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[cdn-nucl-l] Russian Scientists March to White House
Posted in the Moscow Times on June 28, 2002 and at:
Scientists March to White House
By Angela Charlton
The Associated Press
Igor Tabakov / MT
Scientists rallying at the White House on Thursday after a three-day
march to call for an increase in government funding.
Hundreds of chemists, biologists and nuclear scientists, desperate to
support their families and feeling forgotten by Russia's post-Soviet
leadership, crowded at the government's headquarters Thursday to plead
for better wages and research funding.
Anis Gariyev once enjoyed a generous salary and the respect of his
neighbors as a chemical engineer at the Pushchino Research Center in
Pushchino outside Moscow. Now his 1,500 ruble ($48) monthly salary
leaves him among the community's most destitute.
Going to work sometimes depresses Gariyev because several of the offices
in his corridor stand empty, abandoned by colleagues who left for more
lucrative employment, such as working as a grocery store cashier.
Gariyev, 55, and about 40 other scientists and graduate students marched
to the White House for three days to reach Thursday's rally from
Pushchino, 130 kilometers away.
"My feet are tired but the trip was worth it," he said. "It's for the
future of Russia."
The scientists, some wearing white lab coats, were joined in their
protest by hundreds of Communist supporters carrying red banners. They
joined in the criticism of the government for the reduction in spending
on science and research since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Most of the scientists were middle-aged or older, reflecting the low
number of young people joining the profession in recent years because of
its miserly pay.
The Soviet Union boasted having the largest number of scientists in the
world, researchers responsible for the Soviet space program, advances in
superconductor research and vaccines -- and its vast nuclear, biological
and chemical weapons programs.
But the generous state support for science withered after 1991,
prompting many researchers to seek jobs in the private sector or abroad.
More than half a million scientists have left Russia since the Soviet
Union collapsed, the chairman of the Russian Academy of Sciences' trade
unions said last week.
President Vladimir Putin has made rejuvenating Russia's scientific
establishment a priority. In March, he gave a speech urging government
scientists to streamline their research, focusing on promising new
The speakers at Thursday's rally said the government has only partially
followed through on Putin's promises, earmarking just 35 billion rubles
($1.1 billion) instead of the 49.5 billion rubles ($1.5 billion) pledged
They said they're ready to modernize, but need money for that too -- not
to mention money for basics such as pencils and beakers.