payroll obligations. In particular, the leaders of hundreds of enterprises that had traditionally supported substantial research and development activities, both within the enterprises and through outsourcing with other organizations, quickly lost interest in financing research projects that did not have an immediate payoff. The average salaries of Russian researchers sank to the equivalent of $25 a month, and growing numbers found gardening at their dachas more challenging and profitable than toiling in their laboratories without access to electricity, supplies, or scientific publications.
Historically, each of the 15 Soviet republics, with the exception of the Russian republic, had had its own academy of sciences which received “scientific guidance” from the ASUSSR—guidance usually extended to control of budgets and personnel appointments. Meanwhile, the ASUSSR had served as the de facto academy for the Russian republic as well as the parent academy for the entire Soviet Union. Thus, for decades the ASUSSR was able to concentrate large efforts at geographically dispersed research centers on centrally determined priority programs. Many scientists in the outlying republics considered the entire academy structure to be simply a mechanism to ensure Russian control over scientific activities throughout the Soviet Union, while giving the appearance that Moscow recognized the importance of local autonomy in addressing problems of special interest to the republics.
Within this context of long-standing centrally controlled research, rampant financial chaos, and regional suspicions over the motivation of Moscow’s science administrators, the future role and structure of all elements of the ASUSSR became a highly politicized issue. In Russia, most academicians rallied together to preserve the professional and financial benefits of the monthly honorarium that had accompanied their membership in the ASUSSR. A small band of other scientists, and particularly a group of highly vocal younger scientists based in Moscow, urged the new Russian government to “reform” the academy structure. They advocated replacing the elderly leadership—who, they argued, was committed to Soviet-style central control over scientific research—with a new generation of scientific leaders who would promote decentralization of authority to the more than 400 academy research institutions located in Russia. However, their scheme for breaking up the academy was not well developed, and it commanded little support within the government or among the vast majority of scientists themselves.
In late 1991, before the breakup of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin, who was then president of the Russian republic, decided to establish a new Russian Academy of Sciences for the Russian republic; it would operate in