In this issue of OZ, we have adopted a different approach from the previous issues of the journal. We wanted to take stock of the results of our first full year in producing OZ and draw some conclusions concerning new directions and topics for future issues. That is why, for once, we do not offer one major topic for discussion — in future we will revert to our concept of thematic issues.

Here we start with a section called An Invitation for Discussion — a series of articles in which our authors offer their suggestions on what issues OZ should cover in future.

Can a nuclear power station be constructed in a particular area? Politicians alone, or scientists alone, do not have enough authority to answer questions like this. The solution is to create an institution of scientific expertise which aims to facilitate decision-making. Malfunctions in this system of policy formation and implementation can cause public distrust towards the government and the expert community. Alexander Filippov in his essay draws attention to the problems of scientific expertise.

The term ‘bureaucrat’ in Russian literature and in common parlance has a negative connotation; it is associated with red tape, bribe taking, etc. But bureaucracy is a necessary element of state management. How does domestic bureaucracy look today? Vyacheslav Glazychev suggests the typology based on his research in the Russian regions. In future we hope to put together an OZ issue dedicated to the problems of state management.

Conflict — for an individual, group, organizational, institutional, and national level — is re-cognized as the major avenue for economic and social progress, and world conflict resolution theorists and practitioners have been long looking for better ways of negotiating and settling conflicts — normally including constructive channeling of conflicts. For Russian scholars, however, research in the field has started not long ago. Alexey Muravjev’s article serves to outline the main conflict resolution issues and research directions.

Anthony Giddens is renowned both in sociology and politics. Svetlana Bankovskaya’s interview with Dr Giddens, obtained during his visit to Moscow last November, presents his up-to-date views on how globalization affects society and individuals. Russia still has to resolve issues closely connected with globalization and OZ will have to pay due attention to it.

Nikita Pokrovskiy’s article comments on Dr Giddens’s views expressed in a lecture given for a student audience at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, particularly in respect to the current condition of the Russian society.

As we stated at the beginning, each OZ article covering a particular topic opens a long-term discussion of the subject that will continue in subsequent volumes. In the OZ Debate section, we extend our earlier discussions of state-church relations, science, education, and taxation system concerns.

Is Russia going to become a multi-confessional or Christian Orthodox country? How far is the Church going to get involved in politics and business? Alexander Soldatov polemizes on confessional identity and other controversial issues disputed now by both clergy and the laymen.

Has the education system as a mean of social upward mobility become more democratic since the end of the Soviet era in Russia? Not a bit, and even to the contrary: for young people from poor families, it is even harder now than in the 1980s to get higher education, especially in first-rate educational establishments. Social inequality and social selection in rural regions has gone deeper, starting at a younger age. It is not merely the education system that is to blame, however, since it reflects what is going on in the society in general. David Konstantinovskiy presents unique sociological data collected during the last 30 years to assess objectives and quality of present domestic education reform efforts.

The Unified State Examination (Edinyi Gosudarstvennyi Ekzamen, EGE) that is being tried out in various parts of the Russian Federation is intended to overcome disproportions in the Russian system of higher education. On paper, its suggestions look clear and sound. Dr Vladimir Sokolov, Chairman of Pedagogy and Educational Systems Management Department, Nizhniy Novgorod State University, assesses the feasibility, compatibility, and possible outcomes of the test.

How will a new fiscal system for small business and new rules of computation of imputed revenues that are to take place in 2003 affect the state budget and businesses? The forecast is not quite optimistic, as Elena Shkrebela’s analysis of the reform measures shows. She foretells that neither the federal budget nor small and medium businesses are going to benefit from the reform. Big businesses will be a pleasant exception from the rule: they will continue to profit.

State budget expenditures are fundamentally different from private business expenses. Taxation problems cannot be solved separately from inherent political, economic, and social issues. Yuri Kuznetsov reviews the May 2002 issue of OZ on the fiscal policy. He points out particular taxation-related topics that could and should be elaborated upon in the future volumes.

Could theoretical science be a way to understanding reality? Not indeed, according to the post-positivist theory of science. Since abstract models that are utilized in explaining economic, social, etc. phenomena are largely simplistic, it is neither theoretically correct nor practical to use such theories as a foundation for administrative policies. And applied science has compromised itself by its cynical denial of humanitarian responsibility to the society and environment. Vitaly Kurennoj gives an overview of modern science pointing at most of the sensitive epistemological, ethical, political, economic, and social problems connected to it.

Being a scientist implies not just having vast knowledge of your subject but also a great moral responsibility. Every morning, a scientist should ask him/herself a question, what he or she has done for the humanity, believes Gennadiy Aksenov.

In our economic efficiency-driven era, one might wonder, how and why mankind invented holidays. We start discussion of the holiday celebration phenomenon from historical, philosophical, sociological, ethnological, and culturological perspectives.

Celebration is a social phenomenon that might be as old as mankind itself. It is a means to leap in time and space, to transcend to the other world, and to deal with the Great Chaos that menaces society.  The time reel stops to unwind when the celebration starts. But what is foremost: the inner chaos of celebration or the outer chaos that might destroy the created meta-order? Ethnographer Levon Abrahamian offers rich ethnographic-material examples while elaborating on a scientific approach to this phenomenon.

Celebration and mourning, or “feast at the time of plague” of all sorts — does one ever come without the other? Leonid Ionin presents a fictitious Plato-style dialogue in which the characters discuss the origins of the feast in human civilization and observe intricate aspects of controversial feast psychology.

Anticipation and preparation are probably the main constituents of the celebration. What makes the New Year’s Eve so special for contemporary Russians? Oleg Nikolaev looks at the New Year ritual model as a phenomenon of personal and ethnical collective psychology.

Due to the festive-drinking tradition, celebrations in Russia sometimes end quite unpleasantly. For Soviet people, frank expression of opinions generated by festive atmosphere often ended in personal disaster. Olga Edelman presents stories of such criminal cases from the archives of the Office of Public Prosecutor of the Soviet Union.

The Bolsheviks first banned the Russian Christmas tree, then brought the symbol back, transforming it into the New Year’s tree. Historian Elena Dushechkina investigates the story about Pavel Postyshev, an eminent Soviet official of the time, who is believed to have been the principle figure in bringing back this festive symbol.

One of principal steps in radically changing the society by early Soviet social engineers was changing the system of its holidays. The center of celebration had to be shifted from its traditional realm such as family, neighborhood, and church to formal groups and places where people worked, studied, and spent most of their time together — to the ‘collectives’. Svetlana Leontjeva examines peculiarities of children festival scripts and scenarios from cultural and anthropological perspectives.

Why did modern life become so humdrum? Why do people prefer to idle their time away and drink heavily at holidays rather than feel cheerful and actually celebrate? Alexander Mikhailovsky seeks to answer these questions through analyzing views expressed by Nikolai Gogol, Nikolai Fedorov, Vassiliy Rosanov, and Pavel Florensky.

In the Country of OZ section, Vladimir Kaganskiy and Boris Rodoman write about their journey to Chuvashia – a Middle Volga region with a rich ethnic history which is still on the periphery of research. The authors describe how the role Volga played in regional development has changed over time and offer keen observations on routine life in a Russian province. Irina Kulakova tells a story of a diary by a Russian girl, a student of The Smolny Institute (a boarding school for the Russian nobility). The diary, written during the tumultuous times of the fall of the Russian Empire, marks the extermination of a huge cultural layer. Sergey Zemlyanoy discloses details of the biography of Alexander Parvus – a mysterious and opportunistic personage of the October revolution drama.