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Ambassador to Moscow opens residence to Middlebury, Monterey guests

April 20, 2009

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, will hold a reception on April 29 at his residence in Moscow for students and alumni of Middlebury College and the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Both the ambassador and his wife Jocelyn participated in the Middlebury Russian School's summer program in the 1970s, and are excited about the opportunity to welcome friends to the historic Spaso House, home to American ambassadors in Moscow since the start of U.S.-Russian diplomatic relations in 1933.

Ambassador Beyrle (pronounced "Burly") sent warm regards to the Middlebury community and recalled that Aleksandra "Alya" Baker, lecturer emerita in Russian, still ranks as one of the top language teachers with whom he has studied.

The gathering for Middlebury and Monterey affiliates, including all former and current students of the Russian School and the School in Russia, will take place at the ambassador's residence in Moscow. The event is now closed to the public.

After attending the Russian School, Ambassador Beyrle embarked on a career in the Foreign Service with assignments in central and eastern Europe, Russia, and the U.S.S.R. His overseas tenure has included three tours at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and he is considered one of the diplomatic corps' leading experts on the former communist bloc. His previous (and first) ambassadorship was to Bulgaria in 2005-2008, during the period when Bulgaria joined the European Union.

Beyrle also was a senior counselor at the U.S. Embassy in the Czech Republic and a member of the U.S. Delegation to the C.F.E. ("Conventional Armed Forces in Europe") Negotiations in Vienna. His Washington assignments have included special advisor and director-level positions at the State Department and the National Security Council.

Speaks five foreign languages
A native of Michigan, John Beyrle received his B.A. from Grand Valley State University and an M.S. from the National War College. His foreign languages are Bulgarian, Czech, French, German, and, of course, Russian.

James Brooke, a former Wall Street Journal reporter now living in Moscow, helped arrange the reception. Brooke, who attended the Russian School in 2006, said the reception will give Middlebury and Monterey alumni established in Moscow the opportunity "to give back by helping the new generation of Russian language students to make contacts and, perhaps, find jobs."

Regarding the importance of language learning, Brooke said in an e-mail: "With the current economic downturn in Moscow, the expatriates who do not have a handle on the Russian language are the first to be thrown overboard, or to jump ship."

Nana Tsikhelashvili, associate professor and director of the School in Russia, and Daniel Breen, director of development for graduate and special programs, will represent Middlebury at the reception.

The ambassador's residence, Spaso House, stands one mile west of the Kremlin in an area that was inhabited in the 17th century by the Czar's dog keepers and falcon handlers. The building itself was completed in 1914 during a period that favored ostentation in architecture. The mansion is known for its 82-foot-long main hall crowned by an enormous crystal chandelier.