The recent appointment of Yelena Druzhinina, former press secretary of Tyumen State University and “Miss Tyumen State University 2013” to the position of Deputy Minister of Science and Education was predicted in early April. Reports say Druzhinina, who has never worked in public service previously, is about to take office. She will be in charge of multi-million budgets in the PR sphere.
The same sources that predicted Druzhinina’s new appointment assume that she is likely to replace the 55-year-old Marina Borovskaya who resigned at the end of March. Before getting appointment at the ministry, Borovskaya was rector of the Southern Federal University. In addition, she has supervised higher education and youth policy at the Ministry of Education and Science (Minobrnauka) for the past two years.
Sources in the Urals Federal District indicate that Yelena Druzhinina’s new position implies that she will be in charge of cooperation with mass media, popularization of the Russian science, promotion of the Russian education abroad, youth policy and students’ employment assistance. It is assumed that under the guidance of her boss Druzhinina will do the same things at the ministry as she did at her position in Tyumen, such as putting out new scandals which Minister Falkov is highly likely to be involved because of his personnel policy.
Earlier this year, after the cabinet chaired by Dmitry Medvedev resigned and Mikhail Mishustin became Prime Minister of Russia, Valery Falkov, the former rector of Tyumen State University, was appointed Minister of Science and Higher Education.
Chances are Falkov's appointment on the eve of drafting amendments to the Constitution is connected with his participation in work on the laws of the so-called “Tyumen nesting doll,” the agreement concluded by the authorities of the Tyumen region and the Khanty-Mansi (Yugra) and Yamalo-Nenets autonomous districts. Specifically, he worked on the bill “On Referendum in the Tyumen Region” and on the bill on the participation of public representatives in significant projects of the Yugra regional government. The growth of the university also did not go unnoticed. On the sidelines, he was mentioned as a member of the team of Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, the former governor of the Tyumen region, who consolidated his positions after the change of the government.
Obviously, the Sobyanin-Falkov “creative union” was molded during the Sobyanin’s stint of governorship in Tyumen. Sobyanin, who had previously worked in Khanty-Mansiysk, supported the independence of the autonomous areas, members of the “Tyumen nesting doll,” from the authorities in Tyumen, which the two areas had reported two during the Soviet era and in the early years of post-Soviet Russia. He substantiated that idea in his master’s dissertation titled ‘Legal Status of Autonomous Areas as Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation.’ However, after becoming the governor of the Tyumen region, Sobyanin on the contrary tried to unite the Yamalo-Nenets and Khanty-Mansiysk autonomous areas with Tyumen. Thus, it was aimed at putting an end to the existence of one of the main Russian “nesting dolls.” Sobyanin tried to generalize this experience in his doctoral dissertation ‘Constituent Entity of the Russian Federation in the Economic and Social Development of the State (Competence of the Public Authorities and Methods of its Implementation)’ which he never defended.
Dissernet, a volunteer community network aiming to clean Russian science of plagiaristic practices, accused Sobyanin of plagiarism. However, there is no evidence that Falkov wrote the research work instead of Sobyanin or was involved in it in any way. Moreover, any relevant information on the case has been thoroughly deleted from the Internet, and now it is almost impossible to find out the names of advisers or official opponents.
During Sobyanin’s term as governor, Falkov worked as deputy head of the department of constitutional and municipal law at Tyumen State University. He had already been involved in activities for the benefit of the Tyumen region. In particular, he was a co-author of its electoral code and the law “On Referendum in the Tyumen Region.” At the same time, Falkov became a member of the regional election commission.
Apparently, it was a coincidence that Falkov started to climb rapidly up the career ladder after Sergei Sobyanin had become mayor of Moscow and one of the most influential politicians in Russia.
In this connection, some parallels between Sergei Sobyanin's accession to the office, Anastasia Rakova's appointment as deputy mayor of Moscow and Yelena Druzhinina's promotion to the Education Ministry can be drawn. It is known that in 1998, Rakova began working in the Duma of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area chaired by Sergei Sobyanin. Since then her career progress has been directly associated with him. The media also note that Druzhinina's appointment might be explained by the fact that Sobyanin is used to her company. Previously, Druzhinina had been Falkov's personal press secretary, and Sobyanin feels comfortable working with her.
“We should be glad that Valery and Elena are back together,” the media wrote, recalling that Valery Falkov is still married and is raising his sons. “There is a hope that the inseparable tandem will make mutual efforts for the development of national science.”
Druzhinina, who has a diploma in translating, started her career as a reporter, but a year later she returned to her alma mater as a file clerk. A year later, she became an assistant to Deputy Rector Falkov in charge of supplementary education and branches of Tyumen State University. Subsequently, Druzhinina received education in law at the Institute of State and Law at Tyumen State University, where Falkov worked as director for some time, and made a successful career at the university after he became its rector. In addition to it, at that time, Druzhinina won the Miss Tyumen State University title despite the fact that she was not a student anymore.
As we said earlier, Druzhinina represented the Tyumen University administration in Moscow. She was also a spokesperson for the university.
Perhaps, it was the most remarkable and eventful time of her career. Now the initiation of freshmen of Tyumen’s universities ended in a traditional sex scandal, as Deputy Rector Mikhail Borodach, a 36-year-old PhD in Law and Professor of the department of constitutional and municipal law who worked at the state university for more than ten years and was Falkov's colleague, was prosecuted for the rape of female students. Thankfully, the case did not entail any dismemberment as it was in St. Petersburg. Now another professor at Tyumen State University accused the administration of the university of discrimination against Russian students who had to pay more than foreigners who studied in Tyumen. Every time the university’s press service had to bring up explanations and apologies.
Seemingly, the first scandal that Druzhinina will have to dispel will not be of a scientific nature. It involves Falkov's garage in Tyumen that suddenly turned into a 6-storey building right in the very center of the city. The building with the area of 1,532 sq. m. is offered for rent at a price of 950,000 rubles ($12,762.77) or for sale at approximately 140 mln rubles ($1,880,830.)
Given the peculiarities of Falkov’s personnel policy, it is his justification that is likely to become the main official duty for Druzhinina. After his appointment to the post of Education and Science Minister, he fired all the former ministers and made several new odd appointments. Falkov “distinguished” himself by his sense of being a compatriot, as he appointed Andrei Omelchuk, another native of Tyumen and his old friend, in addition to Druzhinina’s appointment. However, in terms of his personnel decisions the appointment of Pyotr Kucherenko, the husband of popular singer Diana Gurtskaya, as Deputy Minister of Education looked even more bizarre.
Still experts do not see anything strange in it either. Although some of them call Kucherenko a showman, between 2012 and 2014, Kucherenko was the head of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation, Legal and Judicial Issues and Civil Society Development.
Thus, Druzhinina's appointment just accomplished the transformation of the Ministry of Education and Science into a stronghold on constitutional reforms and civil society development.
P.S. By the way, it seems that Druzhinina has to take up her duties on improving the image of the ministry with polishing her own one. In response to the messages that “holding her previous humble position, she bought a Tiffany Keys Knot pendant made of 18-carat pink gold and a set with diamonds worth 335,000 rubles ($4,500.56),” Tyumen Telegram channels reported that it was a cheap fake for 4,100 rubles ($55.08.)
On the one hand, perhaps, she didn’t buy it: a beautiful young woman doesn't have to buy beautiful and expensive things herself. On the other hand, the comparison of a yellow metal pendant on Druzhinina’s neck and a silver one presented by her defenders from Tyumen, is not convincing. However, she does not wear a brass pendant. Not only the press secretary to the rector and Miss University but even a student of Tyumen State University can afford a gold key of some kind.