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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Soros Pledges $100M Gift for Russia




U.S. financier George Soros pledged Wednesday to contribute more than $100 million this year to Russian libraries, museums and health and education programs.


Soros detailed his plans for what he has dubbed the "Pushkin project," designed to provide about 1,000 books a year to each of some 3,500 provincial libraries throughout Russia. Soros was in Moscow this week on his second visit since last fall.


The financier said he has insisted that Russia gradually take over the financing of the three-year project, covering one-quarter of its costs this year, one-half in 1999, and three-quarters in 2000.


"It is my hope that [the project] will have a lasting effect and will not disappear when my support disappears," he said at a news conference.


Soros has already spent an estimated $350 million on charitable projects in Russia in the past decade. All together he has pledged to contribute $500 million more to improve Russian health, education and culture, and augment military reform.


On Wednesday, he also announced plans to donate $5 million this year to support Russia's cash-strapped museums, including the former country home of writer Leo Tolstoy and the Kizhi complex -- a unique ensemble of old, fancifully designed wooden churches in northern Russia.


The Leo Tolstoy Museum Estate in Yasnaya Polyana near Tula, some 150 kilometers south of Moscow, still needs work to repair World War II damage.


Olga Kreshchevnikova, assistant to Yasnaya Polyana museum director Vladimir Tolstoy, said the museum could use the money. "The museum is not flourishing but it works, and we are doing a lot of other work besides the receiving of tourists," she said.


When asked whether the museum is desperate for money, Kreshchevnikova replied: "Can you name a museum that is not desperate?


Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuyev, who met with Soros on Tuesday, asked for the financier's help with the restoration of the Kizhi complex. Soros said he will not directly finance the work, but instead will support a local craft school that has experience in restoring the complex.


Soros also detailed his programs to assist treatment of drug addiction, tuberculosis, and improve maternal and child health.


Soros also said he would contribute $20 million this year to one of his biggest projects in Russia -- introducing Internet access to at the nation's universities.


Sysuyev said Soros' donations of computer hardware have already allowed Russia to set up Internet links at 32 universities."