Science policy Universities

Andrei Yakovlev: “Through the FSB, HSE was transferred from the economic security service to the service for the protection of the constitutional order and the fight against terrorism”

Why did the Higher School of Economics find itself in the worst posi­tion among all the new famous uni­ver­si­ties that emerged in post-Soviet Russia? At what point did the era of sol­i­dar­i­ty with state ide­ol­o­gy begin at the uni­ver­si­ty? Was the pres­sure on Yaroslav Kuzminov pres­sure on the uni­ver­si­ty itself or on the head of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, Elvira Nabiullina ? What are the rea­sons and con­se­quences of includ­ing the HSE on the sanc­tions list? The for­mer vice-rec­tor of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, now a vis­it­ing researcher at the Davis Center at Harvard, Andrei Yakovlev ana­lyzes for T-invari­ant the expe­ri­ence of a lead­ing uni­ver­si­ty both in terms of suc­cess and and in part of the decline of this big project.

Andrei Yakovlev: Candidate of Economic Sciences.
Worked at HSE from September 1993 to August 2023, includ­ing 1993-2012 as vice-rector.
At dif­fer­ent peri­ods, as vice-rec­tor, he was respon­si­ble for applied and aca­d­e­m­ic research, finan­cial and strate­gic man­age­ment, and orga­ni­za­tion of the HSE April International Academic Conference.
Research inter­ests: state-busi­ness rela­tions, cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, indus­tri­al pol­i­cy, pub­lic pro­cure­ment, incen­tives for bureaucracy.
In 2002-2003. — Fellow of the Humboldt Foundation.
In 2015-2019. — President of the Association of Russian Economic Think Tanks (ARETT).
In 2017 he was award­ed the Yegor Gaidar Memorial Prize in Economics.
Since October 2022 — vis­it­ing schol­ar at the Davis Center at Harvard University.

T-invari­ant: In the first half of the 90s, sev­er­al new unique uni­ver­si­ties were cre­at­ed in Russia. These are Shaninka — Moscow School of Higher Social and Economic Sciences, and the European University , and NES — Russian Economic School , and the Higher School of Economics. The task of these uni­ver­si­ties was to pro­duce new per­son­nel and new knowl­edge in the field of social and human­i­tar­i­an dis­ci­plines. But each of these projects was cre­at­ed accord­ing to its own mod­el. Almost 30 years have passed, and now they are all in a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. Does this mean the decline of gen­er­al­ly strong socio — human­i­tar­i­an uni­ver­si­ties in Russia?

Andrei Yakovlev: Indeed, these uni­ver­si­ties were cre­at­ed at about the same time, but now the sit­u­a­tion at the Higher School of Economics and the rest of the uni­ver­si­ties you named is dif­fer­ent. Yes, all four projects are expe­ri­enc­ing seri­ous prob­lems, because they were focused on intro­duc­ing new edu­ca­tion­al stan­dards to Russia and close coop­er­a­tion with for­eign part­ners, inte­gra­tion into glob­al aca­d­e­m­ic net­works. Now this is either very lim­it­ed or com­plete­ly impos­si­ble. However, this roll­back from the orig­i­nal tasks in the case of the Higher School of Economics is felt much more strongly.

Ti: Why? Because HSE, as your col­league Igor Lipsits put it , has “turned into a silent university” ?

AY : No, that’s not why. Now some­thing sim­i­lar can be said about NES, and about the European University, and about Shaninka. Well, espe­cial­ly about Shaninka after all the crim­i­nal cas­es against the for­mer rec­tor Sergei Zuev.

Ti: Then why ?

AY: Because we have not yet seen a sin­gle pro­fes­sor from the European University, NES or Shaninka who would call for nuclear strikes on Europe. And at the Higher School of Economics there is such a per­son, and we all know him .

Moreover, there is even an offi­cial deci­sion by the eth­i­cal com­mis­sion of the HSE Academic Council that there are no prob­lems with such state­ments. Although before this, it was pre­cise­ly the same eth­i­cal com­mis­sion, based on much less loud state­ments of the per­son­al point of view of oth­er pro­fes­sors, that made the exact oppo­site judg­ment. Let us also note that the lead­ers of Shaninka, the European University and NES do not trav­el to Donbass. Well, and, as far as I know from col­leagues from these uni­ver­si­ties, they still main­tain a fair­ly high degree of aca­d­e­m­ic self-gov­ern­ment, which in fact was one of the fun­da­men­tal fea­tures of these new uni­ver­si­ties at the time of their creation.

Ti: To peo­ple new to the Russian uni­ver­si­ty sys­tem, it is quite dif­fi­cult to explain the pub­lic atten­tion that is focused on HSE and its cur­rent state. Sometimes even bewil­der­ment aris­es: “Well, a large uni­ver­si­ty is dete­ri­o­rat­ing, but why such sor­row?! There are Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University, RANEPA — the sit­u­a­tion there is also not devel­op­ing for the bet­ter. Why is there no such reac­tion about them? “If you were talk­ing to an American,  How would you explain : “Imagine that in America, sud­den­ly, in a year and a half, things have com­plete­ly changed…” What?

AY : Good ques­tion! In fact, there will be no ana­logue, because the sig­nif­i­cance of the Higher School of Economics over the past, well, at least twen­ty years has been deter­mined by the fact that it was not only a uni­ver­si­ty, but also one of the largest ana­lyt­i­cal cen­ters work­ing for the gov­ern­ment and soci­ety as a whole. This is quite impor­tant. In this sense, the US edu­ca­tion­al envi­ron­ment is struc­tured dif­fer­ent­ly. There are many strong uni­ver­si­ties there, com­pa­ra­ble and com­pet­ing with each oth­er. And the gap that was felt in Russia between HSE and oth­er uni­ver­si­ties, at least work­ing in the field of social sci­ences and human­i­ties, is not such a gap either in the States, or in Germany, or in France. In the USA and Western Europe, uni­ver­si­ties dif­fer from each oth­er by orders of magnitude.

At the same time , when it comes to ana­lyt­ics for the gov­ern­ment or for soci­ety, in the States and Europe it is not the uni­ver­si­ties them­selves who are engaged, but the so-called think tanks — com­pact and autonomous ana­lyt­i­cal centers .

Ti: But you are now in one of these cen­ters at Harvard ?

AY : Yes, the Davis Center, where I now work , spe­cial­izes in research on Russia and the for­mer Soviet Union. This is an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary aca­d­e­m­ic cen­ter where there are simul­ta­ne­ous­ly philol­o­gists , his­to­ri­ans, cul­tur­al sci­en­tists , and polit­i­cal sci­en­tists, but almost no econ­o­mists . But this is not even close to com­pa­ra­ble with the insti­tutes that were and still are at HSE , such as the Institute of Education, the Institute of State and Municipal Administration , the Institute of Social Policy or the Institute of Economics of Knowledge and Statistical Research , where in total sev­er­al hun­dred experts work and each Dozens of large projects are being imple­ment­ed every year . The pecu­liar­i­ty of the Higher School of Economics was that for a long time it com­bined a uni­ver­si­ty with aca­d­e­m­ic val­ues and a kind of state com­mit­tee for all kinds of reforms . I don’t know of sim­i­lar examples .

Ti: Returning to those four new uni­ver­si­ties . Together with them, the tow­er began as a small School . How did it become that HSE , at the same time an ana­lyt­i­cal cen­ter and a clas­si­cal research uni­ver­si­ty ? Where did she come from ?

AY: At the begin­ning of their cre­ation, all four uni­ver­si­ties relied on bring­ing nor­mal stan­dards of edu­ca­tion in the social sci­ences to Russia. It was nec­es­sary to over­come the lega­cy of the Soviet peri­od. Social sci­ences in the Soviet Union were pre­vent­ed from devel­op­ing by ide­o­log­i­cal blind­ers , the need to study Marxist-Leninist polit­i­cal econ­o­my and sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­nism, and what became real sci­ence in the West in the last hun­dred years could, at best, be stud­ied in a spe­cial stor­age facil­i­ty , if there was access.

This cat­a­stroph­ic state of the social sci­ences large­ly pre­de­ter­mined the col­lapse of the Soviet Union. Because even those peo­ple who sin­cere­ly want­ed to change some­thing in the coun­try did not under­stand what was hap­pen­ing around them. New uni­ver­si­ties arose due to an acute short­age of peo­ple with a nor­mal edu­ca­tion and nor­mal qual­i­fi­ca­tions, who were in demand in gov­ern­ment and busi­ness. A mar­ket econ­o­my began to take shape, and a need arose for econ­o­mists, man­agers, lawyers , and soci­ol­o­gists. There was a demand for them, com­ing from the econ­o­my and from the pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion sys­tem. With all due respect to the hon­est, not at all cor­rupt offi­cials who worked in the USSR Gosplan sys­tem and who end­ed up in the Russian Ministry of Economy in the ear­ly 1990s, it was impos­si­ble to expect them to effec­tive­ly man­age the new econ­o­my; they grew up in a dif­fer­ent reality.

Therefore, the first task for all four uni­ver­si­ties was to try to bring the stan­dards of nor­mal edu­ca­tion in social sci­ences and eco­nom­ics to Russian soil. But at the same time, all these uni­ver­si­ties also had broad­er ambi­tions, try­ing not only to edu­cate stu­dents, but also to pro­duce new ideas for soci­ety and the state. This hap­pened in dif­fer­ent ways. During the peri­od when Sergei Guriev was the rec­tor of NES, it was a fair­ly influ­en­tial cen­ter that gen­er­at­ed ideas that were in demand among President Dmitry Medvedev’s cir­cle. The European University has tra­di­tion­al­ly worked quite a lot with var­i­ous peo­ple from St. Petersburg , who lat­er end­ed up in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. For exam­ple, the European University inter­act­ed very active­ly with Alexei Kudrin with­in the frame­work of the Center for Strategic Research in 2016-17. Then such part­ners on the side of the state appa­ra­tus helped the uni­ver­si­ty when there were polit­i­cal attacks on it from the secu­ri­ty bloc. Shaninka did a lot of impor­tant things in the field of social research. And the posi­tion of its founder Theodor Shanin was pre­cise­ly to not just teach stu­dents, but to bring a new under­stand­ing of social process­es to Russian society.

What dis­tin­guished HSE from them in this sense? Firstly, Kuzminov’s lev­el of ambi­tion is much greater. Because from the very begin­ning Kuzminov want­ed to cre­ate not just a new uni­ver­si­ty, but a large and influ­en­tial one. Yes , HSE began with a small struc­ture called a “col­lege”. This is exact­ly how it was des­ig­nat­ed with­in the frame­work of the appli­ca­tion for a grant from the European Commission, on the basis of which the Higher School of Economics emerged. But Kuzminov want­ed much more from the very beginning.

I remem­ber well the sit­u­a­tion in the sec­ond half of the 90s and the begin­ning of the 2000s, when there was talk about his pos­si­ble depar­ture to the gov­ern­ment. However, from a cer­tain point Kuzminov no longer want­ed to leave, because as rec­tor of the Higher School of Economics he became more influ­en­tial than some min­is­ters. As a min­is­ter, he would have to be direct­ly respon­si­ble for the results of the min­istry’s activ­i­ties. And in the role of a sta­tus advis­er who influ­ences deci­sion-mak­ing, but is not respon­si­ble for their imple­men­ta­tion, he was in a much more advan­ta­geous posi­tion. And he under­stood this well. As far as I know, the posi­tion of Sergei Guriev was some­what sim­i­lar dur­ing a cer­tain peri­od. But nei­ther in the case of the European University, nor in the case of Shaninka, as far as I know, did their lead­ers have such polit­i­cal ambitions.

The sec­ond impor­tant dif­fer­ence between HSE and sim­i­lar projects is its focus on a larg­er scale . Perhaps this is why HSE - unlike oth­er new uni­ver­si­ties — was cre­at­ed as a state orga­ni­za­tion. This sta­tus imposed its lim­i­ta­tions , but also pro­vid­ed addi­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for growth. In many ways, it was this bet on scale that led to sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quences. I think that the European University, NES and Shaninka were able to main­tain a spe­cif­ic , fair­ly free aca­d­e­m­ic micro­cli­mate pre­cise­ly because they remained small organizations.

This micro­cli­mate also exist­ed at the Higher School of Economics in the 1990s. It is char­ac­ter­is­tic that there were no sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences between HSE as a gov­ern­ment orga­ni­za­tion and NES, the European University and Shaninka as non-state uni­ver­si­ties. There was no dis­tance between employ­ees , and every­one — from the senior lec­tur­er to the rec­tor — could freely com­mu­ni­cate with each oth­er. But when tens of thou­sands of stu­dents already study at a uni­ver­si­ty and thou­sands of employ­ees work, a bureau­crat­ic hier­ar­chy, char­ac­ter­is­tic of large orga­ni­za­tions, inevitably aris­es. And, since HSE quite quick­ly moved into the cat­e­go­ry of large orga­ni­za­tions, it is more cor­rect to com­pare it with oth­er large Russian uni­ver­si­ties, such as Moscow State University, MGIMO or the Financial Academy. So, the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence was that Kuzminov was nev­er afraid to invite strong peo­ple to his team. He tried to bring togeth­er uncon­ven­tion­al­ly think­ing peo­ple at HSE, who, among oth­er things, had been argu­ing with him for a long time. Maybe in recent years this was not entire­ly true, but at least for the first 15-20 years there were active dis­cus­sions both at the rector’s office and at the aca­d­e­m­ic coun­cil. That is, it was real aca­d­e­m­ic self-gov­ern­ment in a large struc­ture, which was com­plete­ly atyp­i­cal for uni­ver­si­ties with a Soviet past.

The con­se­quence of this mod­el has been a wide vari­ety of edu­ca­tion­al inno­va­tions. Among them we can name the International Institute of Economics and Finance (ICEF) as a very suc­cess­ful dou­ble degree pro­gram with the University of London, with which the HSE began the process of hir­ing teach­ers on the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket; the process of admit­ting appli­cants strict­ly on the basis of for­mal­ized tests, which began at HSE long before the intro­duc­tion of the Unified State Exam; inter­na­tion­al lab­o­ra­to­ries, sci­en­tif­ic and edu­ca­tion­al lab­o­ra­to­ries, dis­ser­ta­tion coun­cils with dis­ser­ta­tion defense com­mit­tees and the entire process of repro­duc­tion of aca­d­e­m­ic per­son­nel; inter­nal incen­tive sys­tem and eval­u­a­tion sys­tem for teach­ers and researchers; the sys­tem of basic schools and inter­ac­tion with them; mod­el of HSE branch­es, which was fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent from that of oth­er uni­ver­si­ties, and allowed HSE region­al cam­pus­es to become full-fledged com­peti­tors of local clas­si­cal universities.

At the same time, Kuzminov always had an ele­ment of author­i­tar­i­an­ism in his man­age­ment style, but he invit­ed peo­ple to HSE who were able to object to him. And, even if lat­er, for var­i­ous rea­sons, such peo­ple were rel­e­gat­ed to less vis­i­ble posi­tions, they still remained at the uni­ver­si­ty. Kuzminov remained loy­al to his employ­ees for a long time, even if these employ­ees did not agree with him.

Ti: Quite recent­ly, one of the sig­nif­i­cant peo­ple for HSE, Evgeniy Grigorievich Yasin, passed away. What was his role?

AY: As far as I remem­ber from the words of direct par­tic­i­pants, the orig­i­nal idea of the HSE (lat­er drawn up in the form of an appli­ca­tion for the first European grant) was born in dia­logues between Kuzminov and Yasin. Then, in the ear­ly and mid-1990s, Yasin helped with attract­ing exter­nal grants for the devel­op­ment of the Higher School of Economics, as well as with the trans­fer to the Higher School of Economics of the build­ings of the Economic Academy and the Institute of Microeconomics (the for­mer State Planning Research Institute). However, Yasin’s role in the 2000s was much greater: it was through his efforts that the pub­lic lib­er­al image of the Higher School of Economics was large­ly cre­at­ed. In this regard, the com­ment of one HSE grad­u­ate to post about the death of Yasin: “Evgeniy Grigorievich is alone one of those peo­ple who made me decide to go to HSE . And then , already study­ing at HSE , I went to Pokrovka as a free lis­ten­er to his bril­liant and incred­i­bly fas­ci­nat­ing lec­tures on the his­to­ry of Russian reforms . Evgeny Grigorievich is the face of Russia as a coun­try that I would like to see — kind, peace­ful, bright, open, free, striv­ing for the most impor­tant ideals and val­ues, for chang­ing Russia and its peo­ple for the better.”

Ti: Tell us how HSE got rich. You have already said that it began as a col­lege with grant mon­ey from the European Union . Where did the mon­ey come from to turn it into a pres­ti­gious , wealthy uni­ver­si­ty ? One of the per­sis­tent myths around HSE is relat­ed to the fact that finan­cial resources for its devel­op­ment were pro­vid­ed thanks to the Kuzminov-Nabiullina fam­i­ly tan­dem. Moreover, until 2008, the HSE was under the juris­dic­tion of the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia, and already in 2008 it came under the juris­dic­tion of the Government of the Russian Federation. But you over­saw HSE’s finances for quite a long time and saw how it all began. How was it really?

AY : Yes, I also heard such con­ver­sa­tions, but this has noth­ing to do with real­i­ty. To bet­ter under­stand the con­text: from the fall of 1993, for fif­teen years, I inter­act­ed with Kuzminov almost on a dai­ly basis  I also knew Nabiullina for a long time — from the time I stud­ied at Moscow State University (she stud­ied two years old­er than me and was a grad­u­ate stu­dent with Yasin when I wrote my diplo­ma with him). Then we met at the Expert Institute and at the Ministry of Economy, where she came when Yassin became min­is­ter. As her career pro­gressed, there were few­er inter­ac­tions, but what I know about Nabiullina is that she is an excep­tion­al­ly scrupu­lous per­son. And it was from the moment of her appoint­ment as min­is­ter in 2007 (when she had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to real­ly influ­ence sig­nif­i­cant finan­cial resources) that seri­ous inter­nal dis­cus­sions began at the Higher School of Economics about how to leave the juris­dic­tion of the Ministry of Economic Development. Because due to Nabiullina’s char­ac­ter, it was obvi­ous to HSE top man­agers that now they would have to work twice as hard in the area of expert ana­lyt­ics with­out any addi­tion­al mon­ey. Largely due to this cir­cum­stance, the uni­ver­si­ty came under the wing of the government.

Ti: Was it nec­es­sary to avoid a direct con­flict of interest ?

AY : Yes. But not only. The fact is that Kuzminov has already devel­oped a finan­cial strat­e­gy that, with the arrival of Nabiullina, would have become unre­al­iz­able. Kuzminov relied on advanced devel­op­ment, i.e. he con­stant­ly invest­ed in attract­ing new strong teach­ers, launch­ing new pro­grams and projects, and cre­at­ing new depart­ments. For such pur­pos­es, in the finan­cial plan there was an item “rector’s reserve”, and at the year lev­el, expens­es were bal­anced with income. But the issued oblig­a­tions were long, and there­fore, beyond the year, a short­age of finan­cial resources inevitably arose. Therefore, Kuzminov con­stant­ly request­ed addi­tion­al resources from the fed­er­al bud­get, promis­ing new results, but at the same time cov­er­ing old oblig­a­tions with new resources. This approach gave rise to a kind of “pyra­mid”, which in the case of Nabiullina was in no way pos­si­ble. Her firm­ness in such mat­ters is well known. By the way, I think that this, in addi­tion to her per­son­al com­pe­tence, is the rea­son why Nabiullina still remains in the sys­tem of pow­er. No secu­ri­ty offi­cials who may be dis­sat­is­fied with what she is doing as head of the Central Bank can per­son­al­ly present any­thing to her. In my opin­ion, the notice­able pres­sure on Kuzminov, which occurred from 2019 onwards, was large­ly pres­sure not even on the Higher School of Economics, but pres­sure on Nabiullina. Because she actu­al­ly already became a more promi­nent polit­i­cal play­er than Kuzminov.

T-i: Since we are talk­ing about Nabiullina, her impec­ca­ble rep­u­ta­tion and high pro­fes­sion­al­ism. What do you think about the sad fact that her dili­gent work is now sup­port­ing a bel­liger­ent regime and is actu­al­ly work­ing against the coun­try? After all, the bet­ter the Russian econ­o­my is doing, the longer and more suc­cess­ful­ly the author­i­ties will be able to fight.

AYA: Nabiullina was not alone in this sit­u­a­tion, but many peo­ple in the Russian gov­ern­ment, in region­al admin­is­tra­tions, and in Russian busi­ness - that is, this is a much more gen­er­al problem.

There is a moral assess­ment of what is hap­pen­ing. And for many peo­ple it is uncon­di­tion­al: this is a crim­i­nal regime, we can­not have any­thing more to do with it, we do not want and we will not. But for many there are oth­er fac­tors and argu­ments on the oth­er side of the scale.

After the start of the war, I con­tin­ued to have con­tacts with busi­ness peo­ple who remain in Russia. So, many of them have been cre­at­ing a busi­ness for 20-30 years, and they have not just assets and mon­ey (this is exact­ly the thing that can be trans­ferred some­where if you real­ly want to), but they have teams of employ­ees and have long-time con­sumers who depend on their sup­plies, to which these entre­pre­neurs have obligations.

For peo­ple from an aca­d­e­m­ic envi­ron­ment, oblig­a­tions to rel­a­tives and the lack of finan­cial abil­i­ty to sup­port their fam­i­lies in the event of depar­ture are more under­stand­able. People of Nabiullina’s rank prob­a­bly don’t have this prob­lem. But there are prob­lems of a dif­fer­ent kind. She and her team have done a lot to improve the health of the Russian bank­ing sys­tem. Even before Nabiullina came to the Central Bank, quite qual­i­fied peo­ple worked there. But it was with her that the sys­tem became sig­nif­i­cant­ly more effi­cient. And I can assume that Nabiullina pro­ceeds from the fact that soon­er or lat­er the war will end and the coun­try will need to be restored. And there is a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence - restor­ing it from com­plete ruins or from some kind of base. Moreover, she is well aware of the sto­ry of the ruins of the 1990s, because she became Deputy Minister of Economy already in 1997.

In such sit­u­a­tions, we are deal­ing with a dif­fi­cult choice for a par­tic­u­lar per­son. But it peri­od­i­cal­ly occurs among peo­ple work­ing in the man­age­ment sys­tem. Consider 1979, when the Soviet Union invad­ed Afghanistan. It was a sense­less war that cost many lives and crazy amounts of mon­ey, which large­ly pre­de­ter­mined the eco­nom­ic bank­rupt­cy of the USSR. And then among Soviet cit­i­zens, includ­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the nomen­klatu­ra, there were lib­er­al-mind­ed peo­ple who were against this adven­ture. But nei­ther they nor Academician Sakharov, who open­ly con­demned the inva­sion of Afghanistan, had any ideas: let’s, in this regard, under­mine the econ­o­my of the Soviet Union and thus stop the war.

So it is now. More than 140 mil­lion peo­ple live in Russia. In the event of an eco­nom­ic col­lapse, all res­i­dents of Russia will become its vic­tims, the major­i­ty of whom have noth­ing to do with the war and could not influ­ence the deci­sions about its start.

Understand, I’m not jus­ti­fy­ing Nabiullina and her team now, but I’m try­ing to say that the clas­sic “white-coat” rea­son­ing that all offi­cials and busi­ness­men sup­port the crim­i­nal regime by any of their actions seems to me a sim­pli­fi­ca­tion. I can under­stand peo­ple like Nabiullina who do not want to bring the coun­try to com­plete col­lapse. Because they have been able to build a lot over the past 20 years.

One way or anoth­er, each per­son makes his own deci­sions about the lim­its of com­pro­mis­es that he is ready to make, and then he him­self bears respon­si­bil­i­ty for them.

T-i: Let’s go back to the Tower again. You have already explained that Nabiullina was not the key to HSE’s finan­cial well-being. And what? And who?

AYA: First of all, the per­son­al qual­i­ties of Yaroslav Ivanovich Kuzminov asso­ci­at­ed with his abil­i­ty to find finan­cial resources and con­vince the hold­ers of these resources that the allo­ca­tion of these resources to the Higher School of Economics is jus­ti­fied for them. Kuzminov belongs to a rare type of pub­lic entre­pre­neurs - pub­lic entre­pre­neurs. This is a rare occur­rence for the Russian aca­d­e­m­ic environment.

The Higher School of Economics was finan­cial­ly a fair­ly suc­cess­ful orga­ni­za­tion already in the 1990s, because a large European grant was allo­cat­ed for the cre­ation of the Higher School of Economics, then there was a sec­ond grant for the dis­sem­i­na­tion of new stan­dards of eco­nom­ic edu­ca­tion in the regions of Russia. Yasin played a big role in this. Both projects were imple­ment­ed in coop­er­a­tion with the University of Rotterdam. These grants were spent on clas­si­cal tech­ni­cal assis­tance in the form of pur­chas­es of equip­ment, lit­er­a­ture, and, very impor­tant­ly, they includ­ed an intern­ship sys­tem for HSE teach­ers in Holland, France and the UK. At this time, against the back­drop of the then chaos, young, recent­ly defend­ed can­di­dates of sci­ence were faced with a choice: go into busi­ness, go abroad for PhD pro­grams, or still stay in the Russian acad­e­my. And HSE could already offer such peo­ple nor­mal finan­cial con­di­tions, but not in the form of a guar­an­teed salary com­ing from the bud­get of the then Ministry of Education ania, but in the form of schol­ar­ships that were paid as part of these European internships.

But besides mon­ey, an equal­ly impor­tant fac­tor was vision, a vision of the future and some kind of strat­e­gy. This came large­ly from Kuzminov him­self. Moreover, until the ear­ly 2000s, the HSE did not have a strat­e­gy as a for­mal doc­u­ment. This sense of per­spec­tive arose from per­son­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Kuzminov with­in the frame­work of the infor­mal and very com­fort­able aca­d­e­m­ic micro­cli­mate that exist­ed at HSE.

T-i: When did HSE’s finan­cial mod­el change?

AYA: The first such turn occurred in the ear­ly 2000s, when there were few­er grants and many more stu­dents. If I’m not mis­tak­en, five new fac­ul­ties were opened in 2002 alone. And only bud­get recep­tion has more than dou­bled. With such rapid devel­op­ment, it was nec­es­sary to quick­ly hire many new teach­ers. Which cre­at­ed the risk of a decline in the qual­i­ty of edu­ca­tion. Before that, HSE col­lect­ed the cream of the crop from the Russian aca­d­e­m­ic mar­ket. And by the begin­ning of the 2000s, this resource was large­ly exhausted.

But at the same time, HSE began to receive com­mer­cial income: from teach­ing stu­dents, from stu­dents in MBA and sec­ond high­er edu­ca­tion pro­grams, from school­child­ren in prepara­to­ry cours­es. Research con­tracts from var­i­ous depart­ments also appeared. That is, there was a bal­ance from dif­fer­ent sources of fund­ing, which includ­ed bud­get fund­ing (includ­ing funds for the main­te­nance of build­ings and cap­i­tal invest­ments), grants, and mon­ey from the market.

And it was then that we agreed that we would begin to invest part of the com­mer­cial income com­ing from the mar­ket into aca­d­e­m­ic devel­op­ment our­selves. It was from this that the Scientific Fund arose, which gave inter­nal grants, and a sys­tem of aca­d­e­m­ic allowances was cre­at­ed. Kuzminov’s posi­tion has always been to increase the salaries of teach­ers, regard­less of which depart­ment: eco­nom­ics, his­to­ry or math­e­mat­ics they work in. But for me, as the vice-rec­tor, who was respon­si­ble for sci­ence and finance at that moment, it was obvi­ous that the sit­u­a­tion on the mar­ket for econ­o­mists and his­to­ri­ans was not at all the same.

The aca­d­e­m­ic bonus mech­a­nism was cre­at­ed to pro­vide incen­tives to retain strong teach­ers at HSE. At the same time, the pres­ence of pub­li­ca­tions was con­sid­ered as a mea­sur­able indi­ca­tor of par­tic­i­pa­tion in research, which, in turn, was con­sid­ered an impor­tant cri­te­ri­on for assess­ing the lev­el of teach­ers. The bonus­es were only valid for teach­ers, but they were also avail­able for researchers who had good pub­li­ca­tions and taught at least 0.25 of the salary. This cre­at­ed incen­tives for includ­ing researchers in the edu­ca­tion­al process.

T-i: How has the HSE mod­el changed since 2008, when the uni­ver­si­ty came under the government?

AYA: This was the sec­ond fork. And the point was not only in the con­flict of inter­ests between Nabiullina and Kuzminov, which I already men­tioned, but also in the fact that Kuzminov con­tin­ued to focus on fur­ther expan­sion, on fur­ther growth, for which he did not have enough of his own resources. And it was nec­es­sary to either slow down this growth or look for oth­er non-mar­ket solu­tions. Because of this, dur­ing that peri­od I reg­u­lar­ly had dis­putes with Kuzminov, which first led to my refusal to super­vise finances, and then to my depar­ture from the posi­tion of func­tion­al vice-rector.

The turn­ing point for me was the Academic Council at the end of 2007, when we dis­cussed the finan­cial plan for the next year and at the same time dis­cussed a request to the gov­ern­ment for addi­tion­al mon­ey. The jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for this request stat­ed that we are active­ly invest­ing in aca­d­e­m­ic devel­op­ment, includ­ing in the form of aca­d­e­m­ic bonus­es, which are financed from the HSE. At the same time, it was announced that aca­d­e­m­ic bonus­es would be fur­ther increased, the size of which would now exceed the basic salary of teach­ers. But at the same time, in the same request to the gov­ern­ment, data was pro­vid­ed that in addi­tion to addi­tion­al funds for research, equip­ment, main­te­nance of build­ings, cap­i­tal invest­ments, we need mon­ey for salaries for clean­ers and plumbers, since they are two times low­er than the aver­age mar­ket in Moscow.

T-i: Have you final­ly part­ed ways with Kuzminov on the issue of plumbers and cleaners?

AYA: This was a spe­cif­ic exam­ple, essen­tial­ly the dis­cus­sion was about whether it is right to tie the devel­op­ment of a uni­ver­si­ty so strong­ly to state fund­ing. This dis­cus­sion last­ed more than an hour in the pres­ence of the entire Academic Council, and just after that I wrote a let­ter of res­ig­na­tion from the posi­tion of vice-rec­tor, because the Academic Council did not sup­port me. The major­i­ty sup­port­ed Kuzminov, and it was the team’s choice in favor of going to the state and request­ing resources for the devel­op­ment of the uni­ver­si­ty. Thus, at the end of the 2000s, a change in the mod­el occurred, when the empha­sis was placed on the accel­er­at­ed attrac­tion of gov­ern­ment mon­ey through var­i­ous ini­tia­tives to sup­port lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties: from the research uni­ver­si­ties pro­gram to the 5-100 pro­gram. Costs It should be empha­sized that the HSE, rep­re­sent­ed by Kuzminov, active­ly lob­bied for the emer­gence of such gov­ern­ment pro­grams. And through them, not only HSE, but sev­er­al dozen lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties received sig­nif­i­cant finan­cial resources for devel­op­ment. But at the same time, uni­ver­si­ties were being tied to the state. In par­tic­u­lar, dur­ing the same peri­od there was a tran­si­tion from elec­tions to the appoint­ment of rectors.

T-i: Was this a fatal deci­sion? Did you imme­di­ate­ly under­stand that HSE would become a state uni­ver­si­ty not only in terms of mon­ey, but also in terms of ideology?

AYA: Discussions on these top­ics with Kuzminov began in the ear­ly 2000s. Then the turn­ing point was the YUKOS case, after which con­tacts between uni­ver­si­ties and big busi­ness­es not sanc­tioned by the Kremlin began to raise sus­pi­cions. And before that, at the HSE April con­fer­ences, at the invi­ta­tion of Yasin, we had many peo­ple from busi­ness, includ­ing Khodorkovsky. I still believe that it is nor­mal for a large uni­ver­si­ty to main­tain con­tacts simul­ta­ne­ous­ly with var­i­ous stake­hold­ers, includ­ing the state, busi­ness, and sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic fig­ures. This is exact­ly the mod­el I advo­cat­ed. But Kuzminov had a much more “pro-state” view from the very begin­ning. In the 2000s, Yasin most active­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed with busi­ness, and Kuzminov actu­al­ly began to seri­ous­ly com­mu­ni­cate with busi­ness already with­in the frame­work of the HSE Supervisory Board, where Volodin and then Kiriyenko chaired first. There was such an attrac­tion of busi­ness accord­ing to the order. And Kuzminov per­ceived autonomous com­mu­ni­ca­tion with busi­ness rather as a risk.

T-i: Do you want to say that Kuzminov was more afraid of busi­ness than the state, and this deter­mined the future vector?

AYA: Rather, there was a com­bi­na­tion of two fac­tors. One is to rely on bud­get funds as the main source of financ­ing. Particularly because it is eas­i­er to “account” for the fund­ing received to the state than to busi­ness. And the sec­ond is the con­tin­ued quan­ti­ta­tive expan­sion. When we cre­at­ed more and more new fac­ul­ties and expand­ed enroll­ment in the old ones. This was a tool for attract­ing addi­tion­al bud­get funds. But this strat­e­gy increas­ing­ly tied the HSE to the state.

T-i: So, a bet on gov­ern­ment mon­ey and a bet on scale. Next fork?

AYA: I’ll start from afar. December 2008, “March of Dissent,” dur­ing which HSE stu­dents were detained. In January 2009, the Higher School of Economics received a let­ter from the Moscow City Internal Affairs Directorate demand­ing that action be tak­en against these stu­dents. As far as I know, let­ters of this kind also came to oth­er uni­ver­si­ties, after which such stu­dents were expelled. And Kuzminov then gave an offi­cial answer in the spir­it that peo­ple have the right to express their opin­ions. And if it is proven in court that they actu­al­ly com­mit­ted some kind of crime or offense, then we are ready to dis­cuss it. Otherwise, we will have to expel any stu­dent who cross­es the road at a red light. At that time, such a response to such a request was still pos­si­ble from the HSE. But then the pres­i­dent was different…

T-i: President for whom “free­dom is bet­ter than non-free­dom “

AYA: Yes, yes, absolute­ly right. Later, in March 2011, a pub­lic dis­cus­sion between Kuzminov and Navalny took place in the hall of the Academic Council of the Higher School of Economics, mod­er­at­ed by Evgeniy Grigorievich Yasin. All this was…

T-i: Could Evgeniy Grigorievich Yasin influ­ence Kuzminov’s deci­sion-mak­ing? And did you want to?

AYA: Regarding Yasin’s influ­ence on Kuzminov’s deci­sions, I can only say that after resign­ing from the gov­ern­ment and join­ing HSE, Yasin act­ed exclu­sive­ly as an advis­er. He could express his opin­ion, but always left the right to make deci­sions to Kuzminov as rec­tor. Nevertheless, it was Yasin who in the 2000s large­ly shaped the image of HSE, which attract­ed both strong teach­ers and moti­vat­ed stu­dents to the uni­ver­si­ty. Despite the changes tak­ing place at HSE today, I am con­fi­dent that this spir­it of Yasin will remain in HSE grad­u­ates, and I hope that over time HSE will bear the name of Evgeniy Grigorievich.

T-i: At what point did the era of sol­i­dar­i­ty with state ide­ol­o­gy begin?

AYA: According to my feel­ings, in the peri­od 2012-2014 the sit­u­a­tion became irre­versible. In 2014, Kuzminov took part in the elec­tions to the Moscow City Duma. From what I heard, he did­n’t real­ly want it. But he was urgent­ly asked, because in the pre­vi­ous may­oral elec­tions Navalny gained almost 30% and it was nec­es­sary to sup­port Sobyanin, sta­bi­lize the sit­u­a­tion and fill the Moscow City Duma with peo­ple from sci­ence, cul­ture, edu­ca­tion who do busi­ness and do not engage in pol­i­tics. Kuzminov Sogcaressed. And he began to actu­al­ly work as a deputy, going from house to house, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple. Valeria Kasamara, who lat­er became vice-rec­tor, active­ly helped him in this.

Against the back­drop of his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Moscow City Duma, the Higher School of Economics received orders for var­i­ous research projects from the Moscow gov­ern­ment. At the same time, after the 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, the Higher School of Economics, which had pre­vi­ous­ly worked for var­i­ous eco­nom­ic depart­ments for many years, refo­cused on the pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tion and, in par­tic­u­lar, began mon­i­tor­ing the imple­men­ta­tion of the “May Decrees.” And since 2014, Volodin (who was the deputy head of the pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tion and was respon­si­ble for domes­tic pol­i­cy) became the chair­man of the HSE Supervisory Board.

Then the process pro­gressed. Kuzminov did not go to the next elec­tions to the Moscow City Duma in 2019. He has always been dis­tin­guished by strong intu­ition and sent Kasamaru in his place. I don’t think it’s a coin­ci­dence. Many remem­ber the scan­dalous episodes of that elec­tion campaign.

At the same time, dis­missals for polit­i­cal rea­sons began to become wide­spread at HSE. In 2018, the Transparency International lab­o­ra­to­ry led by Elena Panfilova was closed. In 2019, as part of the reor­ga­ni­za­tion of the Department of Political Science and its merg­er with the Department of Public Administration, a num­ber of well-known polit­i­cal sci­en­tists left HSE. In 2020, the Department of Constitutional Law was liq­ui­dat­ed with the dis­missal of a large group of lead­ing pro­fes­sors who opposed con­sti­tu­tion­al amendments.

T-i: You described a para­dox­i­cal process when Yaroslav Kuzminov’s ambi­tions relat­ed to the devel­op­ment of HSE - both in the scale of tasks, and in the num­ber of fac­ul­ties, and in the num­ber of stu­dents - on the one hand, led to the flour­ish­ing of HSE and its devel­op­ment into a lead­ing uni­ver­si­ty. And, on the oth­er hand, these same ambi­tions of the rec­tor of HSE destroyed it.

AYA: There is noth­ing para­dox­i­cal in this. It is no coin­ci­dence that I described Kuzminov as a pub­lic entre­pre­neur. Firm behav­ior and cor­po­rate gov­er­nance are my main areas of research inter­est. Stories when a new start­up aris­es, devel­ops suc­cess­ful­ly, turns into a medi­um-sized and then a large enter­prise, and then grows into a giant hold­ing com­pa­ny, which even­tu­al­ly reach­es bank­rupt­cy, such sto­ries are quite typ­i­cal in business.

I don’t mean that HSE is a busi­ness. This is wrong. But cer­tain analo­gies are pos­si­ble. Looking back, we see that at some stage of its devel­op­ment, HSE exceed­ed the scale that allowed it to main­tain the aca­d­e­m­ic cul­ture that became the basis for HSE’s rep­u­ta­tion in soci­ety and in the country.

And in a sense, its cur­rent trans­for­ma­tion into an ordi­nary large uni­ver­si­ty that trains per­son­nel is nat­ur­al. Because, to be hon­est, mod­ern Russia, the Russia of the last ten years, no longer need­ed the Higher School of Economics that arose in the 1990s and became bright and notice­able in the 2000s.

Now there is an edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tion that can mas­sive­ly train econ­o­mists, man­agers, lawyers, soci­ol­o­gists, psy­chol­o­gists, IT spe­cial­ists, and at the same time physi­cists and math­e­mati­cians. And it will be in demand. And all sorts of new ideas, espe­cial­ly in terms of inte­gra­tion with glob­al part­ners, were no longer need­ed. Moreover, in essence, this was not nec­es­sary ten years ago, but amaz­ing­ly, move­ment in this direc­tion con­tin­ued. In my opin­ion, because there was a 5/​100 pro­gram with approved fund­ing and the bureau­crat­ic appa­ra­tus need­ed to account for the imple­men­ta­tion of this program.

T-i: Kuzminov’s shock­ing res­ig­na­tion in 2021 - was it a spe­cial operation?

AYA: There were ele­ments of a spe­cial oper­a­tion there. Because for­mal­ly in 2019, Kuzminov had a new appoint­ment to the posi­tion of rec­tor for five years. He was going to work until 2024. Although his reas­sign­ment was already not easy. Since the end of 2018, a PR cam­paign against the HSE on top­ics relat­ed to edu­ca­tion began in the pub­lic field. Before this, there were iso­lat­ed speech­es by indi­vid­u­als, because many of HSE’s ini­tia­tives in the field of edu­ca­tion met with oppo­si­tion. But this was not in the nature of a cam­paign. And what took place in the fall of 2018 was pre­cise­ly a cam­paign. Then, at the begin­ning of 2019, through the FSB, the Higher School of Economics was trans­ferred from the eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty ser­vice to the ser­vice for the pro­tec­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion­al order and the fight against ter­ror­ism. And I remem­ber how in the spring of 2019, at a meet­ing ded­i­cat­ed to a new con­cept for the devel­op­ment of the uni­ver­si­ty, Kuzminov intro­duced three peo­ple who had been sit­ting some­where on the side all this time: addi­tion­al employ­ees were sec­ond­ed to us who will deal pri­mar­i­ly with stu­dents, but may also includ­ing com­ing to depart­ments, so be pre­pared to talk with colleagues.

T-i: Rationale?

AYA: The polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion is becom­ing more com­pli­cat­ed and there­fore the lead­er­ship of the Higher School of Economics asked the FSB to expand coop­er­a­tion. It was served like this. However, despite the dete­ri­o­ra­tion of the gen­er­al sit­u­a­tion, Kuzminov, rep­re­sent­ing in March 2019 at a con­fer­ence of the labor col­lec­tive but new con­cept for the devel­op­ment of the uni­ver­si­ty, con­tin­ued to rely on main­tain­ing inter­na­tion­al rela­tions, devel­op­ing coop­er­a­tion, hir­ing teach­ers on the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket and admit­ting for­eign stu­dents. And after pre­sent­ing such a con­cept, he was again reap­point­ed rector.

But this did not mean that the sit­u­a­tion was not chang­ing. It seems to me that the turn­ing point — not for HSE, but for the coun­try as a whole — was 2018. Before those pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, there were still hopes that domes­tic pol­i­tics would change. But after these elec­tions, a “new old gov­ern­ment” was appoint­ed, head­ed by the same Medvedev. By this same moment, the exhaus­tion of the “Crimean con­sen­sus” began to be felt in soci­ety, and this is under­stand­able, because peo­ple can­not mobi­lize indef­i­nite­ly. Especially when they see that the elite has not been par­tic­u­lar­ly mobi­lized and sig­nif­i­cant changes are not happening.

At the same time, protests began through­out the coun­try - Arkhangelsk and Shies, Ekaterinburg, Bashkiria, Khabarovsk.

Therefore, I think that get­ting rid of Kuzminov was due to the fact that by 2021 the risks had increased too much and such a large and influ­en­tial orga­ni­za­tion as the Higher School of Economics had to be brought under con­trol. But I note that sim­i­lar process­es were going on at RANEPA when a series of crim­i­nal cas­es began that end­ed with the res­ig­na­tion of Vladimir Mau.

T-i: Ultimately, Kuzminov’s res­ig­na­tion is Putin’s decision?

AYA: Absolutely. The posi­tion of the rec­tor of HSE, like the posi­tion of the rec­tor of RANEPA, the rec­tor of Moscow State University or St. Petersburg State University, is the nomen­cla­ture of the first person.

T-i: If, by some coin­ci­dence, Yaroslav Kuzminov had remained rec­tor today, would this have some­how affect­ed the cur­rent state of the HSE already dur­ing the war? Or would­n’t it change anything?

AYA: I think that in the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion this would hard­ly affect any­thing. For exam­ple, I remem­ber the sit­u­a­tion in 2019 with the arrest of HSE stu­dent Yegor Zhukov. Then uni­ver­si­ty teach­ers wrote a let­ter in his defense. Kuzminov called mem­bers of the Academic Council about this with great emotion.

T-i: You too?

AYA: No, he didn’t call me any­more. Since, due to our very long acquain­tance with him, he most like­ly under­stood that there was no point in con­vinc­ing me to revoke my sig­na­ture. But I had his con­ver­sa­tion with anoth­er col­league - a mem­ber of the Academic Council, to whom Yaroslav Ivanovich explained that sign­ing such let­ters is very dan­ger­ous for the uni­ver­si­ty: “HSE is sim­ply dis­pers­ing, and there will be anoth­er rec­tor here.”

We must also take into account the fac­tor of too long tenure, when even the most tal­ent­ed and cre­ative peo­ple begin to change. Copper pipes mat­ter. In my opin­ion, for Kuzminov in the ear­ly 2020s, main­tain­ing his own place in the elite, involve­ment in deci­sion-mak­ing and access to peo­ple who make deci­sions at the top lev­el was already more impor­tant than main­tain­ing the uni­ver­si­ty in its pre­vi­ous form. Based on the results of our last per­son­al long con­ver­sa­tion with him in December 2021, I was left with the impres­sion that the post of chair­man of the expert coun­cil in the gov­ern­ment was much more impor­tant for him than the posi­tion of sci­en­tif­ic direc­tor at HSE, which he found him­self in after resign­ing from the post of rector.

And Kuzminov’s actions after the start of the war, in my opin­ion, are also quite indica­tive, espe­cial­ly in com­par­i­son with Nabiullina, who was respon­si­ble for a large bloc in the econ­o­my and who had oblig­a­tions to many peo­ple whom she brought with her. Kuzminov no longer had such oblig­a­tions; he was no longer a rec­tor. And he def­i­nite­ly had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to step aside and, at a min­i­mum, not say anything.

But, as far as I know from my col­leagues, Kuzminov is quite active. He demands that rep­re­sen­ta­tives of oth­er uni­ver­si­ties be includ­ed in the work of the expert coun­cil under the gov­ern­ment. On his ini­tia­tive, the HSE closed IGITIand Budnitsky cen­ter. At staff meet­ings with offi­cials, he reg­u­lar­ly makes patri­ot­ic speech­es, although they are not real­ly expect­ed. They rather want prac­ti­cal advice. Taking all this into account, I think that even if Kuzminov had remained rec­tor, it is unlike­ly that any­thing would have changed.

T-i: Then the ques­tion aris­es: why, despite every­thing you just said, you don’t want­ed to leave HSE? You left against your will and in your farewell let­ter you write that you hope to return to HSE. Although you prob­a­bly know that one of your col­leagues called this let­ter an opti­mistic obit­u­ary. So what is the rea­son for your opti­mism in this sense?

AYA: I do not at all con­sid­er my post an obit­u­ary for the Higher School of Economics. The Higher School of Economics con­tin­ues to work and teach stu­dents. Yes, quite a lot of researchers and teach­ers have left, and over time this will have an impact, but, nev­er­the­less, the basic pro­grams are still read in the same for­mat and with approx­i­mate­ly the same con­tent as they were three years ago. The edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem is gen­er­al­ly inert.

So this is not an obit­u­ary at all. Yes, HSE has become dif­fer­ent, but it hasn’t gone away. And my opti­mism is con­nect­ed with this. I believe that the Higher School of Economics will sur­vive the cur­rent polit­i­cal regime, which does not have long to live. I pro­ceed from the fact that the “dark present” will soon end and Russia will need to be restored. This will be done, first of all, by peo­ple who are in Russia. And there­fore, it is impor­tant for me to inter­act with col­leagues and, through con­tacts with them, to under­stand what is hap­pen­ing in the country.

T-i: The tow­er came under sanc­tions from Canada. What are the con­se­quences? Does this mean that the US and EU will also impose sanc­tions against her? And doesn’t this change your plans regard­ing return­ing to your home university?

AYA: The inclu­sion of HSE in Canada’s sanc­tions lists, in my opin­ion, is a con­se­quence of the already men­tioned hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty of the new lead­er­ship of HSE in terms of inter­ac­tion with Lugansk State University, as well as pub­lic calls by Professor Karaganov to launch nuclear strikes on Europe. Imposing sanc­tions on HSE will, of course, fur­ther lim­it oppor­tu­ni­ties for inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion, pri­mar­i­ly on a per­son­al lev­el (since insti­tu­tion­al coop­er­a­tion with European, American and Canadian uni­ver­si­ties was already stopped after the out­break of the war). I can’t say any­thing about the plans of the USA and the EU, but this does not affect my plans to return to HSE and Russia, since I asso­ciate such a return with polit­i­cal changes in the coun­try, which will be accom­pa­nied by a change in the pol­i­cy of sanc­tions and the restora­tion of oppor­tu­ni­ties for inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion in sci­ence and education.

T-i: Why don’t you think the sit­u­a­tion in Russia is quite sta­ble? You see that there is no dra­mat­ic dete­ri­o­ra­tion in the eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion in Russia; there is a growth in the con­sumer mar­ket, an increase in mort­gages, an increase in wages, and some of the peo­ple who left Russia at the begin­ning of the war are return­ing. They sim­ply can­not feed their fam­i­lies abroad, but in Russia they still can. The coun­try has not become bet­ter off, but it is not falling apart either.

AYA: Yes, things in the econ­o­my are not as bad as they could be, thanks in part to peo­ple like Nabiullina, thanks to the fact that there is a busi­ness that is try­ing to save itself. And thanks to the fact that with all state-owned com­pa­nies and state-owned cor­po­ra­tions, the econ­o­my is fun­da­men­tal­ly mar­ket-based. That is why she is able to adapt to shocks. But the prob­lem is not the economy.

T-i: The prob­lem is politics?

AYA: Of course. And here, in my opin­ion, there is a rad­i­cal dif­fer­ence between the sit­u­a­tion in 2014 and 2022. In 2014, there was a shock asso­ci­at­ed with the then sanc­tions, but at the same time there was a real “Crimean con­sen­sus” at the lev­el of the broad mass­es. One can dis­cuss how it arose and how jus­ti­fied it was, but it was there. And at the same time there were many peo­ple in the elite who believed that it was quite pos­si­ble to live on. Moreover, there were notice­able com­pen­sa­tions for many busi­ness cat­e­gories. When peo­ple like the Rotenberg broth­ers were giv­en orders for the Crimean Bridge, and peo­ple less close were giv­en good rents in the agri­cul­tur­al com­plex due to the food embargo.

On the con­trary, in 2022, at the lev­el of the top busi­ness elite, there are some­how no win­ners in sight. But there are a lot of losers. I’m not even talk­ing about the top bureau­cra­cy, includ­ing Nabiullina, Kudrin, Gref and many oth­ers, who for many years built an eco­nom­ic sys­tem based on the fact that, despite all the fric­tion with the West, we are part of the glob­al econ­o­my. And we are inte­grat­ed into glob­al mar­kets. And now the coun­try is rapid­ly mov­ing towards Iran and North Korea. These peo­ple will not talk about this pub­licly now, but they can­not help but under­stand it.

And when it is no longer Prigozhin, who remained a mar­gin­al char­ac­ter for the elite, but a per­son like deputy Zatulin, known since the 1990s for his trips to Crimea and Sevastopol, at a United Russia event in a large audi­ence saysthat the war is a mis­take, this is indicative.

Or the exam­ple of the now for­mer direc­tor of the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences Garbuzov, who from his her pub­li­ca­tion in Nezavisimaya Gazeta actu­al­ly played the role of the boy from Andersen’s famous fairy tale about the naked king. But we under­stand that his posi­tion is nomen­klatu­ra. And sud­den­ly, for some rea­son, he is drawn to tell the truth - just like dur­ing the times of per­e­stroi­ka and glas­nost. And at the same time, the same impulse aris­es from the edi­tor-in-chief of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Mr. Remchukov, who decid­ed to pub­lish not only the orig­i­nal arti­cle, but also Professor Garbuzov’s answer. At the same time, Mr. Remchukov has nev­er been a par­tic­u­lar lib­er­al, but he has been work­ing close­ly with Oleg Deripaska for more than 20 years.

T-i: Your fore­cast: what time frame are we talk­ing about? A year, two, three? Or is it five-year plans?

AY: Not five-year plans. I would say it could be a year, two or three, but it could be just a few months. At the same time, the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in March 2024 will be an impor­tant mile­stone. Because the elite under­stands that if Vladimir Vladimirovich goes to these elec­tions and receives the 90% already promised to him, then it will be dif­fi­cult to remove him. But if sud­den­ly it is not Vladimir Vladimirovich, but some­one else who goes to these elec­tions, then options are possible.

Interviewed by Olga ORLOVA