|Established||8 February 1724|
Saint Petersburg, Russia
(since September 27, 2017)
|Address||Leninsky prospekt 14, Moscow|
The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS; Russian: Росси́йская акаде́мия нау́к (РАН) Rossíiskaya akadémiya naúk) consists of the national academy of Russia; a network of scientific research institutes from across the Russian Federation; and additional scientific and social units such as libraries, publishing units, and hospitals.
Headquartered in Moscow, the Academy (RAS) is considered a civil, self-governed, non-commercial organization chartered by the Government of Russia. It combines the members of RAS (see below) and scientists employed by institutions. Near the central academy building there is a monument to Yuri Gagarin in the square bearing his name.
There are three types of membership in the RAS: full members (academicians), corresponding members, and foreign members. Academicians and corresponding members must be citizens of the Russian Federation when elected. However, some academicians and corresponding members were elected before the collapse of the USSR and are now citizens of other countries. Members of RAS are elected based on their scientific contributions – election to membership is considered very prestigious.
In the years 2005–2012, the academy had approximately 500 full and 700 corresponding members. But in 2013, after the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences became incorporated into the RAS, a number of the RAS members accordingly increased. The last elections to the renewed Russian Academy of Sciences were organized in mid-Novebmer 2019.
At the beginning of April 2020, the Academy had 2021 living Russian members (full: 887, corresponding: 1134) and 486 foreign members.
Since 2015, the Academy also awards, on a competitive basis, the honorary scientific rank of a RAS Professor to the top-level researchers with Russian citizenship. Now there are 605 scientists with this rank. RAS professorship is not a membership type but its holders are considered as possible candidates for membership; some professors became members already in 2016 or in 2019 and are henceforth titled "RAS professor, corresponding member of the RAS" (137 scientists) or even "RAS professor, academician of the RAS" (3 scientists).
The RAS consists of 13 specialized scientific divisions, three territorial branches and 15 regional scientific centers. The Academy has numerous councils, committees, and commissions, all organized for different purposes.
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The Russian Academy of Sciences comprises a large number of research institutions, including:
Member institutions are linked via a dedicated Russian Space Science Internet (RSSI). Started with just three members, The RSSI now has 3,100 members, including 57 from the largest research institutions.
Russian universities and technical institutes are not under the supervision of the RAS (they are subordinated to the Ministry of Education of Russian Federation), but a number of leading universities, such as Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University, Novosibirsk State University, and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, make use of the staff and facilities of many institutes of the RAS (as well as of other research institutions); the MIPT faculty refers to this arrangement as the "Phystech System".
From 1933 to 1992, the main scientific journal of the Soviet Academy of Sciences was the Proceedings of the USSR Academy of Sciences (Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR); after 1992, it became simply Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences (Doklady Akademii Nauk).
The Academy is also increasing its presence in the educational area. In 1990 the Higher Chemical College of the Russian Academy of Sciences was founded, a specialized university intended to provide extensive opportunities for students to choose an academic path.
The Academy gives out a number of different prizes, medals and awards among which:
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The Emperor Peter the Great, inspired and advised by Gottfried Leibniz, founded the Academy in Saint Petersburg; the Senate decree of February 8 (January 28 old style), 1725 implemented the establishment.
Originally called The Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences (Russian: Петербургская Академия наук), the organization went under various names over the years, becoming The Imperial Academy of Sciences and Arts (Императорская Академия наук и художеств; 1747–1803), The Imperial Academy of Sciences (Императорская Академия Наук; 1803—1836), and finally, The Imperial Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences (Императорская Санкт-Петербургская Академия Наук, from 1836 and until the end of the empire in 1917).
Foreign scholars invited to work at the academy included the mathematicians Leonhard Euler (1707–1783), Anders Johan Lexell, Christian Goldbach, Georg Bernhard Bilfinger, Nicholas Bernoulli (1695–1726) and Daniel Bernoulli (1700–1782), botanist Johann Georg Gmelin, embryologists Caspar Friedrich Wolff, astronomer and geographer Joseph-Nicolas Delisle, physicist Georg Wolfgang Kraft, historian Gerhard Friedrich Müller and English Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne (1732–1811).
Expeditions to explore remote parts of the country had Academy scientists as their leaders or most active participants. These included Vitus Bering's Second Kamchatka Expedition of 1733–1743, expeditions to observe the 1769 transit of Venus from eight locations in Russian Empire, and the expeditions of Peter Simon Pallas (1741–1811) to Siberia.
A separate organization, called the Russian Academy (Russian: Академия Российская), was created in 1783 to work on the study of the Russian language. Presided over by Princess Yekaterina Dashkova (who at the same time was the Director of the Imperial Academy of Arts and Sciences, i.e., the country's "main" academy), the Russian Academy was engaged in compiling the six-volume Academic Dictionary of the Russian Language (1789–1794). The Russian Academy was merged into the Imperial Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1841.
Shortly after the October Revolution, in December 1917, Sergey Fedorovich Oldenburg, a leading ethnographer and political activist in the Kadet party, met with Vladimir Lenin to discuss the future of the Academy. They agreed that the expertise of the Academy would be applied to addressing questions of state construction, while in return the Soviet government would give the Academy financial and political support.
The most important activities of the Academy in the 1920s included an investigation of the large Kursk Magnetic Anomaly, of the minerals in the Kola Peninsula, and participation in the GOELRO plan targeted electrification of the whole country. In these years, many research institutions were established, and the number of scientists became four times larger than in 1917. In 1925 the Soviet government recognized the Russian Academy of Sciences as the "highest all-Union scientific institution" and renamed it the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
The Stalin years are marked with a rapid industrialisation of the Soviet Union for which a great deal of research, mainly in the technical fields, has been done. However, on the other hand, in these very times, many scientists underwent repressions from ideological reasons.
In the years of the Second World War, the Soviet Academy of Sciences made a big contribution to a development of modern weapons – tanks (new series of T-34), airplanes, degaussing the ships (for protection against the naval mines) etc. – and therefore to victory of the USSR over the Nazi Germany. During and after the war, the Academy was involved in the Soviet atomic bomb project; due to its success and other achievements in military techniques, the USSR became one of the superpowers in the Cold War era.
At the end of the 1940s, the Academy consisted of eight divisions (Physico-Mathematical Science, Chemical Sciences, Geological-Geographical Sciences, Biological Science, Technical Science, History and Philosophy, Economics and Law, Literature and Languages); three committees (one for coordinating the scientific work of the Academies of the Republics, one for scientific and technical propaganda, and one for editorial and publications), two commissions (for publishing popular scientific literature, and for museums and archives), a laboratory for scientific photography and cinematography and Academy of Science Press departments external to the divisions.
The Academy of Sciences of the USSR helped to establish national Academies of Sciences in all Soviet republics (with the exception of the Russian SFSR), in many cases delegating prominent scientists to live and work in other republics. In the case of the Ukraine, its academy was formed by the local Ukrainian scientists and prior to occupation of the Ukrainian People's Republic by Bolsheviks. These academies were:
|Ukrainian SSR||Академія наук Української РСР||1918||National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine|
|Byelorussian SSR||Акадэмія Навукаў Беларускай ССР||1929||National Academy of Sciences of Belarus|
|Uzbek SSR||Ўзбекистон ССР Фанлар академияси||1943||Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan|
|Kazakh SSR||Қазақ ССР Ғылым Академиясы||1946||National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Kazakhstan|
|Georgian SSR||საქართველოს სსრ მეცნიერებათა აკადემია||1941||Georgian Academy of Sciences|
|Azerbaijan SSR||Азәрбајҹан ССР Елмләр Академијасы||1945||National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan|
|Lithuanian SSR||Lietuvos TSR Mokslų akademija||1941||Lithuanian Academy of Sciences|
|Moldavian SSR||Академия де Штиинце а РСС Молдовенешть||1946||Academy of Sciences of Moldova|
|Latvian SSR||Latvijas PSR Zinātņu akadēmija||1946||Latvian Academy of Sciences|
|Kirghiz SSR||Кыргыз ССР Илимдер академиясы||1954||National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic|
|Tajik SSR||Академияи илмҳои ҶШС Тоҷикистон||1953||Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan|
|Armenian SSR||Հայկական ՍՍՀ գիտությունների ակադեմիա||1943||National Academy of Sciences of Armenia|
|Turkmen SSR||Түркменистан ССР Ылымлар Академиясы||1951||Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan|
|Estonian SSR||Eesti NSV Teaduste Akadeemia||1946||Estonian Academy of Sciences|
Among the most important achievements of the Academy of the second half of the 20th century, there is, first of all, the Soviet space program. In 1957 the first satellite was launched, in 1961 Yury Gagarin became the first person in space, and in 1971 the first space station Salyut 1 began its operation. Substantial discoveries were also made in the nuclear branch and in other fields of physics. Furthermore, the Academy participated in opening new universities or new study programs in the already existed universities, whose best absolvents started their career at the research institutes of the Academy.
Generally, the Soviet period was the most fruitful in the history of the Russian (Soviet, at these times) Academy of Sciences and is now recalled with nostalgy by many Russian scientists.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, by decree of the President of Russia of December 2, 1991, the academy again became the Russian Academy of Sciences, inheriting all facilities of the USSR Academy of Sciences in the territory of the Russian Federation.
The crisis of the 1990s in the post-Soviet Russia and a consequent drastic reduction of the state support for science have forced many scientists to leave Russia for Europe, Israel or the United States. Some excellent university graduates who could have become promising researchers also switched to other activities, predominately in commerce. The Russian Academy practically lost a generation of people born from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s; this age category is now underrepresented in all research institutes.
In the 2000s, the situation in the Russian science and technology has improved, the government announced a modernization campaign. Nevertheless, according to the Russian Academy of Sciences, total R&D spending in 2013 still hovered about 40% below the pre-crisis 1990 levels. Furthermore, a lack of competition, decayed infrastructure and continuing, though slightly reduced, brain drain play their part.
On June 28, 2013, the Russian Government unexpectedly announced a draft law presuming a dissolution of the RAS and creation of a new "public-governmental" organization with the same name. The buildings and other property of the Academy were supposed to be taken under control of a government-established Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations (FASO Russia). The declared idea was to enable scientists to concentrate exclusively on research activities without worrying about housing-maintenance services or administrative things. The reform was allegedly authored by Mikhail Kovalchuk, brother of Yury Kovalchuk, known as Vladimir Putin's personal banker.
The draft law, which, in its initial form, would have fundamentally changed the system of science organization in Russia, provoked conflicts with the academic circles and strong refutation by many prominent individuals. A large group of the RAS members signalized their intention not to join the new academy if the reform is run as planned in the draft. The world's leading scientists (including Pierre Deligne, Michael Atiyah, Mumford, and others) have written open letters which referred to the planned reform of the RAS as "shocking" and even "criminal". In this situation, the draft was softened in some details, e.g. there remained no words about “dissolution” in the text, — and approved on September 27, 2013.
Since 2013 the academy institutions were managed by the FASO, which was the key item of the reforms. This agency was empowered to “evaluate”, relying on its own criteria, an efficiency of the institutions and rearrange ineffective ones (this point is felt dangerous by many scientists). Furthermore, according to the law, the two other Russian national academies — for Agriculture and for Medicine — were fused to the RAS as its new specialized scientific divisions.
During the years 2014—2017 there occurred no large-scale protest actions, but, in general, a scientific community has not supported the launched reforms and a management style of the FASO. Sometimes the reorganizations were interpreted as nothing else than a redistribution of real estate. In 2017, when the new presidium of the Academy was being elected, the candidates for presidency critically estimated the situation in the Russian science. However the elected RAS president Alexander Sergeev tries to establish working relationships with the state authorities at various levels. De facto, the reform has already been implemented — and at the General Meeting of the RAS in March 2018, Sergeev said that the Academy enters now the post-reform period. One of the next steps will be fixation of the legal status of the RAS, with a correction of the law-2013 so that to somewhat expand the powers of the Academy (the corresponding draft was submitted by Vladimir Putin to the State Duma and finally approved in July 2018).
In May 2018, it was decided to liquidate the FASO as an independent governmental agency but to make it henceforth part of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The latter is created by splitting the Ministry of Education and Science.
The last presidential elections in the Academy (and also elections of the presidium) were organized on September 25—28, 2017. Initially the event was planned for March 2017, but unexpectedly all candidates retracted their nominations, and the elections were postponed.
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