Interviews, INVESTMENT CLIMATE

Pavel Seleznev: By developing ourselves, we develop the country

As the Russian economy is making a major shift towards the countries of the Global South, training highly qualified professionals specializing in international relations, world economy and global finance remains vital. The more we expand cooperation with foreign countries, the higher will be the demand for these professionals. As of November 2023, Russia-China trade exceeded the record worth of $218 bln, Russia-India trade coming close to $55 bln. The Department of International Economic Relations of the Financial University under the Russian Government remains a leading Russian school training professionals competent in global finance and international business. The university has more than 2,300 students today who are eagerly hunted by government bodies, state corporations, large businesses and banks. Invest Foresight spoke to Pavel Seleznev, doctor of political science and Dean of the Department of International Economic Relations of the Financial University under the Russian Government, about priorities in education, new study programs and key strategies of one of flagships of Russian education.  

Pavel Seleznev, doctor of political science and Dean of the Department of International Economic Relations of the Financial University under the Russian Government. Vladimir Trefilov / RIA Novosti

A shift to the East

Mr. Seleznev, more than a year has passed since your appointment and subsequent election as Dean. Please tell us what changes have occurred at the department during this period, and what new things are important to note in terms of the educational process?

– Certainly, there have been substantial changes. Currently, the primary focus in the scientific and educational activity of the Department of International Economic Relations and the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation is a pivot towards the East, accompanied by more vigorous cooperation with countries in the Global South. This contributes to the strengthening of international connections as part of the global economic shift to the east and south. Our efforts encompass the development of comprehensive humanitarian ties, including educational and scientific cooperation. And by the way, we have seen widespread understanding and eagerness to cooperate from our colleagues and partners in these regions. Everyone we cooperate with say that they have been anticipating closer and more active cooperation with Russia, and this moment has now arrived.

What countries are we primarily talking about in terms of building ties with? Please tell us more.

– An independent area of activity currently involves cooperation with the scientific and educational circles of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese program within the Department of International Economic Relations encompasses not only the study of the Chinese language, with a current enrollment of 650 students, but also delves into the history and culture of China. Additionally, it includes specialized subjects such as economics, finance, and trade relations, tailored to the specifics of the country. Presently, it is, without exaggeration, the foremost program in Russia. The exceptionally high demand for the program among applicants is evident as all budgetary slots have been filled by talented individuals, including winners of nationwide Olympiads. Those who scored 300 points on the Unified State Exam were also eager to sign a contract.

What other areas are important for the development of humanitarian ties?

– We are developing cooperation with various nations. Specifically, we engage with the Indian university landscape, in particular, with Alliance University in Bangalore, a leading business institution. This collaboration extends to scientific research, events, the exchange of expertise and information regarding educational programs, as well as reciprocal visits of faculty members. This coming summer, we plan to open a summer school focused on economics and finance.

Are there comprehensive educational programs?

– The spectrum is quite wide. For instance, last year marked a historic moment for the university as students participated in a summer school in China. Following the directives of rector Stanislav Prokofiev, the university is vigorously expanding into new language domains. Currently, we offer courses in Arabic and Turkish languages at the department. Additionally, Persian (Farsi) language study is available as an extracurricular activity. We are also establishing a center for the Chinese language qualification exam (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, HSK), and the first advanced training program in Chinese calligraphy has been initiated.

Active work is underway to enhance cooperation with the countries of the Arab East. In 2024, the Department of International Economic Relations is actively pursuing initiatives under the motto “Bridge to Arabia”. It encompasses reinforcing cooperation with the Association of Arab Universities, integrating a set of courses in Islamic finance and the Arabic language into the department’s educational programs, and establishing a designated ‘Arab’ auditorium on the university premises. In December 2023, the department successfully launched its first advanced training program for educators on the economic development of Arab East countries. Enrollment is now open for a new professional development program for the corporate sector titled Business in the Middle Eastern Countries: From Ethics to Practice. Our future plans involve establishing a permanent dialogue platform called Russia and the Union of Arab States.

Intellectual task force

In addition to unique educational projects, what else makes the Faculty of International Economic Relations a leading faculty of its kind in the country?

– We place particular emphasis on fostering scientific continuity and advancing the scientific legacy of our esteemed Professor, Merited Scientist of the Russian Federation Lidia Krasavina. Thus, we have established a special group for third-year students specializing in global finance: accomplished educators from the department offer targeted training to students who are prepared for a more challenging curriculum. Essentially, they are being trained for a master’s degree and subsequent intentional enrollment in graduate school. These individuals view science not as something remote and abstract but are actively involved in preparing scientific articles and participating in significant academic events. This initiative is aptly referred to as the cultivation of our intellectual “task force.”

– Such work depends to a great extent on the teaching staff…

— That’s why we prioritize our personnel strategy and collaborate with top industry professionals. For instance, we have enlisted the services of Alexei Sadykov, personal interpreter of President Vladimir Putin, as a professor in the linguistics program. Mr. Sadykov is not only an exceptional and talented educator but also a seasoned professional in his domain. Our collaboration with high-caliber specialists is just one of many examples.

What else can interest prospective students and draw attention to the department?

– Scientific and educational activities play a significant role, and the Department of International Economic Relations is highly engaged in this sphere. In 2023, the faculty published the book Indian Attraction together with Deputy Trade Representative in India Yevgeny Griva. Its first edition is already sold out. The book will come in handy both for students and businesses that seek to cooperate with Indian partners.

Another major substantial work compiled by the university graduates with the assistance from our department and the Alumni Association is Encyclopedia of Works on Economics by Dmitry Mendeleev, a renowned scientist whose 190th birthday is marked on February 8, 2024. While Mendeleev is known exclusively as a chemist, more than 60% of his works cover various issues related to economy, trade, tariff regulation, protectionist measures and demography, as well as economic and technological sovereignty. This is essentially a unique publication based on rare, previously unpublished archive materials.

We are actively involved in major events and activities across the country, such as the international RUSSIA EXPO forum at VDNKh. We will also participate in the Unique Russia exhibition at Gostiny Dvor.

Soft power

Foreign students study at the department as well. What activities are they involved in?

– We engage them not solely in the educational process, but also in cultural and educational events. The Day of Cultures is a festival organized at our department for students to learn more about different cultural customs and traditions. Although often not very proficient in Russian (our academic program is offered in English), our students love Russia and have chosen to study here and associate their lives with our country. Essentially, we are educating pro-Russian elites of other countries – and this is actually soft power in action.

Do you engage Russian students in intercultural interaction?

– The department implements numerous student initiatives related to intercultural interaction. As part of the efforts to develop cooperation with China, we have the Chinese club whose members learn more about the history, culture and traditions of the country, and hold Chinese calligraphy classes and Chinese tea ceremonies. This year’s plans include a similar project dedicated to the Arab East.

Does the university offer career guidance programs for school students?

– Certainly. We must work with our potential students starting from school, and we put the focus on career guidance efforts. In this regard, we cooperate with the Moscow Department of Education and Science, and we have excellent partner schools as well. Our teachers provide career guidance lectures to school students, who then tour the university, attend open days, and visit our unique Museum of Finance.

Living and working in Russia

Other Russian universities implement educational programs jointly with Eastern countries as well. What makes the Financial University’s Department of International Economic Relations stand out?

– Indeed, a number of Russian universities offer programs to train specialists in Asian markets or the Global South countries. We view this as healthy competition. Yet, speaking objectively, today no other university offers programs that uniquely combine linguistic, economic and financial aspects as our department does, which is confirmed by their popularity among applicants, as I have already mentioned.

As regards the learning strategy, what are its advantages?

– “By developing yourself, develop your country” – this is the approach, or rather strategy, that we stick to while working with students. Since the days of the Moscow Financial Institute, all our expectations and aspirations have been focused on the efforts to educate and train professionals who seek to live, work and create in Russia and who are concerned about the country’s future. Altogether, they make a critical mass of thinking creators. This approach could also become an aspect of the national idea. Isn’t each of us seeking to make our mark in our country’s history and change life for the better?

There are many prominent professionals among the alumni of the Financial University’s Department of International Economic Relations. Do students see them as role models?

– We always mention them as examples to our students; our building on Leningradsky Prospect includes a Walk of Fame, a long hall that showcases portraits of our notable alumni. We generally prioritize students’ communication with prominent figures as they must see inspiring examples of various professional careers, ranging from business to science and civil service. The university’s First-Person club operates to organize numerous engaging meetings. The university’s guests, including those invited by the Department of International Economic Relations, have at various times included Aide to Russian President, Vladimir Medinsky, journalist and TV presenter Arina Sharapova, Russia’s First Deputy Minister of Energy Pavel Sorokin, author Alexander Tsypkin, Deputy Head of Rossotrudnichestvo Pavel Shevtsov, Deputy General Director of Gazprombank Leasing Group Sergei Vologodsky, and President and Board Chairman of Otkrytie Bank Mikhail Alekseyev.

Speaking of which, the founder of Invest Foresight magazine Artem Genkin is also an alumni of the Department of International Economic Relations.

– He is. Mr. Genkin is an example of an individual that has established himself as a researcher; he is among Russia’s youngest Doctors of Economic Sciences. This is his path; he is a recognized expert in finance, money circulation, crypto-assets, as well as payment and settlement systems. A visionary, Artem Genkin is one of those who can open up the future for others – which he is happy to do for our students as well.

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