Russia’s New Challenges in the Scientific and Humanitarian Sphere

On Wednesday, October 4, the 20th Annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club continued. On this day, four sessions (including a special session) and a meeting of the participants with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk took place.

The seventh session was dedicated to science and education in the era of confrontation. Science has no borders, but each country must use scientific achievements for its own development and prosperity, the session participants stated. The situation that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union was a clear manifestation of Western intellectual colonialism. The destruction of Russian industry in the 1990s led to a lack of demand for scientists in Russia; as a result, they went abroad to pursue opportunities. Russia’s task now is to ensure that scientists, including young ones, remain in the country. This requires both material incentives and a sense of demand. This is provided, first of all, by the real demand for industrial development.

This is confirmed by the example of China, which ranks first in the BRICS in terms of investment in science. However, the driver of science in China, unlike Russia, is business. Today, Russian industrial companies are ready to invest in science, but they still don’t know how, noted one of the speakers. It takes a lot of work to restructure their thinking. The experience of China, which has managed to make a breakthrough in microelectronics in the past ten years, suggests that it is never too late to invest in science.

At the same time, one should not rely solely on one’s own strengths in the development of science and technology. As China, India and other countries succeed, Western markets will begin to close in front of them. It is necessary to build scientific and technological alliances with friendly states today.

The eighth, open session (the broadcast recording is available on our website) was dedicated to Russia as a state-civilization. Andrey Iserov, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, discussed the formation of Russian national identity and summarized that being a state-civilization means living without looking up to any proverbial Duchess Maria Alekseevna (essentially without seeking Western approval). According to Alexander Prokhanov, editor-in-chief of Zavtra newspaper, Russian civilization is amazingly diverse in its array of peoples, spaces, languages, cultures and ethnic groups, striving to exist like a symphony, and the Russian dream is the idea of ​​the importance of social justice. Russia is open to all humanity, wanting good not only for itself, but for the whole world, Prokhanov is convinced.

We are facing a clash of civilizations, said Pierre de Gaulle, chairman of the Foundation for International Peace and Prosperity and the Mouvement Internationale Russophile France & Francophonie association. America has never recognised Russia's right to independent development, and the ground for the current armed conflict in Europe was prepared by the United States and NATO. But Russia will prosper independently of the Anglo-Saxon world, promoting its identity and traditional values, he emphasised.

Konstantin Bogomolov, artistic director at Malaya Bronnaya Theatre, spoke in a similar way. According to him, the Western empire has always been ruthless towards other peoples, and what was foreign to it never had value. This approach was also applied to Russia, but Russia is difficult to enslave, since it is too independent. Russian people are constantly in search; a Russian man, contrary to stereotypes, is an individualist - and this entails his refusal to become subordinated to the West, Bogomolov believes. Speaking about Russian political culture, he noted that Russians vote not for a political programme, but for a civilizational path, therefore they are ready to forgive the authorities for minor mistakes, but will not put up with the wrong civilizational choice.

Aleksandar Rakovic, chief researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History of Serbia in Belgrade, dedicated his speech to the identity of Russia as part of the Orthodox Slavic civilization, noting that the Russian world unites all cultures and religions within the borders of the Russian Federation.

During the ninth session, the participants of the Annual Meeting discussed Russian society in the era of transformation. A year and a half into the special military operation, it demonstrates stability, which was unexpected for the West, which planned to destabilise it and carry out a regime change, one of the speakers noted.

According to another participant, new conditions required a new quality of interaction between the federal centre, the regions, and municipal authorities. But Russia turned out to be ready for this, because many mechanisms have been worked out in the last 5-7 years. “We have learned to implement large projects,” he emphasised. Restoring Mariupol or constructing a water pipeline from the Rostov region to Donetsk in the shortest possible time would have been impossible without the experience gained in recent years.

Another speaker raised the issue of the relationship between the nation-state and the “world society” that was being built in the era of globalisation. It was assumed that over time the borders between states would become more and more transparent, but today we are dealing with the construction of crude physical barriers between countries, he noted.

At the same time, some features of the “world society” are preserved: sports, science, and entertainment still remain global. But, if earlier an athlete could be a patriot of his country, while simultaneously belonging to the global community of the world of sports, now he is not allowed to do this. States become “containers” within which societies exist, and demand loyalty to themselves in a new way.

Speaking about the readiness of Russian society for change, one of the participants emphasised that the problem lies in the pace of these changes. According to him, revolutions are always traumatic because they do not give the majority of people the opportunity to adapt with their sense of time. The same applies to migration - this topic was repeatedly raised during the meeting in the context of the development in the Eurasian space. It should not be “revolutionary”, undermining the foundations and traditions of the indigenous population.

On the third day of the conference, the participants met with another high-ranking government official, Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk. He spoke about the dynamics and prospects for the development of integration processes in Eurasia in the context of modern global transformations, as well as about the work during the year of Russia as chair of the EAEU bodies to form a common image of the future and determine the vectors of the strategic development of the Eurasian macro-region. The Deputy Prime Minister also answered questions from participants about the development of international trade and economic relations of the Russian Federation.

The third day of the Annual meeting ended with a special session, titled “The Post-Soviet Space: Lessons of the Past, Contours of the Future”. Particular attention was paid to Central Asia, the geopolitical importance of which has increased sharply over the last year and a half. In the Eurasian space, the destruction of old trade and logistics chains and the creation of new ones will continue, one of the experts noted. Two axes are being built: west-east and north-south, and the West, striving to limit the influence of Russia and Iran on these axes, will actively fight with them for infrastructure - physical and digital.

Meanwhile, over the years of independence, the countries of Central Asia have determined their true friends, one of the speakers emphasised. The states of the region have never rejected civilizational and cultural ties with Russia, and today it is their most important partner in the field of economics and security.

This might seem natural, given the close historical ties between Russia and the countries of the region. However, after the collapse of the USSR, many - especially in Russia - made the mistake of hoping that the common Soviet past would automatically serve as a factor of unification. It turned out that connections needed to be painstakingly rebuilt.

The Central Asian states will not allow themselves to be treated as an object of international politics, another participant emphasised. They saw what happened to those countries of the post-Soviet space, which, following the “colour revolutions,” became conductors of other power’s interests, and do not want to repeat their fate. Therefore, they soberly assess the sharply increased diplomatic activity of the United States and the EU in Central Asia, and are guided by their own vision of the priorities of their development.