Cablegate: Sexism, Low Pay, and Real Estate: Russian

DE RUEHMO #3086/01 2941103
P 201103Z OCT 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Like Russia itself, the MFA is still
attempting to come to terms with the vast societal changes
that came with the end of the Soviet era. The Russian
diplomatic corps of 4,500 is younger and includes more women
than previously, but sexism remains very much in the open.
The high number of applicants to the MFA is taken as a sign
that being a diplomat remains prestigious despite the
prospect of earning larger salaries elsewhere, but many see
the Ministry as a way to a lucrative private sector job. The
MFA takes pride in maintaining its emphasis on language
ability, but an antiquated assignments process leaves some
individuals with limited career options. Russian diplomats
may face some of the same challenges as Americans, with
concerns about postings, salaries, and the high cost of
returning to the capital, but life within the MFA is
qualitatively different than in the Department. Using
largely anecdotal information gleaned from working-level
contacts, we have attempted to illustrate various aspects of
the life of Russian diplomats. End summary.

Today's Russian Diplomatic Corps

2. (U) MFA Director of Personnel Vladimir Morozov said in a
recent interview that the Ministry consists of approximately
4,500 diplomats and 5,000 people in administrative and
technical positions. Of these 9,500 MFA employees, about
3,000 are in Moscow and 6,500 overseas. The largest missions
are in Washington, with 230 staff, and New York, with 180.
The smallest are consulates in the Aland Islands in Finland,
with one diplomat, and the Svalbard archipelago off the
northern coast of Norway, with two diplomats.

3. (U) Women currently account for approximately 15 percent
of Russian diplomats and one-third of all new applicants to
join the MFA. Morozov attributed the increasing number of
women to societal changes that have impacted a Ministry
traditionally the "domain of the stronger sex." He justified
this legacy by explaining that men were better equipped to
handle long-term absences from home, harsh climates, and the
"complex political and military situations" in which Russian
diplomats often found themselves.

4. (U) According to Morozov, approximately a quarter of
Russian diplomats are under 30. The MFA's ability to attract
young people despite the heretofore strong Russian economy
demonstrated that being a diplomat remained a prestigious
occupation. The number of applicants has increased steadily
over the last several years, allowing the Ministry to be more
selective in its hiring.

5. (U) First DFM Denisov said in a separate interview that
the large number of young diplomats showed that the MFA had
rebounded from the disastrous 1990s, when a poor fiscal
situation forced the Ministry to slash staffing levels, while
low salaries led many diplomats to take jobs elsewhere.
Despite the current increase in hiring, the MFA still felt
the effects of its lean years, which had created a shortage
of mid-level officers. Denisov commented that as a result,
Russian diplomacy continued to "rest on the shoulders" of
professionals in their fifties.

Male, Pale and Yale

6. (SBU) While the U.S. Foreign Service may have become a
more diverse institution, the Russian MFA remains a bastion
of Slavic males who went to Moscow's top schools. Women seen
within the building are typically secretaries or freshly
minted attaches who have yet to go overseas. The highest
ranked female diplomat we have met was Lyudmila Vorobieva,
Deputy Director of the Department of ASEAN and Asia-Pacific
Affairs, equivalent to a position somewhere between an office
director and a DAS in the Department. The senior woman at
the MFA appears to be Eleonora Mitrofanova, head of the
Center for International, Scientific and Cultural Cooperation
(Roszarubezhtsentr), which promotes Russian language and
culture abroad.

7. (SBU) Public affairs is a part of the MFA where one may
see more women at work, which one male diplomat said is "a
good place for them." A similar comment was made by
diplomats from the North America Department, who said about
their lone female colleague to attend an Embassy reception
that handling visa issues was the "right place for her."
Such attitudes appear to be widespread, and are fostered in
the universities from which Russian diplomats emerge. We
were told that a professor at the school most diplomats
attend greets his new international relations students as

MOSCOW 00003086 002 OF 004

"future Russian diplomats and their wives."

8. (SBU) Considering the sexism that runs rampant in the MFA,
women are found in surprisingly high numbers in the
Department of New Threats and Challenges, which deals with
terrorism and transnational crime. When we commented upon
this to Third Secretaries Maria Visloguzova and Svetlana
Paraeva, they said that this reflected the fact that they
worked in a newly created department that drew large numbers
of recently arrived employees. There was also an ingrained
belief among Russian diplomats that "real diplomacy," i.e.
bilateral relations, had to be handled by men, whereas
multilateral or global issues were suitable for women.

Moscow Universities: The Russian NFATC

9. (SBU) The MFA does not have a NFATC-type facility and
relies upon Moscow universities to train and staff the
diplomatic corps. The prestigious Moscow State Institute of
International Relations (MGIMO) is formally affiliated with
the MFA and provides approximately two-thirds of the new
diplomats hired. According to research by American Fulbright
scholar Yelena Biberman, approximately 50-60 percent of
international relations students at MGIMO plan to enter the
MFA, although far fewer actually do. The school, which costs
7,000 Euros annually to attend, has become the leading
university for those planning to enter the corporate or
financial sectors, and has a reputation as the "hip"
university attended by the children of the Russian elite.
Many who intend to become diplomats find the school a great
networking opportunity and opt to join the private sector
instead. Other schools feeding students into the MFA are
Moscow State University (MGU), St. Petersburg State
University and the Diplomatic Academy, a MFA-affiliated
graduate school that is a favored destination of Moscow "rich
kids" who have graduated from MGIMO or MGU.

Language Driven Hiring

10. (U) Entering the MFA continues to depend upon language
proficiency, with all new hires studying a language for four
to seven years in university and graduate school. The first
requirement for applying to the MFA is passing a language
exam administered by the universities, after which schools
typically assess a student's academic performance and
recommend them to the MFA. In his interview, personnel
director Morozov said that the majority of Russian diplomats
are proficient in at least two foreign languages, and bragged
that the MFA had 70 polyglots who spoke five or more

From the MFA to the Private Sector

11. (SBU) Junior officers have told us that the MFA has
become a place of employment for children of the new Russian
elite, who are drawn to the prestige of being a diplomat and
whose personal wealth offsets the low entry-level salaries of
$150-200 per month. For young people of more modest means,
the MFA is often seen as a career stepping stone to the
private sector, where a good starting salary is $2,000-2,500
per month. According to a former Russian diplomat now
earning six-figures at TNK-BP, his wife, a second secretary
with several years of service, currently earns only $800 per
month, about the same as someone working in a restaurant or
hotel and less than a Moscow construction worker. She has
persevered in order to gain the experience and job skills
that could translate into a plum private sector job. Such a
situation means the MFA may have difficulty retaining
diplomats who are set to enter the middle ranks, where they
are needed most. This situation could change, however, if
the current financial crisis limits private sector employment
and makes a government job appear more stable.

12. (SBU) According to former Russian diplomats, for those
who decide to stay in the ministry, an office director
equivalent can look forwarded to earning around $2000 per
month and a DAS equivalent $4000. In contrast, the average
salary for an employee at a bank branch is $3,000 per month.
Diplomats working in Moscow supplement their earnings through
per diem received for TDYs and attending foreign conferences.
The goal for many is to serve overseas, which means extra
pay and benefits.

Vagaries of the Assignments Process

MOSCOW 00003086 003 OF 004

13. (SBU) Unlike our relatively structured assignments
process that provides some certainty as to the amount of time
one may spend in the Department or at post, Russian diplomats
often have a hard time saying how long they will remain in
Moscow. The junior attaches who arrive at the Ministry
immediately after school can be there for a few months or
four to five years, depending upon the department in which
they work. New attaches assigned to the Middle East and
North Africa Department can quickly find themselves heading
to an embassy that is short staffed, while junior or
mid-level officers in the North America or European
departments might be there for an extended period. The MFA
will not teach these diplomats new languages, so they are
limited to serving in the embassies that require the
languages they already have. Their situation is compounded
by the glacial promotion process, which makes the Department
appear to move at warp speed.

14. (SBU) According to our contacts, there is no time limit
for remaining in Moscow, and Russian diplomats must agree to
an assignment. There are no directed assignments, which has
caused considerable difficulty staffing hardship or hazardous
postings such as Baghdad, which relies upon contractors that
serve in a diplomatic capacity.

15. (SBU) After an overseas assignment that typically lasts
four years, Russian diplomats return to Moscow to work in
their geographic bureaus. While there are no professional
cones for Russian diplomats, they tend to work throughout
their careers within a geographic specialization determined
by the foreign language they studied in school. This
hold-over from the Soviet period is slowly changing as more
diplomats work on multilateral or global issues. Second
Secretary Alexander Trofimov worked in Buenos Aires before
dealing with non-proliferation issues in the MFA Department
for Security and Disarmament Affairs; he next goes to

Location, Location, Location

16. (SBU) Working in Moscow presents a unique set of
challenges for Russian diplomats, requiring them to have a
home in one of the most expensive cities in the world. While
there are similarities to American FSOs fretting about losing
their hardship and language differential by taking a position
in the Department, Russian diplomats can look forward to
returning to a Brezhnev-era apartment block and not a house
in Fairfax. Astronomically high real estate prices mean that
in most instances, they must already own an apartment in
Moscow, a situation that helps ensure that the MFA remains
dominated by Muscovites who had an apartment ceded to their
families at the end of communism or who bought one in the
1990s. Diplomats from elsewhere in Russia are rare, as they
cannot afford to rent or buy a home in the capital.

17. (SBU) One diplomat from St. Petersburg explained how he
did three consecutive postings in Africa, an atypical
occurrence that may have hurt his career, because he could
not afford to rent in Moscow. He finally landed one of a
handful of subsidized apartments the MFA has for its
officers. Ivan Gorbunov, an MFA veteran of 12 years and
one-half of a rare tandem couple, said that he and his wife
took postings in Belgrade soon after joining the MFA because
they could not afford to live in Moscow. Only through
savings from both incomes could the couple afford to purchase
an apartment and work at the Ministry, where he heads the
Bosnia desk and she covers Croatia and Montenegro.

The "Results of Feminism"

18. (SBU) Russian diplomats have told us that the booming
Moscow economy has made remaining at the MFA a more lucrative
proposition for those with spouses employed in the private
sector. In the male-dominated MFA, this means that working
wives are typically earning more than their
government-employed husbands. Their joint incomes make it
possible to enjoy Moscow's vibrant consumer culture, and
provide a disincentive to go overseas, leading to a greater
reliance on junior officers to fill embassy positions.

19. (SBU) Afghan desk chief Yuri Kholkhov said that his wife
earns more than he does by working at a car dealership, which
makes it difficult to leave Moscow now that they have a baby.
Iraq desk officer Elbrus Kutrashev commented that the MFA
now has to deal with the "results of feminism" and is
examining ways to provide incentives for married diplomats to
go overseas. This will be difficult to achieve, as the

MOSCOW 00003086 004 OF 004

Ministry has little experience helping spouses find
employment. Kutrashev lamented that his wife would soon have
to give up her job when the family heads to Damascus. The
consolation of the posting being that the large Russian
presence means a good school for their children.

Limited School Choices Overseas

20. (SBU) Russian diplomats have complained of the limited
school choices they have for their children when posted
overseas. Unlike English speakers, who can easily find
overseas English language schools, Russians are typically
limited to the single school run by their embassy. In
smaller posts, there might not be a Russian school, or the
school may only go from grades one to four, significantly
limiting assignment possibilities. Africa Department
Counselor Andrei Stolyarov said that in three-person African
posts where there are no Russian schools, an embassy may have
an ambassador whose children are grown and an unmarried
junior officer. The married with children mid-level officer
bears the burden of leaving his family in Moscow.


21. (SBU) Salaries, assignments, and schools: Russian
diplomats may share some of the same concerns as American
FSOs, but their experience is in many ways different. The
meager salaries earned by Russian diplomats make life
particularly difficult in Moscow, where inflation is
currently 12 percent and even foreign diplomats have a hard
time getting by with their extra benefits. Medvedev and FM
Lavrov have said that raising pay and addressing the
contemporary needs of diplomats and their families is a
priority, but until the large number of under-30
professionals move up through the ranks, the ministry will
continue to be run by "traditionalists" who joined under

22. (SBU) The MFA appears more like the Department did in
another age, with no attempt to hide sexism, a rigid top-down
management style, limited use of modern communications
technology, and what appears to be a Soviet-like effort to
maintain control of information and contacts with foreign
diplomats (septel). While we frequently meet open and
engaging Russian diplomats, the unique nature of the MFA
contributes to the challenging environment in which we work.

© Scoop Media

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