The Integration of Russia into the International Academic Community: Perspectives from Russian Education and Scholarship

By
F. Joseph Dresen

On 30 September-1 October, 2003, the Kennan Institute, ISE Center (Information. Scholarship. Education.) (Moscow), and the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research (NCEEER) convened a conference showcasing the early results of the work of the Centers for Advanced Study and Education (CASE) program. The CASE program, funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, has established thematic research centers at regional Russian universities in order to foster scholarship in the social sciences and humanities. "The nine regional CASE Centers have truly become what we had all hoped—the foundation for the renewal of a vibrant intellectual life in Russia; not just in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but throughout Russia," declared keynote speaker Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Gregorian explained that during the free market reforms following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were fears that the enthusiasm for economic reforms would overshadow and perhaps even set back what had always been a mark of the greatness of Russian civilization: its appreciation of and dedication to intellectual life. That concern sparked the Corporation's continuing interest in the fate of education in Russia, culminating in the commission of a needs assessment of the Russian education system undertaken with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Kennan Institute director Blair A. Ruble, one of the authors of the assessment, summarized the report's finding that donor support for Russian education has been dominated by support for institutions and individuals. According to Ruble, while both types of programs have successfully fulfilled their own missions, there was a gap in integrating the two levels. This gap presented both a pressing need and a sensible point of entry for donors to support the "invisible university"—a network of scholars and scholarship that could unite institutions and individual scholars across the country and internationally. The concept of the "invisible university" would become the founding principle of the CASE program.

"The CASEs are designed to strengthen, modernize, and revamp universities," stated Deana Arsenian of Carnegie Corporation, "Each CASE serves as an umbrella for a set of activities that include academic fellowships, funding for individual and team research, support for conferences and publications, travel grants, and support for libraries." The nine Centers were established on the basis of an open competition among Russian regional state universities: Kaliningrad, Novgorod the Great, Voronezh, Urals State University in Ekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Rostov-na-Donu, Saratov, Tomsk, and Far Eastern National University in Vladivostok were selected. A CASE Resource Center has also been established at St. Petersburg State University. Over 300 scholars from across Russia have received research support through this initiative in the first two years of the program's operation. In addition, a number of these scholars, along with other scholars from the CASE regions, have undertaken research in the United States through the Carnegie Research Fellowship Program administered by NCEEER.

The first day of the conference highlighted the thematic research of the individual CASEs. These Centers confront issues ranging from cultural communications and religious tolerance to exploring Russia's place amongst its neighbors and its relations with the West. The presentations demonstrated that the intended network between scholars is beginning to emerge from the research supported by the various Centers. It was also clear that the work performed by some of the Centers is having an immediate impact on the formation of policy at the regional level.

Representatives from Voronezh CASE and Urals CASE reported on their Centers' work on issues of cultural communication (Voronezh CASE) and tolerance (Urals CASE). Elena Ishchenko, Voronezh CASE coordinator, stated that the research priorities of her Center were the study of intercultural communication, the social and cultural aspects of conflict, the historical legacy present in the dialogue of cultures, and cultural aspects of inter-regional relations in the Russian Federation. She announced the establishment of contacts with centers and individuals in universities in Europe and North America examining similar communication issues. Maxim Khomiakov and Sergei Kropotov of the Urals CASE described their Center's work on the issue of religious tolerance, which incorporates several disciplines, including philosophy, history, cultural studies, and art. As a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, the Russian Federation is struggling with the very issues currently being examined by the Voronezh and Urals CASEs.

Another panel wrestled with the nature of power and society in Russia. Galina Lashkova of Saratov State University described the vibrant and controversial work of the Saratov CASE on power and social pathologies in modern Russian society. Margarita Zakovorotnaya of Rostov State University discussed the tension between state power and the individual, as well as center-region power struggles in the Russian context. Artem Rykun of Tomsk State University spoke on the power of the emerging market system and its impact on how Russian students perceive the value of education.

The remaining presentations from CASE representatives focused on Russia's role in the world. Tatiana Skrynnikova of the Irkutsk CASE outlined the geopolitical importance of the Siberian region, in terms of resources, relations with the Asian-Pacific nations, and its evolution as a multi-ethnic region with growing migrant populations. Vladimir Baranovsky of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations echoed the importance of scholarship from Siberia and the Russian Far East in dealing with the potentially dangerous migration and refugee problems of the region and in forming foreign policy ideas to challenge the views in Moscow.

Sergei Devyatkin from Novgorod State University spoke of his region's policies and reforms targeted toward rapid social change and promoting the acceptance of globalization. Research at the Novgorod CASE delved into the historical record of Novgorod as a major trade center to find Russian values and traditions in support of the region's modern day pursuit of global integration. Gennady Fedorov of the Kaliningrad CASE provided the audience with background information on Kaliningrad's special status as a Russian enclave situated apart from the rest of the country in Europe. He further explained how the Kaliningrad CASE took part in a project to create a regional strategy, and how this strategy was later adopted by the regional government.

For the second day of the conference, the organizers assembled experts on the future of Russian education and scholarship. Mikhail Strikhanov, Deputy Minister of Education of the Russian Federation, spoke of major reforms that are planned in Russia. These reforms consist of greater privatization of education, decentralization of control and financing to the regional level, and the selection by the Ministry of 70-90 "leading universities" to receive special funding with the goal of those universities becoming the center of Russia's higher education system. Strikhanov announced Russia's intention of joining the Bologna Process, which is an ongoing effort to harmonize higher education policy and standards across Europe. He concluded by noting his concern that higher education is no longer a very appealing field for young people.

Harley Balzer of Georgetown University cautioned that Russia's low birth rates combined with the proliferation of higher educational institutions would ensure the failure of a large number of institutions in the years to come. Russia would not likely find new sources of funding for education, continued Balzer, so the challenge will be to find ways of using existing funds more effectively. Robert Huber of NCEEER later echoed this comment, stressing that external support for Russian education can only have a marginal impact on the entire system, and that the Russian people would have to decide their own priorities. Huber further cautioned that external support for Russian education, especially from the U.S. government, would almost certainly decline in the coming years, especially for advanced research.

Wilson Center president and director Lee H. Hamilton urged continued efforts on behalf of Russian higher education, declaring that, "we are discussing a down payment on Russia's future—and our own. All of us can attest to the contributions of the Russian people to the intellectual history of the world. With the CASE program and similar efforts to develop Russia's higher education, we act to ensure that the world enjoys the benefit of Russian wisdom and creativity and talent in the generations to come. And we bring our peoples closer together."

The conference concluded by examining the prospects for Russian education and scholarship becoming more integrated into the global system. ISE Center president Andrei Kortunov expressed his hope that Russia would continue to demonstrate its desire to become a part of Europe and the West in the fields of scholarship and education, both through support for programs at home like the CASE program, and through participating in the Bologna Process as described by Deputy Minister Strikhanov. Blair Ruble commented that the global system of education and scholarship is evolving into a network of horizontal relationships. The challenge for Russian education and scholarship, which are still organized vertically, is to find new ways of organization to capture the benefits of horizontal linkages. The challenge for western donors, on the other hand, is to create partnerships instead of client relationships, and to help give incentives for the Russian university system to think about networks, and not just hierarchies.

Russia's success in meeting the challenges in education and scholarship outlined by the conference participants will in large part decide its future. "Higher education is our connection with the future," declared Vartan Gregroian. "It is in institutions of higher education where the best minds of every culture and country ask the questions that will lead to advances in social, scientific and governmental policies, and the development of science and philosophy—the kinds of breakthroughs that will advance a nation."

For more information on the CASE program, please visit the CASE web site.

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