Emigration of Creative Class: Will Human Potential Fall Into Decline?
The enthusiasm around Russia’s “creative class” has deteriorated into disappointment. We now see a negativity about this group of creators, intellects and technical artists who are being blamed for disloyalty and conformism.
These accusations seem unfair. What is a creative class supposed to do if not justify its name? We need creative people to solve problems that are too much for those who cannot think beyond convention. Creative people have a natural inclination to look for a loophole rather than to keep knocking on a locked door.
Creative people don’t follow radical slogans. A review of the posters at Moscow’s recent rallies reveals a lack of straightforward claims. Most of them are masked by ambiguity and hidden behind witty and subtle wordplay.
The creative class will never throw itself under a police baton. Its tactics are frustration and unpredictability. This is what happened in Moscow in December 2010. The crowds went into the streets when nobody expected them to. The movement did not go any further although everybody expected it to. Surprise is the essence of any creative product, be it advertising or a blog. Those who understand a creative person’s disdain for an old idea know they won’t be around for the fifth or sixth rally march – if only because there is nothing new and the thrill is gone.
The creative class might be inconsistent but only when it comes to creativity. When it faces indifference or aggression from the officials it will look for an alternative route. These people have many names: fifth-wave émigré, silent émigré or incomplete émigré.
The Russian government boasts about reducing emigration from 100,000 people annually in the 1990s to 30,000–40,000 in the 2000s. The number of emigrants in the 1990s – Russian Jews, Germans and Greeks who were leaving to find their roots – eventually ran low. The new wave has economic and work-related rather than ethnic reasons to move. For the most part, they are young and well educated professionals who run from a boorish Russian reality in search of self-fulfillment. They leave their country for a short time and do not see themselves as emigrants before they fully adapt to a new environment. Formally, they still keep their Russian citizenship and are therefore not included in emigration records. But in fact, they already live, work and pay taxes abroad.
The good life has gone to their head, some will say, unfairly. Credit cards, cell phones and high-speed internet are no longer luxuries. A creative person of the 1990s was a well-paid professional while now the creative niche is competitive and overfilled.
At the same time, today’s creative class – those born in the 1980s – is the last relatively numerous generation in Russia. Sometimes it is called the final gift of the Soviet Union. There was a huge demographic chasm in the 1990s, which implies that the creative class being slowly pushed out will inevitably add to an overall decline in human potential.
New High School Standards: Less Ideology, but Controversy Remains
The new standards for a high school’s curriculum no longer require the ideology course, Russia in the World. Nevertheless, this year’s draft has sparked as much debate as the previous one.
A group led by Mikhail Kovalchuk from the Kurchatov Institute, a multi-disciplinary research centre, was tasked to revise national education standards after it became clear that the public and the government would never reach an agreement on any previous versions drafted by Russian Education Academy Experts headed by Alexander Kondakov, head of Prosveshcheniye Publishers.
Kondakov’s version was criticized by many, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who said the experts had “overdone it” by emphasizing physical fitness and patriotism.
Although Kovalchuk’s appointment raised eyebrows among educators due to his lack of experience in education, he has at least succeeded in relieving tensions between the interested parties. Still, at this point his group has not managed to achieve an accord even within itself. Many experts boycotted the only full meeting, which was attended by a new member, Major General Viktor Glotov, who demanded military training be reintroduced at schools.
Kovalchuk’s group seems to have yielded to public pressure and abandoned the idea of limiting mandatory courses to three subjects – basic safety, physical fitness and Russia in the World), while giving high school students the opportunity of choosing from a range of electives, those needed for future careers. Six mandatory subjects are listed now, including mathematics, literacy (Russian and literature) and a foreign language. Russia in the World, which many critics expected to be simply patriotic brainwashing, has been replaced with history.
The new draft still proposes two levels of training in each subject. The number of required courses is reduced to nine, but hours per week remain unchanged at 37. This approach will give students more time to read for their Unified State Examinations (USE) in the core subjects, Deputy Education Minister Igor Remorenko said.
Although the new standards have not been published yet, it is clear that they will come under as much criticism as the previous version. While literacy teachers led the offensive last time, demanding that Russian should be reinstated as a mandatory subject, physicists and biologists are likely to be outraged. Although the writers of the new standards proposed developing a general science course for those who do not select physics, chemistry or biology, many educators still believe that separate courses are preferable.
“High school education has been rehashed to train students for the USE, and this is destroying our education,” said Vladimir Chudov, director of Moscow’s Lyceum 1502.
Humanities teachers also have reason to be discontent, as literature and Russian will be merged into literacy.
“I don’t think we should keep the entire range of courses, because most students tend to ignore some of them anyway,” argued Yaroslav Kuzminov, rector of the Higher School of Economics.
The Education Ministry is reluctant to rework the document again, although they say they are open to proposals.
Hungary Withdraws from Nabucco
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said MOL Group is pulling out of Nabucco and will join Russia’s South Stream.
The New York Times cites Nabucco spokesman Christian Dolezal as saying that there had been no indication from MOL or from its subsidiary, FGSZ, which is a shareholder in Nabucco, that MOL was pulling out. “As far as we know, MOL Group’s position and commitment toward the Nabucco project remains unchanged,” Dolezal said.
Nabucco, intended to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas, was to distribute gas from the Caspian region and possibly from Iran and Iraq. Its participants, with 16.67 percent stakes each, are Austria’s OMV, Hungarian MOL, Bulgarian Bulgargaz, Romanian Transgaz, Turkish Botas and German RWE. Investment was planned at 7.9 billion euros, but unofficial estimates put it at 12-15 billion euros due to growing metal and pipe prices.
The launch has been postponed several times and is now set for 2017, mostly because the shareholders have not found reliable gas suppliers. Europe cannot reach an agreement with Iran due to political tensions, while Turkmenistan continues to stall. Also, there is no delimitation agreement for the Caspian Sea, from which the bulk of the gas was to be supplied.
Viktor Orban said the pipeline’s costs keep growing, hindering decisions on its capacity and length. In March, most shareholders opted for cutting the 3,900 km pipeline by almost a half. Called Nabucco West, the pipeline to Austria is to be built from the Turkish-Bulgarian border. They also considered halving its capacity.
Hungary has decided to join Russia’s South Stream project, which has no gas supply problems.
“The Russians are getting more and more active” with respect to South Stream, Mr. Orban said as quoted by The New York Times. As a result, he said, there were “very simple economic reasons” for Hungary to join the South Stream project.
“Orban’s statement is designed primarily for Brussels,” said Konstantin Simonov, head of Russia’s National Energy Security Fund. The EU accused Hungary of trampling democracy when the Hungarian government started changing the Constitution.
“The only firm agreement for 10 billion cubic meters from the Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan will not go forward,” he said. “Azerbaijan has indicated that it is only interested in projects in which it has a controlling stake, which is why it is advocating the TANAP project to link Azerbaijan and Turkey and then on to the EU.”
Without guaranteed supply contracts, Nabucco cannot sign delivery contracts with consumers and hence cannot receive bank financing.
The key variable is gas distribution from the Caspian region, said head of East European Gas Analysis, Mikhail Korchemkin.
“Caspian gas will definitely be supplied to the EU via Turkey,” he said adding that names do not matter. It is more cost effective to deliver cheaper Caspian gas than to transport Yamal gas to Europe. “Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan could sell gas cheaper than Gazprom and still get higher profits,” Korchemkin said.
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