The New Elite in Post-Communist Eastern Europe

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Christopher Vanderpool et al. | Go to book overview

20
Political Power and Science

Vladimir Zakharov

Differences between the United States, Europe, and Russia make it difficult to develop a common definition for members of the scientific elite. Professional scientists in the USSR included full and associate members of the Academy of Sciences (now, the Russian Academy); members of other academies, including medical doctors and agricultural researchers; and administrators at research institutes and prestigious schools. In Russia, there are two to three thousand people who can be considered members of the formal scientific elite. There are two important factors that characterize this group: access to important resources and control over their activities.

An informal scientific elite continues to exist in Russia. These scientists have great prestige in their respective fields. Because scientists differ in their abilities and achievements, there are hierarchies in scientific communities. In their respective fields, every scientist is very aware of who's who.

In the USSR, the formal and informal elite could not merge as is in Western countries. A career in the sciences was one of the few opportunities for people in the USSR to have a prosperous and secure life. Therefore, competition was fierce and forced some highly qualified people to seek employment outside their respective fields. On the other hand, there were some scientists who lacked either the talent or the motivation necessary to attain elite status. The formal and informal elite did not overlap; in fact, they were often in conflict. This division was well known. There has always been an interchange between the formal and informal elite that varied depending on the field and its political climate. The dynamics of this process deserve special research

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