07MOSCOW3775, ANDREY FURSENKO: THE PHYSICIST TURNED MINISTER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW3775 2007-08-01 13:39 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO8069
PP RUEHHM RUEHPB
DE RUEHMO #3775/01 2131339
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 011339Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2595
INFO RUEHZN/EST COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 003775 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR INR/B AND EUR/RUS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/06/2017 
TAGS: KIRF KPAO PGOV PINR RS SCUL SOCI TSPL
SUBJECT: ANDREY FURSENKO: THE PHYSICIST TURNED MINISTER 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 551 
     B. MOSCOW 1974 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affairs Dan Russell.  Reasons: 1.4 (b,d) 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY.  As Minister of Science and Education since 
2004, Andrey Fursenko has evoked a storm of controversy with 
his efforts to reform Russia's tradition-bound science and 
education establishments.  Fursenko is passionate about 
modernizing Russian science to make it more competitive and 
market oriented.  He has pushed hard for Russian investment 
in nanotechnology, and he is in an ongoing battle for reform 
in the Academy of Sciences.  Despite periodic rumors of his 
imminent resignation, Fursenko appears likely to remain in 
firm control of his ministry for as long as Putin remains 
president.  With a long career as a research physicist in the 
Soviet period, Fursenko became an entrepreneur in the 1990s, 
founding companies that specialized in developing commercial 
applications for science.  Fursenko entered government 
service to push reforms.  He will likely return to the 
private sector when his tenure ends.  END SUMMARY 
 
-------------------------------- 
Early Life -- a Soviet Physicist 
-------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) Andrey Fursenko was born in 1949 into one of 
Leningrad's elite academic families.  His father is Aleksandr 
Fursenko, a historian of American history and a full member 
of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS).  Fursenko's early 
interests were in the hard sciences.  In 1990, he received 
the highest degree offered by the Soviet academic system:  a 
Doctor of Sciences in physics and mathematics.  From 1971 
through 1991, he worked at the Ioffe Physical Technical 
Institute, one of the leading RAS institutions for 
fundamental research in physics.  Politically, as a student, 
Fursenko was an active member of the Komsomol, the Communist 
youth organization.  Fursenko eventually became a 
full-fledged member of the Communist Party, which he left 
only after it was banned in August 1991. 
 
--------------- 
Fursenko's Rise 
--------------- 
 
3. (U) In 1990-1991, Fursenko along with his Ioffe colleagues 
Yuriy Kovalchuk and Vladimir Yakunin founded several 
companies specializing in the development of applied uses for 
fundamental scientific discoveries.  To support these new 
companies, they even created their own bank.  (Yakunin today 
is at the helm of Russian Railroads.)  Fursenko's rise was in 
part the result of his personal relationship with Vladimir 
Putin, which began in St. Petersburg in 1993.  In 1995 
Fursenko joined the "Our Home is Russia" party, when Putin 
was chair of the St. Petersburg branch.  In 1996, together 
with Yuriy Kovalchuk and six others, Putin and Fursenko 
formed Ozero ("The Lake"), a dacha cooperative society that 
allowed rising members of the new elite to work and relax 
together as well. 
 
--------------------------------- 
Minister of Education and Science 
--------------------------------- 
 
4. (U) Fursenko entered government service in 2001, when he 
was named a Deputy Minister of Industry, Science, and 
Technology.  When Fradkov replaced Kasyanov as Prime Minister 
in March 2004, President Putin appointed Fursenko to be 
Minister in the newly established Ministry of Education and 
Science.  Fursenko later told the press that his appointment 
had come as a surprise, adding that "I am much closer to 
matters of industry than to questions of education." 
Fursenko quickly set about an extensive program of reforms 
that continue to shake the Russian education and scientific 
establishments.  "You have been placed here to destroy all 
that has not been destroyed already," complained one caller 
in a passionate comment to Ekho Moskvy radio where Fursenko 
was giving an interview in 2004. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
The Minister and His Initiatives: Science 
----------------------------------------- 
 
5. (U) Fursenko has sought to increase competitiveness in 
science by closing unproductive research institutes.  Early 
this year, he stressed that "only 50 scientific research 
institutes are engaged in active scientific activity" while 
"in another 50, we can find some active working groups. 
However, there are 450 institutes in the Russian Federation." 
 Fursenko noted that the RAS opened 30 new institutes in the 
1990s but that this only increased the administrative 
 
MOSCOW 00003775  002 OF 003 
 
 
apparatus and service personnel, not the number of 
discoveries.  He complains that the RAS has wasted funds, and 
some institutes must close.  To increase competitiveness, 
Fursenko has encouraged more applied science.  He also aims 
to change the way science is funded.  According to Fursenko, 
over 70 percent of the funds for science come from the 
private sector in Japan and in the USA.  The Russian private 
sector today only
provides 40 percent of science funding. 
 
---------------------------- 
The Minister and the Academy 
---------------------------- 
 
6. (U) Perhaps the greatest controversy surrounding Fursenko 
has been his conflict with the RAS (REF A).  Reform of the 
RAS gets much attention because it is the main recipient of 
state funds for research, receiving a third of all scientific 
expenditures of the federal treasury.  Fursenko believes, the 
government must be in charge of which projects receive 
funding and must have direct control.  For the RAS, this 
means a cut in funding and loss of budgetary power as well as 
control over property and other assets.  Fursenko's reforms 
also would lead to a much greater percentage of research 
conducted in universities outside the RAS system, a move that 
also mirrors U.S. and European practice. 
 
------------------------------- 
The Minister and Nanotechnology 
------------------------------- 
 
7. (U) Fursenko is closely identified with Russia's declared 
intent to invest heavily in the development of 
nanotechnology.  President Putin put a spotlight on 
nanotechnology in his 2007 state of the nation address (ref 
B), and Russia has committed to invest billions of dollars in 
research and development.  Nanotechnology, with its many 
potential commercial and military applications, is a prime 
example of what Fursenko has been pushing for since he left 
the Ioffe Institute in 1991:  science with applications to 
the needs of commerce and the national economy. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
The Minister and His Initiatives: Education 
------------------------------------------- 
 
8. (SBU) Fursenko was the major Russian proponent of the May 
2006 bilateral Memorandum of Understanding, which calls for 
greater U.S.-Russia education cooperation and exchange.  As a 
result, the U.S. and Russia Ministry are jointly funding a 
first-ever university partnership program in the Fall 2007. 
 
9. (U) Upon arriving in office, Fursenko inherited the 
process of transitioning Russian higher education from the 
current diplom-kandidat track to a Western style 
Bachelors-Masters-Ph.D system.  This is part of the Bologna 
Process, which seeks to standardize European university 
standards through a "European higher education zone."  Russia 
joined the Bologna Declaration in 2003. 
 
10. (SBU) Fursenko also inherited the Unified State Exam 
(Yedinyi gosudarstvennyi ekhzamen or YeGE), a series of exams 
designed to serve as the primary criterion for entrance into 
higher education institutions.  Subject-based, the YeGE exams 
are similar to Advanced Placement (AP) or SAT-II exams in the 
United States.  First given on a trial basis in 2001, in 2006 
the YeGE was given to more than 1 million high school 
students.  Opponents such as Moscow State University rector 
Viktor Sadovinch argue that the YeGE should be only one 
element of admission.  Fursenko was critical of the YeGE in 
the beginning, but he has become more pro-YeGE with time. 
Putin has signed legislation stating that the YeGE would be 
given throughout the RF starting in 2009, but  the law also 
allows for exceptions whereby universities can admit students 
via other mechanisms. 
 
11. (U) Teaching religion in schools is a controversial 
subject in Russia.  Fursenko has said that he intended to 
introduce the study of religion into schools, but this was 
misinterpreted to mean that Fursenko wanted to bring Orthodox 
Christianity into the classroom.  Fursenko has since 
clarified several times that he supports the teaching of the 
history and culture of world religions, not Orthodox 
Christian instruction.  In fact, Fursenko has been critical 
of the unilateral decision by a number of regions to 
compulsorily teach the fundamentals of Orthodox Christianity. 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
Fursenko, the Man: His Style, and His Politics 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
 
MOSCOW 00003775  003 OF 003 
 
 
12. (SBU) Fursenko is friendly, polite, and urbane.  One 
Russian observer described him as "a real European minister." 
 He projects well on television and generally seeks to 
operate by consensus.  It is said he has a harder side to his 
personality that he only exhibits behind the scenes; he is 
intensely loyal to trusted colleagues such as his deputy 
Dmitriy Livanov, who under a hail of criticism was forced to 
leave his position earlier this year.  Fursenko is fluent in 
English and frequently conducts meetings in English. 
Fursenko's management style is to delegate and share 
responsibility. 
 
13. (SBU) Fursenko has often clashed with the Minister of 
Economic Development and Trade, German Gref.  Also, many from 
scientific backgrounds do not respect his scientific 
credentials.  Zhores Alferov, director of the Ioffe Institute 
where Fursenko worked for many years, has been vociferous in 
his criticism of Fursenko.  Other scientists suggest, 
however, that Alferov's criticism is motivated mainly by sour 
grapes. 
 
14. (C) Politically, Fursenko is moderate and pragmatic. 
Like many Russians, he supports the idea of a powerful 
president and believes that Russia needs more centralized 
control. 
 
15. (C) At his core, Fursenko is passionate about modernizing 
Russian science to make it more competitive and market 
oriented.  Many in the traditional scientific establishment 
oppose these reforms, but with continued Russian Government 
support, the reforms are likely to gain traction and become 
permanent.  It is less clear where Fursenko's education 
reforms will lead. 
 
16. (C) There have been periodic rumors that Fursenko intends 
to resign as Minister of Education and Science.  Some of 
these rumors have even named specific dates, but so far none 
of these predictions have been borne out.  For the time being 
Fursenko is firmly in control.  When his tenure as minister 
ends, he is likely to return to the private sector that he 
left in 2001. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

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