Table of contents:
- Nuclear Race and Math Schools
- The popularity of the Olympiads
- Motivation, boredom and technical college
- Piracy, salaries and strong own IT companies in Russia
They win international computer science Olympiads, work for IT companies around the world, and create popular games and applications. How did Russia become one of the main conveyors for the production of the world's best programmers?
The simple game "Tetris" from the Soviet programmer Aleksey Pazhitnov is known all over the world - the number of downloads of the official mobile version of the game alone in 2020 exceeded 500 million.
More than 500 million people around the world use the Telegram messenger from Pavel Durov.
The Kotlin programming language, created by Russian developers Sergey Dmitriev, Evgeny Belyaev and Valentin Kipyatkov, is considered a priority by Google for developing applications on Android.
Cut the Rope puzzle games from Russian developers Semyon and Efim Voinovs have been downloaded more than 1 billion times.
Finally, for more than ten years, Russian programmers have been taking first places in major international Olympiads, such as The ICPC International Collegiate Programming Contest and International Olympiad in Informatics.
All these are just the brightest achievements of programmers from Russia, and together they fit into a coherent system that goes back to Soviet education.
Nuclear Race and Math Schools
The main reason for the development of applied mathematics and programming in the country was the desire of the USSR to bypass the United States and its allies in the nuclear race, says Mikhail Gustokashin, director of the Center for Student Olympiads at the Higher School of Economics. For this, good techies were needed, and therefore mathematical Olympiads were held throughout the USSR.
“A high level of mathematical training in schools and universities was necessary to ensure parity in the military and scientific spheres with almost the rest of the world. The USSR became, for example, one of the main founders of the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI, international olympiad in informatics) and in 1990 adopted the second IOI,”says Gustokashin.
In large cities of the Union, special physics and mathematics schools and boarding schools were opened, this also played a role in the development of programming in the country, says Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Dean of the Faculty of Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics of Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov Igor Sokolov.
“Well-organized work with talented children in specialized mathematical schools during the years of the USSR, the system of olympiads in mathematics, physics, computer science and other subjects continues to bear fruit,” Sokolov says.
Mikhail Mirzayanov, the founder of Codeforces, a platform for fans of programming Olympiads, agrees with the academician.
“It is important that these schools are still living and developing, and studying at such a school is still considered prestigious. I myself am from Saratov, studied at the strongest mathematical school in the city. Among the talented teachers and classmates, a desire arose to prove to myself that I am no worse than other children, that I can solve something better than anyone else - this became a strong motivation for me to move forward,”Mirzayanov says.
Also, according to Mikhail, the influence was exerted by the desire of the USSR to "hook" children with programming from school years.
“There were not only schools, but also circles, thematic magazines, as a child I read“Young Technician”, the mathematical magazine“Quant”and was delighted,” recalls the founder of Codeforces.
The popularity of the Olympiads
Russian schoolchildren participate in Olympiads from elementary school, ranging from the simplest regional Olympiads for knowledge of the Russian language, and ending with All-Russian Olympiads from the country's leading universities in various specialties, including programming and computer science.Those who took first places in such Olympiads can enter, for example, at Moscow State University without exams. M.V. Lomonosov or another prestigious university.
Mikhail Mirzayanov began to participate in specialized Olympiads from the 8th grade - it was important for him to win, and for this he could study new problems all night long.
“For some people, like me, competition is important - if you completely eradicate the competitive spirit, it will be difficult for them to find motivation and reach their potential. Plus, some programmers go beyond the Russian Olympiads and win international ones, because they just like to solve problems, for them it is already like a professional sport. I myself was fond of this - it's more interesting than watching any movie, and you are looking forward to programming competitions more than the second part of your favorite movie. This is an interesting social phenomenon,”explains Mirzayanov.
According to him, many schoolchildren and students with the help of solving problems at speed learn the basics of programming, train to solve non-standard problems and learn to build interaction with other participants in the Olympiads when it comes to team competitions. Programming competitions in the future will help you get a job that is in demand and highly paid and find a hobby for life.
Motivation, boredom and technical college
Efim Voinov, one of the founders of the Zeptolab game studio, the developer of the worldwide popular Cut the Rope series of mobile games, began to get involved in programming at the age of 8 from lack of entertainment. In his opinion, it could push other programmers as well.
“I remember my parents gave us an 8-bit ZX Spectrum computer. There were not many games for it on sale, and we began to study samizdat about the BASIC programming language, and soon began to write our own games. I remember that I was especially impressed by the opportunity to create a realistic flight of a projectile from a cannon along a ballistic trajectory, and, in general, the programming taking into account the laws of physics. Perhaps this vivid childhood impression influenced the development of the Cut the Rope puzzle, which became a hit many years later,”Voinov argues.
Also, passionate teachers have developed and continue to develop a love for programming among schoolchildren.
“I went to a regular school, and I remember the special attitude of a computer science teacher - seeing that I can program, he freed me and my brother, [the current] co-founder of the company, from lessons altogether. While our classmates were learning the basics of computer literacy, my brother and I sat at the teacher's computer and wrote our games. It was very honorable!”- Efim recalls.
Also, an important stage in his life was his studies at the Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM NRU HSE). According to Voinov, there are many strong technical universities in Russia that train worthy programmers.
“We had very strong mathematics. I especially remember the course of linear algebra - the teacher was a very tough and demanding woman, but at the same time she explained everything in a very intelligible and interesting way. Getting an excellent mark on her exam was considered a special achievement, and I remember that for me it became, in a sense, a sporting interest,”Voinov says.
At the same time, an important part of a good preparation of Russian students is the study of fundamental knowledge in mathematics, the dean of the Faculty of Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics of Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov Igor Sokolov.
“At the Faculty of CMC of Moscow State University, as at many other faculties of our profile, training includes two components - fundamental training in mathematics and computer science and practical training. It is thanks to the fundamental component that our students can solve complex scientific and practical problems,”Sokolov said.
Piracy, salaries and strong own IT companies in Russia
The IT market began to develop in Russia during the difficult economic situation of the 90s, when many enterprises and research institutes were closed in the country, but this gave the country a head start over other countries, says Director Mikhail Gustokashin of the Higher School of Economics.
“At that time, the global IT market was just developing, and Russia was in something even more advantageous than the rest of the world: there was no need to support outdated systems, it was possible to use pirated software for free, and to save a lot on employee wages. ", - considers Gustokashin.
In his opinion, in such conditions, Russia was able to grow its own large and strong IT companies, such as Yandex and Mail.ru. At the same time, Russian universities had a great influence, which turned out to be sufficiently prepared to provide a decent level of education within the country.
“The majority of Russian graduates also remain in Russia and work in Russian companies or in branches of foreign companies. They can pass on their experience to new generations of Russian programmers,”Gustokashin is sure.
According to Efim Voinov, co-founder of Zeptolab, high salaries also become a key motivation for learning programming in Russia.
“The salaries of programmers are growing every year, and are becoming less and less tied to the local market - this is facilitated by the continuing boom of IT companies, the processes of globalization and the current ubiquitous retirement. In the eyes of schoolchildren, applicants and their parents, this is obviously also an important reason to make a choice in favor of learning programming,”Voinov concludes.