The World Seen from Siberia: Tomsk Region’s International Involvement Introduction

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Oleg Korneev and Evgeniya Nefedova1
The World Seen from Siberia: Tomsk Region’s International Involvement
Talking about Russian external policies in terms of “Moscow” is a common place for many foreign analysts. Russia is thus often reduced to its capital – the country’s biggest metropolis, its political, economic and cultural heart. In this way Moscow enjoys the right to represent Russia to the world and to shape perceptions of the country held both by professional observes and by ordinary men abroad. This right is being realized through mechanisms of Russian foreign policy, conducted by the strong federal centre and bearing imprints of imperial and Soviet past. Scholars adhering to post-modernist paradigm emphasize that contemporary Russian foreign policy is informed by a recurring debate about Russian identity2. This current situation has its roots in discussions put forward by representatives of two competing trends: the European (Westerners) and the Eurasian (or Slavophile) perspectives in tsarist Russia. Moscow is thus pictured to be torn between a European identity and a specific mode of action that is based on its “special” Eurasian position and history.
Some other specialists argue that the divide is not between those identity-based approaches, but between Europe and Asia in terms of pragmatic attractiveness. While the former represents “Culture” cherished by Russians insisting on their belonging to Europe and is eventually important for the national self-esteem, the later provides opportunities for economic development through conquering new markets and inviting Asian business to the Russian territory. One more dimension that is relevant for these discussions is, allegedly, Russia’s eternal need for affirming its great power, insisting on its special place and role in the world political order. Here, the Asian turn is very important since it is primarily in the light of developing cooperation with the East – notably with China and India – that Moscow seeks to define its new global role. At the same time, the debate about the boundaries of Europe is also vital, confronting those for whom Europe is equal to the EU and those who, following General de Gaulle, speak about Europe from the Atlantics to the Ural. It is in this context, especially when further enlargements are under consideration, that the EU – too confusing in its complexity and thus not entirely understood3 neither by Russian population, nor by Russian leaders – is at once perceived as an inconvenient mentor and as an indispensable partner. Russian political and cultural elites are not at ease with the EU’s attempts of appropriating “Europe” while leaving Russia out and therefore they constantly emphasise the existence of common history and common culture as grounds legitimising Russia’s place in Europe.
Most of these debates are taking place in Moscow – in its academic and governmental milieu, occasionally spreading to its more pragmatic business circles. Moscow, again, concentrates the power of discussion and the right to speak for the others4. These debates, often taking on some extremist ideas, attract attention of foreign politicians and scholars. However, it is widely known that the majority of Russians claim that Moscow is not Russia. And those foreign political scientists, sociologists and anthropologists who have deeper understanding of Russian multi-space and multi-layered realities rightly point out that the country is too big to be reduced to the federal centre, despite the famous power vertical. Thus, a French political scientist Jean-Robert Raviot defines “quatre Russie”: l’archipel métropolitain, les ilots de prospérité, la Russie déclassé and la Russie des peripheries non russes5. Even though this particular model, as well as any other, is not flawless, it describes quite well the patchwork of socio-economic and political landscapes observed in contemporary Russia.
Consequently, these coexisting parts of Russia do not necessarily share the same views about the world and those divergent views are not always a mere reflection of debates heated by Moscovites and of policies implemented by the Federal Government. They stay, of course, one of the reference points for the majority of Russian regions that are becoming more and more active in setting their own agenda for international involvement6. Nevertheless, very often these regional actors have their own ideas about whom to consider as trustable partners and good interlocutors. Siberian Regions are not an exception in this case. Despite or sometimes due to their remoteness from the federal centre they manage to establish multiple international networks following their own logic of international action, making their own choices for international partners based on the mix of pragmatic calculations and subjective perceptions either developed internally or copy-pasted from Moscow. How are the world and particular countries viewed by regional elites? Where do these perceptions come from? And how do they impact region’s international involvement agenda? This article draws a picture of the views on the world “somewhere out there” held by Tomsk regional elites that frame a Siberian Region’s relations with its international partners.
The present analysis is based on the typology of territorial identity suggested by Keating7 who argues that people expressing any kind of regional identity can be grouped into two distinct types: traditional and modern. Traditionalism is an expression of regional exclusivity, while modernism is an expression of regional inclusivity. In the former case an individual tend to have nested or multiple inclusive identities8 combining subnational, national and supranational levels, in the later case an individual feels attachement solely to the regional level. Traditional regionalism is conservative and defensive, rooted in traditional society that resists modernization and opposes progress9. For traditionalist, the region is a place, a culture and a way of life, rather than a modern political and economic actor in the national and international spheres. Keating writes that historically, traditionalist regionalism has been strongest among those that are the least geographically and socially mobile, less educated and the elderly. These individuals are also largerly depoliticized and conservative in orientation, their regional identity is closely associated with parochialism. Parochial practices are characterized by refusing to cooperate or trade with outsiders. The differentiation from “the outer world” is high and such regionalists are less likely to feel attached to international level.
Modern regionalism, on the other hand, is explicitly coupled with modernization and a progressive mentality10. This regionalism dispenses with traditional ties or values, and instead construes the region as a place of action, an arena to strive towards greater representation. This is mostly due to the new and increasingly important role the region plays in the context of a globalized international market economy and the multilevel governance regimes. Regions do not want to to be confined within their national borders, but strive to become an element in international politics11. According to Keating modern regionalists are found among the more educated sections of population. They are young, upwardly mobile and politically efficacious people. They should be more likely to feel attached to the world because this satisfies their motivation for inclusion. The fact that they can hold two or more identities simultaneously, shows that they are more outward looking, more accepting of other cultures. Furthermore, these modernists are motivated by the desire to take control over the regional community’s fate in an interconnected world.
To summarise, modern regionalists are much more prone to seek for international cooperation and wider involvement and, thus, to have in general more positive perceptions of international partners. In our article we consider the international involvement of Tomsk regional elites along the lines of Keating’s and Risse’s arguments. We argue that perceptions of the world held by Tomsk elites mirror their own territorial identities and their vision of the Region’s place in the world. Next section is devoted to mapping of the key characteristics attributed to Tomsk Region crucial for comprehension of its positioning vis-à-vis the world.

Tomsk Region: a European Island in the Middle of Siberia
According to the classification of Raviot, Russian regions belonging to “les ilots de prospérité” can be eventually divided into three more categories: l’archipel de la rente, l’archipel de la matière grise and la Russie enracinée des regions rurales riches12. This is a very accurate classification based on clear-cut criteria. However, the distribution of regions within the three groups is disputable. This, in particular, concerns Tomsk Region which is defined by Raviot as belonging to “l’archipel de la matière grise”, that is “moins spectaculairement prospère que l’archipel de la rente [revenues mostly from the oil and gas industries]” and “regroupe certaines grandes villes qui, sans etre des metropoles, sont de grands centres universitaires et scientifiques »13.
While this definition is partially applicable to Tomsk Region, since the City of Tomsk is indeed a renowned Russian university centre, the region is also one of the Russian biggest oil and gas producers, and thus belongs to “l’archipel de la rente”. In a way, Tomsk Region represents quite a specific case among the Russian regions. The unique situation is well articulated in the slogan used by Tomsk Region in its international communication: “Island of Intellect in the Ocean of Resources”. This “ocean” is a vast territory landlocked in the geographical middle of the country, more precisely in Western Siberia, almost equally far from the European Union and from Japan. It is one of the richest Russian regions in natural resources. Oil resources of the Region are valued at 2,5 billion tons, gas – 1,3 trillion m3, brown coal – 75,7 million tons. The Region ranks the second in peat resources in Russia. Tomsk Region is one of the largest iron ore provinces in the world. The Region possesses billions of tons of underground fresh and thermal water resources. Drinking water supply in the Region is wholly provided by local ground waters. The largest bog in the world, The Vasugan bog, is located in Tomsk Region. It covers the territory of 53 thousand square kilometres. Forests cover 60% of the Region’s territory.
However, already in XIX century Tomsk became the oldest university centre in the Asian part of Russia. Nowadays the city hosts six universities, two of which – Tomsk State (Classical) University and Tomsk Polytechnic University – enjoy the status of National Research University14. Tomsk scientific centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences has five research institutes. Russian Academy of Medical Sciences has six of its research institutes in Tomsk. This is a rare case for Russia, confirmed by the recent “Times” university ranking of 500 best universities of the world where Tomsk State University is listed among four Russian universities included in the ranking.15 Since 2006 Tomsk Region hosts the only Special Economic Zone of Technical-Innovative Type in Siberia (out of four zones of this type three are located around Moscow and Saint-Petersburg). Nowadays the Special Economic Zone houses 45 companies, 7 of which have been set up with significant shares of foreign capital from Germany, Norway, the USA, Australia, South Korea and Taiwan.
All these facts and figures usually given by the officials are quite impressive. But what is probably even more impressive is that until the 1991 the City of Tomsk was closed for foreign citizens. Hence, the city and the region did not enjoy even those “innocent” cultural and scientific contacts that were allowed in the USSR. Foreigners simply did not come to Tomsk. Twenty years later foreign partners are a major reference point in the discourse of various groups in the regional elite. In these circumstances of triple transition – from Soviet to post-Soviet political reality, from planned economy to the market and from the isolation to the policy of open doors – the way Tomsk Region perceives itself and the world plays a crucial role in the choice of potential foreign partners. However, situating Tomsk Region in the debates about Russia’s identity and Russia’s relation to the world is not an easy task.
On the one hand, even being landlocked in Siberia, in cultural terms Tomsk Region shares much more with Moscow and Saint-Petersburg than, for instance, with the neighbouring industrial region of Kemerovo famous for its miners’ revolts of the 1990-s. Cultural openness has always been prioritized by Tomsk region where the relative share of students and researchers per capita is among the biggest in Russia16, where universities created the spirit allowing the citizens to talk about “Siberian Athens”, where private media are often straightforwardly critical about the federal, regional and local authorities, where the youngsters and not the retired are considered to be the most important part of the electorate. The views that Tomsk relatively young population has about the world are not necessarily compatible with those shared by “average” Russians in other parts of the country.

Therefore, the theoretical distinction between traditionalist and modern regionalists applied to Tomsk situation shows that Tomsk population in general and, consequently, Tomsk regional elites can be deemed as modernist or otherwise expressing regional inclusivity and thus oppenness to the world. The latter is mostly argued for in very pragmatic terms: “In order to get access to the international market Tomsk business has to learn a lot, to become “smarter” due to international cooperation. Development of cooperation with foreign partners allows our region to “grow”, it modernizes our life.”17 In other words, international experience and foreign partners are regarded as something indispensable for those who want to succeed, and it is first and foremost Europe and the USA – still often referred to as “the West” – that symbolise this success. On the other hand, Tomsk region is geographically relatively close to China, India and Japan and even more so – to the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. However, Asian countries do not look politically and culturally attractive, and, instead, are considered as “inferior” in comparison to Europe. It is this contradiction between the geographical proximity to Asia and the strong sense of symbolic belonging to the European civilization that underlies perceptions of the world shared by Tomsk population and by the regional elites.

Political Choices of Tomsk Authorities: Getting Closer to Europe
Siberia is Europe”. This is the slogan one would read above the doors of Tomsk Region Administration if there was a tradition to have slogans, leaving aside those in the times of the USSR. Regional authorities do not have doubts about cultural identity of their region. They refer to the common history and culture of Russia and, thus, Siberia and other European countries. They pick up ideas of multicultural Europe and pinpoint to the fact that Siberia is multicultural as well. They underline the fact that ethnic Germans, Dutch, Greek and many others contributed (voluntarily or not) to the development of the region. Consequently, European countries are regarded as “natural partners” for a remote Siberian province. They are thus looked at with respect and are often cited as examples of what is “comme il faut”. In other words, Europe is considered as a role-model, as something that is worth imitating and learning from. Still, Tomsk elites are not necessarily attracted by the European values per se; they are more interested in the European ideas, practices and success stories that might be applied in the course of the regional reforms implementing the modernization agenda18.
It is in this quest for “best practices” that Tomsk regional authorities have started shaping their policy aimed at reinforcing political and cultural ties with Europe. By the virtue of specific historic and contemporary social-economic context, Germany has happened to be the first European partner of Tomsk region and the only one defined as “strategic”19. One would assume that the regional authorities follow here the general policy line adapted by Moscow. Such an explanation could account for this strategic choice, but only to a certain extent. Not every Russian region has made such a choice and even less of them make declarations about the importance of this unique Russian-German friendship. Tomsk region is one of those few who so much treasure relations with Germany because after the dissolution of the Soviet Union a very significant part of the regional elite, with the Governor Viktor Kress at its head, has happened to be composed of ethnic Germans20, trying to work with the country they believed they knew how to deal with. And, last but not least, Head of the Department of International Cooperation Nelly Krechetova – influential political counsellor of the Governor that has been defining the strategy of regional PR for some twenty years – has never denied her personal admiration with Germany and with a special “German way”. The combination of these factors has created a particular sort of mythology where Germany is portrayed as the most progressive and most developed country in Europe, “German” is always a synonym for “quality” and Germans are trustworthy and reliable partners.
At the beginning of 1990-s with the desire to embrace the world after the decades of isolation, Germany was seen as a channel, as a “window” to Europe. The quintessence of the Governor’s ideas about Germany is contained in his speech delivered at the official ceremony opening “The Year of Siberia in Germany” on the 16th of April 2007 in Hanover: “Germany, undoubtedly, has a special place in the European Union and in the relations of Russia with the West… Germany is one of the few European countries that in Russia decided to cross the borders of Moscow and Saint-Petersburg and come to the regions. The Russian-German summit that last year took its place in Tosmk is a good proof for this”21. The Russian-German Summit in 2006 when Tomsk hosted an army of officials headed by Putin and Merkel is still regarded as a turning point not only for the region’s international image but also for the “internal consumption”: “Tomsk region is famous in Germany among all important political leaders and businessmen. We have also become famous in Russia. Our Russian federal ministers think that we are progressive”22.
However, in order to anchor Tomsk Region in the wider European context Germany was not enough. Diversification strategy has made France “the second most important European partner of Tomsk region”23. This has not always been the case, partly because of the certain bias favouring Germany among other European nations, partly due to the perception of France as a country reduced to its cultural heritage and laidback way of life, curious to discover the world but with no special interest in cooperation with Russian regions. The French, contrary to the Germans, were not much familiar with Tomsk Region either. These mutual misperceptions were reinforced by such events as the “Siberian Odyssey” of the French traveller Nicolas Vanier24 portraying Tomsk region as a remote and mostly empty area lost somewhere in Siberia.
During the first presentation of Tomsk region at the French Embassy in Moscow in December 2006 the Governor Viktor Kress, adhering to a specific way of flattering that has its roots in admiration for the French culture common for the most Russians, deliberately brought forward the essence of socio-cultural stereotypes concerning France: “Every citizen of Russia, Siberia, of Tomsk region can tell a lot about France. French scientists, French writers, French artists, French films, French wine, French perfumes – this is not an exhaustive list of reasons to love France”25. However, he also paid special attention to the efforts of the French Embassy aimed at promoting decentralised cooperation. This institutional factor has been repeatedly emphasized by both Russian and French counterparts and, eventually, reinforced a perception of France as a highly centralized country with a developed bureaucratic network that works efficiently only if there is a top-down stimulus – quite similar to the perception of Russia shared by many countries of the world. Paradoxically, but it is also due to this similarity that Tomsk regional authorities caged France in the category of “good partners” – not always easy to deal with, but easily predictable ones. Positive dynamic in relations with French partners, namely with the Region of Lorraine, has allowed Tomsk Region Governor to take part in the Russian-French Intergovernmental Meeting in Rambouillet in November 2009 with Russian and French Prime Ministers on board. This event, just as the Russian-German Summit in 2006, has contributed to the international visibility of the Region and reinforced the positive image of France in the eyes of Tomsk authorities.
Cooperation with Germany and France has been defined as crucial for the development of Tomsk Region, since these countries have been for centuries representing the European “core” both for the Russian leaders and for the ordinary men. The logic of bilateral cooperation with major partner-countries prevailing in the federal structures has been replicated by many Russian regions. They, however, have had more problems with understanding of the role of various international organizations, because in their eyes many of these organisations have very ambiguous profiles; they are too numerous, vague and amorphous to be treated seriously, and still they have money and resources necessary for various social-economic projects. Hence, they cannot be neglected. However the attitude of Tomsk authorities towards most of them has remained sceptical. For instance, the Council of Europe is generally seen in Russia as a weak and useless institution, and it is exactly in the same vain that it is treated by the Tomsk political elite. However, recently The Council of Europe or, more precisely, its Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, of which the Tomsk Region Governor is a member since 2008 has been identified by Tomsk Region Administration as an important forum for the region’s continuous PR campaign in Europe26.
The only international organization that is looked at with special attention is the European Union27. A positive image of the EU in the region is mostly explained by its generous financial and technical aid for various educational, scientific, environmental projects. This said, one still has to point out a certain degree of ignorance on the matters concerning the EU, the fact that for the biggest part of Tomsk regional elite and bureaucracy distinctions between the EU and the Council of Europe are blurred and that Tomsk authorities are far from viewing the EU as sui generis. Nevertheless, Tomsk region is one of those Russian federal entities that have long history of cooperation with the EU. At first, this was mostly due to Tomsk universities that have always been pioneers of international cooperation of the Region. Since 1991, when Tomsk has finally become a city open for foreigners, they have been actively seeking for foreign students, foreign funds, foreign expertise and foreign recognition. The universities have quickly understood the unique features of the EU and have identified the possibilities for cooperation. TEMPUS/TACIS programs set up by the EU have tremendously developed international cooperation of Tomsk universities. This overwhelmingly positive experience has led to a very positive perception of the EU in the university environment.
With a certain “spillover” effect Tomsk Universities have made their contribution to the development of “human capital” of Tomsk regional bureaucracy through promoting knowledge about the EU. Eventually, Tomsk Region Administration has started paying more attention to various EU projects and, among others, supported many of Tomsk innovative companies in their applications for assistance provided by the program of Support for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises financed by the European Commission in the framework of TACIS and later – EU-Russia Cooperation Programme. The EU is definitely regarded as a source of best practices, of expertise, of resources needed by Tomsk region for development of its innovative businesses. In the strive for attracting the EU’s attention to the region, the Governor has repeatedly proposed Tomsk as the site for a EU-Russia summit. This idea has not been accepted by the Kremlin yet, but in December 2010 Tomsk Region Governor – with three other Russian governors (but being the only one from Siberia) – was invited to the business part of the EU-Russia summit in Brussels. This was broadly advertised as the acknowledgement of the special status of Tomsk Region by the European structures. A new success followed in Brussels – Tomsk Region was suggested to host the next EU-Russia Industrialists Round Table, thus allowing Tomsk regional authorities to claim that they were right having made their strategic choice for Europe.

From Political Friendship to Economic Engagement: In Search of Europe-Asia Equilibrium
The biggest political project of Tomsk regional authorities that aimed to make of Tomsk “the City of Forums” was successful largely due to its international, primarily European, orientation. However simply being known was not enough in the context of never-ending economic transition. Tomsk Region was the first among Russian federal entities to adapt an ambitious document defining priorities of the regional development – “Tomsk Region Development Strategy – 2020”. According to the Strategy two of the nine major tasks for the regional authorities – high investment attractiveness and high degree of internalisation of the regional economy – are directly related to the international involvement28. This approach clearly prioritising economic development over other strategic goals explains the degree of attention paid by the Tomsk Regional Administration to the search for international economic partners. Not surprisingly, Europe, again, has been defined as priority.
The country that has done the most for the social-economic recovery of Tomsk region in the 1990s was Germany with its special technical and financial assistance programs. However, this good start of cooperation and multiple political declarations cannot hide certain disappointment with the absence of concrete German investment projects, for which Germans are now blamed more often than several years ago. There is still certain inertia in attempts to foster economic cooperation, but just like an actor who once wonderfully played a hero, Tomsk region is often regarded by German political elite as a City-Forum and thus often becomes a site for political, economic and cultural dialogues rarely promising concrete business projects for Tomsk region itself. The only serious exception is the joint enterprise in wood-processing industry opened in Tomsk in December 2010 after four years of scrupulous preparatory work.
Dissatisfaction and even disappointment with the speed and volume of economic cooperation with Germany played a major role in the shift of perceptions and priorities within Europe, when France has suddenly become an interesting economic partner in the eyes of Tomsk regional elites. The Governor Viktor Kress has admitted that the major obstacle for cooperation between Tomsk region and France was the lack of information about each other’s potential and proposed to invest in Tomsk innovative business, in medical research as well as in natural resources exploitation, underlining the value of the French experience in creation of special economic clusters – poles of competitiveness29. This change of perceptions happened as the culmination of slow mutual learning that moved the partners from cultural exchanges via promotion of the French language to scientific and economic partnerships created on the basis of strong inter-institutional cooperation. After several years of intensive functional cooperation with France the Governor’s discourse has become even more economically oriented emphasizing the importance of embarking on new economic cooperation projects with France and stressing the role that French business could play in the modernization of the region. This was particularly clear in his reactions to the proposal put forward by the French Ambassador Jean de Gliniasty in May 2010 to support the efforts of the French company “Veolia Water” to enter Tomsk market. Viktor Kress embraced the idea to introduce world best practices in the region”30 and arguing that “the strategic sphere of water-supply would be better off in the hands of an experienced foreign company”31 quite sharply criticized the black PR campaign against “Veolia Water” in the regional mass media. The eventual victory of “Veolia Water” at the municipal tender for the management of the Tomsk city water-supply system32 provided grounds for regional political elites to claim that the French business has received a chance to become the model for modernization and the symbol of success not only in Tomsk but in the whole country if the company finds solutions to the eternal problems of Russian communal services33.
Tomsk authorities and many Russian experts believe that Tomsk region has been much more successful in technological modernization and stimulation of the innovations than the majority of Russian regions34. Regional elites declare that they are ready to make Tomsk the biggest centre of education, science and innovation in the Asian part of Russia. And they are sure that foreign, especially European, partners will participate in this endeavor35. Such expectations, however, are somewhat contradictory with the major critic addressed to these partners by representatives of Tomsk business circles: “They often say what is wrong, but they never say how it should be or, better, what is to do in order to make things better”36. Similar ideas are put forward by some of the regional bureaucrats: “Here in Russia, the lack of experience in free enterprise created a sort of uncertainty in making business with foreign partners. But we can't see the desire to help Russia to break through this wall of uncertainty - there still is a stereotype of "social barbarians". Thus we are trying to do it alone. The businessmen having a successful experience in cooperation with foreign partners become different people - in minds, social behavior and attitude towards the rest of the world. We think, you should be more persistent, rather than pointing out to us the shortcomings we already realize”.37
Indeed, aware of shortcomings of cooperation with Europe and often frustrated by the mentorship of European counterparts, Tomsk small and medium-sized innovative companies seek stable, strong, trustable foreign partners capable to invest in production as well as in research and development. Often Tomsk companies do not care much about the location of production facilities. They therefore opt for those investors that suggest better business development projects. They also look for the available markets, fully realizing that European markets have already been taken by local and multinational companies, that getting in there is costly both financially and organizationally-wise38. This is why criticizing the regional administration “economically void” projects with some European partners, Tomsk companies have started their campaigns to conquer Asian markets in the hope to push away some foreign competitors that often sell products of lower quality at higher prices39.
Sometimes business interests coincide with the political ideas and socio-economic agenda of the regional government. For instance, China and is also used for gaining scores both in the race for international cooperation and in the competition with other Russian regions for attention of the federal centre. In May 2008 during the official visit of President Medvedev to Beijing Viktor Kress signed the biggest Russian contract with a Chinese company for the construction of wood-treating factories in the remote parts of Tomsk Region. This project aimed at increasing foreign investment and local employment, but also had high symbolic importance, since Tomsk Region has managed to position itself as the one that has very strong partnerships both in the West and in the East and once again deserved bonuses from the Kremlin.
Finally, Tomsk universities consider cooperation with Europe as a source of expertise and reputation necessary in order to promote their services to both Russian and foreign students. But they also attract students from China and South Korea, as well as from Central Asian republics every spring launching recruitment campaigns in Kazakhstan. They stimulate exchanges and strive for acknowledgement of their efforts at the highest level. An example of a success story is the establishment of the Confucius Institute40 at Tomsk State University in 2008 that already after six months of its work received impressive grading from the Chinese Ministry of Education41. Having understood that Asian countries as well as the post-soviet space represent enormous markets for their scientific and technological production and provide plenty of potential clients for their educational programs, Tomsk universities have been trying to keep the equilibrium in cooperation with “the West” and “the East”.

The degree of international involvement, diverse international partners and simply the interaction with the World as such are seen by those Russian regional elites that Keating calls “modernists” as significant competitive advantages both for regional social-economic development and for reaffirming their positions in Russian domestic politics. The international involvement means for such Russian regions not only development of tailor-made international cooperation schemes, but also more general participation in various international organizations and forums that are regarded by Russian sub-national actors as spaces providing the possibility to find new partners, to voice specific concerns or even to gain scores important if regional authorities want to be better evaluated by the federal centre (that is by the Kremlin and the Federal Government).
For Tomsk Region, despite its geographical position in the middle of the country, a clear orientation to Europe is obvious. This is, at least, the case for Tomsk Region Administration, which is well illustrated by the place of Europe in the regional international cooperation strategy especially after the Russian-German Summit in Tomsk in 2006. However, admiration for Europe has started fading away, when it became clear that friends and investors are not necessarily the same persons. Astonishment and disappointment came with the understanding that cultural and societal ties are not enough in order to develop a desired speed of economic cooperation. Pragmatic Europeans who come, observe, ask questions, promise nothing and leave have become a sort of “red tissue” for those in the Region who wanted to see a boost of economic activities from the scratch. Getting closer to Europe in political and cultural terms has happened to be easier than bringing European businesses in the region.
At the same time, other actors, such as small and medium-sized innovative enterprises and universities, that see the World more as a market place, where its Asian corner represents a greater interest both in terms of exporting high-technological products and knowledge in its various forms, try to influence the way Tomsk Region Administration develops the region’s international cooperation. China is the major commercial partner of Tomsk region in Asia. However, China, along with the UK and the USA, perfectly exemplifies one of the major problems in relations with foreign partners – the absence of trust. In the evolution of relations with China negligence and arrogance gave way to constantly increasing interest and involvement, even though the absence of trust persists. There has been also a sort of arrogant attitude towards former USSR states, especially those in Central Asia. Nevertheless, the regional authorities have recently understood the need to intensify cooperation with these countries, mostly due to the active “Asian” strategy of Tomsk business and Tomsk universities.

1 Oleg Korneev holds PhD in Contemporary World History, he is Assistant Professor at World Politics Department, Tomsk State University (Russia) and is currently postdoctoral research fellow at CERI/ Sciences Po with the fellowship provided by the City of Paris, he worked at the International Cooperation Department of Tomsk Region Administration in 2007-2010; Evgeniya Nefedova holds PhD in Contemporary Russian History, she is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of History, Tomsk State University and currently works at the International Cooperation Department of Tomsk Region Administration. The views expressed in the article are the authors’ only and do not represent official positions of their institutions.

2 Fernandez S. and Simão L. (2010) “Competing for Eurasia: Russian and European Union Perspectives”, in Freire M.R. and Kanet R.E. (eds.) Key Players and Regional Dynamics in Central Asia: The Return of the ‘Great Game’. Palgrave Macmillan. Pp. 103-125.

3 For a nuanced theoretically informed analysis of «misunderstandings » in Russia-EU relations see Prozorov S. (2006) Understanding conflict between Russia and the EU: the limits of integration. London. 2006.

4 Callon, M. (1986) "Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St Brieuc Bay" in Law, J. (ed.) Power, Action and Belief: A New Sociology of Knowledge, London: Routledge, Pp. 196-233.

5 Raviot J-R. (2010) Géographie politique de la Russie de 2010. Hérodote, n°138, pp. 163-164.

6 Бусыгина И., Лебедева Е. (2008) « Субъекты федерации в международном сотрудничестве », Аналитические записки Научно-координационного совета по международным исследованиям МГИМО (У) МИД РФ, выпуск 3 (32).  

7 Keating M. (1998) The new regionalism in Western Europe : Territorial Restructuring and Political Change. Northampton, Mass. : Edward Elgard Publishing.

8 Risse T. (2010) We the European Peoples ? Identity, Public Sphere and European Democracy. Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press.

9 Keating M. Op. cit. Pp. 104-105.

10 Keating M. Op. cit.

11 Risse T. Op. cit.

12 Raviot J-R. (2010) Géographie politique de la Russie de 2010. Hérodote, n°138, p. 170.

13 Ibid. P. 171.

14 29 universities in Russia obtained this status after two consecutive nation-wide competitions.

15 « Томск как зеркало России », Приходный ордер, №9 (47), октябрь 2010.

16 According to the official statistics, Tomsk is the city with the highest density of the youth in Russia, every fifth citizen is a student, and there are around 169 researches per every 10 000 people in Tomsk.

17 Нелли Кречетова, « Инвестиции – это не только деньги » : интервью журналу Приходный ордер, №9 (47), октябрь 2010.

18 Oxana Kozlovskaya, First Deputy Vice-Governor of Tomsk Region, XIII Tomsk Innovation Forum, May 2010.

19 Tomsk Region Administration official website.

20 On the presence of the ethnic Germans in Siberia see Anne de Tinguy (2004), La Grande Migration.

21 Viktor Kress, speech at the official ceremony opening “The Year of Siberia in Germany”, 16th of April 2007, Hanover.

22 Нелли Кречетова, интервью «Русское радио», 2 ноября 2006.

23 Tomsk Region Administration official website

24 L’Odyssée Sibérienne – Le rêve utile (hiver 2005/2006 du lac Baïkal à Moscou: 8000 km),

25 Viktor Kress, Speech at the Presentation of Tomsk Region at the French Embassy in Moscow, December 2006.

26 Conversation with Viktor Kress, Tomsk Region Governor, 17.03.2010, Strasbourg.

27 The EU is defined here as an international organization in order to account for the context of cooperation since the 1990s, when the Union did not have most of the attributes that push it into the category of a (quasi)state.


29 Viktor Kress, Speech at the Presentation of Tomsk Region at the French Embassy in Moscow, December 2006.

30 Viktor Kress, at the meeting with the French Ambassador to Russia Jean de Gliniasty in Tomsk, May 2010.

31 "Вести 24 - Томск", "Вести-Томск", Россия 1, 06.12.2010.


33 Oxana Kozlovskaya, interview to the « TV-2 » television company.

34 Benjamin Quennelle, En Russie l’innovation reste une affaire d’état,

35 Oxana Kozlovskaya, First Deputy Vice-Governor of Tomsk Region, XIII Tomsk Innovation Forum, May 2010.

36 Conversation with Anatoliy Mamaev, Professor at Tomsk State University, Director of “SibSpark” ltd. (company resident of Tomsk Special Economic Zone).

37 Alexey Stukanov, Deputy head of the international cooperation department, Tomsk Region Administration:

38 Conversation with Vladimir Lavrov, Director General, SIAM Inc. (oil and gas equipment, engineering, hardware).

39 Conversation with Andrey Pozdnyakov, CEO of IT comapny “Elecard” that supplies software products to such companies as Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Dolby, Panasonic, Fujitsu, Microelectronics, Cyberlink, Walt Disney, the US White House, universities of Washington, Denver and Tokyo, the Police Department of Seattle.

40 The network of Confucius Institutes – centers of the Chinese language and culture – exists in 78 countries of the world.

41 Tomsk Region Administration official website.

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