Retraining in Moscow

The peace dividend pays off in the challenges of teaching English to former bioterrorism researchers

Tobi Nagel
Jan 1, 2006

I'm holding a business card that reads "Head of Anthrax Laboratory." It's from a kindly, older gentleman I met in Moscow last year whose demeanor belies his former occupation: creating bioterrorism agents. We met when I US government foundation hire me to teach him scientific English, as part of an overall strategy to help former Soviet bioweapons scientists find viable employment options within the peaceful global community. Through this innovative program, the US Civilian and Research Development Foundation (CRDF) provides funding for individual principal investigators to shift to nonweapons research topics, awards institutional grants to shore up equipment and infrastructure that have deteriorated, and offers free English immersion workshops to give the scientists an essential skill for making a transition into the worldwide scientific community.

More than half of the scientists at our two-week English workshop were from a formerly secret institute called Obolensk, where a genetically modified, vaccine-resistant form...