Technology Czar

If you ran into Sergei Morozov at NeXTWORLD Expo, you may have thought you had met a master Russian folk artisan: His personal calling cards took the form of enameled pins with the NeXT logo painted on them. He presented Steve Jobs with an enameled tray and silver urn that he made himself.

In fact, the burly Russian is the vice-chief of the communication department of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a tireless promoter of Russia's infant personal-computer industry, and an enthusiastic believer in NeXT technology.

That last role is a trifle difficult in a country where the average wage-earner brings home the equivalent of $4 a month and workstation-level computers are impossible to buy because of U.S. export restrictions. But there are always ways around such inconviences for the inventive Morozov, who raised Western capital to acquire his two NeXT systems by making and selling enamel-painted stacked wooden Matroshka dolls.

Now, as part of his drive to bring Western-style personal computing to the former Soviet Union, Morozov is seeking to expand his modest NeXT installation into a full-scale NeXT distributorship for the independent republics.

Morozov uses the NeXT machines at one of his several private ventures, Science Production Enterprises (known by the Russian initials NPP), to publish a catalog of new Russian business ventures to interest prospective foreign investors.

NPP's other NeXT project uses the machines for high-quality document imaging of the art treasures of the famed Tretrekovsky Gallery in St. Petersburg. By scanning documents and artwork that are otherwise not available for public viewing because they are so old and fragile, NPP hopes to make the works available to domestic and international art lovers by electronic display or reproduction in printed art books.

Morozov's involvement with computers began when he was working as a medical researcher in microcirculation at the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1986, he helped install the academy's first computer network of 56 Wang computers, later replaced with IBM PCs. In the process, Morozov switched his research from medicine to microelectronics.

The new regime has not brought about much change for the average Russian citizen, says Morozov. While a skilled computer programmer may make as much as $30 per month, Morozov says that the deficiencies of the educational system and lack of Russian software tools provide scant opportunities for native software development. Only a handful of new programs appear on the market each year, according to Morozov, and most computers are only used as word processors.

Morozov expects this will change, and he may have found a believer in NeXT CEO Steve Jobs. Recently appointed by George Bush to the President's Export Committee, Jobs has a keen interest in Russian computing. "I always felt that the Soviet Union needed computers, but I feared they would end up with MS-DOS," Jobs says. If Jobs wants to help the computer industry in Russia, he knows where to look for his first advocate.

by Kristin Dyer

Thanks to Geoffry Knauth of Marble Associates for translation assistance.