Streetwise Professor

June 2, 2013

Techcrunch or Techdunce? Clueless on Skolkovo

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 10:18 am

Tech writers are supposed to be clued into what’s on the cutting edge, but Mike Butcher writing on Skolkovo for Techcrunch is so far behind the wave it’s hilarious.  His piece reads like a 2009 press release:

So, in a typically Russian approach to the problem, it’s come up with Skolkovo, a vast new science-based city, to catapult its economy into a new era of technology and innovation. The Skolkovo Innovation Center will be a planned high technology business area with its own set of laws, designed to encourage science and technology companies. The 400 hectare site is predicted to house over 20,000 people permanently, with another 10,000 commuting in to work. In other words, this is a massive project on a typically Russian scale. But in an untypical breakwith the past the whole project is being run by a specially created non-profit, the Skolkovo Foundation.

Skolkovo was a joke from the get-go, as I wrote about at its inception: a government-directed Silicon Valley is a contradiction in terms, but oh-so-Russian.  But even overlooking the fundamental defects in the concept, anyone paying the slightest bit of attention-which is a group which obviously does not include Mike Butcher-knows that Skolkovo is under an unrelenting attack from the siloviki, and most notably from Alexander Bastrykin’s Investigative Committee, which is leading the campaign against anything remotely liberal or viewed in paranoid siloviki minds as connected with the opposition.  The war against Skolkovo is a war on Medvedev by proxy, and is a rather prominent indicator of Russia’s political trajectory.

Not that you’d learn that reading Techcrunch.

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  1. I’m not sure the Skolkovo idea was doomed from the get go. Didn’t China do something similar on a much larger scale in Shenzhen?

    Comment by aaa — June 2, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

  2. @aaa It probably was. But they really wanted to do something good. The thing is, as always, they had no clue how does that get done.

    But I can understand some of the motivations from the Russian side, which wants to erect “the tallest spire” in the world in Skolkovo. I also understand what CISCO, Microsoft, Intel, etc. want – qualified but cheap labor under privileged terms. But what does MIT want from this? How could it advise something so overwhelmingly idiotic and help to give mere appearances…

    Comment by MJ — June 2, 2013 @ 10:46 pm

  3. A MJSounds like a neo soviet status deal – aka Novo Sibirsk lite. As regard MIT – hey were talking consulting gigs here!

    Comment by sotos — June 3, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

  4. It is no wonder that, in a recent survey by F.O.M., a major polling agency, thirty-seven per cent of eighteen-to-thirty-year-old Russians said they would want to leave Russia for good. (Several days after the survey was published, the pollster, whose main client is the Kremlin administration, removed the report from its Web site.)

    Who is gonna even want to work there? Don’t worry about losing all the young Russians though, I’m sure there are plenty of Tajiks who would be happy to fill in for them. And start a race war.

    Comment by lulz — June 4, 2013 @ 11:27 am

  5. @lulz-What’s the over-under on F.O.M. being declared a “foreign agent”? Interesting re removal of the survey.

    The removal provides a perfect example of why authoritarian systems become brittle. The denial of any bad news insulates the Supreme Leader and his creatures from feedback about reality. That inevitably proves fatal. Not immediately, mind you, but inevitably.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 4, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

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