Altai Republic, Russia

View of mountains in the Altai Republic

Mountains in the Chemal Region, Altai Republic, Russia

Partnership Description

Since 1999, Haskell Indian Nations University , Kansas State University, and the University of Kansas have been partners with Gorno-Altaisk State University, located in the Altai Republic, Russian Federation. There have been a total of 80 trips made by 32 diferent people involved in the exchange. These exchanges have covered a range of topics and activities, including water quality, environmental journalism, grazing land management, small mammal populations, indigenous music and culture, and adult education. A unifying element of this cooperation has been establishing scientific and cultural connections between indigenous people in the U.S. and the Altai Republic.

About the Altai Republic

The Altai Republic is the homeland of the Altaian people, the indigenous inhabitants of the area, who now comprise approximately one-third of the Republic's population of 200,000. In 1991, the Altai Republic emerged as a semi-autonomous republic during the reconfiguration that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2006, the Republic celebrated the 250th anniversary of the Altaian peoples voluntarily joining the Russian Empire.

The bank of the Katun River in January

Along the bank of the Katun River in January

The Republic is situated in a mountainous ecosystem with a highly varied terrain, ranging from rocky alpine outcrops to densely forested taiga. Herding is one of the main economic activities in the republic and many indigenous Altaians maintain their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle. In the past few years, tourism has increased and is viewed as a potential area for economic development.

Highlighted Projects

Water Quality

In 1999, Gorno-Altaisk State University (GASU), Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU), Kansas State University (KSU), and the University of Kansas (KU) joined together to create a partnership to address water quality issues common to both the Russian Federation and the U.S. With initial funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development/ Association Liaison Office, the partners engaged in exchange activities to develop a model program for community-based drinking water quality monitoring in rural villages in the Altai Republic of Russia, which would be culturally relevant to indigenous populations living in remote areas.

Haskell student collecting a sample for analysis

Haskell student collecting water sample for on-site analysis

During the three year project, the partnership trained Russian and U.S. partner institution participants in scientifically rigorous water quality assessment methodology, and in capturing and interpreting traditional ecological knowledge. It also provided training modules suitable for use by elementary and secondary schoolteachers and community groups who will form a water quality monitoring network in the Altai Republic.


Children at summer camp learning about water quality

Children at summer camp learning about water quality

This project initiated a technical environmental extension capacity at GASU, and provided the first international student and faculty exchange opportunity for HINU. Heidi Mehl (KU graduate student) is completing her Masters thesis on this work in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program, and has used these techniques in her work with the Potawatomi Boys and Girls Club while she worked for U.S. Geological Survey.

GASU students and faculty conducting analysis in Kansas

GASU and Kansas students and faculty conducting water

sample analysis in Kansas

Like in Kansas, one of the major water quality problems in the Altai is coliform bacteria from livestock.

Environmental Journalism

In 2003, the institutional partnership between Gorno-Altaisk State University (GASU) in the Russian Federation of States and Kansas State University (KSU) received funding from USAID/ALO to improve higher education leadership and facilitate administrative transformation at GASU, the only higher education institution in the Altai Republic. GASU was forced by difficult economic conditions to discontinue its programs in journalism. Despite the present lack of formal journalism training programs, several independent newspapers and television stations have been started in recent years which offer news in both Russian and the indigenous Altaian languages. With the serious environmental and economic problems currently facing the Republic there is an urgent need to improve the ability of journalists to communicate technical information to the public.

GASU students learning about media relations.

GASU students learning about media relations

The goals of this project were to jointly design a journalism and media relations curriculum focusing on science reporting and environmental advocacy, create a model for professional internships for university
students from underserved groups, and improve Gorno-Altaisk State University’s (GASU) capacity for media relations. Several exchange visits occured throughout the project, focusing on exploring journalism and public relations in our respective parts of the world. The partners developed and tested exercises for training journalists and students in how to write about science issues. During Fall 2003 and Spring 2004, KSU redesigned its media relations course to act as a model for GASU. This course focused on the reporting of water quality and other environmental issues in Kansas. Student assignments included writing a press release on the October 2003 earthquakes in the Altai Republic. Materials from the redesigned course were provided to GASU to use as models for developing a public relations course at that university.

Journalism workshop at GASU

Journalism workshop at GASU

When the project was initiated at GASU, the partners began involving journalists in discussions about project activities and future needs. During each exchange visit, journalists were involved in discussions
about project activities. As a result of increased interactions between journalists and the university, a better relationship between them has developed. In July 2004, GASU and KSU jointly gave a workshop for
journalists and exchanged information on U.S. and Russian media practices. Project staff conducted a journalism workshop with
representatives of both print and broadcast media from the Altai Republic. The workshop shared basic knowledge of American media practices, especially student and environmental journalism, with reporters in
the Altai Republic.

Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology (UMEB)

Despite a long tradition of knowledge about ecological and environmental phenomena, Native Americans are one of the most under-represented groups among undergraduate science majors, graduate students, and science faculty. This program identified excellent students with an interest in training for a career in either basic or applied research in environmental science or ecology.

With funding from the National Science Foundation UMEB program (Project number DEB 02-03404), the University of Kansas (KU) and Kansas State University (KSU) worked to (1) incorporate undergraduate students in research projects in the U.S. and abroad, (2) help students take classes at KU and KSU that cannot yet be offered by the new HINU Environmental Studies Program, and (3) to help prepare undergraduates to enter into the master's program in Indigenous Nations Studies at KU, and to master's programs in the environmental sciences at both KU and KSU.

The international component of this project included trips by GASU students and faculty to the American Southwest, and trips by indigenous students from KU, Haskell, and Northern Arizona University to the Altai Republic and Ukraine.

GASU and Haskell students and faculty in Arizona

GASU, Haskell, and NAU students and faculty in Arizona

In Summer 2003, a delegation from GASU and Kansas visited the University of New Mexico and Northern Arizona University. The nature of these meetings was an exchange of information on communication,
education, and environmental issues relating to indigenous populations in the U.S. and Altai Republic. One of the most interesting activities for the GASU delegation was to discover similarities and differences
between indigenous Altaian and Native American cultures. The group was exposed to traditional values of American Indians and learned a lot about their attitudes toward sacred springs and traditional practices.

GASU students taking a water sample from Lake Teletskaya

GASU students taking a water sample from Lake Teletskaya

During Summers 2004-7, students and faculty from the University of Kansas (KU), Kansas State University (KSU), Haskell Indian Nations University, and Northern Arizona University (NAU) traveled to the Altai Republic to continue work on the long-term water quality monitoring program. Samples from water sources around the area of Lake Teletskaya were sampled and data collected was added to the existing water quality database. Participants also collaborated with GASU biologists to introduce new methods of measuring small mammal populations in the republic.

NAU student analyzing water sample from Lake Teletskaya

NAU student analyzing water sample from Lake Teletskaya

For more general information about this project, please visit the main project Web site.

Publications & Multimedia

Video Documentaries

Project Reports

Journal Articles

Calhoon, J. A., et. al., Creating Meaningful Study Abroad Programs for American Indian Postsecondary Students. Journal of American Indian Education v. 42 no. 1 (2003) p. 46-57. (PDF)

Griswold, W.M. and V.N. Lukyanenko. (In press). From Siberia to Kansas and back: Local impacts of international collaboration between universities. The Altai: Problems in bilingualism in multicultural spaces. (PDF)

Related Websites


For more information about the project in the Altai Republic, Russia, please contact:

Wendy Griswold
Telephone: (785) 532-6519
Fax: (785) 532-5985