Maintaining Humphrey's Legacy
"What do we want for people? Human dignity,
personal expression and
A major industrial, cultural, and transportation center located astride one of the largest rivers on the continent; seat of impressive museums, churches, a major university, and a law school. It sounds like the Twin Cities, until you read it was founded in 1590. "It" is the Russian city of Saratov, a major port on the Volga River some 200 miles upstream from the site of the decisive battle of the Second World War on the Russian front: the battle of Stalingrad.
Since "deStalinization" in 1961 and the subsequent demise of the former Soviet Union in 1991, Stalingrad has become Volgograd and the winds of change have blown throughout Russia. Recent years have seen the emergence of a market-based economy, a growing demand for legal representation and assistance to serve the expanding commercial sector, and concomitant growth and development of Russian law firms, law schools, and bar associations.
Saratov, as home to the Saratov State Academy of Law, a 70-year-old institution of legal scholarship serving some 12,000 law students and hundreds of legal scholars, unavoidably has been caught up in the transformation of the Russian legal system. Thus it is hardly surprising that one of the International Fellows at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute this year is a Russian lawyer from Saratov: Valentina Petrovka Shostak.
Herself a graduate of the Saratov Law Institute, Shostak was a lecturer in criminal law at the Institute from 1977 to 1996. As changes in the law and the role of lawyers ensued throughout the 1990s, she took on administrative responsibilities and began work with the Legal Reform Project as a mentor and trainer, working to improve the professional qualifications of lawyers to meet the challenges of their changing role. Beginning in 1998 she became head of the matr law firm, a subdivision of the Saratov Bar Association, where she handles administrative and supervisory responsibilities.
In 2002 Shostak was selected to participate in the Humphrey Institute International Fellows Program and came to Minnesota to begin a year of specialized study. Fellowships are granted to candidates in both the public and private sectors who have a commitment to public service. For the current academic year, 15 Fellows from as many countries on four continents are enrolled at the Humphrey Institute. A total of 151 professionals from 70 countries were granted Humphrey Fellowships for study in the United States during the academic year 2002-2003.
Among Shostak's primary areas of interest are lawyers' organizations and human rights. In pursuing these interests she has spent several months consulting with officers and staff of the msba and has also studied the operations and organization of law firms, human rights organizations, and the Board of Public Defense.
Changes in the Russian legal system are ongoing to address the issues of court reform and to make the legal system more just and fundamentally fair to disadvantaged citizens. We can expect our new friend, Valentina Petrovka Shostak, to provide leadership in these developments upon her return to Saratov, and we take pride in having had the opportunity to share insights with her about the organization, professional training, and role of lawyers in Minnesota and throughout the world.
Valentina Petrovka Shostak
JON DUCKSTAD is president of the Minnesota State Bar Association. This month he visits with Valentina Petrovka Shostak from Saratov, Russia.