Science policy requirements
Under conditions of waning access to foreign grants and support through foreign research programs in recent years, and given the fact that since 2022, accepting foreign funds may even lead to criminal prosecution, the number of funding sources for regional scientists and their areas of research have dropped to nearly zero. Practically speaking, only two remain: the federal and regional budgets, which provide salaries and/or allowances in the form of grants. Moreover, the share of funds channeled towards federally funded research projects
far exceeds the amount allocated for regional research.
Therefore, “central” science (which accounts for more than 30% of all scientific organizations and employs more than 60% of the country’s PhD holders), actually determines the scientific policy and how funding is distributed, and clearly holds a more advantageous position (the situation is also characterized by the concept of monocephaly
). Under these conditions, regional science receives both instructions on what to research and the means to do so. The interests of the regional scientists themselves becomes secondary.
For example, policy regarding the study of ethnic cultures in Russia (the most important topic in regional science) is written from a standpoint that places the position and interests of Russian culture at the forefront. Since the 1990s, this emphasis has only increased, culminating in the Russian ethnicity being recognized as the “state-forming people” in 2020, as stated in the amendment made to the Russian Constitution (article 68, point 1
). Consequently, scientific policy on the whole did not remain untouched by this “symbolic elevation of the Russian people to the role of ‘big brother.’”
Therefore, the usual questions regional scientists must address in order to receive a federal grant are more tied to imbuing their own research with some sort of federal significance: why Russia’s ethnic cultures must be considered important/correct/correlated to Russian culture. When viewed in this light, ethnic cultures of regional communities become “small” and “insignificant.” The prevailing belief that it’s useless to suggest these topics for a large grant, as they’ll immediately be cut down.
But even in studies of ethnic cultures of the regions themselves, the guidelines are also set by the general scientific policy. Firstly, it is dominated by research that fits within the framework of classical scientific rationality, where the object of study must be abstracted as much as possible from those studying it in order to obtain “objective” scientific results. This leads to the formation of the belief that studying the present is wrong, and even harmful, since the scientist is immersed in a constantly changing object of study that is, in essence, still indistinct. Secondly, common discourse across all Russian science states that in order to work with a subject in the present, it is important to study the negative impact of external factors from outside the country: “globalization,” “Westernization,” and “modernization challenges.”
Some metropolitan culturologists spread the belief
that “traditional culture, included in civilizational processes, is already fragmented,” and “the cultural integrity that we recorded at the turn of the 19th–20th centuries and which was associated with the traditional way of life is this integrity today broken into fragments.” And restoring these cultural fragments, included through the forces of the national intelligentsia in the regions, is seen as the prime directive. Therefore, regional science remains focused on topics of cultural heritage, its preservation, and reconstruction of old traditions. In general, culture itself is understood as a valuable element of the past, and the present is not even considered a part of the culture. This attitude also leads to a significant imbalance of scientific interests (in turning to the history of the regions, regional science ceases to deal with the present) and the loss of the social significance of science itself (scientists who lose touch with this reality are criticized by regional authorities and the community).
Issues of variations in cognitive activity, interaction between the subject and object of knowledge, methodological flexibility and open-mindedness — all things that have been discussed in the global scientific community for several decades, remain essentially beyond the scope of the training and interests of Russian humanities scholars.