Natalia Arno

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Natalia Arno (@Natalia_Budaeva) is Founder and President of the Free Russia Foundation, created in 2014 after she was exiled from Russia for her pro-democracy work. She previously served for 10 years with the International Republican Institute (IRI), including the last six years as Russia Country Director.

As a result of having to deal with the personal tragedy of losing her homeland, Ms. Arno used her first-hand experience to build an organization that would speak out in Western capitals for those facing repression back home, and to offer her support and guidance to those working toward a free and prosperous Russia. In forced exile since 2012, she became aware that the regime of Vladimir Putin had pushed out hundreds of thousands of talented, educated Russians who shared her vision for a free and democratic Russia, upholding human rights and seeking to rejoin a global community of respected nations.

Ms. Arno has more than 17 years of experience in providing organizational support, training and advocacy on behalf of pro-democracy Russians. Prior to founding Free Russia Foundation, Ms. Arno planned and executed countrywide programs in the fields of education, grassroots organizing, civic education, party building, women and youth leadership, civil society development, and local governance during her tenure as Russia Country Director for IRI, where she worked from 2004 to 2014. In 2008, she was appointed Country Director, a post she held until 2014.

Ms. Arno was born in the Siberian region of Buryatia, where she attended college, graduating from the Buryat State University with a master’s degree in Linguistics in 1998 (Diploma Cum Laude). Between 1998 and 1999, she worked as Professor of English at Buryat State University. In 1999, Ms. Arno moved to Moscow to pursue postgraduate studies at the Institute of Russian Language of the Russian Academy of Science, and between 2000-2003 she worked as a Linguistics Professor at the Modern Humanitarian University in Moscow.
Ms. Arno is also on LinkedIn.

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