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Harvard Sophomore Probably Has An Edge In Russian Revolution Class

September 24, 1989

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ As the first Soviet citizen enrolled in the Ivy League, Natalia Tsarkova wants to make the most of her time at Harvard University by learning to think independently.

She intends to start by studying the Russian Revolution from a Western perspective.

Tsarkova, who transferred from the University of Latvia in Riga after her freshman year, arrived recently to start her sophomore year at Harvard as an emblem of the ebbing Cold War and of the widening freedoms permitted the Soviet people.

Another Soviet woman is enrolled at Emory College in Atlanta, and the two could become the first Soviet citizens to earn degrees from American colleges. Previously, the only Soviets studying in the United States were defectors or exchange students who don’t get degrees from the colleges they visit.

Her tuition and other expenses, totaling around $19,000 a year, are being paid for by a combination of financial aid from Harvard and the campus job she will have under a work-study program.

The enthusiastic 19-year-old student said she plans to return to her homeland.

″I didn’t come because the state sent me, and it’s not my duty to go back, but I love the people there,″ said Tsarkova. ″They are just individuals trying to have a better life, and I want to help them out.″

She can help her compatriots by going home with an outlook refreshed by her time in America, said Tsarkova, who lives off campus in a Cambridge apartment with roommates from Arizona and Texas.

″You can understand things better when you are out of a place,″ she said.

Tsarkova, whose parents are mathematics professors, was 15 years old when perestroika and glasnost began to reform Soviet culture, and the ensuing turmoil helped her to find out what she needs from her Harvard education.

″I want to learn how to think independently,″ said Tsarkova.

″Now in the Soviet Union, it is a period of confusion for the normal person,″ she said. ″There are so many beats of new information, and there are no straight answers.

″Before, every answer was given to us, and that was a bad thing, the worst thing ever, but now people have the opportunity to think finally, and nobody’s tried to do this before.″

The desire to see things from a new perspective prompted her to take Social Studies 10, which covers the Russian Revolution.

″Why did it go this way? Was the dictatorship inevitable? Was Stalin inevitable? Those questions are very important to me,″ she said.

Tsarkova said she doesn’t find writing in English difficult, because she reads a lot of English books. In fact, she wants to write for The Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper.

″And I think I will learn where to put the right commas,″ she said.

Knowing about commas will be crucial for Tsarkova’s ambition, which includes a foray into what she called ″international journalism.″ She dreams of being host of an international television show from the United Nations.

″I want this show to present objective information, and transferred by satellite everywhere, to Moscow, to Washington, because I think we are all citizens of the world, not of any one nation,″ she said.

In part because of her feelings of international kinship, Tsarkova said she hopes to meet a celebrated Harvard student from another communist country: Wu’er Kaixi, who escaped from his native China last spring, after helping lead student protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

″I would really love to meet him, especially because we have similar ... we have similar and different problems. And I would appreciate the possibility of meeting a Chinese,″ she said.

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