This article investigates Russia's relationship with the West in the 1990s and 2000s by analyzing changes in a specific segment of the contemporary global economy—the academic sphere. It traces how the social sciences and the humanities in Russia have evolved from relative insularity and hierarchy during the Soviet era to a more complex web of multiple local institutions, setting their own rules, alongside powerful international agents. Assuming that individual trajectories can make objective spatial structures visible, the article analyzes the biographies of three young Russian scholars, collected in 2004 and 2005 during a research project in the anthropology of science. Patterns of academic migration and intellectual exchange with the West are presented here as providing clues to the spatial structure of the Russian scientific field and its place in the global academic economy. The article concludes with a discussion whether these findings may be generalized to other spheres, and applied not only to Russia but to other post-Soviet states caught in-between the First and the Third Worlds.