The Sunday Telegraph published a fascinating interview with Vitaly Ginzburg, a 90-year-old Russian scientist who has found himself in the middle of the battle over the Academy of Sciences’ independence from state control. Previously we’ve blogged about what is behind this issue.
Prof Vitaly Ginzburg, who is 90 yet still academically active, said Mr Putin’s Russia was worse than Stalin’s Soviet Union. “Of course, in Stalin’s times the Academy was under the control of the central committee of the Communist Party,” he told The Sunday Telegraph. “But in those days you could come up with an idea and create – that’s how we put the first Sputnik satellite into space. Now the government thinks science must bring only income and profit, which is absurd.” He added: “Of course it is about Putin. Our democracy is far from ideal.” The Kremlin tried last year to gain political leverage, but its officials failed to gain election to the academy. Some were said be so ignorant they could not explain the law of gravity. Critics say the Kremlin then deployed its Ministry of Education and Science to take control when the Academy’s Soviet-era charter came up for revision. It proposed a new supervisory council, stuffed with Kremlin place men from the Russian Parliament, and to take control of the academy’s finances and vast property holdings. The Academy receives £870 million in federal grants, owns about 400 affiliated institutes and employs around 200,000 people across Russia. Prof Valery Kozlov, 57, its vice-president, said: “This is simply an attempt to seize control of our finances and property.”