Maria Giulia Silvagni, who holds a PhD from the University of Bologna in Italy, joined the International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development as a postdoctoral Research Fellow in September 2016. She told us about her professional and personal experiences during her time in Moscow.
1. Why did you choose the Post-Soviet region as a subject of your research and the Higher School of Economics as a place to do it?
I got interested in studying Russia during my PhD at the University of Bologna. I was searching for a research topic which could encompass several fields of economics, and Russia proved to be a good case study with its high number of regions and internal differentials.
I had been doing research at the HSE Centre for Labour Market Study back in 2010 and appreciated both the immediate sympathy with colleagues and the excellent research environment, so when I saw the call for applications for post-doc positions in 2016 - albeit in a different faculty - it seemed natural to apply to visit again.
2. What is currently the subject of your research?
I am currently working on Russian economic history. I am studying how the increase in education in the early XX century affected the employment structure at the regional and city level. A second research project will analyze whether there is path dependence in economic growth of cities.
3. Why did you choose these particular topics?
I had been interested in working on economic history since graduate studies, so coming to Russia and HSE again I finally had a chance to access historical data in libraries and archives.
4. What kind of research do you plan to carry out in the future?
I have been working as a teaching assistant in international economics for several years and gained interest in international trade, so I hope to have a chance to work on this field in the near future.
5. As we know you have been learning the Russian language for a while now, what practical advice could you give to your colleagues so that the language learning process goes smoothly and successfully for them?
I have been studying Russian language for nine months now. The advice I can give to colleagues is to invest time and money in an individual language course rather than group classes, if Russia is going to be the subject of their research. That’s what foreign colleagues suggested I should do and they were absolutely right.
6. Do you have any advice for foreign colleagues who are going to do research in Russia for the first time?
I am working on archive data, so getting acquainted with the access requirements and consultation rules of the archives in Moscow is a must.