Limits and Strategies for the Internationalization of Russian Economic Science: Sociological Interpretation of Bibliometric Data

Olessia Kirtchik

Olessia Kirtchik is a senior research fellow at the National Research University–Higher School of Economics. Address for correspondence: ul. Miasnitskaia, 18, office 310, 10100, Moscow, Russia.

This paper presents findings of a research project on publication behavior of Russian social scientists supported in 2012 by the Basic Research Fund of the National Research University–Higher School of Economics.

The implementation of a capitalist model of development after the disintegration of the Soviet Union was accompanied in the early 1990s by the importation of knowledge necessary to support its functioning on a level of the state administration, to build new institutions, and to guide the everyday activities of economic agents in a radically new economic environment. This intellectual transfer was based on the assumption that prescriptions for transition were universal and equally applicable in Latin American former dictatorships, newly created postsocialist states, and elsewhere in the world (Hirschman 1984:45). This assumption was supported by a belief in the universal and ahistorical character of economic laws as discovered by economists in the West. Consequently, the expertise and specific competencies of Soviet economists, just like Soviet government currency and bonds, lost their value.

 To put it differently, the transformation of the political-economic order implied a radical realignment of the economic sciences[1] in post-Soviet Russia with international mainstream economics, which meant essentially the adoption of Western concepts, theories, graduate curricula, and research methods. In addition to intellectual borrowings and institutional mimicry, the internationalization of economic science unequivocally supposed a transition to English as the language of scientific communication. Such linguistic transition is often presented as a magistral and inevitable way of development for all national disciplinary fields. According to the economist Hans-Jürgen Wagener, “In Western Europe, we observe a slow crowding out of indigenous textbooks ... by Anglo-American textbooks (either translated or, more frequently, in English). Small countries, like Scandinavia or the Netherlands, have progressed farther on this route ... Why should it be different in Central and Eastern Europe?” (Wagener 2002).

I will leave to the economists to contend with this question in the discipline regarding the definition of what it means to be an “economist” in today’s Russia. But it needs to be acknowledged that, twenty years after the beginning of this transition, Russian economic science still bears little resemblance to the standard globalized economics and Russian economists are still very poorly integrated into the global system of scholarly communication. Participation in a transnational field of economic science implies first and foremost publications in leading English-language scholarly journals meeting “international” standards (Libman 2011b). Since, as we shall see, only a few Russian economists have such publications, Russia is still virtually absent from the global economics.[2]

Some observers of the recent evolution of economic sciences in Russia have even suggested a specific “resistance to economics” (i.e., to Western economic theory), a “trend towards nationalism and isolationism in present-day Russian economic thought” (Zaostrovtsev 2005:1).[3] They understand this “resistance” as a consequence of the psychologically and socially determined incapacity of most economists trained during the Soviet time to assimilate new ways of thinking about and practicing science. Another historian of Russian economic thought sees this resistance as an expression of a secular “anti-individualistic trend” in the development of Russian social thinking (Zweynert 2007). However, such culturalist and ideological interpretations seem unsatisfactory, firstly, because they account only for a specific case of post-Soviet economists who are trying to revalorize Soviet political economy or calling to establish a “new national economic theory.” But in fact, the majority of faculty members and researchers in the economic sciences in today’s Russia are adherents of the market economy oriented towards Western standards in teaching and research (Nazarova 2005). Secondly, the “Slavophile vs. Westernizer” scheme ignores the fact that conflicting strategies of “internationalization” and “nationalization” are translated, respectively, into languages of neoclassical and institutional economics that appeal to Western theories and scholars. Finally, resistance to the embrace of standard theory and the abandonment of the national language as a means of scientific communication are still present not only in post-Soviet and other peripheral countries, but also in large European countries like France.[4] Thus, conflicts or resistances observed in post-Soviet academia are far from being an exotic feature of Russia resulting from its cultural and ideological past.

Quite a few accounts of the current situation in the economic sciences in Russia, more attentive to institutional factors, deplore the poor quality of economic education (Avtonomov, Doroshenko, and Zamkov 2004), low standards of research and publication (Murav’ev 2011), or the lack of communication between different groups of economists (Dezhina and Dashkeev 2011), all of which have become commonplaces in descriptions of all the social sciences in post-Soviet Russia. Among the reasons frequently mentioned for this “deplorable situation” are the Soviet legacy of ideological pressure and isolation from the global community which hindered the development of social sciences in the USSR (Khanin 2009), a shortage of skilled (i.e., trained in Western theory and methods) faculty (Nazarova 2005), difficulties in the translation and assimilation of Western economic theory in the Russian setting (Suspitsyna 2005), and, last but not least, the absence of institutional incentives for international mobility and publication of papers in foreign journals (Guriev 2004; Coupé 2008).

All these observations, while accurately reflecting some aspects of the situation in post-Soviet economic sciences, fit a mainstream interpretation which associates internationalization with excellence. According to this interpretation, the current problems of Russian economic science are ultimately determined by its insufficient integration into a transnational system of production and circulation of economic knowledge. In this type of analysis, transnationalization is taken for granted as an exogenous factor, a force majeure, which is not to be problematized or critically appraised. As a consequence, it tends to produce circular explanations: “Russia is absent from the international field of economics because it is not sufficiently internationalized.” This vicious circle may be avoided by taking the transnationalization of the discipline and profession of economics as an object of a study. Recent works in the sociology of economics, which are still rare, convincingly demonstrate that transnationalization itself is a major structural factor defining the parameters of international scholarly exchanges and hierarchies (Fourcade 2006), as well as the intranational disciplinary struggles for epistemic authority and institutional control (Dezalay and Garth 2006).

In this paper, situated within the latter approach, I argue that the “absence” of Russia in the field of global economics is primarily a structural outcome of the specific configuration of a transnational system of scholarly communication. In other words, the very repertoire of internationalization strategies available to Russian economists is essentially determined by the parameters of economics as a global science. The first section will sustain this hypothesis by revealing the historically constructed nature of the international market for scholarly publications in economics. In the second section, I will describe the mechanisms and limitations of internationalization of the economic sciences in Russia. Then, in the third section, I will analyze the features of “international” papers by Russian economists in order to identify successful strategies of internationalization as defined by the global field of economics. Finally, I will point out some general tensions and problems that currently confront national disciplinary fields as a consequence of the transnationalization of economic science.

For the analysis of the international visibility of Russian papers in economics I will use data on publications provided by Web of Science,[5] a database of scientific publications covering mostly high-impact English-language journals in all fields of science. It represents quite poorly the scientific production of non-English-speaking and peripheral countries. My previous research has demonstrated that this is especially true for Russia: only about 10 percent of Russia’s overall yearly publications output are indexed in Web of Science citation databases, and most of these papers are published in low-impact-factor journals (Kirtchik, Gingras, and Larivière 2012). At the same time, a bias towards leading “international” high-impact journals in Web of Science represents an advantage for this study, insofar as my intention is to analyze precisely those internationally visible Russian publications in economics. I also use the results of my study of the Russian academic market for foreign degree holders in order to analyze the internationalization of the economic discipline in contemporary Russia. This study included a survey of and interviews with holders of foreign degrees in economics employed by Russian universities and research institutions as of December 1, 2009.[6]

The construction of a global field of economics

Economics in its present form emerged during the first decades following the Second World War as a global intellectual project, a system for the production and circulation of knowledge, and a technology of governance. This evolution included three intertwined processes: mathematical formalization, Americanization, and the geographic expansion of economics. A unified and well-organized discipline (mainstream economics), which emerged as a result of this evolution, was characterized by a particular epistemic universalism referring simultaneously to the production of knowledge independent of time and place and to the international diffusion of this form of knowledge. In this section, I will demonstrate that these features determine the architecture of the existing transnational system of scholarly communication in economic sciences.

Firstly, economics today is the most mathematized and scientific (certainly in its own rhetoric and ambition) of the social disciplines, although none of them escaped positivistic aspirations in certain moments of their histories. Yet, at the turn of the twentieth century, there was no consensus among economists, as in other social science disciplines, on the epistemic status and limits of the use of mathematics in generating knowledge of social processes.[7] Mathematics began to be systematically used in economic sciences (but also, for example, in sociology) in different countries in the 1920s and 1930s with the development of econometrics and statistical techniques. But until the Second World War, mathematics was not a compulsory subject in economic education. A real turning point was the development of mathematical and computational economics since the 1950s in association with the needs of the military-industrial complex (Mirowski 2002). Significant progress in the formalization of economic knowledge achieved during the 1960s and 1970s transformed economic science into a new discipline and contributed to its radical separation from other social sciences. Mathematical modeling has progressively become not only an applied tool, but a universal language of economic theory (Weintraub 1983). Mathematics became more central to economic training while historical subjects were ousted to the periphery of economic knowledge. As a result of this transformation, most mainstream economists, like their colleagues in the experimental sciences, tend to read only the most current journal publications at the expense of classical works and research in other social science disciplines.[8]

Secondly, a relative theoretical unification of economics since the 1950s was led by American universities, although mathematical economics was developing simultaneously in different countries, including the Soviet Union.[9] Of course, economic science was not the only academic field affected by this trend, reflecting the emerging American domination of global politics, economy, science, and technology. But economics probably presents an extreme example of this logic: after World War II “the distinguishing characteristics of American economists became, naturally enough, the distinguishing characteristics of good professional economics” (Johnson 1977:23 cited in Coats 1993:43; emphasis in the original). The total symbolic domination of American universities in the production of economic knowledge includes several aspects (analyzed in more detail in Lebaron 2000 and Fourcade 2009). Theoretical leadership is recognized by the fact that the most prestigious prize of the Royal Swedish Society of Sciences (the so-called “Nobel Prize in Economics”), since 1969 has been awarded almost exclusively to economists employed by American universities. Economics departments at a handful of American universities (such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago) are also reputed to be the most prestigious centers of graduate training in economics, unequaled by even major Western European institutions. Multiple increases in the flow of both foreign undergraduate and graduate students, especially from East Asia, during the two last decades[10] reaffirmed American leadership and, at the same time, transformed economics into a truly international and globalized intellectual enterprise.

Thirdly, the global expansion of American economics since 1970s implied the internationalization of reputational mechanisms (through international rankings[11]), the creation of a global job market for holders of American (and prestigious European) degrees, and the standardization of curricula around the world. During the Cold War era, exportation of the American model of economic training into Latin America, Asia, and Africa was often facilitated and mediated by American philanthropic organizations aiming for the diffusion of liberal economic ideology to counter the “red threat” (Fourcade 2006:177). A certain unification of curricula in economics and business in line with the American model also took place in Western Europe and, later, in post-Soviet countries. This international diffusion of research and training standards is supported by the international expansion of economics as a technology of government (see, e.g., Babb 2001; Biglaiser 2002). The activities of international financial institutions became an important channel for this expansion: Latin America, South East Asia, North Africa, and the postsocialist bloc all in turn became recipients of their aid which consisted in investment (loans) and economic expertise (advisory assistance, training of local experts).

In sum, the modern form of economics has been shaped by the specific conjunction of universal epistemic claims (the construction of knowledge not dependent on time and place) and international expansion entailing not just the dismantling of borders between national fields, but the diffusion of standards from center (the US) to periphery. These specific features are necessarily embodied in the present system of scholarly communication in economics. Thus, this system of scientific communication is heavily dominated by Anglo-American journals setting standards of excellence for the entire discipline. It is appropriate now to illustrate these points by analyzing the geographic and linguistic distribution of papers in economics covered by Web of Science, which is a good proxy to evaluate the internationally visible part of scholarly communication in economic science. I will compare it with the distribution of publications in physics, on the one hand, and in history, on the other hand, in order to reveal what is specific to this discipline.[12]

Table 1. Distribution of countries and languages in Web of Science output (1993–2010).
Language Country Language Country Language Country
ENGLISH 97.03 % USA 44.68 % ENGLISH 60.86 % USA 25.12 % ENGLISH 98.10 % USA 24.27 %
SPANISH 0.59 % ENGLAND 10.87 % FRENCH 17.55 % ENGLAND 8.00 % UNSPECIFIED 0.82 % JAPAN 12.78 %
FRENCH 0.49 % CANADA 5.53 % GERMAN 5.17 % FRANCE 7.44 % RUSSIAN 0.73 % GERMANY 11.88 %
CZECH 0.43 % GERMANY 4.38 % RUSSIAN 4.75 % CANADA 3.58 % FRENCH 0.19 % PEOPLES R CHINA 10.01 %
GERMAN 0.43 % AUSTRALIA 3.87 % ITALIAN 4.57 % GERMANY 3.41 % UKRAINIAN 0.06 % FRANCE 8.15 %

First of all, distributions of languages and countries vary quite significantly in the publications output of different fields (natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities), represented in Table 1 by physics, economics, and history. As we can see, during the two last decades English has held a near-monopoly in international scholarly communication in economics and physics. History represents a contrasting case in this respect: the share of the English language diminishes here by almost a third to the benefit of French and German.[13] This striking difference is most probably related to the indexical (dependent on time and space) nature of knowledge in social sciences and, especially, in the humanities. At the same time, economics differs from both experimental sciences and humanities with respect to the weight of Anglo-American authors in published scholarly work: the share of the United States is particularly high in economics as compared with both history and physics. The United States and England together produced more than fifty percent of the global publications output in economics, but “only” about thirty percent in physics and history, in the 1990s and 2000s. This difference reflects the unusually strong domination of one country in transnational disciplinary communication as a distinctive feature of economics.

It is important to note that if the language distribution of publications output in economics changes little between 1993 and 2010 (with about 96 percent held by English), its geographical distribution undergoes a significant transformation during the same period. The weight of the United States has diminished dramatically in favor of a more truly international representation of authors from other Western and, especially, emerging nations (China, Taiwan, Korea, India, and others).[14] This dynamic might be precisely a result of the internationalization process via increasing academic mobility from periphery to the United States and Americanization of curricula all over the world. A better knowledge of standard economics and participation in international networks might have facilitated access to the top journals in the discipline for authors born outside the US and UK. Still, this relative “democratization” has failed to change—perhaps even reinforced—the hierarchical organization of the international field of economics. International rankings of journals and institutions are still very heavily dominated by Anglo-American universities and periodicals.

The limited internationalization of economic sciences in post-Soviet Russia

As I have shown in the previous section, economics today is a transnational field governed by common criteria of excellence defined and controlled largely by leading American institutions. Still, the international space of scholarly production and communication is constituted by national disciplinary spaces maintaining, more or less vigorously, linguistic and institutional borders (Heilbron 2008). Indeed, national fields of economic sciences are not uniform and are quite unequally integrated into global economics. Recent studies on the dynamics of economic sciences in different countries suggest that the degree of assimilation to the terms of standard economics varies greatly depending on the institutional and intellectual context of recipient nations (Dezalay and Garth 2006; Libman 2011a).

If we consider now the example of Russia, the economic sciences there began the internationalization process later than in most other countries. During the Soviet period, economic sciences were developing under severe ideological pressure and in relative intellectual isolation from foreign colleagues.[15] This pressure decreased, and later vanished all together, in the late 1980s with the publication of translations of classical works by Western conservative theoreticians like Friedrich August Hayek and Milton Friedman and of their popular expositions in generalist intellectual journals as well as economics periodicals. Numerous publications contributed to the progressive delegitimization of the Soviet economic model and of the economic theory of socialism, which was seen as unable to lead the Soviet economy out of crisis (for overviews of the late-perestroika journal discussions, see Sutela 1991; Sutela and Mau 1998; Zweynert 2006; Kirtchik 2007). By the end of perestroika, the idea of transition to the market as the only and inevitable solution had captured the minds of most Soviet economists,[16] as well as of other influential intellectuals and Communist Party leaders. An American textbook of standard economic theory, which became a basic training manual in Russian economic science departments in 1992, was earlier translated on the initiative of the Soviet government, with 500,000 copies printed by the Politizdat, the main political publishing house in the Soviet Union (Brue and MacPhee 1995:182).

The transformation of economic sciences following the collapse of the USSR was conceptualized in terms of a “paradigmatic shift” (Anan’in 1992), a “scientific revolution” (Shmatko 2004), or a creation of a totally new science—economicsin place of the political economy of socialism, which had lost all of its scientific credibility by the fall of the Soviet Union (Alexeev, Gaddy, and Leitzel 1992). According to more moderate judgments, not all Soviet economic knowledge became obsolete and Soviet economic sciences did have some achievements—still, none of them, or very few, were to be taken into the future (Lavigne 1997:479; Wagener 1998:24). Indeed, entire domains of economic knowledge related to the political economy of socialism and planning were rapidly displaced by new subjects and conceptual tools (e.g., markets, the monetary system, inflation, banks, etc.). The economic language itself had to be upgraded, and many English terms, as in other social sciences, had no Russian equivalents. This transformation was probably more dramatic in economic sciences as compared with other social science disciplines because of the former’s particular sensibility to the changing politico-economic environment. But to what extent was this renewal effective and complete?

Since the early 1990s, numerous grants and fellowship programs, such as Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS), Trans-European Mobility Programme for University Studies (TEMPUS), Economics Education and Research Consortium (EERC)—aiming to support the reform of economic education and the promotion of market-oriented research in Russia and other post-Soviet states—were established by Western governmental and philanthropic organizations (on the role of Western donors in the transformation of Russian economic research and education, see Ivanova and Wyplosz 2003; Suspitsyna 2005). American and European universities together with Russian institutions created joint Masters and student exchange programs. Russian undergraduate schools (for instance, the Lomonosov Moscow State University, but also some provincial universities) obtained grants for skills upgrading and professional reeducation of teaching staff at Western universities. Finally, the technical and financial assistance of foreign partners helped to build new educational and research centers in economics, which became principal suppliers of expert knowledge and recruits for government and business.

But these efforts could not be sufficient to create in Russian institutions a “critical mass” of faculty and research staff who had assimilated the standards of mainstream economics through Western PhD programs. The contrasting example of German economic science is particularly revealing in this respect. During the last twenty years, German economic science has nearly completed the transition from a relatively closed academic system to full integration into global mainstream economics (Libman 2011a:129). According to Alexander Libman, this transition was realized within one generation through a rapid turnover of faculty in the 1990s. This change was even more dramatic in the former German Democratic Republic, where East German professors of socialist political economy were almost entirely replaced by West German professors of economics. This effective (though, in Libman’s opinion, ethically dubious) measure would have been impossible, the author argues, in an academic community of greater size (Libman 2011a:132). The German academic system is characterized by a relatively small number of tenured positions, which results in the high social status of their holders, permitting them to raise qualification standard for candidates (PhD, publications in top jou td style= PEOPLES R CHINAwidth:53px;height:16px;rnals, etc.) and assuring a preponderance of new professors in the field.

In post-Soviet Russia, we observe the opposite situation: a scarcity of qualified (i.e., trained in transnational economics) faculty versus a huge market width:53px;height:16px;width:53px;height:16 px; width:53px;height:16px;width:53px;height:16px; demand for education in eco style=width:53px;height:16px;td style=nop/p/pmics and business that emerged virtually overnight. During the 1990s, in addition to the new private institutions, multiple departments and chairs in economic sciences (most often providing training in “applied” economic specialties like banking, accounting and auditing, finance and credit, business, and management) were created in almost every higher education institution.[17] Unlike the strongly competitive German academic system (Libman 2011a:146), most Russian institutions in economic sciences did not (and still do not) possess the financial (high salaries) and symbolic (reputation) resources to recruit on the international academic market. They recruited Soviet-trained economists, whose education had absolutely nothing to do with Western standard training (basic American and Soviet curricula in economic science are compared in Brue and MacPhee 1995), or newcomers trained in other disciplines[18] who had to rapidly assimilate both new knowledge and new intellectual tools.

Economic sciences are also represented—especially well as compared to other social sciences[19]—in the post-Soviet research system by multiple institutes of the Academy of Sciences and branch institutes dependent on ministries and administrative bodies employing thousands of researchers. Most of these research institutions had few incentives and resources to attract new staff and to realign their research and publication practices with the standards of mainstream economics. As a consequence, institutional and intellectual habits are especially ingrained in these settings.

In contrast, newer Russian educational and research institutions, founded during the post-Soviet period, seem less dependent on, or even completely free of, the Soviet legacy. The most prestigious among them, like the Higher School of Economics and New Economic School (both in Moscow), the European University in Saint Petersburg, and some others, emphasize Western standards in education, relations with foreign partners via exchange programs and research projects, international mobility, and the competencies of their faculty members and researchers. Holders of foreign doctoral degrees, which are still not recognized by official Russian academia, are particularly welcomed in such institutions. But these schools are still a minority among post-Soviet academic institutions. And to this day only two Russian schools recruit mostly holders of Western doctoral degrees in economics:[20] the New Economic School (NES) founded in 1992 with financial support from the George Soros Foundation and the Moscow Institute of Economics and Finance (ICEF) established jointly by the London School of Economics and the newly created Moscow Higher School of Economics in 1997 with the aim of creating an “internationally recognized centre of excellence.” The intellectual profiles and academic practices of their staff seem to meet the best, among Russian institutions, standards of the transnational disciplinary field of economics.

The typical educational and professional trajectory of faculty members and researchers at NES presents a sharp contrast to the average career of members of other economics departments in Russia, who typically get hired by the institutions where they obtained their degrees (this “inbreeding” model is described in Sivak and Yudkevitch 2009). Professors at NES generally have more diversified and longer educational trajectories: most of them obtain a Masters degree or a “specialist” diploma (after a five-year course) at a university providing strong mathematical training (e.g., Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow Physical and Technological Institute) before entering an MA program in economics at NES or a Western school. The next step is a PhD at a prestigious, most often American, university (Harvard, MIT, University of Pennsylvania), or, less frequently, at a British or European one (Toulouse School of Economics, etc.). In some cases, employment at NES is preceded by some research or teaching experience at an American university. NES faculty members regularly publish papers in foreign journals, including high-impact ones, and participate in other forms of academic mobility (conferences, visiting fellowships) much more often than faculty and research staff at any other Russian institution.[21] This example shows that the “entrance fee” to the transnational field of economics is quite high both financially (cost of the education and mobility) and intellectually (years of studies, mathematical competence).

As we can see, the disciplinary space of economic sciences in today’s Russia is characterized by the coexistence—without any intellectual or institutional connection between them—of a numerically insignificant internationalized segment and a majority poorly integrated into the transnational mainstream. In other words, economic sciences in Russia represent a greatly heterogeneous space where standard economics has not achieved a dominant position, to say the least. The effect of the presence of Western-trained economists is objectively limited, firstly, by their exclusive orientation towards the international market of ideas and, secondly, by the existence of a large internal market of educational services and scholarly publications with relative autonomy vis-à-vis transnational economics. Still, non-participation in the transnational mainstream is not necessarily synonymous with “isolationism” or “nationalism.” The example of new “Westernizing” institutions shows that non- (or feeble) participation in transnational scholarly communication in economics may well go together with a strong international intellectual orientation.[22] In the next section, I will develop and clarify this point by demonstrating the constraints imposed by the transnational field of economics on the internationalization strategies of Russian economists.

Patterns of international publications by Russian economists

Publications by Russian economists in English-language journals have been recently analyzed in order to establish a list of “leading economists” in Russia (Dezhina and Dashkeev 2008; Mura’vev 2011) or, on the contrary, to show that international citation indexes are not an adequate tool for evaluating Russian social scientists (Poletaev 2008; Savel’eva and Poletaev 2009). But these studies agree on one point: Russian economists are scarcely visible to colleagues outside of the country. This holds equally true for other social sciences and humanities fields in Russia: for the most part they lack international visibility, unlike Russian mathematics or physics, which have an incomparably larger international presence.[23] Indeed, although Russian economic sciences produce quite an impressive flow of publications yearly,[24] they are destined for domestic use only. For instance, the international online library RePEc (Research Papers in Economics)—currently covering 1,412 journals from different countries—contains only six Russian titles.[25] Regardless of the quality of these journals, their international impact is insignificant. For instance, the journal Economic Issues (Voprosy ekonomiki), having the highest impact factor among Russian journals in economics as calculated by the Russian Index of Scientific Citation (RINC), in 2011 held only the 466th position in the aggregate rankings of IDEAS-RePEc,[26] 20 places lower than in 2009 (Murav’ev 2011:24).

Quite remarkably, the Web of Science compendium of journals currently contains not a single journal in business and economics produced in Russia, and it indexes yearly only a few dozen research papers by Russian authors in this subject category. The latter will be analyzed in detail later in this section.[27] In my analysis, these data reveal patterns of international publications which, according to my hypothesis, reflect some of the strategies and limits for the internationalization of national disciplinary fields set by the parameters of the transnational system of scholarly communication in economics.

Graph 1. Evolution of the Russian output in economics in Web of Science (1993–2010).

At first glance, the dynamics of Russian economics papers indexed by Web of Science between 1993 and 2010 may seem paradoxical: the number of Russian papers in economics fell throughout the 1990s, began to grow again after 2001, but never reattained its maximum of 1994. Is it possible that Russian economists were better integrated into global economics in the early post-Soviet period than more recently? However, a more detailed analysis of the Russian output in economics in Web of Science shows that this counterintuitive finding results from important changes in the thematic composition of this output. In fact, during the 1990s, more than a half of these articles appeared in the same journal, Problems of Economic Transition, printing English translations of papers originally published in Russian.[28] The withdrawal of this and some other periodicals from Web of Science at the end of the 1990s (leading to the decrease of the Russian output in economics in this database) was concomitant with a gradual loss of interest in the post-Soviet transitions in the West. A subsequent increase in Russian papers in this database during the 2000s was, on the other hand, due to publications in foreign journals directly in English. Not surprisingly, the greater portion of papers from Russia in foreign journals after 2001 and especially after 2007 was by economists employed at NES and HSE, two institutions recruiting most of the Western-trained PhDs in economics currently working in Russia. The body of journals publishing Russian papers in economics has also broadened remarkably during the same period (from 83 titles having published at least one Russian paper during 1993–2000 to 100 titles during 2001–2010). Thus, the periods between 1993 and 2000 and between 2001 and 2010 display radically different characteristics for the international visibility of Russian economic sciences.

If we consider the scope of these publications throughout the post-Soviet period, they represent a quite heterogeneous corpus of texts, which may be roughly divided into three categories: regional, mathematical, and sectoral. I argue that these categories of publications reflect the repertoire of strategies of internationalization available to Russian economists based on different types of academic competencies. Let us consider a share of each category in terms of the overall output, the status and specialization of journals, as well as the institutional affiliations of authors.

Table 2. “Regional” publications by Russian economists.[29]

The first (“regional”) category embraces almost half of all Russian papers in economic sciences indexed in Web of Science between 1993 and 2010. They appeared in journals specializing in the problems of economic transition and emerging markets (Table 2). This group of journals includes interdisciplinary venues in so-called “area studies” (Europe-Asia Studies, Post-Soviet Affairs), but also purely economic journals specializing in post-Soviet and other “transitional” economies (Post-Communist Economies, Economics of Transition, Russian and East-European Finance and Trade, and others). None of them belongs in the Top 100 journals in economics according to IDEAS-RePEc. These “regional” journals have a relatively low status in the international market of scholarly publications in economics as compared with leading American and British venues with a more “universal” appeal. Still, the popularity of area-studies journals among Russian economists is quite understandable, since leading international journals have little space for studies of peripheral economies. Authors of papers in this category represent all of the important Russian institutions in economic sciences, both old and new (economics institutes of the Academy of Sciences, Moscow State University, NES, HSE, and others). Nonetheless, a line of differentiation divides new and old institutions according to type of journal. Papers in translated and interdisciplinary journals are almost exclusively published by researchers from the Russian Academy of Science (RAS). Authors of papers in Post-Communist Economies are more or less equally distributed among the HSE, Moscow State University, Institute of Economy in Transition (renamed as the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy after the first post-Soviet Prime Minister of Russia and the main architect of free-market reforms Yegor Gaidar), and institutes of the RAS. But most Russian papers in comparatively more reputed journals like Journal of Comparative Economics are published by members of CEFIR (Centre for Economic and Financial Research at New Economic School) and the NES. These publications mobilized the “local” competencies of Russian authors in the issues of economic transition, but sharply declined in number by the end of the 1990s.

Table 3. “Mathematical” publications by Russian economists.

Papers by Russian authors in non-regional journals, having grown in number during the 2000s, are of special interest to the analysis of internationalization strategies. At least a third of all foreign publications fall into the category of mathematical economics, including mathematical modeling, operational research, and game theory. Most of these papers are purely mathematical and do not consider any “real world” data. Not surprisingly, they are mostly published by mathematicians (or mathematicians-cum-economists) affiliated with the Central Economical and Mathematical Institute, the Steklov and the Sobolev institutes for mathematics—all important centers of mathematical economics since the 1960s—and some other institutes of the RAS. A “comparative advantage” of these authors is their specific mathematical competence acquired either before or after the fall of the Soviet Union. They publish most frequently in European Journal of Operational Research, Finance and Stochastics, International Journal of Game Theory, and Journal of Mathematical Economics (Table 3). Though these venues are truly international in terms of their editorial board membership, authors, and audience, they are currently not among the top-ranked or most influential journals in economic sciences (Soviet economists mostly contributed to mathematical economics which has fallen out of fashion since the late 1970s). Foremost among the Russian authors publishing “mathematical” papers in more prestigious journals like Economics Letters and Games and Economic Behavior are, once again, economists affiliated with the NES and CEFIR

Table 4. “Applied” publications by Russian economists.

A less numerous and quite heterogeneous category of papers by Russian authors reports the results of “applied” studies in different branches of economics (labor relations, social policy, education, public health, agriculture, etc.). Journals publishing papers in this category (Defence and Peace Economics, Energy Economics, Agricultural Economics, Ecological Economics, and others; see Table 4) are not among the best ranked within the discipline, as far as “applied” research is always inferior in formal and informal academic hierarchies to “pure theory” (Bourdieu 1984). However, together with the theoretical core they constitute what one could call “normal science.” This category of papers generally requires not only local competence, but also the ability to process empirical data using standard econometric techniques and to present findings in a conventional form. The Russian papers in this category are numerically insignificant, and authors of these papers are dispersed among a wide range of research institutions and universities, without displaying any clear trend. This group of publications also includes papers in sub-disciplines like management and business economics published mostly by professors of business schools (for instance, the Stockholm School of Economics in Moscow). Though such institutions may be considered international in terms of their staff and curricula, their contribution to the Russian output of publications is unexpectedly low. This may be explained by the fact that foreign professors are generally employed by these schools on a temporary basis and maintain their affiliation with Western institutions.

The publication of papers in heterodox journals, such as The Cambridge Journal of Economics or The Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, could have become an alternative strategy of internationalization for Russian economists not sharing the theoretical and axiological presuppositions of the neoclassical Western mainstream. At the same time, those journals welcoming contributions from heterodox approaches to economics (including neo-Keynesianism, French regulationism, or some Marxist orientation) are no easier to access by Russian and Soviet-trained economists. As in any professional community, even heterodox schools possess a shared set of values, conventions, ways of thinking, and writing styles acquired only through professional socialization. As older post-Soviet scholars have not gone through that particular socialization and thus lack the necessary language and other skills, there are few chances for them to publish in heterodox economic journals.

Table 5. Papers by Russian economists in Top 30 economic journals (1993–2010).

Finally, in order to identify the most successful internationalization strategies, I will now consider publications by Russian economists in the world’s top journals in economics, which are still few and far between. According to the Web of Science count, only twenty Russian papers appeared in the 30 most influential journals in economics[30] between 1993 and 2010 (Table 5). Almost all of these papers (80 percent) have international coauthors, and in several cases the foreign coauthor is a member of the Russian diaspora in the United States. A quarter of the papers in this group are authored or coauthored by holders of an American or British degree in economics. This factor is particularly important, insofar as I found no papers in top journals published by Russian economists alone who did not have an American doctoral degree or other professional experience (as a postdoctoral or visiting fellow) in the United States.[31] So it is not surprising that the authors of most Russian papers published in top journals during the 2000s (16 out of 20) are researchers and professors affiliated with the NES and CEFIR, both of which almost exclusively recruit holders of American degrees. This fact perfectly illustrates the close relationship between integration into the international mainstream and publications in top journals (due to participation in networks as well as linguistic and academic expertise). Almost all of these papers consider questions of economic theory and methodology at the expense of presenting findings of empirical studies.

Table 6. Publications containing the terms “Russia” or “Russian.”

The strategies and patterns of foreign publications identified so far suggest that internationalization implies, essentially, a gain in abstraction and delocalization of research topics. I measured this tendency by counting the number of Russian economics papers indexed in Web of Science containing the words “Russia” or “Russian” in the titles, keywords, and abstracts. Significantly, these words appear in less than half of all articles (326 from 773). This analysis also shows significant variation in the occurrence of these terms according to category of publication. They occur much more frequently in “regional” publications, which do not belong to the core of the discipline, and they also appear in some “applied science” journals, in which relatively few Russian papers were published during the post-Soviet period (Table 6). Finally, only a few papers by Russian economists in top disciplinary journals mention “Russia” at all, and mostly as a point of illustration rather than the focus of analysis.

To put it differently, the expansion of transnational economics to a national field of economic sciences would ideally imply the replacement of local research objects by abstract or universal ones. This is of course an unachievable utopia (in the literal sense of the word), but is this evolution even desirable? Internationalization seems less problematic in the natural sciences inasmuch as their “objects (particles, atoms, cells and galaxies) are universal” (Gingras and Mosbah-Natanson 2010:149).[32] But in the social sciences and humanities, which are more indexical in nature, the displacement of local subjects and problems raises an important question of cultural diversity and even of the capacity of “peripheral societies” for self-reflection.


In this paper I have identified and discussed the internationalization patterns of the Russian economic sciences through an analysis of English-language publications indexed in Web of Science. My analysis has shown that two categories of papers are preponderant in the Russian “international” output in economics: “regional” and “mathematical.” The relatively larger number of papers in the first category reflects a conjuncture of interest among the international community in issues of post-Soviet transition. This type of publication mobilizes “local” knowledge of the post-Soviet economy usually assigned to the ghetto of “area studies.” On the contrary, the second category of papers—prevailing in the properly international output by Russian economists in Web of Science—requires a specific mathematical competence detached from knowledge of the “real economy.” The relatively extensive presence of this category of papers is due to a tradition of mathematical economics developed in Soviet academia since the 1960s. Still, both categories of journals are not among the top-ranked journals in economics. The latter are essentially reserved for discussions of theoretical questions relevant to Western (American) academia and tested, at best, on Western (American) economic data.

Thus, the international visibility of economists from peripheral countries directly depends on their level of integration into global economics, which is fundamentally achieved through professional socialization. Doctoral training at American universities attracting ever-growing numbers of foreign students has been, during the second half of the twentieth century, a major route for the expansion of transnational economics into peripheral disciplinary fields. Holders of American and equivalent doctoral degrees in economics, when not recruited by American universities, saturate local markets of economic expertise in different countries and serve as the most efficient carriers of transnational economics into national academic spaces (and as middlemen between the two). Through this mechanism, transnationalization permits the growth of a truly international and highly integrated academic community sharing theoretical and axiological presuppositions, as well as standards of research. The advanced internationalization of a national field of economic science also frequently goes together with an improvement in the quality of education and research assessed primarily through publications.

However, this is true only because the evaluation criteria applied (both internally and externally) to national sciences are determined by the greater transnational field of economics. For instance, the deviant, archaic, or abnormal characteristics of Soviet and post-Soviet economic science are perceived as such in relation to a highly integrated and standardized, indeed “disciplined,” space of global economics. In this self-referencing system, excellence depends on the level of internationalization because the criteria of excellence are set by the same processes of internationalization. This situation has certain problematic points which merit brief discussion here.

Firstly, the transnationalization of economic research and communication does not so much equalize the positions of different regions as much as change the balance of power between countries and languages. It strengthens the domination of Anglo-American academia and of English as a lingua franca of international science at the expense of all the other languages (Zitt, Perrot, and Barré 1998). Internationalization (through PhD training at prestigious schools, the recruitment of professors on the international job market, etc.) as an effort to “catch up” with disciplinary leaders has, for peripheral academic fields, a high cost. A limited ability to (financially) assume this cost serves as an objective limit to participation in transnational academic communication.

Secondly, the process of internationalization affects national fields unevenly, frequently creating a (temporary or indefinite) structural conflict between mainstream and “other” economists, which cannot be reduced to a purely ideological or generational one. Very similar conflicts between different groups of economists have been observed in non-English-speaking European countries, Latin America, and elsewhere (Heredia and Kirtchik 2010). But this tension is strongest in emerging economies or postsocialist countries, like Russia, where internationalization occurred later and the change was more like a rupture than a gradual transformation: imposed from the outside and not “maturated” from within. An internationally integrated part of the academic community becomes here totally disconnected from the rest of domestic academia.

Another important consequence of transnationalization is the growing tension between national and universalistic orientations of scholarly practice in economics, as well as in other social and human sciences (Charle, Schriewer, and Wagner 2004:12). Transnational logic does not only structure (if not split) national disciplinary spaces, but also defines the repertoire of strategies of internationalization. As we have seen, the most successful of these strategies implies a refusal of local objects of economic science in favor of abstraction and formalization. This trend will certainly not help to overcome the current deficit of understanding of Russian society, instead contributing to the perpetuation of sterile debates on “modernization.” Nonetheless, as long as national borders in science, but also in policy and culture, do effectively matter, the question of the complete delocalization of scientific knowledge and practice remains an open one.


  1. The term “economic sciences,” which might appear somewhat exotic to a non-Russian reader, is used on purpose to designate the Soviet and post-Soviet disciplinary field (it is a literal translation of “ekonomicheskie nauki”) as distinguished from standard “economics.” “Economic sciences” in Russia currently include “economic theory,” “management of national economy,” “finances and credit,” “mathematical and other applied tools of economic science,” and “world economy.”

  2. According to Poletaev (2008), this situation is not specific to the post-Soviet period. Throughout the twentieth century only a few Russian economists—such as Evgenii Slutskii, Nikolai Kondratiev, Aleksander Chaianov—have been internationally recognized for their work, and only one of them, Leonid Kantorovich, was awarded a so called “Nobel prize in economics” (the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel).

  3. A similar “rejection syndrome” of Western science and ambition to found a “home-made theory” has as well been documented in regard to other social sciences in post-Soviet Russia, for example sociology (Radaev 2000).

  4. As an example of such resistance, an open letter composed by French students and professors in economics against the predominance of standard theory in academic curricula was published in June 2000. It became part of a broader intellectual and social movement heralding “post-autistic” economics ( The theoretical and political orientations of this movement were summed up in a book titled Real World Economics: A Post-Autistic Economics Reader (2007). Besides the claims of renewal and diversification of economic theory and methods, heterodox economists in France pursue the goal of creating a separate disciplinary section (section disciplinaire de la CNU) responsible for the promotion of researchers and professors and validation of PhDs, as the existing one, dominated by mainstream economists, often blocks career advancement of heterodox researchers.

  5. Web of Science is run by private company Thomson Reuters. It provides, on a for-profit basis, access to the citation databases in all fields of science, arts, and humanities, with coverage going back to 1900. The criteria for adding a journal into this database include a recognizable editorial board, stable publishing history, citation impact, and transliteration into Latin characters of all bibliographical references (which might represent a problem for journals publishing papers in non-Latin characters, reinforcing the “cultural imperialism” of English-speaking nations).

  6. The study was a part of a collective research project on the careers of highly qualified staff in contemporary Russia conducted in 2010.

  7. Though the idea of mathematical economics found its dedicated adherents among influential economists of the era such as Leon Walras, Francis Edgeworth or Vilfredo Pareto, it was lively contested by representatives of the German historical school, the Austrian school, and American institutionalists (Yonay 1998:77–99). One of the most influential economists of his time and a founding father of neoclassical economics, Alfred Marshall, warned against the excessive use of mathematics in economics (Weintraub 2002:38–39).

  8. Post-war economics came closest, among social science disciplines, to the communication model of the experimental sciences prioritizing research papers in refereed journals (and working papers), with books holding a much less important position than in other social sciences and, especially, in humanities.

  9. In the USSR, mathematical methods applied to economics began to develop in the early 1960s, mainly within the newly created Central Institute of Economics and Mathematics in Moscow. Mathematical economists who worked in contact with Western colleagues on problems of optimal planning and economic equilibrium created a language radically different from that of the official political economy of socialism and occupied a rather marginal place in the field of economic sciences until the fall of the Soviet Union. (For a brief history of mathematical economics in USSR, which is still to be written, one may refer to Zauberman 1975; Sutela 1991).

  10. Detailed statistics on incoming students’ migration to the United States is available through the National Science Foundation (

  11. It is worth noting that economists have a particular penchant, unlike other social scientists, for all sorts of disciplinary rankings establishing national and international hierarchies of authors, departments, graduate programs, journals and other publications. For an overview of the rankings of academic journals and institutions in economics, see, for instance, Kalaitzidakis, Mamuneas, and Stengos 2003.

  12. For this analysis, I considered papers (type of document “article”) appearing between 1993 and 2010 in journals covered by Web of Science citation databases and classified in the subject category “business economics.”

  13. The observed difference in the structure of international publications might, to some extent, be a result of more or less arbitrary choices made by database producers (concerning the inclusion of a particular journal into a database), but they do certainly reflect distinctive features of communication systems in these disciplines. Thomson Reuters’ decision to include a journal in a Web of Science database is normally based on its impact (the ratio of citations received by papers during a certain period to their number minus one year) and thus it supports and reinforces existing disciplinary hierarchies.

  14. Between 1993 and 2010, the share of the United States and England in the world’s output in economics diminished from 68.3 to 47.9 percent, while, for instance, the Chinese presence increased from virtually zero to 4.3 percent. For comparison, the growth of papers by authors from emerging countries is even more dramatic in the natural sciences: thus, in physics the share of the US diminished, during the same period, from 29.1 to 21.6 percent, while China’s share increased from 3.3 to 18 percent. This is partly the result of a policy change by database managers, who have recently added more journals from emerging nations. But we can also observe a clear trend of growing visibility of authors from these countries in international scholarly journals in nearly all fields of science.

  15. Mathematical economics, developed in the USSR in the 1960s, probably represents the only exception in this regard. Mathematical economists, who were still quite marginal in the field of economic sciences in the USSR, were better acquainted with up-to-date international research in their field than the average Soviet economist and had contacts with Western colleagues. English-language journals in mathematical economics could be accessed in the libraries of leading scientific institutions, and several important books in mathematical economics were translated and published in Russian. In turn, major works by leading Soviet mathematical economists were translated into English and published in high-impact journals (like Econometrica). On economic exchanges between Soviet and American economists, see Bockman 2007.

  16. For instance, a survey conducted by Vincent Barnett in 1990 showed that 95 percent of Soviet economists (versus 66 percent of their British colleagues) fully or partly agreed with the assumption that the market was the best mechanism for regulating economic life (Barnett 1991, cited in Zweynert 2006:190). This finding seems quite trustworthy; still, we should not forget that at the time of the survey the term “market” had multiple meanings in Soviet academic and public discourse ranging from the free self-regulating market to a socialist market or mixed economy.

  17. The extreme popularity of economic specialities in tertiary education in post-Soviet Russia may be illustrated by the fact that, by the year 2000, about a quarter of all undergraduate students in Russia were enrolled in economic departments (Nazarova 2005:9).

  18. According to a survey conducted in the mid-2000s, nearly a third of faculty members in economics departments in Russia still did not have basic economic training (Nazarova 2004).

  19. To give a rough idea of the overrepresentation of economists among social scientists in Russia: in 2009 the Russian Academy of Sciences employed 2,244 economists but only 1,032 social scientists in other disciplines (Rosstat statistical survey:

  20. Besides ICEF and NES, holders of foreign doctoral degrees (often, a “practically” oriented DBA) can be found in prestigious business schools like Skolkovo, Mirbis, Higher School of International Management (Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration), Higher School of Management (Saint Petersburg State University), Stockholm School of Economics Russia, and some others. These institutions reproduce the international model of business education.

  21. According to a survey tracing the careers of highly qualified staff conducted in 2010, 28.8 percent of holders of “domestic” doctoral degrees in economics and, by contrast, only 2.3 percent of holders of foreign degrees working in academic institutions in Russia claimed not to have participated in any form of international cooperation or international mobility during the three years prior to the survey. Seven point eight percent of the former and 62.9 percent of the latter had coauthored papers with foreign colleagues; while 17.8 percent and 42.9 percent, correspondingly, took part in joint research projects or programs (survey data analyzed by the author).

  22. It is worth noting the existence of a positive correlation between the “Western orientation” of professors and the status of their university (expressed in a higher passing score and tuition fee): the farther you move from prestigious and centrally located (Moscow, Saint Petersburg) schools to the periphery, the less chances there are to meet liberal-minded professors (Nazarova 2005:124).

  23. For instance, papers by Russian authors in Web of Science represent only 0.3 percent of the world production in economics from 1993–2010 (subject category “business economics”), while their share was 7.9 percent in physics and 4.2 percent in mathematics during the same period.

  24. The State Commission for Academic Degrees and Titles’ (VAK) list of journals (in which doctoral candidates are supposed to publish at least two papers before defending their theses) comprises 277 journals in economic sciences (including management, banking and interdisciplinary fields), 112 in sociology, and 111 in history.

  25. These titles are Voprosy ekonomiki, Region: Ekonomika i Sotsiologiia, Quantile, Prikladnaia Ekonometrika (all in Russian), and Journal of the New Economic Association and Annals of Marketing-mb (bilingual Russian/English). Besides, the library covers working-papers series of the Laboratory for macroeconomic analysis at the National Research University–Higher School of Economics, the Centre for Economic and Financial Research at the New Economic School, the Faculty of Economics at the European University in Saint Petersburg, the Higher School of Management at the Saint Petersburg State University, and the Institute of Economics and Organization of Industrial Production of the Siberian Section of the Russian Academy of Science.

  26. The aggregate ranking of journals of the online library of literature in economics may be accessed at:

  27. The set of publications chosen for my analysis contains 773 English-language research articles by Russian economists (an article is assigned to Russia if the country appears in the work address of at least one of the authors regardless of his or her nationality) which appeared between 1993 and 2010 in journals belonging to the subject category “business and economics” covered by Web of Science. It is worth noting one more time that this set of publications does not contain all of the English-language articles by Russian economists in foreign journals, but a quite restricted selection of documents.

  28. In addition to Problems of Economic Transition, the American publisher M.E. Sharpe, specializing in translations of Soviet and now Russian periodicals in the social sciences and humanities, issued the journal Russian and East European Finance and Trade between 1992 and 2002.

  29. Tables 2–4 and 6 contain titles of periodicals in which different categories of Russian papers appeared at least two times during 1993–2010 (according to Web of Science).

  30. To identify the Top 30 journals in economics, I used RePEc’s ranking by impact factor (

  31. A similar trend was recently identified by Coupé (2008) in the development of Ukrainian economic sciences: though the contribution of Ukrainian economists to the international output in economics is still very limited, Coupé observes a growing number of economists with Western degrees publishing in prestigious international journals in recent years.

  32. However, the objects of the natural sciences are not always as universal as is commonly believed. For instance, a specific type of electron, which may be transferred from one atom to another, was called a sharing electron in the West, but was conceptualized as a socialized (obobshchestvlennyi) electron in the Soviet Union, referring to the collectivization process experienced by Russian peasants by the time this type of electron was discovered. I owe this witty observation to Konstantin Ivanov.