Staunton, September 24 – If the Federation Council approves the government-backed and Duma-approved plan to restructure the Russian Academy of Sciences, a group of Russian scientists say, this will lead to a weakening or even breakdown of horizontal ties across the country and to “the growth of separatist tendencies.”
In an open letter to members of the Federation Council posted online yesterday, the Organization Committee of the Conference of Scientific Workers said that it should be obvious to everyone that “the Russian Academy of Sciences in its current form serves as one of the few links guaranteeing the unity of our country” (polit.ru/article/2013/09/23/open_letter_to_sf/).
The various “horizontal scientific, educational and productive connections of the Russian Academy of Sciences penetrate all republics and regions of the country,” the letter continues, and “a breakdown or simple weakening of these ties will inevitably lead to the growth of separatist tendencies.”
“It is strange,” the authors continue, “that those who initiated and support this bill do not understand this or possibly that their personal interests matter more to them than the interests of our state.”
The scholars also say that the Duma has “demonstrated its complete incompetence and lack of understanding of how science is organized in Russia and what role the Russian Academy of Sciences plays in the scientific, educational, technological, defense, cultural and other sectors of the life of the country.”
They add the Duma’s action reflects either an inability or an unwillingness of its members to “distinguish the interests of a relatively narrow group which has lobbied on behalf of this corrupt bill and the interests of the state.” And they said that passage of the bill shows that the Duma members have shown themselves to be “completely indifferent” to the views of those who elected them.
This appeal repeats earlier arguments by employees of the Academy of Sciences that the proposed law “is fatal not only for Russian science” which will be held back for many years to come if it passes but is “destructive for the country as a whole,” with consequences that are “difficult to predict.”
The tone of this open letter and especially its reference to national security issues like the maintenance of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation highlight both the beliefs of many in the Academy of Sciences that the proposed reform is a disaster and their fears that this bill is likely to be passed and signed into law.
And while they do not raise the point in their brief letter, the authors could point to the ways that anticipation of the law’s passage is already having negative consequences on relations between Moscow and regional scientific centers, many of whom, such as the Siberian Division, are already looking toward a more independent existence.
That regionalization of science would not necessarily lead to secessionist impulses on it own, but as the authors of this appeal say, it will certainly strengthen such feelings where they exist and quite possibly spark them where they do not, with scholars in these centers and regional and independence activists finding a new common ground.
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