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Russian Government Takes Over Country's 289-year Old Scientific Academy 192

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the putin-rears-his-ugly-head-over-your-research dept.
ananyo writes "Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, approved controversial reforms to the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) on 18 September. More than 330 members of the Duma voted in favor of the law, with only 107 against, in a move critics say will deprive the 289-year-old body of its independence and halt attempts to revitalize Russia's struggling science system. If, as is widely expected, the parliament's upper house and Russian President Vladimir Putin approve the law, the 436 institutes and 45,000 research staff of Russia's primary basic-research organization will be managed by a newly established federal agency that reports directly to Putin. The agency will manage the academy's 60-billion-rouble (US$1.9-billion) budget and extensive property portfolio, which includes lucrative sites in Moscow and St Petersburg, and will also have a say in the appointment of institute directors. 'This is not a reform — this is a liquidation of science in Russia,' says Alexander Kuleshov, director of the academy's Institute for Information Transmission Problems in Moscow."
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Russian Government Takes Over Country's 289-year Old Scientific Academy

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  • Neat! (Score:5, Funny)

    by dex22 (239643) <plasticuser&gmail,com> on Thursday September 19, 2013 @05:54PM (#44897435) Homepage

    My big take-home from this article is they have an "Institute for Information Transmission Problems" - a whole Institute just devoted to resolving poor communication.

    They really got their message out!

    • by stanlyb (1839382)
      Like the one in Washington? The one about the "political science" b*****t?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      My take-home is that there may be excellent Russian scientists working on all sorts of interesting projects who could be willing to work for the US instead - provided they can slip out of the country.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        My take-home is that there may be excellent Russian scientists working on all sorts of interesting projects who could be willing to work for the US instead - provided they can slip out of the country.

        The harder they make it for people to go about their life and jobs the easier it be makin' it for them t' jump ship. Arrr! ox)P-)

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Thursday September 19, 2013 @05:55PM (#44897439) Homepage Journal

    in his quest to turn Russia into a theocracy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Nutria (679911)

      Edward Snowden must feel so proud of his newly adopted homeland.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2013 @06:35PM (#44897743)

        Since he was only granted temporary asylum, and is currently awaiting decisions on permanent asylum in 19 other countries. it is not clear how you get "his newly adopted homeland."

      • by Valdrax (32670)

        Edward Snowden must feel so proud of his newly adopted homeland.

        Name a country from which he could reveal secrets about how the US government has been spying on its citizens and not get extradited and sent to jail which isn't on our "bad guys" list.

        Yes, Snowden chose countries like China and Russia to make his stand from, but it's not like he had any other choices that would keep him from ending up like all the other whistleblowers this administration has gone after hard.

      • by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @08:06PM (#44898299)

        Edward Snowden must feel so proud of his newly adopted homeland.

        As if hiding from a blood-thirsty mob in a ditch constitutes an endorsement of ditch-living.

        Snowden's first goal was to expose the NSA. His second is to remain alive and unimprisoned, and sadly his only options for that appear to be oppressive states. That's not an indictment of Snowden, it is an indictment of the so-called "free world."

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by Nutria (679911)

          Snowden's first goal was to expose the NSA.

          The NSA's job is to spy. So they spy. The country's borders are so open; they make a colander seem waterproof. Unfortunately for all and sundry, those who would do harm to the country don't walk around with flashing red lights on their heads. Thus, since it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, they collect lots and lots of stuff, even on people living in the US. I AM UNAPOLOGETICALLY GLAD THEY DO SO, since they do not appear to share it with the FBI nor state+local police.

          (The problem is that

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Pav (4298)

            Sooo... because you don't trust your fellow man... you... put your trust in a group of your fellow men self-selected for a career in the spy game? *golf clap* Well played sir. THINK man... spying is separated into different agencies (foreign/domestic) etc... for a reason, and there's a reason those (now subverted) oversight courts exist.

            There's only one thing that makes people put on an approximation of trustworthiness - accountability. Noone is arguing borders should be guarded, but the watchers s

    • With himself as god, most likely.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        With himself as god, most likely.

        Avast! That scalawag Putin will most likely immanentize the eschaton or claim he has. Arr. ox)P-|

    • by peragrin (659227)

      nope not a theocracy.

      ALL HAIL TSAR PUTIN. Heir to the Romanav's.

      He even has secret palaces being built.

    • You'd think Russia would have learned by now.

      Apparently not.

  • by sasparillascott (1267058) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @06:00PM (#44897495)
    Our thoughts are with those folks, this just really sucks...cause it begs the question, how do you turn this around and there's no nice answer to that. Deeper into the dark Putin takes the country.
  • by Raved Thrad (1864414) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @06:00PM (#44897501)

    "NYET! We will no longer allow science to tell us what the laws that govern the universe are! Starting today, it is the law that will govern science!!"

  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @06:01PM (#44897509)
    Well, this should prevent any resurgence of Lysenkoism or other such quackery. This puts Russian science in the forefront of government revitalization of science right along with the forward thinkers in the Canadian government.
  • Makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GODISNOWHERE (2741453) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @06:05PM (#44897535)

    They probably noticed that scientists can do things like prove [pnas.org] that Russian elections are rigged.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @06:08PM (#44897569) Homepage Journal

    Harper has been muzzling Canadian scientists for a long time, cutting their budgets, axing research, and so on.

  • Czar Putin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Required Snark (1702878) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @06:15PM (#44897617)
    I read this just before I looked at Slashdot

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said he didn't exclude running for a fourth term, in a move that would pave the way for him to remain in power until 2024.

    Wall Street Journal [wsj.com]

    The article states that he's 61 years old, so this is more or less "president for life". If he lasts another 10 years he'll just do it again, or not even bother to hold an election.

    Russia's slide will continue if this happens. Of course the US has a similar problem with entrenched elites wrecking the economy for their own personal gain [chicagotribune.com].

    • by tftp (111690)

      The article states that he's 61 years old, so this is more or less "president for life". If he lasts another 10 years he'll just do it again, or not even bother to hold an election. Russia's slide will continue if this happens.

      Slide upward, you mean? Yes, that has to be stopped by any means possible.

      In most areas of expertise once we find a capable engineer, a good manager, we tend to keep them employed. But the rules of democracy say that such a manager has to be kicked out after a certain number of y

      • by Alioth (221270)

        Because like a baby's nappy, a politician who is around for too long starts to get smelly and stained. Not literally (like the nappy) but they do tend to get increasingly out of touch and increasingly damaging to their own nation.

        We've seen this happen in recent British history. Thatcher was prime minister for too long and her policies became more and more out of touch with reality towards the end until her party finally had to force her out of office, and the same thing happened with Tony Blair. Term limit

  • Heh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mirix (1649853) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @06:16PM (#44897623)

    The TFA seems to imply the RAS has been wholly independent for 289 years, which is obviously not the case... It was founded by the tsar who I'd imagine had some sway.

    That and oh... it lived through the soviet union, which certainly had control.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Even so, historically, it was surprisingly independent even at worst time. E.g. under Stalin, there were many things that Kapitsa said to him that no-one else dared - and got away with it.

      It also had one interesting quirk: the academic titles that it awarded could not be stripped by anyone else - and every government to date has respected this, and didn't pressure the Academy to strip the title even when a particular person was persecuted for his political beliefs. It is said that Stalin joked at some point

  • Truly a shame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @06:27PM (#44897697)

    This is truly a shame. Back during the Cold War the question was often posed, is Russia the most backward advanced country in the world, or the most advanced backward country in the world. However, despite being cursed with horrid systems of government and an inability to make washing machines, anybody who knew anything admired their accomplishments in science and math. Now Putty Poot wants to kill that? He's a traitor.

    • by Gorshkov (932507)

      Back during the Cold War the question was often posed, is Russia the most backward advanced country in the world, or the most advanced backward country in the world

      The "rule of thumb" breakdown was like this: Anything that required physical equipment (powerful computers, test rigs, etc) they sucked at, because they didn't have it. Anything that did NOT require physical equipment (mathematics, optics, theoretical physics, etc), they excelled at.

      I remember when I was doing my linguist course while in the Navy, back in '82. One of my instructor's husband had PhD in physics - they were Jewish, and had only been able to leave the Soviet Union the year before. He saw th

  • In Soviet Russia... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nitehawk214 (222219) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @06:34PM (#44897741)

    In Soviet Russia... this academy had more freedom than it does now.

    Wow.

  • 60-billion-rouble (US$1.9-billion) budget and extensive property portfolio, which includes lucrative sites in Moscow and St Petersburg

    So it is not about the quality or independence of science. It is about who will be collecting, hmm what's the word ... "royalties"?.... on the management of the budget and the properties.

    • Bingo! Most of these "poor oppressed academicians" are quite rich people, even by European/USA standards. Of course they don't want to lose their income.
  • by Jade_Wayfarer (1741180) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @06:49PM (#44897833)
    Really biased summary and somewhat biased article. RAS is simply afraid of losing their luxurous "recreational complexes" - private villas of said academicians and "research institutes", which are mostly just "cheap offices for rent" right now. Our science is going down the drain for the last... 30-40 years, or even more, and all these old soviet-era "academicians" are much more old-school bureaucrats than scientists. Truly clever and talented people all left Russia in 90-s, leaving mostly conservative old-timers and not-so-bright yesterday students. One of the vice-presidents of RAS is known to support some absolutely fraudulent projects, like "Petrik's water filters" - and these people are saying something about liquidation of science?

    I am not a supporter of Putin and his little auto-/pluto-cratic system of government, but this reform is something long-needed, almost essential for our science. With the 40-50 years old mindset you cannot innovate, you cannot truly create something new, perform some cutting-edge experiments and achieve true breakthroughs. Only with adaptation of new policies, with adequate pay and real prospects of work for the young scientists we can hope to see our science pull itself out of its current horrible state. And this time, as preposterous as it sounds, Putin is on the side of progress. Of course there is no clearly defined "good guy" in this whole situation, but RAS in its modern form is much worse than almost anything that can replace it.
    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday September 20, 2013 @02:19AM (#44899779) Journal

      I'm not saying that everything you wrote is false, but even if every single word of it was true, it still doesn't make the reform good. There's certainly corruption in the Academy, but there's also still plenty of real science being done. With control transferred fully to government bureaucrats, corruption is only bound to increase, and everything immaterial to the goal of enrichment through fraud will be promptly get rid of. What's even worse is that the Church is also raising its head and demanding a say in education and other spheres of life run by the state, and, so far, they have been mostly getting what they want... and now that the state controls scientific institutes directly, I would not put it past them to start stalling or even outright suppressing the lines of research that are contrary to Orthodox doctrine or the prevailing beliefs - evolutionary biology, say, or human cloning.

      So, yes, this will spell the death knell of science in long term, unless a great many other things change.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Erich Fellgiebel was in his 50s when he ran the German government's R&D programs as General der Nachrichtentruppe (Signal Corps/Military Intelligence). Under his watch they developed the A4 missile (which is the basis of all liquid-fueled spaceflight to the present day), the jet engine, TV-guided smartbombs and quite a few more things. Allegedly they also invented the semiconductor diode.

      So maybe you general statement of "people in the 40s to 50s don't innovate" is not true in its totality.

  • we take over you!

  • Most would say the Russian Mafia. Putin is their Ronald Reagan professional actor-leader. But there are no Italians in Russia, so who are these Mafia people? Well, they are the "businessmen" of course. That's businessmen, with big scary quotes. Not really the greatest fans of scientists, unless they can build them a cool looking yacht.
  • TFA quotes:

    This is not a reform — this is a liquidation of science in Russia

    Wasn't that supposed to have been done during the Boris Yeltsin era?

  • by KlomDark (6370) on Thursday September 19, 2013 @09:40PM (#44898771) Homepage Journal

    Is this whole damn planet just gonna get stupid now? This is not at all what they showed us in Star Trek. Damn, 40 years ago we are putting people on the moon, now it's just global navel gazing from here on out. Yeee haaawww.

    Fuck, we are screwed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is this whole damn planet just gonna get stupid now? This is not at all what they showed us in Star Trek. Damn, 40 years ago we are putting people on the moon, now it's just global navel gazing from here on out. Yeee haaawww.

      Fuck, we are screwed.

      Australia's new Prime Minister just abolished the cabinet position for Science Minister. First time since the 1930s we've not had a member of parliament charged witha science portfolio. The world has gone insane.

  • Fundamentalist Christians and anti-science Conservatives are impressed. Finally, science being throttled and put in it's place.

    Pope Urban VIII is now beaming in heaven, being vindicated. Politics and religion has emerged victorious over truth.

  • After he separates them from their liquidateable assets, do you suppose he'll let the R.O.C. start officially deciding what it and isn't science?

  • Imagine if the US were to reinvigorate its sciences. Double the current research budget - drop in the box if they passed a tax measure - invest in their trained talent, and pick up some Russians too. Some country would be smart to pick them up before they jump ship to other professions.

  • The first reason behind this "reform" is to steal and sell Academy's real property, the only Soviet legacy which has not been stolen until now. The scheme is traditional to Putins' friends:
    1. Pour state money into property, paying for its repair, landscape development and luxury buildings. All paid by simple Russian citizens.
    2. Name the property as "unuseful" and sell it to the pocket company for a laughable sum.
    3. Resell the property for its market value. Share millions of $$$ between government officials,

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