I've been listening to the BBC podcast The Hackers of Siberia. The notes on the web page include:
Intellectuals banished to an inhospitable land, settled in Siberia and created a pool of talent from the time of the tsars. Generations of creative people have been perfecting their skills here ever since. These days the reputation of Russian hackers has reached every corner of the world and Siberian hackers are the best.
‘SiBears,’ for example, are ethical hackers in the Siberian city of Tomsk. As they prepare for a hacking competition in Moscow, they reveal their motivations and the secrets of their success. What tasks are the hackers set? A whole city is built, with its own railway and hospitals, and the task is to hack into the city’s infrastructure. Alternatively, hackers can try their hand at hacking while drinking vodka with each attempt to break the code.
At the very end of the podcast can be heard:
There’s still competition in Silicon Valley. It’s very, very expensive to live there, and there are many difficulties in getting a visa.
People say that in provincial Russia, every day life is quite difficult, with lower standards of living, and difficulties in finding work. But in this vacuum, in reality, it is easier to create your own work.
I consider Tomsk as a sort of playground, which allows me to develop. I develop, together with Tomsk.
What I have found here, in Siberia, is an incredible talent pool of gifted, freedom-loving computer security enthusiasts.
They are the descendants of those sent to the gulags here. The irony is that now, the State wants them back!
When scientists and intellectuals were released from the Tomsk gulag, did they in fact just settle nearby, and eventually start families, who's descendants are now "ethical hackers" such as the one in the interview? For those that had existing families, did some bring there families to Tomsk as well?
I'm just having a hard time understanding if this is just metaphorical irony, or if what the speaker describes is actually what happened.