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In the mid-1950s, Nikita Khrushchev and his followers had the idea to build an entire city dedicated solely to scientific discovery, which they envisioned as the "brain" of modern Russia. This city began construction in 1958 in Siberia, where it was hoped the close proximity to natural resources would provide their scientists with an advantage over the scientists in the United States. Akademgorodok was built twenty miles south of the Siberian capital, Novosibirsk, in the Golden Valley by the Ob river. The name Akademgorodok translates literally into "Academic City", which is what it soon became.

Akademgorodok drew young scientists like a magnet, opening up areas of study that had never before been permitted. Within seven years, 40,000 scientists, executives, and their families had settled in the area. Prominent institutions included the Institutes of Nuclear Physics and Economics, and of Hydronomics and Catalysis, a Physiological Institute, and the Institute of Abstract Mathematics. Akademgorodok was initially hugely successful, boasting breakthroughs in biology, physics, and computer science. Further breakthroughs seemed certain to follow. Mikhail Lavrentiev, one of Russia's most eminent scientists confidently told the world that by using nuclear power they would be able to flood Siberia with artificial light and heat, thus making it suitable for human habitation.

Unfortunately, such optimism wouldn't last. With the fall of Krushchev from power, science was reined in by industry, which demanded that scientific research be able to directly and immediately turn a profit. Mikhail Gorbachev's platform of perestroika was actually first thought of and championed by prominent scientists in Akademgorodok. The irony with this is that it was this policy which would shift Soviet ideologies to no longer favor science for its own sake, as was epitomised by Akademgorodok.

Government funding was promptly cut back. Scientists flooded out of Akademogordok to look for work in Western Europe or even the United States. Those who stayed lacked the proper equipment and research grants to continue with important projects, and received meager salaries, if they were paid at all. Today Akademgorodok is the site of large portions of Novosibirsk State University, along with a number of other prominent Russian institutions, and still houses a large intellectual community, despite suffering under massive strain as a result of losing government funding. The city consists mostly of educational or research institues, dachas which house Siberia's intellectual elite, and outdoor recreation sites (like nature paths and ski hills), and large forests.

In Siberia by Colin Thurbon

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