Though Khrushchev’s Thaw brought about significant political and social changes in Russia, many academics and scientists continued to view the Soviet bureaucracy as an impediment to their work. With newfound political freedom and a re-emphasis on technological advancement, Soviet scientists looked for ways to organize themselves into a physically close community in order to be able to collaborate and share ideas more easily. The result – Akademgorodok.
Akademgorodok not only gave scientists their own space to collaborate, but it was located in the middle of Siberia, hundreds of miles from the bureaucracy in Moscow. It served as a sort of voluntary exile in which scientists and their families could freely discuss prohibited literature, genetics, or politics.
Akademgorodok successfully brought scientists together, with the creation of twenty institutions within only seven years. But while its success benefitted Russia’s scientific community, it fell short of expectations in other ways. The Soviet government believed that the establishment of research institutions would raise the productivity and the quality of education in its eastern regions, however its location in the middle of Siberia created a micro-society, in which intellectuals lived a much higher quality of life than their less-educated countrymen. This further isolated intellectuals from the average Russian, hindering their ability to advance Russian society.
Today, Akademgorodok continues to be a center of innovation in Russia, calling itself home to the smartest street in the world due to its 20 research institutions. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, signs were erected, reading “Brain Drain is Prohibited” due to the emigration of scientists from the area.