Lesya Ryabtseva: ‘I have a feeling that the Russian Academy of Sciences exists as a kind of pension sump’
On 23 November, President of Russia Vladimir Putin held a meeting of the Council for Science and Education, at which he threatened to fire the officials who became academicians and corresponding members of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Putin reminded that earlier he had asked these people not to combine public work with science. A well-known Russian journalist, former assistant of chief editor of Echo of Moscow Lesya Ryabtseva shares with the readers of Realnoe Vremya her thoughts about 'a demonstrative flogging' by Putin, a disappeared authority of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the strength of informal instructions of the president and very real dismissal of the officials.
'They slowly begin to 'make noise' so that everyone realized that the old times are over'
In my opinion, the position of the president is sensible because officials are officials, and scientists are scientists. By the way, those scientists, whom I know personally, those people who are really involved in scientific research (the same thing is with art) are people who completely dedicate their lives to that specific activity. They are not engaged in administrative work. Creative personalities, scientists — they're a bit not of this world. After all, the administrative work is ususally performed by a slightly different category of people.
What Putin has suggested — it is logical. I think, the Russian Academy of Sciences, which for the past several years has been connected with various scandals, needs to differentiate this point from the advent of officials there. This, in my opinion, is a needless stain on the Russian scientific activities.
'They slowly begin to 'make noise', so that everyone realized that the old times are over and before the election they should activate somehow. Perhaps Putin decided to 'shake up' all those structures that have behaved ambiguously lately.' Photo: kremlin.ru
Actually, I think that besides the fact that the president has a good sense of humour, he's a really smart guy, sensible and he clearly sees that it makes no sense to push officials to the Russian Academy of Sciences — it has no practical importance. Maybe it's good for officials, for ministries, but for RAS it is useless. It would be better to think about a creation of a youth branch of the Academy of Sciences: to put there a Russian silicon valley and this would give more benefit. In what fields should RAS develop actually? Well, at least in IT, may be scientific discoveries, research in physics, mathematics… Why the officials who are clearly far from where we could be first?
Was it 'a demonstrative flogging'? Is it connected with the upcoming election? I think, yes. In the same spirit, we can remember the stories with Volodin and Sergey Kiriyenko. They slowly begin to 'make noise' so that everyone realized that the old times are over and before the election they should activate somehow. Perhaps Putin decided to 'shake up' all those structures that have behaved ambiguously lately. I do hope that he will deal with Medinsky as he is doing now with the Academy of Sciences.
Yes, there was only 'a formal ban' for the officials. However, with Putin there is no such story as 'formal' or 'informal' decree. Sometimes his informal decision has no less force than a formal one, written on paper. When it is a 'live-broadcast line with the president', he informally declares that 'this needs to be solved', and here 'you need to come and find out'. At the same time, people really fulfil his directions at the local level. I think with RAS it is the same story.
'What RAS is engaged in — to me, a huge mystery. There is a feeling that it's just an endless 'carve-up' among the highly respected old people within certain circles.' Photo: mkno.ru
'You have to prove you're not a moron but an intelligent person with two degrees'
Already at that time when the restructuring was underway, Livanov began to remake the Russian Academy of Sciences, there was a feeling that this was a complete garbage. The thing is that those people who represent RAS have not announced anything sensible for a long time, they have not announced any good scientific discoveries. So I believe in RAS as in a living organism. If they did something sensible… For example, Skolkovo — there is the name but what they do there — is not clear. But in Skolkovo at least there is a semblance of some activity.
What RAS is engaged in — to me, is a huge mystery. There is a feeling that it's just an endless 'carve-up' among the highly respected old people within certain circles. I'm literally in September met (accidentally, in a hallway) with representatives of the Academy of Sciences who criticized the scientific and educational system in Russia. That means that the ministries and RAS have not been built relationships.
Dear academicians are far from reality, from society. I do not understand what they are doing, what they are responsible for. Maybe, of course, they have a bad PR, but that is another question. But if they really did something meaningful in the international scientific field, we would have known. Therefore, it seems that this is all fiction, and RAS just exists of inertia, because it is so accepted — it just needs to exist.
'I think there is no point for the officials to go there… If it was Putin's order, then this 'public flogging' would not take place — if he has such reaction, so they go there not by his orders.' Photo: kremlin.ru
Why do officials want to RAS? It seems to me, on the one hand, it is a question of elitism. That's why we have so many officials with theses, which Parkhomenko started to check? Yes, because it is fashionable. First, it is fashionable, you should have a wallpaper degree — we have a trend in society. Then it is fashionable if you have a thesis — that is, you have to prove you're not a moron but an intelligent person with two degrees and the situation with the membership in RAS — it is elite, if you are in there.
On the other hand, I think there is no point for the officials to be there… If it was Putin's order, then this 'public flogging' would not take place — if he has such reaction, so they go there not by his orders. So, it means that people have understood that there are grants, sponsorship and so on — well, why not, in this case? Moreover, you will be an academician of RAS, and you'll have some money.
'I want to believe that this will be followed by dismissals'
What would I do if I was one of these officials? If I really did something — this is one story. I could start a public campaign, arguing, explaining and showing what I really have done during my membership in the Academy. But if I did nothing, it seems to me, less embarrassing is not to wait until you will be removed but very honestly to write an application, to refuse any membership, titles and so on.
'I want to believe that this will be followed by dismissals or at least there won't take others. I have a feeling that the Russian Academy of Sciences exists as a kind of pension sump.' Photo: scientificrussia.ru
I really do not understand why officials need it — another line in CV? It's silly and not fair. There are people who could be members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, but I'm sure they are now sitting somewhere in Zhopodrischinsk and nobody pays attention to them. But officials, who were supposed to do something else for the good of society, for some reason, are sitting in RAS.
I want to believe that this will be followed by dismissals or at least there won't take others. I have a feeling that the Russian Academy of Sciences exists as a kind of pension sump. You already can not do anything and still not dead, and you kind of need to be appreciated, then the only way for you is to RAS.