When the first Rotary clubs in Russia were chartered in 1990, it was a tumultuous time.
The Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse (1991), and the people were transitioning from a communist economic system to one of capitalism. Nevertheless, at the 1990 Rotary International Convention in Portland, Oregon, the first clubs in Russia were introduced.

Before 1940, there were an estimated 125 Rotary clubs in eastern Europe, most disbanded during World War II, with none remaining when the Communists came to power. The USSR had never had a club until discussions between Rotary International President Hugh Archer and Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Petrovsky came about in 1989. It was decided that Rotary would be allowed to form clubs in the USSR, with the first being the Rotary Club of Moscow. Simultaneously, clubs in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia opened their doors.

The club in Moscow was not the first one to ask to be chartered. That honor goes to the town of Magdan, on the far eastern coast of Russia. Five clubs in Alaska had asked Rotary International to allow for the formation of a Rotary Club there in 1989. Still, they were turned down as there were plans for four initial charters to be given out in different cities. This did not discourage the Alaskan clubs, as in 1993, RI granted a charter to the Rotary Club of Magadan. It was assigned to District 5010 in Alaska, which would make the district the largest in the world as it included all the clubs east of the Ural Mountains.

Almost immediately, Rotary International had second thoughts about District 5010 being in control of the eastern part of Russia’s incoming clubs. A vote was called from the delegates from Russia about splitting off in 1994. When an affirmative vote was called for, silence. When the call for all those opposed, the room erupted in loud shouts of “nyet” (no).

As the years progressed, the district's size became too difficult to efficiently organize, so it was decided in 2004 that the 34 clubs chartered in Russia east of the Urals would form a new district, District 2223. Its first District Governor was Dr. Vladimir Donskoy. Vladimir was a professor of English at the State University of Irkutsk in Siberia and has become one of the most vocal supporters of Rotary in the world.

Today, there are 127 Rotary clubs in Russia with over 1,200 members, many involved in community services like providing books for orphanages, playgrounds and equipment for disabled children, and support for hospices, along with a plethora of other projects. Today, Rotary clubs are all over the former communist-controlled parts of Eastern Europe.