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Eastern Europe: Economic Roundup--The Marines Save A Russian Ballet Master

  • Robert Lyle

Washington, 19 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- In 1992, as Russia was ending its traditional lavish funding for the arts, Kirov ballet dancer Andrei Bossov got what he thought was the chance of a lifetime -- an American businessman asked him to move to the United States to start and build a new ballet company.

Bossov jumped at the chance and soon his young company based in the north Atlantic coast state of Maine was winning critical acclaim for its productions of the classic ballets. But Bossov knew nothing of funding or business -- he had grown up in the subsidized ballet schools and companies in the U.S.S.R. -- and the local businessman who handled the financial side of the company didn't do very well.

Last December, according to the "Wall Street Journal," it looked as if certain bankruptcy after the company spent $200,000 on a production of the Nutcracker and sold only $80,000 worth of tickets. It turned out that bills had gone unpaid for months and angry creditors began hounding the company for their money. Bossov retreated to St. Petersburg, Russia, feeling completely overwhelmed.

But a retired 56-year-old U.S. Marine colonel, whose daughter was studying with the company, stepped in and agreed to take over the business side of the company.

Michael Wyly urged Bossov to return to Maine. When local citizens wouldn't help save the ballet company, Wyly called on old friends and colleagues from his days in the U.S. Marines, considered the toughest of America's fighting forces.

With the aid of a new board of directors now made up entirely of former marines, the ballet company is getting back on its feet and creditors are being repaid.

Bossov told the "Journal" that he trusted the marines because "In the Kirov when I danced, I saw a lot of (Soviet) marines there at any performance." He said the Soviet equivalent of the marines often came from ballet-loving families that were part of the aristocracy before the revolution.

Wyly and his old marine friends partly took the challenge because they thought Bossov's father had been a colonel in the Soviet marines. But when the translations were worked out, they found that Bossov's father was a shore-based naval officer, not a marine.

But the American marines were committed to the project and say they'll stick with Bossov.

"We consider Andrei Bossov part of the American dream," says Wyly.

U.S. Helicopter Maker Signs Deal With Romania

A U.S. helicopter manufacturer has signed a memorandum of understanding with the State Ownership Fund of Romania setting out the ground rules for a plan to purchase a majority ownership of IAR Brasov.

The purchase of the Romanian company is to take effect simultaneously with the issuance of a contract for 96 attack helicopters with the Romanian Ministry of Defense. First deliveries of the new helicopters, a variant on the American Bell AH-1W helicopter, are due to begin in 1999.

U.S. Brewer To Sell Beer In Russia

The Miller Brewing Company, one of the largest producers of beer in the United States, has signed a three-year distribution agreement with a Russian company, Stanley Beverages Ltd.

Miller says it will sell two types of beer in Russia -- Miller Genuine Draft, a traditional light American lager, and Miller Magnum 7.2, a new stronger beer devised for the Russian market. The beer will be sold in one-third liter bottles and half-liter cans. Stanley distributes beverages to 50 sites throughout Russia, according to Miller.

The End Of Most-Favored-Nation Trade Status

For years, the term "Most-Favored-Nation" regarding trade status has confused people around the world because it sounds as if it confers some special ranking or position to another country.

When the term was first introduced into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) agreement decades ago, it did refer to a trade relationship between a handful of nations. But now, with more than 120 nations in the GATT successor World Trade Organization (WTO) and almost every nation on earth having MFN status with every other country, it simply means normal or regular trade relations.

But the name carries such exalted connotations that when the United States required that MFN status for communist nations be renewed each year, countries took it as a nasty slap in the face.

Now the U.S. Senate has passed a bill to remove the phrase from the American trade lexicon. If the bill is passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the president, Most-Favored-Nation trading status will become simply "Normal trade relations."

The bill's sponsors, Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York) and William V. Roth (R-Delaware), call it "a blow for clarity."

But for those who love grand-sounding titles and an image of superiority, there will be great sadness at the passing of Most-Favored-Nation status. "Normal" just doesn't impress anyone.