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New Russia plans clash with its old problems

Projects such as an elite management school, a Moscow technology park, a nanotechnology fund and plans to turn Moscow into a global financial centre are all designed to move Russia away from dependence on energy and metals productions. How successful will they be? Elliot Wilson reports.

KIRA KIRYUKHINA IS enthusiastic about the project. "The design was the product of a British architect, David Adjaye," she says. "We wanted a building visible from outer space, and he doodled a variation of a painting by Kazimir Malevich on the back of a napkin. In the middle is the focal point of the entire structure, designed to resemble a Roman amphitheatre. On the second floor is the creative lab, sponsored by Intel. Beyond that is the bar and grill and at the weekend the intellectual hub will be turned into an auction house and art gallery. On the top floor you’ll find the spa, which includes a gymnasium, jacuzzi and full-length swimming pool."

Kiryukhina could be talking about any flamboyant new commercial attraction: a spanking new luxury resort in southern China; Dubai’s latest efforts to burnish its fading financial reputation; Google’s new funked-up regional headquarters in Mumbai or São Paulo. In fact she is describing that rarest of things: a Russian business school offering a world-class MBA programme and the chance to learn at the feet of international professors, chief executives and business gurus.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev at Skolkovo ahead of its formal opening this September with backers including Roman Abramovich and Troika Dialog’s Ruben Vardanian

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev at Skolkovo ahead of its formal opening this September with backers including Roman Abramovich and Troika Dialog’s Ruben Vardanian

This is Skolkovo, also known as the Moscow School of Management, an outlandish building in the northwest of Russia’s capital resembling a glass doughnut with attitude.