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"Gorbachev Factor"

It is important to emphasize that the research specialization of the academic think tanks and the expert advice they provided to the leadership did not turn them into genuine pressure groups. 

Evgeny Primakov

Even when they were headed by progressively minded directors, such as Anushavan Arzumanian (directed IMEMO in the late 1950s and the first half of the 1960s), Georgy Arbatov (longtime director of the USA and Canada Institute from 1967 to 1995), and Evgeny Primakov (in the 1970s and 1980s directed first the Institute of Oriental Studies and then IMEMO), the research institutesí influence on the party-state leadership was limited and depended on the expertsí ability to persuade political leaders, by the strength of their arguments, to take their recommendations seriously.

Often their advice simply could not reach the intended addressee. In the closing years of Brezhnevís occupancy written recommendations were prevented from being forwarded directly to the supreme party-government officials. Instead, all mail had to be sent to the General Department of the Central Committee to be sifted through by nameless functionaries. As a result, expertsí proposals often ended up in a waste bin, or were occasionally forwarded to the Central Committee departments, and only rarely reached the desks of the top leaders.

All these difficulties notwithstanding, the expansion of a scholarly community strongly oriented toward policy questions prepared the necessary groundwork for significant changes in foreign and domestic policy decision making introduced in the late 1980s. A pool of human resources was created that could be used in posts more directly involved in policy making. Economists especially were sometimes drawn into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; politically oriented scholars were more often recruited for work in the Central Committee apparatus, especially in the groups of consultants of the Central Committee, working full-time on long-range questions.

Until the advent of Gorbachev, however, the movement of scholars into posts in policy-making bodies was not large. The party continued to guard jealously its power monopoly and treated with suspicion the activities of the elite groups, which could undermine its self-assigned leading role in society. Despite some leeway they enjoyed, Soviet experts remained relatively unimportant as a political force. The official world continued to manipulate traditional doctrinal stereotypes of class struggle, cold war, and xenophobia. Decision-making practices favored established institutions like the military. Obsessive security-mindedness and compartmentalization of debate restricted the flow of information and discussion.

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