Breaking down Russian language barriers.

Author:Gerhart, Clifford
Position::Pobyedea Video Partners' video tape, Survival Russian

When an Anchorage enterprise produced Russian language instruction on videotape in Moscow, its partners learned lessons about doing business in the former Soviet Union.

Vicki Rivera of Anchorage laughs when she recounts how Survival Russian, the Russian language instruction video she and business partner Tom Austin made on location in Moscow, almost didn't survive. Her tale illustrates the hazards of doing business in that rapidly changing marketplace.

"We thought we were done; we had everything filmed and all the changes we needed were down on paper. But when we went to leave, we found that their idea of a deadline and ours weren't the same. We decided to let the Russian film crew ship the master tape to us in Anchorage," she explains.

But there was no way to transport the tape directly from Moscow to Anchorage without moving it by way of Magadan in Siberia. Someone in the film crew hatched the bright idea of taking the language tape to another American, who was staying in a reindeer village near the Finnish border, to have him bring it back.

The master tape eventually was transported the length of the then-Soviet Union a couple of times before Austin received it four months later. He says the fiasco doubled the length of time needed to produce the tape. "We figure the tape traveled about 12,000 to 15,000 miles to get here," Austin adds.

Austin and Rivera's video, Survival Russian, is designed for business travelers and tourists. Rivera narrates and Austin plays the part of an American businessman in typical situations at the airport, during customs clearance, and in hotels, stores and restaurants. The other parts are played by Russians. The partners chose Moscow as a filming location, over sites such as Magadan or Khabarovsk, because of its history-rich atmosphere.

The 54-minute video teaches the Russian language student the alphabet, how to count and how to tell time. Available at many Alaskan bookstores, it retails for $49.95.

Several business people who have watched the tape have found it useful. Dave Heatwole, formerly a liaison for Arco Alaska in the Soviet Union, says, "I wish I had had this video the first and second times I went to the Soviet Union, especially for the airport and customs. That can be very intimidating. Learning just a few words can help a lot."

John McClellan, vice president of international business development for Arctic Slope Regional Corp. in Anchorage, adds, "I was impressed with the amount of educational...

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