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Russian Nobel Prize winner urges more spending on science

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October 12, 2000 


MOSCOW (AP) - Trying to turn his Nobel Prize into political capital, Russian physicist Zhores Alferov said on Wednesday that he intended to work for increased state spending on Russia's scientific labs and institutes.

Alferov, who shared this year's prize for physics, is a member of the Communist group in the State Duma, or lower house of Russian parliament.

The party has demanded that the draft of the 2001 budget - which would be Russia's first balanced budget in a decade - be revised to raise spending on science and social programs.

"When an ordinary deputy says something, that's one thing, but when a deputy and Nobel Prize winner says it - that's completely different," Alferov said Wednesday, a day after the prize was announced.

"As far as I understand, the question (of revising the budget) will be raised by many deputies .... I will support them."

Alferov got a rousing welcome from his fellow deputies when he arrived at the Duma. Deputies applauded, and Speaker Gennady Seleznyov presented him with a bouquet of red roses, saying "It's not every day that a Nobel winner walks into the Duma."

Taking the podium, Alferov criticized the lower house's plan to spend 1.1 billion rubles on a new apartment building for Duma deputies.

"This exceeds all capital investments into all of Russia's science by more than four times," Alferov said. "This house alone would allow us to build scores of new laboratories."

The lavish Soviet-era funding for science has all but evaporated during the past decade. Leading researchers' wages are barely enough to cover most basic expenses, scores of scientists have left the country, and many Russians bemoan the decline of the nation's cutting-edge research.

Some Russians saw the Nobel as proof that Russian science could excel despite all the hardships.

"This is not just your personal triumph. This is a big, bright victory of Russian science," President Vladimir Putin said in a message released by the Kremlin press service on Wednesday.

"For the first time after a long interval, the Nobel committee has given the high award to a Russian physicist."

Alferov shared the prize with Americans Herbert Kroemer and Jack S. Kilby for proposing the heterostructure laser, technology used in mobile phones, CD players, and the Internet. Alferov's work was done in the 1960s and 1970s.

The previous Russian physicist to win the Nobel Prize was Pyotr Kapitsa, in 1978. The president of the Russian Academy of Science, Yuri Osipov, and some Russian media on Wednesday accused the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which oversees the prizes, of having been biased against Russian researchers in the past.

"The Nobel committee that awards prizes in physics, had been under strong formal and informal pressure by the American physics community," the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

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