Dmitry Medvedev meets with the winners of international Olympiads in general subjects
Dmitry Medvedev: How nice it is to see young people here! You usually see only adults in this room. This room has seen many things, and it’s a pleasure to welcome you here. Before we begin our meeting, I’d like to congratulate you on the upcoming state holiday, National Unity Day. As you know, we are going to celebrate it quite soon, on November 4.
I admire you for carrying on the recent tradition that developed about five or seven years ago, when our teams started doing really well at international Olympiads. If I’m not wrong, this year our team won 30 medals at international Olympiads, 18 of them gold ones. This result is comparable to last year and the year before that. This means firstly that we have considerable potential in natural sciences, computer science and other subjects.
I hope that Russia will soon host such competitions; some of them will be held here thanks to your contribution. A Chemistry Olympiad will be held in Russia in 2013 – your senior comrades can correct me if I’m wrong. In 2015, we will host an Informatics Olympiad and also a Geography Olympiad, I believe. This is good.
I don’t want to hold you up for too long. I hope you will have an interesting tour of Skolkovo today; you will see what it has and what it doesn’t have yet. It is a huge development project at this stage, and it will eventually turn the area into a full-scale research and education city, which we are building based on the experience of other countries, such as Silicon Valley, French science towns and other places. I hope that at least some of you will eventually work there. And even if you don’t, if you don’t like it, you will at least see what is being done there and hopefully appreciate what its prospects are.
We traditionally held strong positions in a number of general sciences back in the Soviet period, when I went to school. I have to tell you that it is very pleasant and very important that we have not squandered our potential over the past few years – you are visible proof of this – although competition in the field of international school competitions and university Olympiads is becoming tougher. In the past, there were several traditional science centres such as Russia, Europe and the United States, but you know from your personal experience at Olympiads that we now have many friends and rivals in Asia, Southeast Asia, Asia Pacific, and also from Latin America and Africa. The world is becoming increasingly globalised, and knowledge is becoming globalised, too. But school education is still what matters. In this case, I am referring to our general education school. I’m very glad that we have preserved these positions. This is all I wanted to say, and now I’d be happy to listen to you. Maybe someone will explain to me… There are two ministers hiding there. They are modestly sitting in the third row. One is the Minister of Education and the other is the Minister of Communications and Mass Media. Maybe they could tell us what we should do in the future, what ideas they have. You are adults already – some of you are in the 11th form at school and others are already in university, so… Go ahead. Who’d like to say something? Please, introduce yourselves guys…
Maria Samolyotova (first year student of Lomonosov Moscow State University): My name is Maria Samolyotova, I am the winner of the international Geography Olympiad. I graduated from school in St Petersburg. It was a general educational school and now I’m studying…
Dmitry Medvedev: What school did you graduate from in St Petersburg?
Maria Samolyotova: School No 121.
Dmitry Medvedev: What district is it in?
Maria Samolyotova: The Kalininisky district.
Dmitry Medvedev: Kalininsky. I see.
Maria Samolyotova: Now I’m a first year student of Lomonosov Moscow State University. I’m studying geography…
Dmitry Medvedev: I’d be very surprised if you said you were studying something else.
Maria Samolyotova: Having won the Geography Olympiad I had other options as well. The geography faculty wasn’t the only choice. There are many related subjects.
Dmitry Medvedev: I see.
Maria Samolyotova: Having taken part in international contests, we noticed that the approach to geography abroad is different from how it is here. They prioritise an analytical, practical approach. Knowledge and studies of geography are being used in the construction of cities and regulation of the transport system, as well as in land reclamation and subsoil management. We are still adhering to an evidential approach to geography. Hence, many people ask what we are doing, because in reality geography is much more extensive than what we learn at school. After all, it is not limited to the knowledge about the location of raw materials deposits or regional development centres. Geography is much more extensive and covers many spheres of public life. It exists wherever there is space differentiation of any phenomena – from the social sphere to nature. This is the point I wanted to make.
Dmitry Medvedev: And what should we do so as not to be like followers of Jacques Paganel, who went to one country and studied one language but learned another? What should we change? You have fresh ideas on how they teach geography at school. I remember how I was taught. We had interesting lessons. I had a favourite teacher whom I liked very much. She taught me different subjects starting from the first grade. But, of course, this was very far, as you say, from the practical requirements. What should be done to teach geography for practical use?
Maria Samolyotova: In school the subject of geography is fairly dull and does not evoke much interest. Maps are used all the time; there are very few interactive lessons and no trips at all. This is particularly true of the 6th form, when school students learn the foundations of geography and general ideas about major phenomena and concepts. Teachers probably don’t arrange any trips in most schools. There are no Geography Major classes. Most cities and regions have students that are probably interested in geography as a subject, but the number of hours devoted to it is declining rapidly in the 5th, 10th and 11th forms. Students in the 11th form are supposed to generalise everything they have been taught. They must develop analytical skills.
Dmitry Medvedev: Do they have geography in the 11th form?
Maria Samolyotova: Not in all schools, far from all schools.
Dmitry Medvedev: Not in all schools – some schools have it and others don’t. If I remember correctly, geography ended in the 9th form when I was in school (but it was so long ago).
Remark: In the 10th.
Dmitry Medvedev: In the 9th, I’m sure of it. I don’t know, maybe we had different courses, but it ended in 9th. If I’m correct, it was a class on Economic Geography.
Maria Samolyotova: In many schools it is reduced to one year in the 10th or 11th forms, and this is a big omission. Pupils do not develop the skill of generalising material. This is very important. To arrive at some conclusion they must synthesise information from diverse fields of knowledge, but they are not taught to do this. And, on top of all that, the presentation of material is fairly boring. In simple terms, this is just work with a map. In principle, there is nothing that can evoke any interest. Nothing is said about the modern requirements of this discipline.
Dmitry Medvedev: Do they still use outline maps?
Remark: They still use them.
Dmitry Medvedev: Well, in that case I agree that, regrettably, this is too far from modern life. I’ve heard you, Maria. I think you are absolutely right in making these points. First, in the whole world, as you put it nicely, geography exists wherever there is space differentiation (I must remember this term and insert it in conversation sometime). So, indeed, space differentiation is often required for practical purposes – in designing cities and other residential places, and this must be done properly. Regrettably, in this country, especially in the 1990s, cities were built without correct urban planning or any account of geographical conditions. Everyone did whatever they wanted. As a result, our cities don’t look beautiful, and we have problems with the stability of buildings. In this context, of course, geography should be closer to life.
As for laboratory equipment and whatever else is required for instruction in geography, I have heard what you’ve said. I will think it over and talk to the minister. We’ll see what can be done. Apart from the usual computers and relevant programmes, there must be some new, modern things that would be helpful for instruction in geography.
As for field trips on foot, they are, of course, good. I recall how we walked around our school and not even during a lesson in geography but in nature study. We collected something and then drew… Or was it during geography classes? Anyway, we draw a plan of what was located near our school. It was quite interesting. One thing I’ve never forgotten – there was a cemetery nearby and we were told to draw a garden instead of it. Okay, guys, go ahead.
Nikita Sopenko (first year student of the faculty of general and applied physics at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology): My name is Nikita Sopenko. I’m a graduate of the 14th lyceum in Tambov. I’m a gold medallist of the international Physics Olympiad and a first year student in the faculty of general and applied physics of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
First of all, I’d like to thank you for this meeting, for finding the time in your busy schedule. I’d like to speak about the problems of preparing guys for international contests. As you’ve already said, the competition is growing very fast and every year students from new countries compete for top places.
Russia has long had a system of conducting training sessions for 10 days in summer and another 10 days in autumn and then having the last session immediately before the Olympiad. In the meantime, leading Asian countries such as China and Taiwan conduct such sessions for half a year. Needless to say, we have excellent teachers and we are doing well owing to the high quality of these sessions, but I still think they should last longer.
I’d also like to say that today many new prestigious international contests in physics are emerging, for instance the Asian Physics Olympiad and the World Physics Olympiad held in Indonesia. It goes without saying that taking part in Olympiads is very good but our participation in them is not very well supported, and guys from poor regions simply don’t have the money to attend them. So, I think that…
Dmitry Medvedev: You are asking for money…
Nikita Sopenko: Yes.
Dmitry Medvedev: I see. Right you are. Thank you, Nikita. To begin with, I’d like to congratulate all those who have matriculated in universities (I didn’t say this, but for you this event is probably even more important than an Olympiad). For the majority of people it takes place only once in life. If you correctly chose your profession, you won’t have to study in some other place. You have done a good job and please accept my congratulations. I hope you’ll do well in universities.
And one more point that I missed in the beginning for lack of time, but it is very important. I’d also like to thank your teachers, friends and families for helping you. Participation in any Olympiad or other contest is always a collective effort.
Now let’s get back to these sessions? What are they called?
Nikita Sopenko: Training sessions.
Dmitry Medvedev: Training sessions, yes? I don’t know what they do in London or China, but I think half a year is too much. Usually, participants in Olympiads are good students. As I understand, you won a gold medal and had no problems with studying. If these sessions last for half a year, school students will be away from school during this time. I’m not sure this is a good thing even if all participants in Olympiads are very good students with a good record in different subjects. That said, 10 days are probably not enough. Let’s try to find some middle ground, perhaps not ten days but a month. Six months seems like drilling, seeking a result at any price, not training. However, we understand that the strongest are the winners. For example, take sports, the analogy with sports is quite relevant – athletes train nonstop, but we have a scientific Olympiad. Good, we will think about the number of days.
As for state funding, currently a number of Olympiads are getting state funding. I have noted the Asian Olympiads. Do we still take part in them?
Nikita Sopenko: We take part…
Dmitry Medvedev: We take part, but not many of us?
Nikita Sopenko: Yes. We have a full composition. Only the boys from poor regions cannot get the money.
Dmitry Medvedev: No, the fact is this: do they get any funding for participating in these Olympiads?
Nikita Sopenko: No, they do not get state funding.
Dmitry Medvedev: They don’t. That’s what I asked you. Good, we will think about it. Go ahead, guys. What Olympiads are these? Tell me again.
Nikita Sopenko: The Asian Olympiad in Physics… World Indonesian Olympiad, one can participate. But only the gold and silver medallists of the International Asian Olympiad get paid.
Dmitry Medvedev: I see, good. Go ahead please.
Viktoria Lavryanova: My name is Viktoria Lavryanova, I won a silver medal at the International Biology Olympiad (IBO) in Singapore in July. On the Russian team, I represented the Ramensky District in the Moscow Region and my Ramenskoye gymnasium; currently I am in the 11th form. Of course, the Olympiad has greatly impressed me. It was not just a competition between people from various countries in their knowledge of a specific subject – this was a celebration of science, where everybody shares news, interacts, and where all people are united by something common, an interest in this subject (biology in my case) and a desire to learn something new all the time. The participation in international Olympiads is a unique and striking possibility because we, pupils, can interact with people of various ethnic groups, various cultures within a brief period and in a rather small place. For me, the participation in the international Olympiad is an invaluable experience because I can take part in the International Biology Olympiad as a 11th form pupil this year too. Of course, I have analysed the results of my performance, I have made conclusions on what I should improve and learn additionally. I’d like to say a few words on this point. I support the idea of increasing the period of training for an international Olympiad.
Dmitry Medvedev: How long do you need? Viktoria, tell us.
Viktoria Lavryanova: I think a month would be…
Dmitry Medvedev: A month would be normal.
Viktoria Lavryanova: That would be enough. Because, for example, the practical biology tour includes four sections. If I could spend a week of intensive training for each section, that would be perfect. In training for a biology Olympiad, I think it is necessary to pay more attention to preparing for practical aspects because one can read theory in various textbooks. But the foreign language element is a challenge because most textbooks are in English now, and one should learn scientific English although schools do not teach it very well. As for the practical knowledge, schools essentially do not offer the possibility of gaining practical knowledge at a high level. Targeted training at a university is needed. They have offered me such an option, and I want to thank the deputy dean of the Biology Department at the Lomonosov Moscow State University Galina Belyakova as well as Alexander Rubtsov for offering me the chance to get some hands-on experience there. Of course, I will make every effort to join the Russian team at the International Biology Olympiad this year and represent our country well.
Dmitry Medvedev: Viktoria, we wish you success!
Viktoria Lavryanova: Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: We wish you success at the Olympiad and in your studies at the Biology Department of Moscow State University. Is that right?
Viktoria Lavryanova: Right.
Dmitry Medvedev: Right. What can I say about textbooks? You compete at Olympiads, you aren’t learning basic biology in order to pass exams, to graduate from school. You and the students who will come after you will study more complex textbooks – in fact, scientific publications. Clearly, most of you need to understand scientific English or another foreign language – most likely, English, because scientific works are mostly published in English. It's a necessity. You won’t be able to get around this. English is taught more or less pretty well at our schools now. Scientific English, of course, is not taught at schools, and never will be, except perhaps in specialised English-language schools. Personally, I think that learning the language of science is easier than learning conversational English.
Viktoriya Lavryanova: I agree because scientific terms are international.
Dmitry Medvedev: Everything is clear in such texts for me. I have never studied biology in English, but I’ve read a lot of legal texts. Reading them is much easier for me than reading any fiction written in English because I’m familiar with the syntax and I can always get a general idea of what is being said. That doesn’t mean, though, that you don’t have to learn scientific terms. Of course, books will be translated in the future, too. But let me reiterate – everyone sitting here is a future researcher. In fact, you are already researchers, and you will definitely need to know scientific English. I heard you about the month. I wish you success.
Viktoriya Lavryanova: Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: May I ask you a question? It’s been a one-way conversation so far. You are studying a lot for months on end. How do you unwind? In order to study well, you need to take some time off, too. Some people like to read, some others do sports, and still others do something else. Can someone share with us what they do for recreation?
Maxim Akhmedov (Gold Winner of the international Informatics Olympiad, first-year student at the Mechanics and Mathematics Department of Moscow State University): My name is Maxim Akhmedov. I'm a member of Russian team at the International Computer Science Olympiad this year. A week ago, my friend and I went to a Deep Purple concert in St Petersburg, of which you are also a fan, as far as I know.
Dmitry Medvedev: There you go. Thanks a lot. I didn’t expect that.
Maxim Akhmedov: What I’m saying is that we have time to get ready for the Olympiad and to do something for ourselves, too.
Dmitry Medvedev: Honestly, Maxim, Deep Purple is an old group with old musicians.
Maxim Akhmedov: So what?
Dmitry Medvedev: They are 65 or something. I do like them, but I’m not too young myself either. Do you really like their music? Honestly?
Maxim Akhmedov: Yes, I do. It's a classic – the foundation of everything. I’m a music lover and I love rock music.
Dmitry Medvedev: I heard you. And?
Maxim Akhmedov: Don’t think that we are sitting here all day getting ready for Olympiads and we can’t get enough of it. Everyone is talking about their subjects. Things are more or less routine in our computer science class. There are summer and winter training camps lasting around two weeks each. I’m not sure if there’s a need to increase the duration of these camps or to add something else. Perhaps there is, but I do not see a critical need for this. What else is there to say?
Dmitry Medvedev: You’ve said enough already...Thank you. Good luck. It’s nice to know that young people love good old hard rock. This is really good news because it’s good solid music. Please, anyone?
I think that the teachers want to say something. Please go ahead.
Vladimir Kiryukhin (Head of the Pre-University Training Centre of the National Research Nuclear University – Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute): Good afternoon. My name is Vladimir Kiryukhin. I’m the head of the national computer science team from the National Research Nuclear University – Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute.
I would like to focus on two points. First, the great success of the national computer science team this year. Winning four gold medals is...
Dmitry Medvedev: Great. Good work.
Vladimir Kiryukhin: …there are only five countries of 80 that have ever achieved such results.
Dmitry Medvedev: Which? Could you please name them?
Vladimir Kiryukhin: It was China six times...
Dmitry Medvedev: Clearly, Chinese. There’s lots of them.
Vladimir Kiryukhin: Three times Russia, once the Americans... The Slovakians and the Czechs one time each...
Dmitry Medvedev: I’m not surprised to hear about China and the United States. What about Slovakia and the Czech Republic? Do they have strong schools?
Vladimir Kiryukhin: Yes, they had still a very strong school after Czechoslovakia split into two countries. They were strong as long as their heritage is there, just as we are today.
Dmitry Medvedev: That’s how we lived for some time…
Vladimir Kiryukhin: Their performance has dropped now. They won those medals seven or eight years ago. Now a few words about the preparations for the Olympiads. Earlier speakers spoke about different timeframes. Computer guys even said that they don’t need more time. I just want to emphasise – they forgot to mention this – that we work in a cycle that lasts the entire year because we are currently using Internet technology. Training camps only take place in winter and summer. We are holding regular competition tours for our students. This work is not just about holding summer and winter camps. It’s a continuing work cycle planned by the Ministry of Education and Science. Resources have been allocated to it. There are people who draft requirements, maintain websites and develop software used in training camps. On top of this, we are building a remote video attendance system. It’s an online system that allows you to work remotely regardless of where students live, study, and so on. We don’t need a lot to build it – just an internet connection and some software. This will allow us to solve all of our problems. We will no longer have to gather up students, bring them here from the regions, tearing them away from their families for six months of training. We will then be able to work normally throughout the year.
Dmitry Medvedev: What will that take? Any changes to the curriculum? Or funds?
Vladimir Kiryukhin: First, we need a solid video conferencing system, not Skype. There is a Russian-made Vidikor system, for example. I’m not sure if the minister has ever heard about it. I think that this will help us provide...
Dmitry Medvedev: In other words you need something with a better resolution than Skype?
Vladimir Kiryukhin: Correct. It’s a system that uses low bandwidth, but the quality is much better than that of other systems. We have these kinds of systems. This is my first point. Also, thank you for raising the issue about conducting international competitions in Russia during the last meeting. You voiced your support, and it was a sign for everyone. This year, we already had three Olympiads, plus there will be another one in computer science in 2016. This is very nice. We deserve it because this year we competed with the Japanese and the Azerbaijanis, who also wanted to host the 2016 Computer Science Olympiad. But we managed to…
Dmitry Medvedev: Those are both strong competitors. Azerbaijan is a major oil producer, and the Japanese are the Japanese, you know!
Vladimir Kiryukhin: Yes. Azerbaijan is plastered with banners saying, “Convert petroleum to human capital.”
There is one point I would like to make in this regard. We are starting preparations for the Computer Science Olympiad now, which means the respective documents need to be signed – a Government resolution on the funding, for example. It would be good to start the funding in January because we need to begin working on the International Committee, which will meet in February.
Dmitry Medvedev: How long will the competition last, in days?
Vladimir Kiryukhin: Eight days.
Dmitry Medvedev: Eight days? Okay.
Vladimir Kiryukhin: And in that case we just need to…
Dmitry Medvedev: Where are we going to hold it?
Vladimir Kiryukhin: We’ll hold it in Kazan. It’s good that the communications minister is present here by the way.
Dmitry Medvedev: I invited the minister for a different reason. It just happened.
Vladimir Kiryukhin: That’s what I meant. I did not know he would be here. I actually planned to ask you to tell the communications minister about the plans to host this competition. When other countries host Computer Science Olympiads, two ministries are usually involved – the education ministry and the communications ministry.
Dmitry Medvedev: Both ministers are here.
Vladimir Kiryukhin: Right. That’s why I was saying: it’s good that the communications minister is here, because I wanted to initiate some contact, some interaction… Since the competition will take place in Tatarstan, and you (addressing Communications and Mass Media Minister Nikolai Nikiforov) certainly know everyone there who would be involved in organising the event – because you used to serve as the regional minister for IT – it would be easier for you to arrange some cooperation. That’s what I wanted to say. Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much, Mr Kiryukhin. I’m glad that we will hold Olympiads in Russia because this is always an incentive. When a sports Olympiad is held, the entire sporting world feels the effect. The same is true for scientific Olympiads, school Olympiads, and international Olympiads. This way, we remain key players in the sphere. And, of course, I’m sure that we will help get more kids taking part in Olympiads. And they need to receive normal training to do so. I will issue all of the instructions. In fact, I have already issued instructions. The minister hears me. If any executive orders are needed, such as a governmental executive order – related to Olympiads in general, naturally, all Olympiads to be held in our country – I’ll issue them. If ministerial decisions are needed, they will be taken.
As for video communications, I have taken note of this. Mr Nikiforov, attend to this because I think that this is really important. It does not cost too much and it is quite possible to do this.
Nikolai Nikiforov: Mr Medvedev, we will certainly support this initiative. Moreover, I want to say that we’ve just met with the expert council. We have met with industrial representatives at the ministry, and they are ready to give our children all the necessary support.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, it should be done this way. Let the IT industry do it. Why shake our poor budget?
Nikolai Nikiforov: Perhaps we will form a non-profit organisation.
Dmitry Medvedev: Please, do that. This is the way that they do it throughout the world. This mostly does not require budget spending.
Nikolai Nikiforov: And going back to the situation in Kazan, I’d like to remind you that yesterday you signed an executive order to create a special economic zone. And symbolically it coincides with the idea of using the platform of this zone to hold the Olympiad…
Dmitry Medvedev: This will be Innopolis? Perfect!
Nikolai Nikiforov: Right by that year…
Dmitry Medvedev: Should it be held in Innopolis? That would be nice.
Nikolai Nikiforov: This would add an international status.
Dmitry Medvedev: We hope to meet there. By the way, look, we have a young minister. He does not differ much from you… This means only one thing, boys – you should work and then you will achieve everything that you want.
Please, do you want to tell me anything else interesting? Please go ahead.
Boris Eskin (Senior Lecturer at St Petersburg State University): Good afternoon! My name is Boris Eskin from St Petersburg. I’m the head of the team that focuses on astronomy. In fact, I have many questions, but I’ll only ask you one. I want to comment on the kids’ performances. First, we were speaking about other international Olympiads. But you know that in addition to world championships, there are cups, and there are other competitions on the same level. My future colleague mentioned Olympiads in physics. However, there are many Olympiads in all subjects – in physics, chemistry, biology and even astronomy. Although this science is very small, it has Olympiads. Honestly, we’d like to participate. We do participate, but unfortunately the funding is odd. Sometimes we participate, and sometimes we don’t. And this competition is also serious, of course.
Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Eskin, as you said, there are many Olympiads. We ought to participate in some Olympiads as in sports. We would rather participate in other Olympiads, and we can stay away from certain competitions. But the more often you train, the better. I want to understand. You know this better than anyone. How much does it cost to take part in an Olympiad?
Boris Eskin: Olympiads differ…
Dmitry Medvedev: Tell me on average.
Boris Eskin: On average? I’ll tell you what I know.
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course.
Boris Eskin: I know about an Olympiad in astronomy. This year, it cost some 55,000-60,000 roubles.
Dmitry Medvedev: Where? Abroad?
Boris Eskin: Abroad. I am talking about an international Olympiad. But this year we travelled far – to Korea. The air tickets cost about 40,000 roubles. So if the distance is shorter... Next year, we will travel to Lithuania…
Dmitry Medvedev: That's less expensive.
Boris Eskin: It's 20,000 roubles cheaper on account of the tickets. The cost varies between 30,000 and 60,000 roubles, dependent on the country.
Dmitry Medvedev: I see.
Boris Eskin: There are other Olympiads that are even less expensive.
Perhaps my question will be somewhat unexpected. As a representative of a St Petersburg university … I don’t know what my colleagues will think about this question, but the question is somewhat strange... I have been thinking about this for a long time. The winners and prize winners of various international Olympiads from different countries…The Russian winners stay in Russia as a rule. We have institutes where they can continue their education. But the winners from other countries – especially small countries – often leave for leading world universities such as Princeton, Harvard, Cambridge (Massachusetts)... They enrol easily most often and without paying any tuition. It is clear that they are the world's future intellectual elite. Question: would our country perhaps like to find the money to invite other prize winners? We have all sorts of ways to admit our prize-winning applicants without admission exams. Would we perhaps like to entice others? After all, we are talking about the intellectual cream of the world. True, it should on no account affect our students, that is, it should not be funded at the expense of the overall student budget. And I am told that we have such programmes and agreements with other countries when we host students… Perhaps special stipends could be awarded to the winners who would be invited. Even if they leave after graduation it is clear that they would be agents of our influence. What do you think about this?
Dmitry Medvedev: I’ll respond not only as a graduate of the same St Petersburg University, but simply as a person who has given thought to this matter. I believe that this would be the right thing to do even though they are likely to go away after graduation, because when we, for example, send our guys off to study, or they themselves enter leading world educational centres, we hope that they will eventually return. And indeed, they have started to return. We have left the difficult period of the 1990s behind us. These other states, of course, are thinking along these same lines. But you are right that they create a special environment, and in this way we are increasing our own potential. It is absolutely normal from that point of view. The only problem is a very prosaic one: money.
We recently introduced a serious, although not very massive, system of grants for foreign teachers to come to our country in order to do research and teach. You are aware that considerable amounts are allocated for research. Not all that much perhaps, but there are instances of this kind. I think we could see if part of that money might be reserved for this purpose. But first we should make up our minds as to what disciplines and at what universities to include because, let's face it (present in this room is our elite, those who take part in the toughest Olympiads and are going to or are already studying at the country’s best universities), not all the Olympiads are of the same high standard, that is true. Moreover, as I have said more than once while meeting with our distinguished university rectors, in some cases an Olympiad is just a springboard for being enrolled at a university without passing admission tests, that’s if you talk about an Olympiad of a low standard or an Olympiad organised expressly for the above purpose. So, we identify the universities where we are sure that the quality of education would be adequate, and we can try to put such a programme in place. I don’t know how much it would cost, but we have to begin somewhere. Even though we understand that these students may not be here forever, this is still going to be useful. Having said that, some of them may stay, especially people from small countries where, as you say, there are no opportunities for pursuing deeper scientific research. Mr Livanov, think about it, perhaps it would not be a bad idea.
Dmitry Livanov (Minister of Education and Science): Mr Medvedev, I think the idea proposed by Boris Eskin is an interesting one. Perhaps we should have several certificates for study at leading Russian universities and offer them as prizes to the winners of international Olympiads in various disciplines: mathematics, physics, biology and astronomy, for example.
I think it would be a good idea and would improve the country’s image.
Dmitry Medvedev: Absolutely. And let the young men or women choose themselves what university suits them best, be it MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology),Harvard, Princeton, or, after all, St Petersburg University. Because there is also the issue of adaptation. If somebody takes part in our Olympiad, if he knows our country (especially if he comes from the former Soviet Union or neighbouring states) perhaps they would be interested.
Dmitry Livanov: That of course involves the question of language and culture, but I think it would be interesting for a whole number of countries.
Dmitry Medvedev: For a whole number of countries, our culture is more familiar than that of America, so perhaps it would even be easier. Next please.
Vadim Yeryomin (Professor at Lomonosov Moscow State University): My name is Vadim Yeryomin, I am a professor at Moscow State University’s chemistry faculty and the leader of the national chemistry team.
I have two questions. First, I would like to tell Boris Eskin that the chemists actually have such a programme, that we are the only ones who have preserved (forgive me for touting myself) – we have preserved the former All-Union Olympiad, called the Mendeleev Olympiad. This is a Russian-language Olympiad. Its official language is English but the majority of participants are Russian-speakers and we try above all to attract what you call agents of influence (from the nearabroad of course). We have students from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in our university. Each time we face big problems with enrollment, legal problems, although officially the Olympiad is on the register of Olympiads. So this is my first request… It is a unique Olympiad among all disciplines, it is the former All-Union Olympiad in which, incidentally, Hungary and Romania take part. And Saudi Arabia has applied, so it is an international Olympiad…
Dmitry Medvedev: Why don’t you tap them for money?
Vadim Yeryomin: We have invited them, of course, we said they are welcome. They are all too ready to pay…
Dmitry Medvedev: I'm only joking!
Vadim Yeryomin: … So my question is, is it possible to arrange it for the participants in the Mendeleev Olympiad to enjoy a simplified admittance procedure to our universities?
Dmitry Medvedev: What is the status of the Mendeleev Olympiad?
Vadim Yeryomin: It is on the register of school Olympiads, but it is unique and its format does not fit into the register, the Mendeleev Chemistry Olympiad is unique. That was my first question.
And the second question. I would like to say that the guys you see here are the elite, they are the tip of the iceberg of the Olympiad system created under socialism. It is in fact developing actively in the world and it is a strong counterweight to the testing technologies that are also widespread in the world education system.
Dmitry Medvedev: Which is better?
Vadim Yeryomin: The Olympiads are better, of course, because they encourage independent thinking. Testing technologies are good for people who want to be efficient practical workers, while Olympiads foster independent thinking. It is good that, thanks to these Olympiads, our country commands huge authority in the system of world Olympiads. I have been doing this international Olympiad for more than ten years and I can attest that this reputation is well-earned. It is for this reason that we have been awarded to hold the 2013 Olympiad. I would like to invite you, if you can find time, to the opening and closing ceremonies…
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
Vadim Yeryomin: …You were at our closing ceremony in 2007 and you made a great speech. On that occasion we won four gold medals: I don’t know, perhaps you brought us luck. In short, we would like to invite you in 2013.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
Vadim Yeryomin: But, pardon me, we have a request… The Government signed a directive on holding the Olympiad in April. The Education Ministry has done everything it can to take care of the legal formalities and everything is ready for the Olympiad, but in August the Finance Ministry withdrew the funding.
Dmitry Medvedev: Really?
Vadim Yeryomin: We are not included in the 2013 budget. I am sorry to bring up the mundane issue of money.
Dmitry Medvedev: No, this is an absolutely normal question, and it is natural to take advantage of an audience with the Prime Minister in order to solve these issues.
Vadim Yeryomin: Yes, of course, and indeed we are talking about amounts that are four orders of magnitude, tens of thousands of times less than the budget for sporting events, and we should keep in mind that we are hosting the world intellectual elite.
Dmitry Medvedev: Fortunately, the Finance Minister is sitting in the same building, only not in this room. I have invited him too.
Vadim Yeryomin: Yes, we have seen him.
Dmitry Medvedev: I’ll tap him on this topic. Frankly, I find it odd: if we are hosting an Olympiad…
Vadim Yeryomin: Yes, we find it odd too.
Dmitry Medvedev: I’ll check up on it, because the budget is a tricky thing, perhaps something has fallen through the cracks. What amount are we talking about?
Vadim Yeryomin: 75 million roubles.
Dmitry Medvedev: Okay.
Vadim Yeryomin: This is a very small amount compared with international sport competitions, and we have everything ready. The Education Ministry has done its part.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, I’ll make a note of it.
Vadim Yeryomin: Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Will you hold it at Moscow University? At the chemistry faculty?
Vadim Yeryomin: Yes, it’ll be at the chemistry faculty of Moscow University. We have a fairly serious experimental round, and this can only be done at good laboratories, and we have them at our university.
Dmitry Medvedev: Where will you accommodate them?
Vadim Yeryomin: At Planernoye, outside Moscow. The President’s Administrative Directorate has some kind of sanatorium there. We went there and looked at it: the conditions are normal. Nothing special, no luxuries, but quite decent.
Dmitry Medvedev: Luxury is not good for those who take part in the Olympiad.
Vadim Yeryomin: I quite agree with you: what they need is decent conditions.
Dmitry Medvedev: They need normal conditions.
Vadim Yeryomin: It is quite a pleasant place, and accommodation for the team leaders is also quite decent. In fact, for an Olympiad of such a high standard, it is a very modest budget. Incidentally, the Americans hosted the Olympiad last year and they did not borrow a single cent from the budget, the American Chemical Society sponsored everything.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, thank you very much.
Vadim Yeryomin: Our conditions are different. Thank you. And my invitation still stands.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. I’ll try to find time, especially since it will be the first such international Olympiad here. And when I visited your university, I said that although I am educated as a lawyer, I have a lingering interest in chemistry, because at one point I was of two minds about what subject to major in. We will of course find the money, I have no doubt about it. But you are right when you say that elsewhere in the world, such events are financed by sponsors or some major companies or by the scientific community, which also sets aside money for such events. So far the situation in this country is a bit different, so the state has to dish out money for these activities.
Vadim Yeryomin: Sponsors are more generous when the state is involved.
Dmitry Medvedev: That is true. There is a sonorous name for it: public-private partnership.
I see that mostly teachers have been speaking so far. Let us hear from some students and school pupils before we give the floor to scientists. You please.
Ivan Ivashkovsky (first year student at the Department of Innovations and High Technology, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology): Good afternoon. My name is Ivan Ivashkovsky. I won the gold medal at the International Physics Olympiad this year and I am now a student of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, where I study at the Department of Innovations and High Technology.
I would like to tell you about a problem that our team usually faces at the Olympiad. As we all know, international Olympiads usually consist of two rounds, a theoretical round and an experimental round. Our team usually performs with flying colours in the theoretical round, because we have a very good team of teachers and all the topics are minutely studied, but we usually lose a lot of points in the experimental round, and there are reasons for that. I am a student now, but because my grant is not very big, I eke out my income by conducting practical instruction classes for school pupils. The thing is that many school pupils who attend, physics enthusiasts, have nothing in the way of experimental equipment. All the equipment is outdated or non-existent, although the discipline is officially part of the curriculum, with a certain number of hours allocated for it. But there is no equipment. I think it would be a good idea if new equipment were delivered to the schools which have such problems, to replace the old equipment. It is always useful to have some hands-on experience, and not just write something on paper. It would strengthen students' background, and more school pupils will take part in the Olympiads.
Dmitry Medvedev: That’s right. I agree with you, Ivan, 100%. But let me tell you this: of course our physics rooms in schools, our school labs are, to put it mildly, a far cry from what we would like to have. But all things are relative. I have practically held one and the same job twice: I worked in the Government in 2005 in a different capacity, and it was then that I became involved in an education project.
Part of that education project, backed by funding, had to do with school laboratories and equipment.
I did a lot of travelling across the country… By the way, Dmitry Livanov was also working at the Ministry, and also in a different capacity. What we saw was depressing, it was impossible to look at all these labs without tears, be it in physics, chemistry or biology. When I visited schools I saw that everything had remained as it was in my time (I finished school in 1982), only of course it was still worse because in my time the equipment was new, but since then it had become obsolete and was in a sorry state. At the time, we launched a programme on school equipment, laboratory equipment. As a result the labs improved, but this doesn’t mean that they have become ideal. There are schools where things are very bad, there are schools where they are more or less adequate and there are schools that get help from sponsors or parents. So, the situation varies. But I agree that in order to do science, any science that involves experiments, one has to do something with one’s hands from childhood, because whatever you may say, modern digital technology does not cover all the needs, because physical instruments and chemicals are still the same… I remember being shown some chemical reaction on a computer. It all looked beautiful, was handsomely written down and included commentaries. Nothing remotely similar was available in my time, but you still have to know how it all smells, in the direct sense of the word. You should know what can be touched and what cannot be touched and how it looks in real life. This is true of physics and chemistry and many other disciplines in which Olympiads are held. So of course, we will continue to provide schools with more equipment and buy labs, but naturally it is a process that takes time.
And there is one other thing that I find surprising. When we started on it, it seemed that nothing could be easier than providing elementary instruments for the physics course, the bottles, test tubes, and chemicals for chemistry classes, specimens for biology and other preparations and equipment. When I looked into it, I found that all the domestically produced equipment was inferior to and far more expensive than foreign equipment. It would be less surprising if we were talking about equipment produced in America. But in this case, the equipment came from our neighbours, the Baltics and even Central Asia and the Caucasus Republics produced all that equipment of a better quality and delivered it to us at more affordable prices. So this is another challenge for our industry, which is certainly capable of launching production of elementary specimens for schools. So, we will work on that.
Would any of the teachers like to say something? Yes, please.
Vladimir Pasechnik (Professor, Moscow State Regional University): My name is Vladimir Pasechnik. I am a professor at Moscow State Regional University and the head of our biology team. Like most of my colleagues, I have been coaching school pupils for international Olympiads for many years, and I have been a member of judging panels at international Olympiads. Of course the content of international Olympiads is becoming ever more complicated, year in and year out. It is more complicated, not in the sense that the theoretical part is becoming more complicated. The fact is that it is not enough today just to know biology well. One has to be able to apply the knowledge in solving experimental tasks, in carrying out an experiment, what Viktoria was talking about. Incidentally, the new school standards are geared toward this aim, and when they are introduced we will have many more gifted children, because a gifted child is not only someone with a good memory.
Much has been said today about preparing children for the Olympiads. In my opinion, it is not practicable to extend the preparation period from two weeks to a month or six months. It is more important to organise work in the regions. You see, imagine that 30 children come to Moscow State Regional University, and we work with them not two weeks in summer and two weeks in winter, but two months. What is important is that we raise the level of all schoolchildren so that when they come to us they are better prepared, and then we will be able to do all the necessary work within two weeks. So it is very important that the regions pay more attention to work with gifted children in preparing them for Olympiads. That is the first question. The second question concerns the four people who will go to the international Olympiad. I would add a week or ten days, especially for the Olympiads where a lot of practical preparation is involved, preparation, for example, at Moscow State University (we are working closely with Moscow State University and our team is practically using the facilities of the university). Let's face it: they need a little more hands-on experience, because there is no such opportunity in their schools and in the regions and even at our university. So we should see how to increase the training period for the four pupils who will go to the international Olympiad.
And one more question. It is a very simple question and this may not be the right place to raise it, but simple questions are sometimes more difficult to resolve than complicated ones. Our Olympiads, our orientation camps in preparation for Olympiads, take place in the summer (usually late May-June), and we will have another such camp in November. The timing is not very fortunate. We used to have them in January right after the winter vacation. This was good for school pupils (because they are well rested) and it was good as preparation for the final stage of our Russian Olympiad. Apparently this is connected with funding, because in recent years we have been unable to hold these orientation camps in January. I think I am speaking for all my colleagues. It seems a simple question, but there it is.
Dmitry Medvedev: I understand. Thank you.
Vladimir Pasechnik: Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Actually there is not much I can to comment on what Vladimir Pasechnik has said. We should think carefully about what to increase and what to diminish. Perhaps there is no point in prolonging it to a whole month, although the guys say there may be a point to this. One can hardly disagree with you that we should first of all look at other cities, and not only at the capital or capitals, and most importantly, ensure high-quality training there. But this is in fact the synthetic result of all our efforts in developing education.
As regards holding orientation camps in January, I don’t see what the problem is. And I don’t think the Minister or anybody else sees any problem there. I doubt that it is somehow connected with money, because strictly speaking, what is the difference? Check it out, Mr Livanov, and see what the problem is.
Well, guys, it’s time for me to go and divvy up the money. The ministers have assembled and we will mention these millions in our meeting. Let me ask some of the youngsters to speak and then perhaps some of the teachers. And then we will wrap up. Guys, who would like to speak?
Yegor Shustov (first year student, Faculty of Geography, Lomonosov Moscow State University): My name is Yegor Shustov. I am the world champion in geography 2011, a member of the Russian team and a prize winner at this year’s International Geography Olympiad. I would like to ask a question that perhaps concerns… I hope it does not apply to the majority of those present, but perhaps it does. How is it possible to elevate the prestige of the people, the students who work hard, study and have some ambitions? How can we raise their prestige among ordinary kids? Many of my new friends that I made at the All-Russia School Olympiad were telling me that in their class, among their friends in their city, especially if it is a small town, they are not very popular, there is a sense that they are not interesting to mix with, that they are nonentities and failures. Yet these people are trying hard, they want to improve themselves, they are, as you said, the elite of our country. How do we make other school students look at these people as an example to emulate rather than looking down their noses at them?
Dmitry Medvedev: Yegor, you don’t have to do anything: in time everything will click into place. Twenty years will pass and those who are loafing about and mocking you and saying that they are not interested in spending time with you and so on… it will become clear who has achieved something in life and who is the loser. And those who teased you and said that you were this and that and that they were not interested in you because you were interested in nothing but your Olympiads and your sciences… All those present here are people with a sense of purpose, because you are still very young and you have already achieved something in life. And those who say they are not interested in you and that your life is somehow a failure – what have they achieved? They have achieved nothing, absolutely nothing. And one more thing. I think for any person, the feeling that he has made the right choice, that he is growing, has found his own and has no rivals in his chosen field, that feeling counts for much more. And I am absolutely sure that all those present derive a great sense of satisfaction from the fact that you have already risen above the majority of other people in terms of your knowledge of this or that discipline. This enables you to engage in science and to study. That is enough.
And the last thing. It is, after all, a question of general culture. In the most difficult period in the development of our new young country called Russia, the value of knowledge dropped almost to zero because everybody wanted to make money. We have left those times behind. Everybody understands that Russia will have no place in the world without knowledge, without normal education. In 10-20 years’ time we will be equal to the most highly developed countries in the world, and this question will just become irrelevant, so don’t pay attention to all this talk.
Yegor Shustov: Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: You have it made already.
You have had your hand up for so long, I feel awkward.
Alexei Naumov (Associate Professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University): My name is Alexei Naumov, Associate Professor, Faculty of Geography, Moscow State University. I am the coach of the geography team. I’ll be brief: the International Geography Olympiad is on the one hand a contest of talents and on the other hand a contest of education systems. We have already spoken about talent, though only about the tip of the iceberg, the orientation camps and the training of the team. But there is also the foundation, and that is the All-Russia Olympiad, which reveals these talents.
We would very much like the system to function smoothly, while the existing one runs into logistical troubles at times. We must come to realise that all subjects are different. All Olympiads are equally funded now, be it in history or be it in geography, which entails an entire day of intensive field work, and so forth.
Another issue I want to emphasise is the contest of educational systems. At the national geography Olympiad, for example, we noticed a clear drop in the level of knowledge since the unified state exam in geography ceased to be obligatory for gaining access to higher education in economics – it seems that economists do not need to learn geography any more – and international relations. By the way, many international Olympiad winners from other countries do not go on to study geography afterwards but move into international relations, economics, and so on. We immediately felt that the pool of Olympiad winners eligible for international contests had shrunk. I think it was the wrong thing to do in such a vast country as ours, with our unique geography. We need to sort it out if we want to be more successful at international Olympiads.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Naumov. I hear what you say, and I hope the Minister of Education has been listening too. We will think about what we can do in this matter as well.
Alexei Naumov: Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. All right, guys, let’s do this: I will let another two young people have their say and then we will wrap up. Just so there’s no hard feelings.
A voice from the audience: Please let the mathematicians speak, we are the most numerous here.
Dmitry Medvedev: Okay, let’s listen to the schoolchildren or students, they are grown up now, let them have their say. That young man there wanted to talk.
Alexander Kalmynin (1st year student at the faculty of mathematics of the National Research University Higher School of Economics): I am Alexander Kalmynin, gold medallist at the International Mathematics Olympiad, I finished the lyceum in Irkutsk, am now studying maths at the Higher School of Economics. Let me ask you something on behalf of younger rock fans.
Dmitry Medvedev: That’s a good beginning.
Alexander Kalmynin: Will the Pussy Riot girls be released on parole?
Dmitry Medvedev: I see. I must say I doubt that this group, famous now in our country and elsewhere, has anything to do with music, rock music I mean.
Alexander Kalmynin: Strangely enough, they do.
Dmitry Medvedev: I have a feeling they don’t.
Alexander Kalmynin: They do for a Deep Purple fan.
Dmitry Medvedev: In any case, as I understand it, they have never sung anything that would go down even in the Internet history, let alone history itself. You know, this question really should not be addressed to me but to our judicial system, and to their solicitors. They have a right to file a petition. I think they will use it. And the court has the right to consider this matter on its merits and make the relevant decisions. I have already stated my position. I don’t know whether you heard about it but I said so quite a while ago: I very much dislike the way these characters look and behave. They simply provoke very negative emotions with me, so negative that it is unpleasant for me to even talk about them. But if I had been the judge I would not have sent them to prison. I simply do not consider it right for them to serve a custodial sentence. They have already been incarcerated for some time, these girls, and that’s enough really. One of them has been released: she was lucky. All the rest is within the jurisdiction of the court, the defence and the relevant judicial authorities. That’s all.
Alexander Kalmynin: Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: And they have nothing to do with music.
Alexander Kalmynin: They do.
Dmitry Medvedev: I’ve never heard it! Go ahead.
Dmitry Travin (1st year student at the faculty of bioengineering and bioinformatics of the Lomonosov Moscow State University): My name is Dmitry Travin, I’m a gold medallist of the International Biology Olympiad. I can say that my activities in biological science have been clearly divided into two parts. One concerned the Olympiads: this is a purely sports competition, a trial of skill and knowledge, and has little to do with actively developing the kind of science that provides real results.
The second part of my life has been related to scientific research. In my opinion this is an activity which can also be developed but which has not been mentioned today. In many regions – and I come from St Petersburg – schoolchildren’s research work can be promoted, to prepare them to become scientists. I am glad to say that an ecological and biological centre, called Krestovsky Ostrov, was recently set up in our city. This centre has been provided with decent equipment and all the necessary resources to house, all the laboratories, classes, study groups, which are capable of carrying out scientific research. The results are encouraging, some articles have been published abroad… This is really an embryo of science at the school level. These pupils will become scientists. They may not win national or international Olympiads but each one of them will learn something new. Every year they write scientific papers and take part in conferences. This is the second direction which should not be overlooked in the search for winning prizes in international competitions. It is a good thing if the two activities can be combined but the second one in itself deserves support and should not be overlooked. That is what I wanted to say.
Dmitry Medvedev: What kind of support is needed?
Dmitry Travin: Most of the material resources are there, the centre is there… Many laboratories and groups need to send people out on annual field trips, for example to gather research materials. Parents can occasionally sponsor trips within the Leningrad Region or to the White Sea, and that’s great, but there are so many other interesting places! We used to have more generous funding in the past, so we were able to send field parties to the Sayan Mountains, to Lake Baikal, to the Caucasus and other places, we were able to bring back much more material to conduct more comprehensive studies. I know all about that, as I have been into ornithology my entire life, it is all about different species in different areas... If the funding were there, it is just the field work… I think geographers will agree with me, they do a lot of that kind of work.
Dmitry Medvedev: It’s hard to argue with that. Clearly the more such trips can be made, the better. You know, I think that in any case we will have to use several different sources of funding. It cannot be just the state budget, there will be some personal expenses anyway, the way it’s done around the world. If corporate sponsors can be found, that’s perfectly acceptable too. I suppose we can move in that direction as well, but in principle, I agree, it’s very useful to be able to travel around.
So, what happened? Nobody has said everything that needs to be said about mathematics. Someone speak up and then we can finish.
Dmitry Teryoshin (senior lecturer at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (State University)): Thank you very much, Mr Medvedev. My name is Dmitry Teryoshin, I am deputy head of our national maths team. I will not hog the blanket, as they say, I will speak for everyone. I was very pleased to hear Mr Medvedev mention and thank all the tutors who look after the youngsters gathered here. That was wonderful. I suggest, though, that consideration be given at the Government level to providing these people with some additional support. These enthusiasts – I cannot say they can be counted on the fingers of one hand but there are very few of them and they are well known – they deserve to be named and famed, singled out and rewarded. Our Ukrainian neighbours have been doing this since President Kuchma’s times. Their procedure is simple: if you have trained an international Olympiad prize winner you automatically receive the title Honorary Teacher of Ukraine. In brief, I suggest we think of some form of exposing and supporting these people.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Teryoshin. I entirely agree with you. Not everything our Ukrainian friends do is something that we have to adopt, even though these people and the country are very dear to us, but in this matter they are perfectly right, in that a teacher who has trained an international Olympiad prize winner is an excellent teacher at the very least, since we understand that it takes more than the student’s own talent: the teacher’s talent is to make the students believe in themselves, discover something in themselves and simply not be afraid to go out into the international arena and win.
I think it should be done. Mr Livanov (addressing Dmitry Livanov), it looks like a good idea to me. I am ready to sign all the necessary documents, as this is the right thing to do. The main thing is to avoid offending someone by omission, as happens all too frequently in life. All right. Mr Nikiforov (turning to Nikolai Nikiforov), there were some souvenirs...
Nikolai Nikiforov: Everything is ready, everything will be done.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes. I just wanted the lads to have a look later on. I wanted to ask you: is LTE working now (Long Term Evolution wireless communication standard)?
Nikolai Nikiforov: Yes, of course.
Dmitry Medvedev: And is it working in here?
Nikolai Nikiforov: These are special premises, it’s not working here yet.
Dmitry Medvedev: Not working.
Nikolai Nikiforov: Not working yet, but if you instruct so it will. (Addressing the audience) The thing is, the gifts that Mr Medvedev has prepared for you, are quite patriotically minded and work in the most recent, fourth generation communication system which is now being introduced in Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev: As opposed to the iPhone and other Apple products which don’t work on our LTE networks, this does work, doesn’t it?
Nikolai Nikiforov: Yes, it does.
Dmitry Medvedev: All right then. Good.
Let me say this to you: it has been very interesting talking to you. I hope you achieve all the goals that you set yourselves in life. You have achieved quite a lot already but this is just the very beginning of your journey. We understand that you still have a lot of learning to do, that you have to prove to yourselves, and to your relatives, and colleagues, and rivals that everything that happened to you during your school years and even at university, was no fluke. That is the challenge that each one of you will have to face.
I hope you will succeed, as our country wants everything to work out for you. Thank you, and see you soon at other events. The next episode is on chemistry, is that right? Good luck, boys and girls. Bye.
* * *
After the meeting, Minister of Communications and Mass Media Nikolai Nikiforov answered questions from journalists
Question: What were the presents?
Nikolai Nikiforov: The winners of international Olympiads who met with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev received the latest electronic products – tablet computers. They operate on the 4G networks that we are actively developing. Incidentally, Russia is fourth in the world in the number of 4G users. So I hope that guys from different cities of this country will be able to go online and share information at a very high speed and in line with the most modern standards.
Question: Are these tablets of Russian make?
Nikolai Nikiforov: No, they are not. Russia does not yet produce them. That said, they are already using our 4G networks.
Question: There were reports about the intention to tighten the system of online purchases for individuals. Could you please clear up this question?
Nikolai Nikiforov: My reply will be very simple. No changes are planned in regulating the work of foreign online companies on the Russian market. Under current law, no customs duties or additional taxes are levied on purchases of up to 40,000 roubles. This is an impetus for the development of e-commerce in Russia in general. There were reports in the media that were prompted by a round table discussion at the Open Innovations forum. But they have not been confirmed by anyone, and certainly not any government body. Let me repeat that no changes are planned here in the near future.
Question: So, your ministry does not have a working group planning to somehow regulate online trade, say, by introducing additional taxes? Is there anything you’d like to suggest? Maybe you’d like to make it easier?
Nikolai Nikiforov: We don’t have any working group. The industry as such has different opinions. We must, of course, discuss this question but no changes or initiatives are being planned here in the near future.
Question: Don’t you want to increase the threshold over 40,000 roubles?
Nikolai Nikiforov: This issue is not on the agenda of the federal authorities. If part of the Russian online industry, those involved in electronic sales, are worried, this issue should be discussed at the Open Government. All mechanisms for such a discussion are ready. Not only this but also other issues may be discussed there with the Open Government experts. They may receive some support that could result in drafting decisions. That said, I haven’t heard about any such discussions so far.
Question: Did many companies asked you to change the system of online trade?
Nikolai Nikiforov: Not really, to be honest. For the first time, this support came from the Open Innovations forum. Our ministry has not received any requests and this is only natural because this is not exactly our responsibility. I think this issue should be dealt with by the Customs Service, the Ministry of Finance or the Ministry of Economic Development. After all, we are responsible for technology and communication standards. But we are prepared to become a venue for such discussion because this is our joint task. I think that if there is a need to discuss something, we should organise expert discussions.