The first of a new wave of British-backed programmes linking Russian and British universities to encourage progress in social, political and economic reforms has been launched in the city of Saratov in central Russia.
Under the Know-How Fund and supported by regional academic partnerships, a media studies centre offering courses for undergraduates and retraining workshops for career journalists will be opened at Saratov State University.
The Pounds 30,000 two-year project with Glasgow Caledonian and Strathclyde universities, will enable Saratov State to develop its first ever full-time journalism diploma course and create an independent centre for the promotion of an ethical and objective media.
The creation of the media studies centre, which comes under the KHF's policy of promoting good government and human rights, will support democratic reforms in a region considered one of Russia's most liberal and progressive. The scheme forms part of a Pounds 1.5 million programme covering 55 partnership projects throughout Russia.
Tutors from Glasgow and Strathclyde, which jointly run a journalism training centre in Scotland, will visit Saratov to hold workshops and seminars.
Technical training in broadcast techniques will be offered through the state university's TV studio, a recent semi-private innovation set up in the physics department.
Galina Sherbakova, coordinator of the programme in Saratov, a journalist and state university lecturer, said one of the key challenges to democratic reform in Russia was the inertia and conservatism of institutions like the press.
"During an initial workshop we held for local journalists with the Scottish universities where reporters were given details of an incident where a ship sank on the River Volga, almost all of them excluded key facts and began the story with practically identical introductions: 'There was a great tragedy on the River Volga I'," Dr Sherbakova said.
Courses at the media studies centre and on the new diploma will draw on the Scottish universities' experience and address the ethics and practices of quality journalism.
Journalists from Saratov's newspapers, radio and television will help run courses as well as state university tutors from the philology department.
But the establishment of the centre, due to be opened in September, could prove controversial, according to some reporters from the city's leading daily newspaper, the regional government financed Saratovskiye Vesti.
Dimitri Bogaterov, a reporter and recent graduate of Saratov State, said:
"Russian and western journalists have to understand that the western approach is based on news and information, whereas here journalism was not so rational or objective."
Sergei Plotnikov, another reporter at the paper, emphasised the different pressures faced by Russian journalists: "We're caught between extremes - many people are prepared to bribe you for favourable coverage and others may threaten you."
Mark Meredith, a former Reuters and Financial Times correspondent who is project leader with Glasgow Caledonian, said: "Journalists and university people in the region are itching to get into modern journalism, which they see fast developing in Moscow."