Shattered Russian DreamsDamien Moye
The year 2009 can seem like a lifetime ago. Twitter was in it’s infancy. Instagram wasn’t even heard of. The Black Berry was a hot item. Russia was expected to be the next big nation in the tech realm. Yep, lots have changed.
That year, then President Dmitry Medvedev started a campaign called Go Russia. It was to invest in technological advancements and make his nation competitive in the 21st century. This wasn’t just supposed to boost computer technology, but everything from space technology to nuclear technology. There were plans of IT innovation, increased technology curriculum in schools, and a national supercomputer grid. Russia invested four billion dollars in a Moscow suburb named Skolkovo. This was supposed to be the next Silicon Valley and create 50,000 jobs. And Go Russia was bound for success…at first. They got financial backings from Silicon Valley. They partnered with US universities like MIT. Skolkovo was flooded with new tech businesses. By 2013, there were over a thousand of them. In 2011, Russia’s search engine rivaled Google in revenue and prestige. In 2009, Russia suffered greatly from the Great Recession, with near double digit GDP loss and unemployment, followed by an oil crisis. And it appeared the Go Russia revolution pulled them from such dark days.
Then the Medvedev era ended and Vladimir Putin got the Russian presidency back. In the summer of 2013, those Russian tech start up companies were the subject of corruption raids and scandals. Many of those companies were either driven out of business or driven outside of Russia. The economy never really recovered. While we celebrated low gas prices last year, it left Russia’s economy in shambles. And tech businesses took good, educated people out of Russia. In 2014, more Russians left there than at anytime so far in the 21st century. The number of Russians applying for immigration in the USA doubled in just one year. So who is to blame for these shattered Russian dreams?