More on the Collapse of Science in Putin’s Russia

To put it simply, Russia’s best and brightest are morons, hardly surprising given the horrifying facts in our lead editorial about Russia’s ordinary citizens as child and women killers.  Professor Konstantin Sonin, writing in the Moscow Times:

On Saturday, pages from the English version of the Russian Academy of Sciences web site contained several amusing translation errors. For example, the renowned Institute for Protein Research was incorrectly named “Squirrel Institute.” (The Russian word for protein, belok, is similar to the word for squirrel, belka.)

Bloggers — many of whom are employed by Russian Academy of Sciences institutions — did not know whether to laugh or cry. In fact, there were a number of amusing mistakes, all of which seemed to be the result of running the Russian text through online translators and then failing to edit the result.

The sad part is that these mistakes went unnoticed for quite some time. This episode was just one more blow to the reputation of the academy’s leadership, especially following Russian Academy of Sciences president Yury Osipov’s recent comment that there is no compelling need for Russian scholars to know English.

This episode highlights a problem deeper than a mere oversight by the web site’s administrators. During the summer, I attended a conference organized by the European University that brought together highly accomplished scholars and scientists to discuss the future of Russia’s sciences. At the conclusion of the conference, the participants attempted to pass a resolution reflecting the overall consensus. Not surprisingly, there were many hotly debated arguments among the participants, many of whom were distinguished Russian scholars working both in the country and abroad.

Despite heroic efforts by the conference moderator, that discussion continued through correspondence for another 90 days before finally resulting in a statement that was published in Vedomosti, Troitsky Variant and These three media outlets have spent more time and space than others discussing the fate of Russian science. But the only reference the document makes to the Russian Academy of Sciences is a passing remark about the need to give the academy more funding.

Why were the participants unable to reach a consensus regarding the academy? The answer is simple: In addition to bringing world-class research centers in mathematics, chemistry and biology into a unified structure, the Russian Academy of Sciences also includes institutions whose existence and funding cannot be justified. For example, in the field of economics — my area of expertise — the academy includes a significant number of institutions where not one scholar has published research in a journal of international standing.

In the end, of course, the words “Squirrel Institute” on the Russian Academy of Sciences web site will not in any way discredit the Institute for Protein Research because the true reputation of that institution derives from the scientific accomplishments of its own scientists and researchers.

But by listing all of the academy’s institutions on a single web site, it puts serious, reputable organizations and those that truly deserve to be called “squirrel institutes” on the same level.


38 responses to “More on the Collapse of Science in Putin’s Russia

  1. Looks like The Russian Academy of Sciences hired the same Russian-to-English translator as our own La Russophobka: Google Translate. Just type in:

    “Институт Королева”

    And you will get: “Institute Queen”, instead of “Korolev Institute”.

    But since the Google founder, Seregey Brin, is a Russian-Americans, we can blame Google’s mistakes on Russians.

    • Mr. Brin is just an American not any “Russian-American”; I don’t think he holds a Russian passport, so what makes him “Russian?”

      And it’s not his fault he had a misfortune to be born in Russia. He is not responsible for moronic Russian”translators” who graduated from some Moscow school of foreign languages and now think they speak English. Or simply bought their diploma.

      • He is Russian Jew residing in US, so USian as Dmitry says. Hugo Chaves and Fidel are Americans.

        • @He is Russian Jew residing in US, so USian as Dmitry says. Hugo Chaves and Fidel are Americans.

          “USian” is not a real word and Dima is a complete idiot (why do you even reading his idiocies?). Anyway,

          Google’s Brin: Anti-Semitism forced my family out of Russia

          Mr. Brin, who was born in Moscow and emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1979 at the age of six, has been critical of Russia in the past. In a 2002 interview with California-based Red Herring, he dubbed the corruption-plagued country “Nigeria with snow” and asked why a “bunch of criminal cowboys” should control the world’s energy supply.

          • Robert, let me adress you as one linguist to another.

            You don’t know a thing about what the word “word” means, and have absolutely no idea what words “are real” there in English language, and what “are not”.

            Wouldn’t you be so bad a linguist, you’d understand that when I say a word, and you understand it’s meaning (as well as millions of other people on the net), this word definitely “exists”, no matter if you like it or not.

            USian is such a word. Check google.

        • Mr. Brin is an American citizen, we don’t care where one comes from originally. He left Russia as a child specifically to escape anti-Semitism and discrimination. Russia cannot make any claim on him

          • Russia does not. This site is not called USianphobe.

            • Well, a lot of posters here at least strongly imply that. Your buddy Lazslo, for example. And please knock it off with this USian stuff. The English language is rich enough to allow you to find good standrad words instead of resorting to ridiculous slang or jargon.

              • RV, “USian” just demonstrates how disrespect returns to you when you show disrespect. You have never scolded any of the posters for using such slang/ jargon words and pejoratives as “Rasha”, “RuSSia”, “Moscal” etc. As such, I don’t think you have any grounds to demand Dmitry to “knock it off” with something. You see, you can expect someone to do what you request them to do if you command respect with them, and you cannot command respect if you show disrespect.

                • @You have never scolded any of the posters for using such slang/ jargon words and pejoratives as “Rasha”, “RuSSia”,

                  And you know how this originated? From an Internet campaign of “eSStonia” few years ago by hordes of the Dima-like braindead Nashi zombies.

                  Even as there’s only one “s” in “Estonia” (and a souble “ss” in “Russia”), and despite the 1st Russian and 2nd Russian Divisions of the SS (29th and 30th Grenadier) as well as several Russian police/SD units.

                  A commander of one notorious Russian SS security unit was even given the Order of Red Star and a promotion when he eventually defected to the NKVD Partisans. His name was Obersturmbannführer Vladimir Gil Rodyonov (Гиль-Родионов). Fun fact: while in the SS, this Russian geroy’s hobby was physically exterminating the Belarusian peasants who didn’t know the written Russian (which meant most of them at the time).

                • Actually, the word moscal is used in many languages of many countries for muscovites. This comment I found will explain:

                  There is no ‘Old Russia’. There is was a Rus (now Ukraine) and Moskva (now Russia) which up until the 18th Century retained those names. If you would like more information on this subject, I would suggest that you search the web for the ‘Beauplan’ maps which were created in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. These were considered the best maps in all of Europe and were used by all of the European royal houses for commerce, religious, education, and of course military purposes. What you know as ‘Great Russia’ was known as ‘Moskva’ and was inhabited by ‘Moskali’ at the time. What you know as ‘Little Russia’ was known as ‘Ukraine’ and was inhabited by ‘Rusiny’ (or in Latin Ruthenians). It is clear that the true Rusyns are the Ukrainians and that the people to the North are ‘Moskali’. The Moskali under Peter the Great then Catherine the Great wanted a more European culture and history and not until the 18th century fully became ‘Rossijany’. The Russiny did not want to be confused with the Moskali and so began calling themselves by their nickname ‘Ukraijintci’. Confusion surrounding this ethnic nomenclature can still be found in the Zakarpattia region (Zakarpatska Oblast) of Ukraine where people still call themselves Rusinny (and some even Rossijany) but speak perfect modern Ukrainian

                  • Well, LES, skip the 2-screener. In Russian and, as well as in the common use modern Ukrainian, Moscal is a derogatory term for the Russians, and you are using it as such. It is similar to a Russian’s using the Russian language pejorative term Zhid to refer to a Jew. It would be offensive, even though, in some languages, this word actually means “a Jew”, without any negative connotation.

              • RV, all is reciprocal. Usage of ethnic slur is also reciprocal. I was not the first person on this blog using it.

                Though it was not too right of me, of course. But it’s what you get in return.

                I have just seen the AT message under your post – the message perfectly explains what I was going to say.

                I’ll be using USian less, but I need to see first wonderful commentators like Bohdan and other such return to “good standrad words “.

                • Well, I call on everyone to show more civility. As to this USian thing, I had no idea that it was a slur. So, if you intended it as such, you have misfired as far as I was concerned. I just don’t like slang and jargon. Perhaps, it’s due to my middle age.

                  • I don’t use it “against” you, or “against” anybosy else. It’s just the way discourse works – you read the language and then you start using it.

                    Wouldn’t I see the difference between “USians” and “Americans”, I would, of course, use the more conventional of the two. Just to make my posts more convenient for reading.

                    But I do see much difference in things signified by the two words, so I use the word I find fits better the meaning I want it to convey.

                    As every bit of language, this word may be a profanity in the borders of some discourse. Profanity is “socially constructed or interpreted” as such. Right now, I believe I do not use the word “USian” as a profanity.

    • Yes, but unlike you (who seem to be a treasonous resident of the US) Sergey Brin is a patriotic American, and criticises both the authoritarianism and anti-semitism of Russia frequently.

  2. Here are some more:

    # Institute of socioeconomic research of wounds
    # Geology institute of wounds
    # Acoustics institute of machines in case of Samara state aerospace university of them. S. P. queen
    # Sankt-Petersburg at home of scientists of them. A. M. Gorki
    # Tongue institute, literatures and history of Karelian research centre

  3. Manfred Steifschwanz

    Come on, phobes. Aren’t you clever or courageous enough to conquer Russia in one fell swoop? I’m sure Putin is wetting his pants as he ponders on the powers of a bunch of preposterous Amurrrkans! What’s keeping you from taking serious action?

  4. BTW, 2 NASA astronauts came back safely from the ISS to Kazakhstan today. Yesterday they had minor problems with some sensors in locks of the Soyuz spaceship they use, so they had to postpone the come back.

    • Collapse in science in Putin’s Russia is clearly verified by three recent Fields medals in mathematics, won by Russians Okunkov, Perelman, and Smirnov.

      • You don’t say such things on this blog.

      • World’s Best Universities: Top 400

        Posted September 21, 2010

        US + UK are the first 17 {and plenty more}. I found a russian one:

        #93 Lomonosov Moscow State University

        Oops. I found another TWO!

        #210 St. Petersburg University

        #375 Novosibirsk State University

        PS Are you proud that three Russian Intelligentsia were missed in the culling of the Russian Intelligentsia by the savage uncivilized pagan barbarians in the kremlin – for centuries?

        Are you proud of the fact that the uncivilized pagan barbarians in the kremlin culled the intelligentsia of the countries that the uncivilized pagan barbarians in the kremlin occupied and enslaved in their ongoing GENOCIDES {FOR CENTURIES} – jut like they did in Katyn, Bykivnia, etc ?

        All early drafts of the U.N. genocide convention included social and political groups in its definition. But one hand that wasn’t in the room guided the pen. The Soviet delegation vetoed any definition of genocide that might include the actions of its leader, Joseph Stalin. The Allies, exhausted by war, were loyal to their Soviet allies – to the detriment of subsequent generations.

        • In Russia, there is a large number of world-class research institutes that are also involved in education, at least at the grad. student level, and that are not included in any top-universities list, such as, for example
          Steklov Math. Institute
          Physics Institute of Academy of Science
          Institute of Physical Problems

          • The same is true of the U.S., also having a large number of superior research centers and having graduate students and plenty of post-docs. E.g., Scripps, Salk, Los Alamos, etc. I am sure Russia has a number of outstanding scientists, a country with such large population would have many talented people as a matter of statistics.

            The state of scientific research cannot be measured by that; I think the best measure is the quotations index, a number of patents and the number of scientific journals and papers.

            • I think the top400 reflects “perception” of the Western scientific community.

              The quotations index also relates quite remotely to scientific success, unfortunately. Any non-English speaking country will be making worse, just because of the translation costs.

              Tou may find as much scientific “trash” originally published in English as you wish, but to get a translation from Chinese, for example, a work must really be worth it. Same with quotations – you may well quote a trash article that contains numbers you use, but you won’t just meet any trash articles translated.

              Number of patents is another thing that works very bad – the patent systems differ much, and for Russia, e.g. many US patents would not work, and vice versa.

              I believe only the acceptance of the world scientific community in 20-30 years perspective really shows

  5. Manfred Steifschwanz

    I bet these three Gentlemen meet at least one of the below criteria and I kindly invite the phobes to specify exactly which one(s):

    a) They are Americans; their alleged Russian descent
    is a Kremlin forgery under the auspices of you-know-

    b) They are Russians all right but, thanks to you-know-who,
    they managed to snatch the discoveries/contributions
    from the phobes who, therefore, are totally bonkers

    c) Same as (b) except the last part. But, hell, Russians have
    never added anything whatsoever of scientific significance.
    These field medals are a sick joke.

    Come on, phobes! Off you go…

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