Russian universities to examine the loyalty of students and lecturers
October 24, 2016
Kommersant has learned that volunteers at Russian universities have been working to assess the “protest potential” of students and professors. The results will be “compiled as memorandums for official use by state authorities.” Attendees of the Russian Congress of University Vice Chancellors for Morale and Discipline, which took place this past weekend, discussed the assessment. The authors of the study have discovered that the “destructive promotion of anti-state ideas has been occurring” among the student bodies and faculties of the capital’s universities. On the eve of the presidential election, they intend to shift their focus to regional universities.
It was the sixth time the Russian Congress of University Vice Chancellors for Morale and Discipline had taken place in Moscow. Representatives of 642 educational organizations from eighty-one regions attended the congress. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev sent his greetings to the congress, and guests of honor included Stanislav Sulakov, acting head of the Moscow Center for Extremism Prevention (Center “E”), Metropolitan Merkurii, chair of the Synodal Department for Religious Education and Catechesis, and Ernestas Mackevičius, presenter of the news program Vesti.
The meeting of the vice chancellors kicked off with a discussion of a sensitive issue.
“For twenty years, we have had to prove that the country needs discipline and morale in the universities,” complained Zinaida Kalinina, a vice chancellor at Tula Pedagogical University. Even Pushkin said, ‘The university completes the soul’s education.’ Let them argue with Alexander Sergeyevich [Pushkin]!”
Alexander Stradze, former head of the Department of State Policy on the Education of Children and Youth, one of the first officials to be dismissed by Olga Vasilyeva, the new Minister of Education and Science, tried to define the vector of the discussion. He introduced himself as assistant head of Rossotrudnichestvo, but from force of habit he attempted to preach to the vice chancellors.
“The state’s educational ideology has moved away from paternalism,” he explained. “Yes, it’s easier, probably, to work with loyal subjects, with subordinates. But the country and the conditions are no longer the same today. Nowadays, we bring up children in terms of humanism, free choice, and support for individuality. This path is justified in any democratic society.”
Alexander Balitsky, vice chancellor at Izhevsk Technical University and a former lecturer in the department of scientific socialism, tore the ex-official’s speech to shreds.
“Everything we do has often been canceled out by sociocultural circumstances,” Balitsky began in a roundabout way. “And these circumstances even often originate in our ministry.”
Mr. Balitsky casually, as it were, mentioned that the Ministry of Education and Science has been implementing a nationwide project entitled “Time to Act,” and read aloud a message from [ministry] officials to university students.
“Twelve of the country’s best entrepreneurs will share their know-how and teach you think in new ways. On September 22, entrepreneur Oskar Hartmann—” the vice chancellor underscored the entrepreneur’s [non-ethnic Russian] given name and surname,* while the audience applauded and laughed in support “—will talk about how you need to think to become a dollar millionaire by the age of thirty.”
“Nifty, eh? There’s an ideal for you. I have nothing against entrepreneurs, but these are not the core values we need. With all due respect to the Ministry of Education and Science.”
“But now there have been changes in the ministry,” an audience member reminded him.
“Thank God,” the speaker replied.
“Yeah, and there won’t be anymore Soroses,” someone joyfully shouted from the crowd.
“I think the expert community understands the country is in a state of undeclared war,” said Nikita Danyuk, assistant head of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasting (ISIP) at the Russian People’s Friendship University. “It is hybrid in nature, and there are many fronts. One of them runs inside our country: it is the mental front.”
Complaining that “western planners” use the “practice of inspiring coups,” he acknowledged university students were one of the main “destructors.” To keep the country from “plunging into chaos and anarchy,” Mr. Danyuk’s team had drafted a special educational program, entitled “Scenarios of Russia’s Future,” a series of lectures on “combating politically destructive forces.” Over the past two years, Mr. Danyuk and his colleagues had visited over forty universities in Moscow and a dozen regional universities, where they had encouraged the students to openly express their own views on political issues “and even join in the discussion.” Surrounded by his colleagues, however, Danyuk admitted the real purpose of the trip had been to assess the “protest potential” of students and lecturers.
“The outcomes of the project were compiled as memorandums for official use, including by government officials and officers of certain specialized organizations,” Mr. Danyuk announced proudly. “Unfortunately, the destructive promotion of anti-state ideas has been occurring among professors and lecturers—not openly, but without being shy about it.”
Danyuk said that society was “most exposed to destructive spin doctoring during the electoral cycle.”
“Fortunately, our country negotiated the milestone of the parliamentary elections nearly without losses, but our project will be relevant until 2018, when the presidential election will be held. And from the viewpoint of prevention, it will be relevant beyond then.”
The Institute of Strategic Studies and Forecasting at the Russian People’s Friendship University is headed by Georgy Filimonov, a professor in the department of the theory and history of international relations. The university’s website relates that, from 2005 to 2009, Prof. Filimonov worked in the presidential administration as a foreign policy advisor. According to Mr. Danyuk, the “Scenarios of Russia’s Future” lecture series has been implemented with the involvement of the Anti-Maidan Movement, political scientist Nikolai Starikov, and “other media figures.” The project has already been the source of controversy. In May 2015, students and lecturers at the Russian State University for the Humanities attempted to disrupt a lecture by Nikolai Starikov at their university. Mr. Danyuk confirmed to Kommersant that he had been at the event. In his opinion, the protest had been organized not by students, but by lecturers at the university.
“The strategy of our foreign so-called colleagues has changed. The protest potential has now shifted to the regions, and we are really interested in making contact with people from regional universities and organizing events there,” he said.
At the end of the event, the vice chancellors queued up to talk with Mr. Danyuk, vying with each other to invite him to their universities and assess the “protest potential” of their colleagues.
* According to an article, dated March 15, 2016, in the magazine Sekret firmy, businessman Oskar Hartmann was born in Kazakhstan to a family of Russian Germans.
Translated by the Russian Reader