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April 11th, 2010
For now, Russia's hoped-for Silicon Valley is a panorama of muddy fields, birch groves, warehouses and storage sheds belonging to a state agricultural institute. The site was chosen for its proximity to another ambitious project, the Skolkovo business school, housed in a futuristic building financed by millions in donations from the oligarchs, including Mr. Vekselberg.
While similar ideas have been bandied about for years, this one was approved — and blessed with $200 million in government money — within a month of a visit in January to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by senior Kremlin leaders, including Vladislav Surkov, the powerful deputy director of the presidential administration. Mr. Surkov says the new city will isolate new businesses from the bureaucracy that handcuffs the Russian economy today.
A government-financed foundation will build and run the city. Directors of existing state-financed tech companies — including Rusnano, a nanotechnology fund headed by Anatoly Chubais, a leading architect of Russia's controversial post-Soviet privatization — will serve on the board and contribute money. Separately, a scientific council will decide which companies can locate at the site. The infrastructure should be in place within three years, Mr. Vekselberg says.
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