Brain Drain Is Prohibited!

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Main street of Akademgorodok

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.

students choice

8 comments

  1. Chris, I had never heard of Akademgorodok before so I really enjoyed reading your post! To me, it sounds like this is the equivalent of the United States’ Silicon Valley, where cutting edge R&D is conducted in order to advance society. However, a major distinction that I believe might exist is that Akademgorodok is supposed to also serve an educational purpose, whereas Silicon Valley exists for business advancement.

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  2. This was a really cool post, I had never heard of Akademgorodok before and it’s super interesting! It’s interesting that scientists voluntarily exiled themselves to Siberia to create their own little space to not worry about what the government would think and just innovate. I also really liked the google maps link you inserted, it was cool to see what it looks like on the ground!

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  3. Parker Leep · · Reply

    Lots of interesting content in this post. I really liked your point that the isolation of the city allowed unimpeded work for the scientists but also isolated them from regular Russian society and people. The “Brain Drain is Prohibited” signs is a pretty funny item. Great post!

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  4. I like the topic that you selected for this post as the “brain drain” was a very big problem in socialist and communist states where scientists and mathematicians have a high monetary incentive to leave the country for a capitalist state. It was interesting to learn how the Soviets tries to get people like that to stay and work on Soviet projects. Well done!

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  5. I agree with all of the above, and will just add that using google street view was a great idea! That RTBH article is interesting as well.

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  6. Brian Nolte · · Reply

    This is a very fascinating subject that I think has had long term implications. Because it was not connected to the rest of the country, it could not help drive the Russian economy even though it was making technological advancements. I think that because the intellectuals weren’t connected to the surrounding areas, it meant that after the Cold War, the intellectuals had no real reasons to stay in Russia and has contributed to the modern ‘Brain Drain’.

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  7. Very insightful post. Cleary the Russians wanted to keep their talent as do most countries, but the lure of money is a powerful pull to a new nation with top institutions and good pay. Good job!

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  8. I love your post and your title! Akademgorodok seems like some type of intelligentsia utopia, where ideas could be floated between peers without fear of being rebuked or stymied. I did not know of Akademgorodok’s existence before this post, so thank you for making me feel a little bit smarter.

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