Russia’s High Tech Economy: Dubna’s Difficult Climb

What is the connection between Dubna and Russia’s plans for high-tech diversification?


According to news sources, Dubna has recently been designated as a free economic zone, which means Russian high-tech companies are exempt from custom duties and pay lower taxes. The government wants to encourage its transformation into a symbol of Russia’s high-tech diversification. A new town is being built on the left bank of the Volga River where Anatoly Karachinsky, head of IBS (Russia’s largest IT company) plans to move in hundreds of computer programmers.

What is the historical significance of this important “new town”?

Dubna was built after the close of World War II and following the death of Stalin, it became the home of a Warsaw Pact-inspired international institute for nuclear physics. Under close surveillance by the KGB, Dubna offered scientists and engineers liberties and privileges that were unheard of for most Soviet citizens. With the demise of the Soviet Union, there came a drastic reduction of funds formerly reserved for science. And still the Dubna research institute survived. According to Yuri Oganesyan, head of the nuclear-reactions laboratory:

“The science survived plagues and wars, why should it not have survived the collapse of the Soviet Union? Even when the cash dried up, experiments went on.”

Due to Dubna’s protection by security services, its construction offices and military plants have survived the 1990s pillage of criminal gangs.

What is the future of Dubna and Russian high-tech diversification?

According to the mayor of Dubna, Valery Prokh:

“We have removed all the barriers, and in two years registered 2,000 new companies, of which 700 are still working today. One such business built the first commercial accelerator in Russia, using it to make filters that separate blood plasma from red cells.”

It is Russia’s all-encompassing bureaucracy, weak legal system and corrupt culture that is hindering Russia’s rise as a high tech power. It is not money or ideas. Scientific innovations face a formidable roadblock because the chain of events that turn a scientific innovation into a marketable product simply does not exist in Russia. The system must be unshackled and private companies must be allowed to operate freely before this chain of events can exist.

So here’s to you, Dubna, and to all the dreams for Russia that you represent.