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The study of the nature of experiences of four-year-olds in two Russian preschools as well as an overview of the history and public policies concerning early childhood care and education in the former Soviet Union provide a profile for understanding the effects traditions, beliefs, and policies have on the preschool experiences of young children everywhere. This study was a qualitative approach to portions of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievements' (IEA) cross cultural study of early childhood education and care. Interviews and observations were conducted in two preschools in Moscow, Russia over a four month period beginning in the Fall of 1995. Both schools were public preschools. One school was a typical district preschool and the other was described as an experimental school. Observations and interviews focused on family characteristics, setting characteristics, teacher characteristics, child behaviors and policy characteristics. Data from the interviews and observations as well as related materials were analyzed, and the results presented in a case study approach for each preschool. Results of the study indicated similarities in the kinds of families using both preschools as well as similarities in the kinds of settings. The teachers at both schools lacked preschool pedagogical training, and in both schools had difficulty generating their own beliefs about what is important for four-year-olds to learn. Children in the district preschool spent most of the day following the teachers' lead as a group through lessons and didactic games. Children in the experimental school could chose what and how they learned most of the day. Curriculum and budget issues at the district school were carefully monitored by district educational authorities. The experimental school had complete control over budget items, and collaborated weekly on the curriculum. Political and economic transitions in Russia have caused dramatic changes in the once universal public preschool program. This study describes the experiences of four-year-olds in two Russian preschools, and the characteristics, beliefs, and behaviors of the parents, teachers and children in those two preschools. The impact of public policies was an important aspect of the conclusions.