I applied for the visas myself which turned out, in the case of the Russian visa, to be a mistake.
The Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington is now offering a multi-entry visa to US citizens without a letter of support. Mine cost $45 and took a little better than one week to process.
For the Russia visa, I applied to the Russian Embassy in Washington. A dual-entry cost $120 and took more than two weeks to process. I found out later that an error had been made in the validation dates, which caused me some trouble on the way home. In the future if I need a Russian visa I will use a visa service – it’s the only visa I have ever gotten that has nothing written in English.
Just before I left I decided I wanted to make a side trip to Kazakhstan, so I FedEx’ed my passport off a week before I was scheduled to leave. I sent it to the Kazakh Consulate in New York and waited nervously for its return. It came back just one day before I left. I swear I didn’t have a good night’s sleep the whole time it was gone and vowed never, never to do that again. The expedited visa cost $105.