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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: November 5, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Prominent Economist Sergei Guriev, Forced to Flee Russia, Named Chief Economist of ERBD
5 years
Disgraced-But-Amnestied Former Defense Minister, Serdyukov, Charged With Corruption, To Serve As State Defense Firm Industry Director

Sergei Guriev, the former dean of the Russian Economic School and prominent Russian economist who left Russia in 2013 citing political pressure, has been named as chief economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD), ERBD reported on its web site.

He will join ERBD in 2016 when he completes his current academic commitments.

The ERB provides investment, business services and advice to promote transition to market economies. It is the only international financial institution with a mandate "committed to and applying the principles of multiparty democracy, pluralism, and market economics."

Despite this criteria, the ERBD has contributed extensively to Russian projects in the past, although less in recent years as the bank has been split over whether to continue devoting resources to countries not dedicated to reform. In 2014, the ERBD froze its projects in Russia in connection with the European Union's sanctions on top Kremlin figures and their associates due to the annexation of the Crimea.

As The Interpreter wrote in 2013, Guriev's departure was motivated by the government's attempt to involve him in several politicized investigations, notably regarding his participation in the public review of the YUKOS case, to determine if Mikhail Khodorkovsky's second sentence was lawful -- the so-called "experts' case."

Guriev spent the last two years in Paris, where his wife Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, works as a professor at the Ecole d’économie de Paris, teaching at the Instituts d'études politiques (Sciences Po).

Guriev was born in North Ossetia and attended the Kiev Physics Mathematics High School and then graduated from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology with a master's degree in economic and computer science. He received his PhD in applied mathematics from the Russian Academy of Science in 1994. He also attended MIT for a post-doctoral program and was visiting professor at Princeton University's Department of Economics. For many years he had a regular column in  Forbes Russia and Vedomosti and has contributed to the New York Times, Financial Times and other media.

The ERB's high-profile appointment is a blow to the prestige of Russia, which prides itself on producing world-class scholars and its participation in international bodies. A number of prominent Russian intellectuals have fled Russia in recent years due to an increasingly oppressive climate and in some cases politicized criminal cases. They include chess player Gary Kasparov, author Masha Gessen, entrepreneur Pavel Durov and parliamentarian Ilya Ponomarev.

As the New Times reported, at a meeting earlier this month of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, President Vladimir Putin sought to downplay Guriev's departure from Russia, saying he was a good specialist and one of the most cited Russian economists, and that he only went abroad because his wife had a job in Paris and he himself could get a better-paying position.

But as New Times said, Putin was "once again playing the fool," as he knew perfectly well that Guriev had fled Russia due to fear of arrest in a politicized case, after he was interrogated, his office was searched, and his email confiscated.

(Note: The Interpreter is a project of the Institute for Modern Russia, which is funded by Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.)

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick