Regime Moves Toward Intellectual Bankruptcy

May 29, 2013
Sergei Guriyev. Source: RIA Novosti

Sergei Guriyev, one of Russia’s best economists and administrators of economics scholarship, has resigned from his post of dean of the Russian Economic School (RES) and has refused to run for a seat on the supervisory board of Sberbank. Guriyev is in Paris for now, where his family lives and where his wife, the brilliant economist Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, works as a professor at RES and the Ecole d’économie de Paris. Given that the Russian Investigative Committee has some claims against him, possibly in connection with Guriyev’s participation in the public review of the YUKOS case [to determine if Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s second sentence was lawful –ed.], it is hard to predict his return to Russia. He confirmed to Novaya Gazeta that there are claims against him personally, but he refused to give more details.

Before, first-class economists were not listened to, although they were allowed to wipe their soles on the White House parquet floor and the Kremlin carpets (and visa versa). Now evidently they are going to be prevented and persecuted.  This is the beginning of the loading of the human cargo on the Philosopher’s Ship [like the ships of intellectuals exiled by Lenin in 1922 –ed.].

The Putin regime has established itself: it is burning to the ground everyone around it who even hints at its failure. Yes, this is a suicidal path, but it is single-track movement. As they used to say in the days of the Soviet government: “We have embarked on this path and we will not turn away from it.” Even if the ties in the Severomuysky Tunnel lead nowhere…

The Soviet government used to do exactly the same thing. It crushed and jailed everyone who was living and thinking, and confronted people with the same dilemma: jail or exile from the country. The best writers, the best scientists, the best specialists. The result is well known. The government remained in tragic solitude – as Comrade Stalin did, or the collectively dying Politburo in the post-Soviet era. The USSR died not only because of the high price of oil dropping low, and not only because of the extreme militarization of the economy; it was morally and intellectual bankrupt. The current government in fact is going toward exactly the same moral and intellectual bankruptcy  — deception in everything, from falsification of the elections to fake dissertations by representatives of the establishment and rejection of the services of the best of the best professionals.

Evidently, the situation has been coming to a head for a long time. Back on 20 May, former deputy finance minister Alexei Savatyugin wrote on his Twitter account: “Hurry and buy the books of Sergey Guriyev while they are still on sale.” He knew something…

In principle, this is a scandal of international proportions. Not only because it joins the same line of Russian nightmares resonating around the world, from Pussy Riot to the Bolotnaya Square case, from the law against foreign adoptions to the law on “foreign agents,” from the dissertation scandals to pressure on the Ministry of Education and Science. But because modern economics, like any science, in fact has no nationality – it is international. And the persecution of Guriyev is a powerful blow against science; Russia loses its reputation in this field of the humanities. I will not be surprised if the next ones to fall under the hammer or experience insane pressure will be other truly professional bodies that work for the government – the Higher Economics School or the Academy of National Economy. And Guriyev himself is declared a “foreign agent” because his wife works in Paris.

Further development of events will clarify a lot: Guriyev was close to Dmitry Medvedev at a high level, especially early in his term, and if the prime minister cannot defend him, if the economics community knowing Guriyev’s worth does not show solidarity, then in that case the best scientists must prepare for emigration, and those who are in “Russian Orthodox sociology” or “Chekist [KGB] economics” will prevail.

The country will not be better off for sure. It is moving in confident steps toward the Third World.