Using conflict as a springboard to advance human potential
Though born near Vladivostok on the south-eastern coast of Russia, Maxim Kuchits moved four thousand miles west across Asia when he was five to spend his elementary school years in Minsk, Belarus. Then, at age thirteen while Max was adjusting to his stepfather, his family crossed the continent again, and he also had to adjust to life in Vladivostok. As a result, Max has learned to be flexible with an unusual appreciation for challenges and conflict.
“Conflict,” he says, “can lead to the maturity of the human ego.” Conflict usually necessitates conflict resolution, a process that requires listening to other points of view. “It gives you a chance to estimate your personal strength against your opponent’s strong and weak points.” As Max sees it, conflict, followed by conflict resolution, uncovers human potential. Not surprisingly, he enjoys the competition of sports, and his skill in basketball earned him a full athletic scholarship to attend Vladivostok State University of Economics and Service (VSUES) with a major in regional studies. He soon wore the captain’s badge and learned much about leadership through successful team-building, the ability to instill mutual confidence, clear communication, and redirecting conflict among teammates toward the achievement of goals.
One of his main campus activities, the debating club modeled after the United Nations in the Far East, provided mental competition that required him to become informed and articulate and to employ the cool-headed focus he’d honed on the basketball court. Through debate, he learned to see a country’s social and economic instability, high inflation, and/or poor quality of life as internal conflicts. “Once conflict goes beyond the internal stage,” Max says, “it involves similar problems externally, often involving coercion and the use of force.” The less developed a country, the greater its internal conflicts may be, and the more difficult it becomes to reconcile differences that cause external conflicts with other countries.
Internal conflicts make it easier for high-ranking officials on both sides to capitalize on unrest, often by adding another emotional layer such as religion to conceal lucrative self-interest or to gain political power, “enticing people into war.” Max believes that this was the case on both sides in the Chechen wars, for example, with access to oil being the actual main objective. He admits that if individuals could have accessed accurate information as a basis for opinions without the bias of propaganda, better decision-making might have resulted in negotiations instead of war.
Max studied American and environmental law at the Harbin Institute of Technology School of Law in Harbin, China where his advisor commended his presence as a friend and ambassador of his home country. He achieved a rare level of proficiency in the Chinese language, unusual for his one-year term.
After his return to Vladivostok, Max joined youth throughout Russia in volunteering for community development through the US-Russia Volunteer Initiative, (USRVI) administered by IREX. He participated in successful educational campaigns and activities. The following spring, Max graduated, earning his degree with honors from VSUES, and headed for a summer program in Prague in the Czech Republic involving 140 students from thirty countries. He led his team in an intensive mock parliamentary session debating political and economic issues. He explored Prague and earned credits from Georgetown University through the Fund for American Studies in the AIPES 2007 exchange experience.
Max is working for Moore Stephens IS, an auditing and consulting firm, but he sees the improvement of democracy in Russia as a challenge of his generation, supporting visionary leaders who prioritize international cooperation, transparency, and equality. “I hope to apply my knowledge and experience towards the research and development of the democratization process in my country,” he says.