Kremlin picks site for Russian "Silicon Valley"

MOSCOW Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:32am EDT

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev meets with winners of school and university contests in Moscow's Kremlin March 18, 2010. REUTERS/Maxim Shipenkov/Pool

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev meets with winners of school and university contests in Moscow's Kremlin March 18, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shipenkov/Pool

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday announced that Russia would build a high-tech hub near Moscow to spur modernization of the economy and reduce its dependence on oil and gas.

The center, designed to develop five priority sectors -- energy, IT, telecommunications, bio-medical and atomic technologies -- will be built near Skolkovo, a new private-sector business school in the Moscow region.

"We will build it in a place where we already have the solid groundwork for doing it quickly. Speed is of particular importance," Medvedev said.

The project, first mentioned by officials last month, aims to give state backing to major companies to help them develop selected innovative products. The most promising of these will then to taken to fruition in the new "Silicon Valley."

Critics have already ridiculed Medvedev's attempts to establish a "knowledge economy" in Russia, saying the country's rampant corruption, poor living conditions and lack of legal guarantees make it ill-suited to rivaling California's science and technology center.

"The real attraction of the Kremlin's Innovation City lies not in what it will accomplish for innovation but in how it will line the pockets of Russia's corrupt officials," opposition politician Vladimir Ryzhkov wrote in a comment for The Moscow Times.

"The greedy bureaucrats are already salivating in anticipation of the hundreds of construction permits that will be required to develop a Silicon Valley from scratch."

Tens of thousands of scientists, engineers and intellectuals abandoned Russia during the economic chaos of the 1990s and though the pace of the brain drain has slowed, the country's research base has been severely depleted.

Russia's economy contracted by 7.9 percent last year as the global economic crisis destroyed demand for key exports such as oil, gas and metals, ending a decade-long boom.

The depth of the recession, by far the worst to hit any major emerging market, shocked the Russian elite and spurred calls for the economy to lessen dependence on raw materials.

Medvedev has repeatedly urged economic diversification, predicting that the world's biggest energy exporter will remain extremely vulnerable unless it can kick its dependence on oil and gas sales.

But his critics say the Kremlin's modernization rhetoric needs to be translated into action and be accompanied by measures to improve the investment climate if diversification efforts are to have any chance of success.

(Writing by Maria Kiselyova and Michael Stott; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

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Comments (5)
galacticlove1 wrote:
Dear Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev.

Your aspiration to create a Silicon Valley in Russia seems to be a big joke… And unfortunately it’s an old one.

I’m from Silicon Valley and I’ve also lived in Russia for over 5 years.

The world is littered with other countries that have attempted to build their own “Silicon Valley” and have failed. Russia is by far in the worst position possible to even have a chance at accomplishing this.

Any “Hacker Mentality” is good at breaking things but in my experience it’s never been good at building.

This analogy in itself is accurate in describing the overall mentality of the collapsed Soviet Union and for “Modern” Russia itself.

Breaking things is what you guys like to do.

Compounding this joke is the fact that you have appointed Vladislav Surkov to head this initiative.

From what I understand Mr. Surkov is an old world ideological commissar who was responsible for creating Russia’s version of Hitler Youth called Nashi. He’s also great at creating oxymorons and trying to fool people into believing them like the now laughable term “sovereign democracy”.

Sovereign democracy? That’s just as idiotic as saying that Russia is an “Open Dictatorship”.

Mr. Surkov is not even good at PR and he personally reminds me of Saddam Hussein’s old mouthpiece “Baghdad Bob”.

Now you want to further insult the few remaining brilliant Russian engineers and scientists that haven’t left the country for Silicon Valley already and place this guy in charge of them?

Who in their right mind would want to work hard and dedicated their lives towards inventing something new so Mr. Surkov and the Russian state could take credit along with the money for it?

It must drive you guys crazy that a 10 year old kid named Sergei Brin could leave Moscow with his parents and in few short years create Google with his friend Larry Page in Silicon Valley.

Even if history were somehow reversed and Mr. Brinn stayed in Russia and came up with this idea on his own.. There is NO WAY his idea could have ever seen the light of day in Russia with it’s instinctive scorn of new ideas along with a complete lack of IT infrastructure and an even bigger lack of understanding on how the modern world actually works.

Sadly it’s true what they say about Ignorance and Arrogance..

The 2 are always opposite sides of the same worthless coin.

I write this not because I’m an American nationalist.

I write this because of my love for the Russian People and my frustration at seeing your government systematically crush any hopes your citizens have at making their lives better.

Your habitual instincts towards implementing “Central Control” is an age old excuse for insecurity that will drive your country and it’s future into ruin.

And for what reason? Unfortunately the answer is too simple.

Ego.

If it is corrupt at the top with you two gentlemen (especially you Mr. Putin) then it is always going to be corrupt beneath you and that is painfully being reported at all levels of the international and business press.

Russia is easily one of the most corrupt places on earth.

So corrupt that in the last decade no significant construction of new roads has been completed even though many were planned simply because the allocated money never reached the right people.

As I’ve mentioned earlier I’ve lived in Russia for over 5 years and your level of infrastructure is sadly anywhere between 50 to 100 years behind the West or any truly developed country that has embraced Western economic values.

And to add insult to injury you want to fall back on the old Soviet mentality of burning up majority of your remaining GDP on the military?

Sadly Russia is like an obsolete and drunken old carpenter who only has a hammer to build himself a home before the Russian Winter sets in. Russia’s oil is the Vodka that this man is killing himself on.. While the military is the only tool that he has as he holds a single rusty hammer in his hand.

Sorry but this old man doesn’t stand a chance and will perish in the streets next to his sober neighbors who have knowledge, experience and a whole host of power tools at their disposal.

And on top of all of this..

You dream of building a Silicon Valley outside of Moscow?

That would be like us trying to build a new Silicon Valley in Washington DC. Sorry but there’s a good reason Silicon Valley is on the opposite side of the country.

Politics and Innovation are mutually excluding.

They tend to annihilate each other.

And you Gentlemen being the politicians that you are would never allow real innovation to threaten your power base.

So therefore as usual.. this talk of Silicon Valley is just another “Potemkin Village” movie set attempting to “impress” people of your false ambition and desired status is in no ways different from the rappers on MTV making lots of noise and wearing layers of gold chains around their necks.

If you want to take real steps towards helping your country.. let alone trying to build a Silicon Valley.. why don’t you try to learn from our own triumphs along with our mistakes and give your people REAL FREEDOM and self determination.

For all the excesses of the 60’s in the US it did create a real paradigm shift in attitude that a bunch of establishment rejecting individuals could change the world. It was our modern renaissance and it serves as the foundation for our world of innovation and free competition.

You in Russia have never had this..

Because you never allowed it.

And until you do.

Your dream of building Silicon Valley will always be a mere fantasy.

And you Mr. Medvedev will continue to have nice pieces of hardware on your desk that have glowing white apples on them.

Mar 18, 2010 6:12pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
LuckyBarker wrote:
Many thieves and corrupt officials steal money Russian pensioners.

They have already built 3 Silicon Valley.
Remember it?! :))
In Novosibirsk, near Moscow, and somewhere else. ;))
For Putin and Medvedev (and friends of course), this means that they have stolen a lot of money from Russia’s budget – 3 times.
Now they want to steal the 4-th time.

Mar 19, 2010 9:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
john66 wrote:
@galacticlove1

do they paymasters dole out cash by the word to write your idiotic nonsense here?

Mar 19, 2010 2:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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