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Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Russia's scientists demand a living
Protesting scientists
The protesters had marched 100 km

Hundreds of Russian scientists have protested in Moscow against chronic underfunding for their sector.

About 800 protesters rallied outside government buildings, many of them coming from a 100-km (62-mile) protest march in support of a living wage.


Young people are studying with us purely so that they can go and work abroad

Fedor Brovko
trade union official
The academics and research workers, not normally known for their militancy, say chronic underfunding bodes ill for Russia's economic development.

The BBC's Russian affairs analyst, Stephen Dalziel, says there are also real fears that impoverished Russian scientists may be wooed abroad by rogue nations seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Brain drain

Viktor Kalinushkin, chairman of the Russian Academy of Sciences' trade unions, says that between 500,000 and 800,000 Russian scientists made long-term missions abroad in the past 10 years.

"Hardly any of them have come back," he told a news conference.

Protesting scientists (picture from Russian TV)
Years of underfunding have taken their toll

Talented young physicists, biologists, chemists and computer programmers are seeking more lucrative placements in Western states.

"When they work abroad they can get more than 100,000 dollars a year," said Fedor Brovko, trade union leader at the Pushchino Biochemistry Institute.

"The difference is just too great. Young people are studying with us purely so that they can go and work abroad."

Pittance for science

Many of the demonstrators had marched from the scientific research town of Pushchino outside Moscow.

Postgraduate researchers and students at the rally said their paltry student grants did not even cover their accommodation costs.

"I want to work in the science sector," said 21-year-old Pavel Medvedev.

"But to do so I either have to take some sort of work on the side or sponge off my parents, and I don't want to do that."


We need a new economic foundation for science

Vladimir Putin

President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged the sector's funding crisis.

In March, he said that support for science was "downright inefficient" and called for a "new economic foundation" for the sector.

He accused science of being "poorly adapted for the market economy".

The BBC's correspondent notes that scientists have had particular cause to rue the passing of the USSR.

Once holding prestigious jobs, with salaries, accommodation and perks to match, many senior research scientists now have to survive on less than $50 a month.

Whilst many of the scientists do go to the USA and other Western states, the worry is that others are ending up in countries such as Iran and Iraq.

See also:

24 Jun 02 | Europe
29 May 02 | Country profiles
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