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EDITIONS
Europe Wednesday, 2 December, 1998, 21:39 GMT
Chill winds of change in Siberia
As winter sets in, Russia's science cities brace for tough times ahead

In this edition of Crossing Continents, James Proctor reports from Siberia on the remorseless decay of Russian science - once the jewel in the crown of Soviet socialism, now a luxury the region can't afford.

Listen to the programme in full )

Science, like housing, is crumbling in Siberia
It was one of the great Soviet dreams - to build a city of 200,000 people in unspoiled Siberian forest, fifteen hundred miles east of Moscow. The city would become the shining centre of Soviet science - and its distance from Moscow would allow its residents to enjoy a climate of social and intellectual independence in which their brilliance could flourish. In 1958, construction of the 'Science City' - Akademgorodok - began.

James Proctor with one of the city's many scientific monuments
Forty years later, James Proctor visits Akademgorodok and finds a city in crisis and a dream on the verge of extinction. Russian science has been battered since the end of Communism by the decline in lucrative defence contracts, and recently by the shattering collapse of the economy. Akademgorodok is reeling from a steady and merciless 'brain drain' - as top scientists seek to get out as soon as possible - and those left behind face a daily struggle for survival.

Also in the programme, we explore a relatively unknown art form - Siberian Jazz. Even at the height of the Cold War, the urge to let loose never died down. The bohemian lifestyle of some of Akademgorodok's early intellectuals, and the indigenous music of the Siberian people, came together to spawn a unique form of music'. We talk to one of the movement's leading musicians about the sound he calls the 'Frosty Blues' and find out how hot jazz survives in a cold climate.

Few nowadays can afford the bounty of fruit stalls like this
Finally, as winter sets in and food is in ever shorter supply across Russia, we discover how Siberians survive day to day. Turning to the great forests surrounding them, the people of Akademgorodok have found that nature can provide plenty to supplement and spice up their daily diet - from berries to mushrooms, from herbs to wild game. But these bounties are finite - which is why an elaborately polite code for forest foragers has evolved.

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