WASHINGTON -- A Boston University computer scientist and a Baltimore software company have put an unusual twist on United States firms' practice of going abroad in search of cheap labor. For Yuri Shestov and Intelligent Resources International (IRI) Inc., the underdeveloped world is the Soviet Union.

"A lot of companies don't realize how much scientific talent is available in Russia," says Shestov, vice president of research and development at IRI. "And it's unbelievable what you can pay for labor there, compared to the West.

Shestov, a U.S. citizen who emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1974, is well aware of the enormous reservoir of talent that exists in his native country. Once a mathematics teacher at Leningrad University, the 42-year-old Shestov has stayed in touch with many of his former colleagues since coming to the U.S. In the past few years he has been able to travel more frequently to...

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