Country Listing

Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


In 1989 the Soviet scientific and technological establishment consisted of a variety of organizations engaged in the research, development, and production of new products or processes. In general, each organization specialized in one phase of the process and in one sector of industry.

Many types of organizations were involved. Western specialists placed them in three broad categories: research institutions, design organizations, and production facilities. In the first category, the most numerous organizations were the scientific research institutes (nauchno-issledovatel'skie instituty-- NIIs), which focused on scientific research, both basic and applied. Each NII was headed by an appointed director, who oversaw a staff of researchers and technical personnel. Another type of research institution, the research laboratory (laboratoriia), operated independently or as a component of a larger NII or a production plant.

The second category, design organizations, included design bureaus (konstruktorskie biuro--KBs) and technological institutes (tekhnologicheskie instituty). Each of these encompassed a range of facilities with such titles as special design bureau (spetsial'noe konstruktorskoe biuro--SKB), central design bureau (tsentral'noe konstruktorskoe biuro), and project design and technology bureau (proektnokonstruktorskoe i tekhnologicheskoe biuro). Design bureaus planned new products and machines, although some also conducted research. Technological institutes had responsibility for designing new processes, installations, and machinery.

The third category included production facilities that manufactured the new product or applied the process developed by the research and design facilities. The output and testing of industrial prototypes, industrial innovation processes, or smallbatch production prior to the stage of mass production occurred in experimental production or pilot plants (various Russian designations, e.g., opytnye zavody, opytnye stantsii). These functioned independently or were attached to production facilities, research institutions, or design organizations.

In addition to their categorization according to the research, development, and production phase in which they were most involved, these facilities were characterized according to their organizational affiliation: industrial ministries, university and higher education, or the Academy of Sciences system.

Industrial ministries controlled the majority of science and technology organizations, including all types of research institutions, design organizations, and production facilities. The precise number of facilities in 1989 was not available because the Soviet press stopped publishing such statistics about a decade earlier. Western specialists, however, reported that in 1973 there were 944 independent design organizations, and in 1974 there were 2,137 industrial NIIs. The number of production facilities undoubtedly exceeded both those figures.

Industrial science and technology organizations tended to concentrate on one broad area, such as communications equipment, machine tools, or automobiles. They were directly subordinate to the industrial ministry responsible for that sector (see Industrial Research and Design , ch. 12). Science and technology work in ministries was directed by scientific-technical councils within the ministries; the councils comprised the ministry's leading scientists and engineers.

The second organizational affiliation, the higher education system, has been administered by the Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education. In addition to training scientists, the ministry's system provided a research base whose contribution to national scientific research and development has been growing. Its system included such varying scientific organizations as NIIs, design bureaus, problem laboratories (problemnye laboratorii), branch laboratories (otraslevye laboratorii), scientific sectors (nauchnye sektory), and such specialized institutions as computer centers, observatories, and botanical gardens. The number of organizations in the Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education and the percentage of the country's overall science budget allocated to them remained relatively small. In the late 1980s, their contribution was increasing with the expansion of contract research.

The third organizational affiliation, the Academy of Sciences, in 1989 was divided into four sections: physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics; chemistry and biology; geosciences; and social sciences. Grouped into these subject areas were approximately 300 research institutes employing more than 58,000 people. The network also included the separate academies of sciences in each of the fifteen union republics of the Soviet Union (except the Russian Republic, which was represented by the allunion academy) and regional divisions, the most prominent of which has been the Siberian Division. The academy also had responsibility for specialized schools, such as the All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Academy of Medical Sciences.

As the most prestigious scientific establishment in the Soviet Union, the Academy of Sciences has attracted the country's best scientists. Membership has always been attained through election. In January 1988, the academy had approximately 380 academicians and 770 corresponding members. Of these, about 80 academicians and 170 corresponding members were elected in December 1987. This election was noteworthy because it was the first held since the review of academy personnel policies had begun a year earlier. The review led to a number of measures directed at removing some of the older members from active participation, such as requiring them to retire at age seventy-five. The new rules also lowered the age at which a scientist could be elected to the academy and established an age limit beyond which officials who were not academicians could hold top-level administrative positions, such as institute director. Once voted into the academy, a member held that title for life (as an example, dissident Sakharov retained his academician status even while in internal exile in Gor'kiy).

The members of the academy usually met once a year in general assembly to discuss major issues, to vote on organizational matters, and to elect new members. In October 1986, the general assembly elected Gurii Marchuk, formerly chairman of GKNT, as its president. Marchuk replaced Anatolii P. Aleksandrov, who had served as president for eleven years.

Soviet scientists and governmental officials have debated the precise role of the Academy of Sciences in the development of science and technology since the inception of the Soviet state. Such discussions continued during the 1980s. Statutes defined the academy's mission as conducting primarily basic or fundamental research. Some scientists and administrators, even within the academy, have argued that this was appropriate and that the academy should not engage in applied research. Many others, however, have argued that the academy has to be involved in applied research not only because it employs the best scientific talent in the nation but also because fundamental science drives technological development and causes technological breakthroughs. In his speech to the Nineteenth Party Conference in June 1988, academy president Marchuk stressed that "fundamental scientific research is the basis of all science and all scientific and technical progress. It defines the prospects for ten to twenty years hence, it achieves the breakthroughs both in the production sphere and in the sphere of knowledge of nature and society."

Data as of May 1989

Country Listing

Soviet Union Table of Contents