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Vzglyad, Russia

It’s the Gene Pool, After All

By Oleg Lurye

Translated By Joanna Swirszcz

11 February 2013

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

Russia - Vzglyad - Original Article (Russian)

Not too long ago a notorious blogger almost convinced me that everything that is good, progressive, and reasonable came from the U.S. The rest of us, hardheaded in our second-hand sandals, can only use the ready-made ideas of the American intellect — and without talent at that. Maybe it’s true, but we only use the final result. After all, all of these “progressive and good” things came to the United States from other countries; and a large proportion of them came from Russia.

A brief history of the great “Americans” shows that without people from our country, America would not have known many of the brands and ideas that currently make up America’s pride. I have cited a few examples of some ideas that the U.S. received from the former Soviet Union and Russia through “direct delivery.” And so:

The popular company “Max Factor” was founded by a man who came from southern Russia in 1930, Maksim Faktorovim. To this day, Max Factor holds a dominant position in the cosmetics industry.

Hollywood was also created by Soviet immigrants. The founders of Warner Brothers Studio were the four Voronov (aka Warner) brothers from Belarus. The well-known film company Metro Goldwyn Mayer was created by Louis Bart Meyer, born Lazar Meir in Minsk, and Samuel Goldwin, born Shmuel Goldfish in Warsaw.

The Russian maker of the legendary American sports car Chevrolet Corvette was Zakhary Arkus-Dantov, born in Russia in 1909. In May 1953, Arkus-Dantov started working at General Motors in the Chevrolet division, where he built the famous American sports car.

The birth of the famous Levi’s Jeans didn’t just come from the hands of Levi Strauss, but also from Jakub Davis, an immigrant from Imperial Russia. In 1869, Yofis opened a sewing studio in Reno. He bought material for order from a seller in San Francisco, Levi Strauss, who was making clothes from thick cotton fabric — an unusual manner for the time. One day, Davis took an order from a woman wanting to make durable pants for her lumberjack husband. All of a sudden, an idea came to Davis: Why not strengthen the pockets with metal fasteners? Seeing that innovation comes from demand, he decided to patent his idea and turned to Levi Strauss for help. That’s how their long, fruitful cooperation began.

In 1922, a 29-year-old immigrant from the Russian city of Smolensk, Moris Markin, founded the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company, a car factory specializing in making taxi cabs with a unique design.

In the criminal times of the 1920s, the Checker became the favorite car of Chicago gangsters. The spacious taxi easily hid alcohol and made it easy to go to work, easily carrying six to nine passengers. In 1956, the Checker A10 appeared on the market; it was the most spacious sedan in America. The sanitized version — Marathon 1960 — became the legendary “yellow taxi.” By the way, the unique checkered design was thought up by precisely this former Smolensk resident.

Nathan Schwartz, who gave birth to the famous shoe brand Timberland, was born into a family of poor shoemakers in Odessa. Before the start of World War I, Schwartz and his family moved to Boston, where he continued his work and study in the shoe business. In 1965, together with his sons, Schwartz came up with the technology that seamlessly connected a rubber sole with a leather upper. By 1973 the first batch of boots was made, with the slogan, “If you love your Timberlands, treat them as poorly as possible.” This is how Schwartz took his place in history, making a brand popular in the U.S. and beyond.

The creator of Ralph Lauren was the son of Frank Livshitz, a Soviet immigrant from the Belarussian city of Pinsk. Success first came to Lauren in 1967 with the creation of a wide tie, even though the style at the time was narrow. In 1968, he launched the Ralph Lauren brand; after only a year he opened his first store. Today, Ralph Lauren is one of the most popular clothing brands worldwide.

The American science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov, who wrote around 500 books and was the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Hugo and Nobel Prizes, was born in 1920 in the Petrovichi Klimovichi district of Gomel Province (the Shumyachsky District of current-day Smolensk region), and at birth was named Isaac Yudovich Ozimov.

The famous writer Sydney Sheldon also has Russian roots and a Russian last name — Shekhtel. His novels have been translated into 56 languages and over 300 million copies have sold in over 100 countries worldwide; 25 films have been adapted from his books. The writer has stated that he sees and feels drama precisely because of his Russian roots.

And of course, from “us” came Igor Sikorsky, the aircraft designer and father of the American helicopter; Vladimir Zworykin, the inventor of television; and Alexander Ponyatov, who created the world’s first video recorder. It goes without saying that in the list of people who have made modern America, one can’t forget the cofounder of Apple, Steve Wozniak, the son of a Soviet immigrant; and the founder of Google, Sergey Brin.

All of this is just a small part of what the United States has received from the former Soviet Union. You can read and understand that what is good in America does not come from innate talent, but from experience acquired with savvy. In the absence of a conventional gene pool, Americans proudly and openly borrow brains, capabilities and ideas from the entire world. Maybe this is exactly the kind of national idea that everyone, except for Americans, is looking for? Americans discovered this idea a long time ago and for the past 100 years have been exploiting it in its entirety. It has turned out pretty well for them.

In Russia we have similar variants (excluding Depardieu the tax evader) that haven’t yet passed us by. Maybe we aren’t offering enough money?

What if we imposed an extra income tax on oil, gas and other natural resource billionaires (in Russia, unfortunately, there aren’t any other kind)? We could raise income taxes on these individuals by 6 percent and direct it at efforts to acquire the best brains and ideas from around the world. Just imagine: 6 percent from the profits of Russia’s Forbes would equal approximately $10 million. How many brains can one buy with that kind of money? A lot, I would think, from just the United States alone, not to mention from Europe or other developed countries. We could act just like Americans — kill them with the price:

“Sir, how much do they pay you in Silicon Valley?”

“$3 million a year.”

“We’ll pay 10. Sign here, gather your things and family, and tomorrow we’ll meet you at Sheremetevo Airport in Moscow.”

Of course, our compatriots — those who earlier fled to America — will return home. Believe me, there will be more of them than native Americans. It’s the gene pool, after all. All this from 6 percent from our natural resource millions. That’s all…

Dear oligarchs, maybe you can pitch in for the next Russian Apple or maybe for a national Corvette? No, of course not. The Russian oligarchs are fed for free by the oil industry and will not put down any money for the world’s geniuses. They won’t give anything of their own accord. If you ask Putin nicely, the conversation could probably have positive results. So, Mr. Putin, can we talk for a bit? At the same time a national idea will appear.

Perhaps after such a conversation Russia will finally find its Gates and Jobs. If, of course, no one steals that 6 percent.



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