Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Moscow to Launch Campaign to Get 15,000 Russian Scholars to Return Home

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 25 – Hoping to reverse the brain drain that has cost Russia tens of thousands of scholars in a wide variety of areas, a group of scholars working for the Presidential Administration has announced plans to begin a campaign to attract back to Russia 15,000 of the best researchers and then go after luring additional foreign specialists as well.

            Artem Oganov, a specialist on computer design of new materials, tells “Moskovsky komsomolets” that the best estimates are that since the early 1990s, Russia has lost between 100,000 and 200,000 scholars and that it must reverse that flow to develop its research capacity (

            One reason for optimism that such a program will work, the scholar continues, is that “over the last several years,” approximately 1300” Russian scholars have in fact come back. But the ratio of those leaving to those returning must be cut and then reversed and that is why the number 15,000 was decided upon.

            “We don’t want all to return at once but only those with the greatest prospects and successes,” Oganov says. “Fifteen thousand such people” now working in the US or other countries and including both “venerable” scholars and those who have won fame more recently “can ensure a sharp jump forward of Russian science and technology.”

            Asked whether such scholars would want to return to anywhere but Moscow and St. Petersburg, the computer specialist said that universities and research institutes in the provinces should compete with each other to attract scholars back rather than simply assume they’ll go only to the capitals.

            Higher salaries will be the major attraction, Oganov continues, but he suggested at least some of the scholars will be attracted back because of the high cost of education for their children and of housing for themselves. What is most important, however, he says, is that Russia be viewed as a prestigious place to work, much as China became in the past.

            Asked how Moscow could be sure of getting the right people, the scholar says that “we are composing certain lists” of those Russia most needs and wants. Presumably they will be offered higher salaries and greater benefits than the others.

            What this program is most about, Oganov suggests, is to change the image of the country “from a poor undeveloped state without prospects from which everyone is leaving” into something people will want to be part of.  After Moscow attracts back the Russian scholars, he says, the next task will be to hire a large number of foreign specialists to work with them.

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