Common Research Interests Lead to Love, Marriage, New Book
by Fernando Quintero
For Professor Manuel Castells and research associate Emma Kiselyova, their new book on the collapse of the Soviet Union is more than just a culmination of several years of field work.
It's also a labor of love.
The book, "The Collapse of Soviet Communism: A View From the Information Society," is a highly original analysis based on several years of field work. It brings to light a number of structural problems in Soviet political and social systems which contributed significantly to its demise.
Common research interests brought Castells and Kiselyova together as co-authors. They married less than two years ago.
The two met in 1984 at an international sociological seminar in eastern Siberia. Kiselyova, then assistant director for the International Relations of the Institute of Economics and Engineering in Novosibirsk, the capital of western Siberia, had organized the conference. Castells, a native of Spain and professor of city and regional planning, was a featured guest.
"In 1984, you could not even think about developing a meaningful relationship with someone from the outside," recalled Kiselyova. "You could not correspond. You could only get greeting cards."
So Castells began sending coded letters with "a lot of implicit references," he said. The letters were opened and read by Soviet authorities, but they did not catch on to the hidden references to romance.
"If it were only romance we had in common, we would not have survived as a couple," explained Kiselyova. "There were so many other things we had in common that made our relationship strong."
Castells, who also chairs the center for Western European Studies on campus, has become a top authority on Russian economics since that fateful day in 1984.
In January 1992, Castells was asked by President Boris Yeltsin to organize a small group of international social scientists to work as advisers on some of the social problems associated with economic transition.
The group of luminary academicians included current president of Brazil, Fernando Enrique Cardozo; Stephen Cohen, professor of city and regional planning and member of the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy; and Alain Turain, a leading French sociologist.
"The high point for us was in March 1992, when we had a closed-door meeting with top Russian government officials and assessed their entire social, political and economic situation," Castells recalled.
"We concluded that you could not develop a market economy without institutions and political instruments in place. For example, we recommended the dissolution of the parliament and the writing of a new constitution approved by referendum," he said.
"Political change comes first, economic change comes later," he said.
Castells said he has collected a wealth of information over the years that sheds new light on historical developments in the Soviet Union. "I want to wait," Castells said. "I don't want to contribute any more to the destabilization of Russia."
In their book, Castells and Kiselyova detail the compartmentalization of research and development activities engrained in the old political structures which prevented flow of information, raised costs, blocked innovation and limited the possibilities for economic growth.
Castells said two main problems are stalling progress in that part of the world: organized crime, which has taken over Russia's financial institutions; and the lack of a business laws for foreign investors.
Castells and Kiselyova have recently turned their attention to Siberia and the Asian Pacific region, which have the potential to develop a strong economic relationship.
Siberia, one of the more inhospitable parts of the world, is nonetheless rich in natural resources including oil. The Far East, which is energy and natural resource poor, could benefit from some sort of trade agreement.
"The question is how much control will Siberia be able to gain from Moscow, which is still centralizing power," said Castells. "These are still factors limiting incorporation of Russia into the world market economy."