I am currently serving an internship in Moscow at the PIR Center for International Studies Autonomous Non-for-Profit Organization (Автономная некоммерческая организации «Научный центр международных исследований «ПИР»). This independent non-governmental organization was founded in 1994 and serves as a major research engine and source of publications on nuclear nonproliferation, conventional arms control, foreign policy and international security. PIR Center works as an educator, hosting various educational programs throughout the year, and offers consulting expertise and runs several publications. PIR Center is represented throughout Europe via the Centre russe d’etudes politiques and possesses consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
My internship in Moscow was set up by SRAS under the NGO and Cultural Internship Program.
Before I arrived in Russia, I had a Skype interview with my overseers in which they informed me that I, like all PIR Center interns, would need to complete a book review (кныжные новынки), by the end of the first week of my internship in Moscow. This review can be on any recently-published book related to international relations, international security, nuclear nonproliferation, control of conventional weapons, etc. The document is often submitted in Russian language, but exceptions can be made; I submitted mine in English and then submitted a copy translated into Russian. If reviews are good enough they are published in журнал “Индекс Безопасности” (“Security Index” journal).
I commute to the internship in Moscow using the metro system. Most places in Moscow are within a 5-15 minute walk of a station – and this is true of both MGU where I live, and the PIR office where I work. The total trip takes about 45 minutes.
As is also fairly common in Moscow, security at the PIR Center office building is comparatively tight. As I am not a permanent employee, I must check in by showing ID when entering the building each morning. It is also not uncommon for organizations in Moscow to be spread out over a few offices. I work at the Dobrinskaya offcie where where the Project Coordinator, Ekaterina Sizikova, the PIR Center Accountant, Galina Rasskazova, and the Executive Director, Albert Zulkharneev, and two other interns work. The Center also has an office on the campus of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (Дипломатическая академия Министерства иностранных дел Российской Федерации), where, in fact, most of the PIR researchers work. The founder and Director of PIR, Dr. Vladimir Orlov, also serves as the Head of the Academy’s Center for Global Trends and International Organizations.
The Center releases a number of print and online publications. It’s largest one is published in print four times per year in both Russian and English, and is called журнал Индекс Безопасности (The Security Index Journal). It was the first project that the Center undertook, and before 2007, was called Ядерный Контроль (Nuclear Control). The journal is very well known among political, business, and academic circles as a top source of objective analysis on nonproliferation of WMD and arms control. It receives contributions from such sources as the Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, the Secretary General of NATO, the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, and others. The Center also publishes monographs within the PIR Center Library series, which includes higher-education textbooks, guidebooks, reports, etc. The Center’s online publications include two electronic newsletters called Ядерный Контроль (Yaderny Kontrol), PIR PRESS NEWS, an e-bulletin called CyberPulse, and an analytical and information newsletter entitled Vienna+Geneva, which the Center publishes in conjunction with its European office.
Duties that interns perform vary greatly. More advanced students can assist with direct research or engage in official correspondence on behalf of PIR Center– this even includes answering the telephone. I am far from fluent in Russian language at this point, so my duties have mostly included translating documents from Russian to English for PIR PRESS NEWS and proofreading documents that PIR staff members have already translated to English. Duties also include more mundane tasks such as fetching the mail during the week.
This fall is an especially exciting time for PIR Center. The organization hosted the fourteenth PIR Center International School on Global Security for Young Specialists from September 30-October 8, 2014. In early October, the organization hosted a conference “Russia and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Agenda: Towards the 2015 NPT Review Conference”, which served as an extended meeting of the PIR Center Advisory Board and the Trialogue Club International, and celebrated its 20th anniversary with a formal reception. I am very glad to say that I had the privilege of helping to organize and assist on-site at each of these events. As preparatory work, I contacted English-speaking prospective attendees to verify their attendance or absence, translated event agendas and guest-lists from Russian to English, and helped create name tags and pamphlets for the guests. At the event itself I assisted with logistics and by taking notes in English–with the help of the official translators– on each of the presentations, in hopes that some of the information will be used in Tweets on the PIR Center Twitter page. I hope that, as the months go by, my Russian will reach a level that will allow me to assist PIR Center with its various research projects as part of my internship in Moscow.
One very interesting portion of the organization’s staff is its interns. PIR Center typically houses interns for a few months at a time. Most of the interns are from Russia or CIS states and incorporate the internship into their undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate studies. Interns are provided the opportunity to conduct their own research project under the auspices of the Center’s various experts.
I always find the life paths of different people very interesting, and would like to share those of two PIR Center interns. I think that doing so will give young Americans who are interested interning at a similar organization in Russia or Asia an idea of what such an organization looks for, as well asl how such an internship can help one enhance or figure out his or her educational and professional path. Reading such information may also help prospective SRAS NGO and Cultural Internships program participants to make the decision to participate.
When I began interning at PIR Center there was one intern (стажёр), Kristina Kucheeva, and one trainee (практикант), Adlan Margoev. Both had similar tasks, except Kristina had remained with PIR for a year, while Adlan did so for one month. Kristina is completing her master’s degree at MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations), (МГИМО (Московский государственный институт международных отношений (Университет) МИД России). Adlan is a third-year student at MGIMO. His major is “Diplomacy and Policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran”; he also studies Persian. He is especially interested in Iran’s regional policy and its nuclear program, and since PIR Center engages in Iranian nuclear program studies, he decided to incorporate training at PIR Center into his coursework. In the future he hopes to further his studies at MGIMO, continue completing work for and maintain contact with PIR Center, and eventually engage in relations with Iranian scientists and experts.
Something I was very interested to learn when I arrived at PIR Center is that, during the summer of 2014, right before I arrived, an American by the name of Sarah Norris interned there. She is a few years older than I am and possesses a little more experience in international relations than I do thus far. I found her story very interesting. Amidst her studies in the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Sarah came to Russia as an NSEP Boren Fellow. She spent seven months in Moscow in total, and during that time she enrolled directly in MGIMO language classes during the spring and interned at the Carnegie Moscow Center. During the summer she took language classes at MSU and interned at PIR Center.
When asked about her time at PIR Center, Sarah responded: “My time with PIR was beneficial in that it gave me experience interacting with people in a Russian office environment, connected me with Russian professionals in the nonproliferation field, taught me new perspectives on nonproliferation/arms control issues, and allowed me to build stronger ties with an institution that is close to my own—MIIS—back home. PIR Center holds their interns to high intellectual standards, and I really appreciated that.” After graduation, Sarah hopes to work in the U.S. Government on arms control and U.S.-Russia relations.
Overall, I would highly recommend interning at PIR Center or at any similar institution abroad. Such an internship can open doors that one might not even have known existed. SRAS NGO and Cultural Internships program participants can expand their educational, professional, cultural and linguistic horizons tenfold. The program provides them the priceless opportunity of not only learning Russian language, but of applying those studies as one gains professional experience. The contacts, experience and knowledge that I and the other PIR Center interns have gained during our internships will benefit us in one way or another for the rest of our lives. Just meeting the other PIR Center interns has opened my eyes; learning their backgrounds and aspirations has provided me some ideas of how to go about carving out my own future educational and professional path. If asked whether I would go back in time and choose to do this program again, I would undoubtedly say yes.