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‘Russia’s Present Attracts Great Interest Now, and the Same Is True of Russia’s Past’

Yoshisada Shida, Research Associate at the Hitotsubashi University, Japan, will be one of the speakers at the XIV HSE April International Aca­demic Conference on Economic and Social Development. He gave a special interview for the HSE News Service.

Yoshisada Shida, Research Associate at the Hitotsubashi University, Japan, will be one of the speakers at the XIV HSE April International Aca­demic Conference on Economic and Social Development. He gave a special interview for the HSE News Service.

— How did you develop an interest in Russia’s economy and history?

— First, I think interest in Russian culture, economy, history, and society is fairly significant  in Japan—not only because we are neighboring countries and Russia’s role as a BRIC nation is getting bigger in the world but also because the Japanese people are attracted to some aspects of Russian culture. It may surprise you to hear that new translations of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment sold fairly briskly and are among Japan’s bestsellers in recent years. Also, following that success, screen adaptations of these novels were aired on TV last year and this year. Russia’s present attracts great interest now, and the same is true of Russia’s past.

Second, Marxism’s heritage in Russian society also played an important role. Someone once said that Japan is the most successful socialist country. In any case, in the run up to the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Marxist economics was one of the major schools of economics being taught and studied in Japanese universities’ economics departments. There were plenty of professors and researchers who had a strong interest in Marxist political economy and socialist economic systems including Soviet Russia. Although the current situation is totally different, such a culture and atmosphere remained when I entered university, so I learned current mainstream economics/empirical economics as well as Marxist political economy.

And last, when I was a school boy, I observed the dramatic and historical change from the socialist to the capitalist system. This probably impacted me. I think that experience is one I share with my Japanese friends of the same generation who are now researching Eastern European countries.

So, such circumstances are what probably led me to research Russian or transition economies and socialist economic systems. In fact, I chose Russian as my second foreign language when I entered university.

— The title of your research is ‘Shortages and the Informal Economy in the Soviet Republics: 1965-1989’. Why did you choose this subject? What interests you most as a researcher? What is your key finding?

— I am interested in differences in economic systems. My field is comparative economic systems from the perspective of an economist rather than a historian. I chose my subject not because I have a strong interest in Russian history, but because I am interested in the real functioning of socialist, centrally planned economic systems which failed to exist. I know that Russian and foreign historians of the world are now intensively investigating the Russian revolution, the Stalinist period, and World War II. Also, in Japan, as is my understanding, the research interests of Russian historians are most strong in these fields both then and now.

But, as I’ve already mentioned, my research interest is in the systemic differences and the differences in consumer behavior under different systems of resource allocation. From this point of view, I thought that the most stable (but also the most stagnate) period in Soviet economic history would be the most suitable subject for research. And the phenomenon of shortages and quantity constraints are very interesting research subjects. I am interested in how people reacted to the shortages they faced. That is why I chose this subject for my research.

For my research, I collected previously unpublished archival materials of household budget surveys and the monetary balances of incomes and expenditures of the population, reconstructed my own original database, and then estimated the size of household informal economic activities for each republic and for a relatively long period. Previously researchers suffered from data being unavailable. That is why they could not conduct empirical research on the relationship between shortages and the informal economy. As far as I know, very few Russian researchers use these kinds of materials. So I hope my work compiling historical statistics will be new to Russian researchers and make a contribution in some way. Furthermore, at the HSE conference, I will present very preliminary research results utilizing these datasets.

— Have you been to Russia before? If yes, what are your impressions?

— Yes — I stayed in Moscow for almost two-and-a-half years, from 2007 to 2009. I would like to personally express my gratitude to HSE Professor Andrei Yakovlev who supported me during my academic stay in Moscow at that time.

Actually, I had been in Moscow once before that, in 1998 as a tourist, and my impressions then were not so good. The cold and cloudy weather, and especially the dim and dreary airport, made a very poor impression on me. I am sorry to say that I definitely felt as if I’d arrived in a socialist country! Of course, I had no prior experiences in real socialist countries. At that time, I was very young and alone, and didn’t have any reliable contacts here. Furthermore, Russia was in the middle of a financial crisis. So I had very biased impressions.

But my impressions changed after I stayed in Moscow those two-and-a-half years. Needless to say, Moscow and Russia as a whole have changed dramatically in the past 10 years. Things were different when I arrived for my current stay in Russia. This time around, I have connections and people who generously give me help. I have learned a great deal from Dr. Yuri Bokarev and Professor Andrei Sokolov at the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences. They are very kind and helpful. My impressions are positive now; without their support, I could not have achieved my goals. I owe much to the Russian people for aiding me with my studies.

— Have you been collaborating with Russian researchers or are you planning to do so? Are you thinking of undertaking any joint programmes with your HSE colleagues?

— Unfortunately, so far, I’ve had no opportunity to conduct joint research projects with Russian researchers.

Not only I but also every Japanese researcher has the need and desire to collaborate with Russian researchers.

This is the first time I will be presenting my research to Russian researchers, so I sincerely hope that my presentation will be interesting to them and that this will lead to a joint research project with them some day.

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for the HSE News Service


See also:

Russia’s Middle Class: Who Are Its Members and How Do They Spend Their Money?

The HSE Centre for Studies of Income and Living Standards studied the dynamics of the middle class and its behaviour with regard to paid services. The study was based on data drawn from the HSE Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS-HSE) for the years 2000 to 2017, and the results were presented at the 20th April International Academic Conference hosted by HSE.

Reproductive Evolution: How Birth Rates Are Changing in Post-Soviet Countries

Reproductive behavior is modernizing at different rates in post-Soviet countries. Things are changing faster in Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine, where, over the last fifteen years, the average maternity age has increased and the contribution of women in their thirties to their countries’ birthrates has grown. Meanwhile, old reproductive patterns persist in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where firstborns are usually born to parents under 30, demographers Vladimir Kozlov and Konstantin Kazenin note in a paper delivered at HSE’s XX April International Academic Conference.

Live Long There and Prosper: How Internal Migration from Small Towns Works

More than half of school graduates in medium-sized Russian cities will change their place of residence either forever or at least for a long time. According a report on internal migration presented by HSE demographers at the XX April International Academic Conference, these people are lost to their cities.

What Drives Innovation in Russian Companies

As part of the Management session of the XX April International Conference, Carl F. Fey from Aalto University School of Business, Finland, presented his paper on Facilitating Innovation in Companies in Russia: The Role of Organizational Culture. In his talk, Professor Fey spoke about the results of three studies he has been conducting with his team.

‘In a Digital Environment, the Role of Human Teachers Only Becomes More Important’

How does digital technology affect the behavior and health of schoolchildren? What opportunities does it proved teachers and school administrators? These and other issues were discussed by participants in the plenary session ‘Children’s Wellbeing in the Digital Age’ at the XX April International Scientific Conference of HSE.

‘Statistics Should Be Available and Comprehensible to Everyone’

Implementing a digital analytical platform, opportunities for Big Data, and other prospects for the development of Russian statistics were discussed by participants at a plenary session of the XX April International Academic Conference.

Can Youth Bullying Ever Be Eradicated?

Dr. Dorothy Espelage (University of Florida) presented a comprehensive account of her research into youth bullying spanning more than two decades in an invited paper ‘Prevention & Intervention of Youth Bullying and other Forms of Youth Aggression: Research Informed Strategies’ at the XX April International Academic Conference.

‘To Achieve Our Goals, We Need to Involve a Wide Range of Universities in National Projects’

The role of regional and industrial institutions of higher education in achieving national development goals must increase, and leading universities will help them. This was the conclusion reached by participants of the plenary session on Russian higher education that took place as part of the XX April International Academic Conference.

How to Boost Russian Food Exports

The plenary session ‘Strategy of Russian Presence at Global Food Markets’ took place as part of HSE University’s XX April International Academic Conference, where participants discussed the prospects for Russian agricultural exports to Asia, as well as the use of nonconventional investment models, such as Islamic financial tools.

‘The President is Focused on Increasing the Birth Rate and Reducing Poverty by Half’

National objectives for social development, as well as existing risks and opportunities in implementing these objectives were discussed by participants of HSE International April Conference.