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August 15, 2014

Richest Russian Takes Over Title of Country's Top Donor

Alisher Usmanov, Russia's wealthiest man, was also its most generous philanthropist in last year, donating $194-million, according to a Bloomberg survey of the country's 25 richest people and their giving.

Mr. Usmanov, a metallurgy and telecommunications tycoon, focused his giving on education, sports, and culture in dislodging Roman Abramovich, owner of England's Chelsea soccer team, as Russia's biggest donor. Mr. Usmanov's 2013 giving would have placed him 14th in last year's Philanthropy 50, The Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual accounting of America's top donors.

While Russian market turmoil arising from Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict has cost the country's richest people billions of dollars, the crisis could also prompt a philanthropic response, said Maria Chertok, head of the Russian branch of the Charities Aid Foundation.

"If the economy goes down significantly, they probably won't be able to continue giving at the same level," Ms. Chertok said. "But the worse the reputation of Russia in the West, the more people will try, if possible, to mitigate this by showing a different face of Russia, for example by promoting Russian culture."