Last month, a group of around 60 Yale School of Management students visited Russia to meet with an array of high-ranking business leaders and government officials.

The weeklong tour brought students to Moscow and St. Petersburg, where they toured the Kremlin and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, respectively, among other landmarks. Students also met with some of Russia’s elite, including Pyotr Aven, the head of Russia’s largest private bank; Anatoly Aksakov, chairman of a Duma financial committee; and Elvira Nabiullina, the governor of the Central Bank of Russia and a 2007 Yale World Fellow.

“The idea of organizing a trip to Russia struck me because we already have official SOM International Experience trips to many countries,” co-organizer Dmitry Aksakov SOM ’17 said. “I thought that, well, Russia is an interesting country, and I’d love to invite my friends and classmates to my homeland.”

Though the tour was organized by SOM students, it was not affiliated with the professional school.

Despite current tensions between the United States and Russia, Aksakov said he and his co-organizer Maria Yegikyan SOM ’17 wanted the students to meet with representatives from various industries, including banking, telecommunications and finance, to give them a better sense of Russia’s business environment. Aksakov added that the student attendees were very open-minded and curious to learn more about Russia.

“People wanted to see first-hand what this big mysterious country with the largest land area in the world is like,” Aksakov said.

After the trip, SOM Senior Associate Dean David Bach met with Aksakov and other organizers to learn more about the experience. Bach said the trip could be incorporated into an official SOM International Experience, but this would require the leadership of a faculty member.

For Bach, the trip was an expression of SOM’s entrepreneurial spirit.

“These are students practicing what we preach,” Bach said.

Many of the students who were part of the delegation said the trip was an enlightening opportunity. Georgyi Vekhov SOM ’19 said he was thrilled to meet with important officials and travel through Russia with his peers. And Perla Jimenez SOM ’17 said she benefited not only from interacting with officials but also from meeting locals and gaining an authentic perspective into Russia.

“It definitely was an eye-opening experience for an MBA student,” Jimenez said.

Aksakov said the Russian officials were generally open-minded and receptive to Yale students, although one attendee said she felt uncomfortable with views some of the Russians had, which she felt were racist and homophobic.

“The business community and the political community have a lot of respect for this University,” Aksakov said. “Ideology is much less important to them than the quality of the knowledge that people can acquire here.”

Over spring break, other delegations of SOM students traveled to Indonesia, Japan, Israel, India, China, South Africa and the Balkans.

Contact Ryan Gittler at ryan.gittler@yale.edu .