and hosts daily cultural and educational programs.

The center was located in the building of All-Russia State Library of Foreign Literature, which hosts several other international organizations, as well. The Library terminated a formal agreement whereby the US Embassy supported the American Center, and informed the US Embassy of its intention to replace the center’s director. The library will now take full control of all of the center’s activities.

US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft issued a statement saying, “The US Embassy in Moscow deeply regrets the Russian government’s unilateral decision to close the Embassy’s American Center.” The ambassador noted that, in 2014 alone, the American Center held more than 400 educational events and hosted more than 50,000 visitors.

Tefft also mentioned that, one year ago, Russia closed down its largest exchange program with the US, the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program.

Vadim Duda, the director of the All-Russia State Library of Foreign Literature, said the library is ready to retain its current staff and the programs of the American Center, but objects to the way the American Center is currently funded. According to Duda, the All-Russia State Library has proposed to “work out a new contracting system that is in line with Russian law” together with the US embassy.

These latest unilateral steps further call into question the Russian government’s commitment to maintaining people-to-people ties between the Russian and American people, which continued even during the Cold War and other complicated moments in our countries’ long history.

US Embassy Moscow

The American Center has been located in the All-Russia State Library since 1993. Ekaterina Genieva, the previous director of the All-Russia State Library (who recently passed away), told Meduza in an interview that the Russian Ministry of Culture repeatedly asked her to close the American Center, but did not explain the grounds for this request or provide evidence that the center’s contract violated Russian law.

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