What Is the Higher School of Economics Smoking?

vyshkaThe Higher School of Economics building in Moscow. Courtesy of the university’s Facebook page

The Higher School of Economics is stripping DOXA of its status as a student organization. This means we will no longer be able to work there
https://doxajournal.ru/hse_doxa

Our sources have informed us that right now the Council of the Student Initiatives Support Fund is voting to strip our journal of its status as a student organization. This would mean we would no longer be able to work at the Higher School of Economics (HSE). According to our information, Yaroslav Kuzminov, the rector of HSE, has already voted to remove the status.

The council is voting on whether to ban our work at HSE at the behest of Natalya Pochinok, rector of the Russian State Social University (RGSU). She complained about an article in DOXA about her career as rector. Pochinok claimed the article discredited the university’s professional reputation and harmed cooperation between the two universities. And yet neither Ms. Pochinok nor the council have contacted us.

Consequently, the university’s legal office compiled a detailed report in which it claimed that many of the articles published in DOXA had, allegedly, damaged the university’s professional reputation. The following articles [in Russian] were mentioned:

Other articles published in DOXA were mentioned in an accompanying letter to the council, recommending it vote to exclude us from HSE. The HSE employee who wrote the letter found “signs of political activism” in them.

Our journal was founded on the idea that self-criticism and public debate are an essential element of university life. The revocation of our status as a student organization deprives HSE’s students and instructors of a feedback channel and representation in the public space.

The news of the attempt to deprive us of our status as a student organization came as a complete surprise to us. HSE is the university where our journal was born and evolved: we have always considered it our alma mater. We ask for and count on support from the journalistic and academic communities. For almost three years, we have advanced the idea of academic and civic solidarity. We hope that our work in this area has not been meaningless.

Besides, we do not believe our work has harmed HSE’s reputation. On the contrary, we have even shown it is one of the few Russian universities that is not afraid of open, public discussion. Therefore, we demand from HSE’s administration the same open discussion about the closure of our organization. We would argue that, otherwise, the damage to the university’s reputation will be much greater than from any of our articles.

The Editorial Board of DOXA

Contact us by email (doxa.fgn@gmail.com), telephone (+7 915 076 2181) or Telegram bot if you would like to make a comment or suggestion or discuss something with us.

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Greg Yudin
Facebook
December 4, 2019

All twenty years I’ve had the chance to observe the Higher School of Economics, the same thing keeps happening there. The university really wants to be like the big boys and knows that the big boys have this thing called student self-government. The university, therefore, makes huge, sincere efforts to develop and support it.

You will be surprised, but then it turns out that student government wants to govern. Meaning that it has its own, profoundly incompetent and infantile viewpoint on the university’s development. After that, the university declares this was not what it had in mind and either tells the student government to go to hell or turns it into a Komsomol-like organization.

If memory serves, this is a least the third time things have followed this same scenario. The only difference is that DOXA is, of course, several cuts above all the previous student projects that emerged at HSE. It is a project of national importance that literally from scratch has in a short time made the Russian student body a subject. It has obviously begun to have an impact on the situation in Moscow and has the potential of putting the problems that really concern Russian university students on the national agenda.

I cannot say, by the way, that I have no issues with DOXA and that it is flawless. (It would be odd if such a breakthrough project were perfect from the get-go.) In my experience, DOXA is staffed by quite modest, reflective and constructive people who are well aware that they can be wrong.

But to close a powerful student project on the basis of a denunciation from the rector of RGSU, a plagiarizer and dealer in dissertations and diplomas, a weak, incompetent politician, and to report it in official documents? There is no force in Russia strong enough to force HSE to whip its own students in front of the RGSU rector. This is an internal decision, and its style (“damage to the university’s professional reputation”) is quite telltale.

We can imagine what would happen if, say, the rector of Columbia University asked the Stanford administration to close the Stanford student newspaper. Until the HSE administration understands that student self-government inevitably involves unpleasant people who have a different point of view than theirs on the university’s development and with whom they have to be able to negotiate, it won’t become a normal university.

What separates HSE from RGSU is the fact that DOXA emerged and evolved there, not the number of published articles, not quartiles, and not citation indices. Because students who really support the university are a major, long-term resource, and the statements made yesterday by all the major student organizations in support of DOXA bear this out, while you can always buy articles, at the end of the day. Ask the RGSU rector about it: she has an impeccable professional reputation in the business.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Last Address: December 8, 2019

черняховского-все таблички

This Sunday, December 8, 2019, three new Last Address plaques will be installed in Petersburg.

At 12:00 p.m, a plaque in memory of Nikolai Fabianovich Pavlovsky will be mounted on the house at 6 Kirochnaya Street. An ethnic Pole and driver for the Leningrad Fur Procurement Organization (Lenzagotpushniny), Pavlovsky was executed on October 7, 1937, the same day as his brother Pyotr, who has already been memorialized with a plaque on the same house.

At 1:00 p.m., a plaque in memory of Vladislav Stanislavovich Voronovich will be attached to the house at 147 Nevsky Prospect. Before his arrest, Voronovich worked as head of the thermoelectrical block at the Bolshevik Factory. Voronovich was shot on September 28, 1937.

At 2:00 p.m., a plaque in memory of Anton Filippovich Gribovsky, foreman of the conductors on the Polar Star train, will be installed on the house at 72 Ligovsky Prospect. Gribovsky was shot on November 15, 1937.

All three men were exonerated in 1957–1958.

The installation of all three plaques was initiated not by relatives of the executed men, but by people who cherish their memory. The first plaque will thus be installed by a friend of the family, while the second two will be attached by the descendants of people who were part of the same criminal case as the executed men.

We invite you to join us for the installation ceremonies.

Courtesy of the Last Address Petersburg mailing list. Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

Court in Bryansk Sends Transgender Woman to Prison for Three Years for “Distributing Pornography”

kollektiv_sudeyThe judges at the Soviet District Court in Bryansk, November 2011. Photo courtesy of the court’s website

Court in Bryansk Sends Transgender Woman to Prison for Three Years for “Distributing Pornography”
Viktoria Mikisha
Novaya Gazeta
November 30, 2019

The Soviet District Court in Bryansk has sentenced a transgender woman named Michelle. She was accused of distributing pornography depicting minors, punishable under Article 242.1.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, according to Maria Chashchilova, a lawyer with the Moscow Community Center for LGBT Initiatives.

The woman was sent to prison for three years for posting several manga drawings—depictions of nude Japanese cartoon characters—on her page on the VK social network. A forensic inquiry established the drawings depicted “male persons under fourteen years of age.”

“The pictures were on her page for a year before they were noticed,” said Chashchilova.

The lawyer noted that she had been corresponding with Michelle for the last ten days via VK.

Michelle had not completed her gender transition and had not changed her ID papers, so she was still identified by a male name in her internal passport. She worked as a physician at the city hospital. Chashchilova said Michelle might not survive in prison, as she was a third-class disabled person and had bladder cancer.

“Michelle did not have gender reassignment surgery, only hormone therapy. Most likely, she does not have a doctor’s report confirming her sex change, which means she won’t get hormone drugs in prison. This is quite dangerous. Michelle’s cancer is in remission. Due to the lack of hormones, her chronic ailments—cancer, primarily—will worsen, and terrible things will happen to her,” Chashchilova noted.

The transgender woman could be sent to a common cell in the men’s section of a prison, as she is listed as a man in her ID papers.

“If she can flip a switch, introducing herself by her male name and acting like a man, she could have a chance [of surviving in an all-male environment] at least for a while,” Chashchilova suggested.

It is not yet known where Michelle will serve her sentence: the Moscow Community Center only has a copy of the indictment. Chashchilova has written an appeal to the Public Monitoring Commission. According to her, this was the only way to learn about the current state of Michelle’s health.

UPDATE. Michelle’s close friend Lada Preobrazhenskaya has told Novaya Gazeta that the investigation began late this past summer. Michelle had been on her own recognizance for three months. She agreed to cooperate with the investigation and signed a confession. Preobrazhenskaya noted that, from the outset, Michelle had refused the help of her friends in finding and paying a lawyer, as she did not take the accusations seriously.

Thanks to George Losev for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

What Does the FSB Want from Russian Academics?

russland-fsb

What the FSB Wants from Russian Education and Science
Either Professors and Students Defend the Autonomy of Scholarship, or the Only Thing Left Will Be the “Science” of Russia’s Security in a Global World
Konstantin Gaaze
Vedomosti
November 28, 2019

On the evening of November 27, the FSB’s Border Service barred the well-known French sociologist Carine Clément from entering Russia. She was stopped at passport control in Sheremtyevo Airport and later informed that, as a “threat” to “national security,” she had been banned from entering Russia for ten years. Clément was slated to chair a panel on social stratification and the subjectivation of social status at a conference marking the ninetieth anniversary of the birth of the late sociologist Vladimir Yadov.

It is pointless to attempt to interpret the travel ban on Clement in the light of her planned lecture on resemblances between the so-called Yellow Vests [Gilets jaunes] and the so-called Quilted Jackets [vatniki]. The trouble is not with parallels, but with the fact that the FSB, the supreme authority on the life of the mind in Russia, has long ago decided that castrating the Runet is not enough to set people’s brains straight. It is time to strike—and strike hard—at the bourgeoning social sciences and the humanities.

We often forget that FSB has not one sword at its disposal—the Russian federal communications watchdog Roskomnadzor—but two swords: Roskomnadzor and Rosobrnadzor, the Russian federal education watchdog. When my own university, the so-called Shaninka, was stripped of its accreditation in the summer of 2018, the only rumor that explained the absurdity and inconsistencies of the inspection procedure and the accreditation commission’s final report was that Lieutenant General Alexei Sedov, head of the FSB’s constitutional security service, had personally made the decision not to extend our accreditation.

The legendary spook realized back then, apparently, that the real enemies were not professional opposition activists, but young men and women with books by Bourdieu and Arendt tucked under their arms. One day you read the structuralists, the next day you record a video and post it on YouTube, and the day after that you take to the streets to show you exist and are still capable of acting. Who needs scholarship that has such a dangerous effect on people’s minds?

Especially since there is a different kind of scholarship, which churns out piles of monographs dealing with Russia’s “special path,” the country’s security in a global world, and the degradation of the west’s “spiritual culture,” and which dominates the universities where students are marked down for reading primary sources: they have to read the textbooks written by their professors, not the works of “foreign agents.” Such universities hold an endless stream of events celebrating the founders of allegedly original schools of thought who, in fact, are plagiarists and fools who have not bothered to crack open a new book since 1991, if not since 1980. They organize online conferences where 18-year-old bachelors of sociology have to discuss such burning topics as whether women can serve in the police and in what capacity with students from Interior Ministry academies in neighboring regions.

What is at stake for the FSB in this case is not isolating Clément from her Russian audience, but ensuring the victory of one type of education and scholarly production over another—the victory of textbooks over primary sources, the victory of rote phrases over real knowledge, the victory of articles chockablock with references to the president’s annual state of the union address over articles that quote Foucault and Judith Butler.

This decision has been ripening for a long time, but it was hampered by other players in the bureaucracy, including major universities, officials, and Kremlin-backed pollsters, who understood that Russia’s current model of governance could not countenance the total ideologization of the social sciences. But all these nuances lost their significance after the protests in Moscow this past summer. The enemy must be defeated. So, beginning this autumn, the Kremlin and the capital’s universities have been hotly discussing whether there are too many students studying sociology and political science. Wouldn’t it be better to send them all to culinary school?

It is time we understood that it is not a matter of who reads the classics correctly and who doesn’t. It is a matter of the very opportunity to read—not in a closed reading group, but in an open lecture hall; not under a blanket, but at the university, in the company of students. We cannot hide behind the walls of our oases—the Higher School of Economics, RANEPA, the European University in St. Petersburg, and the Shaninka, among others. Either faculty and students will join together and defend scholarly autonomy, or, ten years from now there will be nothing left except the indigenous “science” of national security.  It is clear we could all emigrate. It is equally clear this would be a betrayal not only of future students but also of scholarship itself.

Konstantin Gaaze is a sociologist who lectures in the Fundamental Sociology program at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (the Shaninka).

Photo courtesy of Stern. Translated by the Russian Reader

Ekaterina Vasilyeva: On the Neva

A River for People: What Makes the Neva Tick?
Ekaterina Vasilyeva
Republic
November 29, 2019

All my photo projects are somehow connected with nature, with long walks and studying the environment. I think that without a clear understanding of nature’s role in our lives, we to some extent deprive ourselves of support.

My project The Neva: A River for People, People for the River is an attempt to find a balance between harmony and destruction in the relationship between humans and nature. The role of nature is played by the Neva River, thanks to which my hometown of St. Petersburg was built over three hundred years ago.

Nature has always only been raw material for the builders of cities, and the Neva’s resources were used at the expense of its gradual destruction. In accounts of the city’s history, the Neva has served as an inert backdrop for heroic conquest. For ordinary people, however, the river has always symbolized the individual’s path in life, her destiny. In my project, the Neva is a metaphorical life line for St. Petersburg and the three towns situated along its 74-kilometer course—Shlisselburg, Kirovsk, and Otradnoye.

The importance of rivers and canals for the city used to be strongly underscored. Russians were instilled with a love of water. Under Peter the Great, every householder was obliged to have a boat, and every home on the waterfront had to have a pier. Even the scanty trade by which many boatsmen in old Petersburg supported themselves—the extraction of firewood, logs, and boards for subsequent sale or use—was practiced with gratitude to the Neva as a benefactress. In old Petersburg, these accidental finds had their own name: “gifts of the Neva.”

People nowadays have an ever more aggressive and consumerist attitude to the Neva. On the other hand, there is no doubt the people who live in the Neva basin love their river. This contradiction is one of the subjects of my project.

neva-1An incident occurred in the skies over Leningrad on August 21, 1963, resulting in the emergency landing of a Tu-124 passenger plane on the Neva near the Finland Railroad Bridge. The river is around 400 meters wide at this point. A passing steam tugboat towed the plane to the Neva’s right bank. The windshield in the nose of the plane was broken to secure the tow cable. The passengers were evacuated and sent to Moscow.

neva-2Peter the Great was a big fan of the national pastime. During his reign, hockey matches on the ice of the frozen Neva could attract as many as several thousand spectators.

neva-3Shlisselburg. In 1912, the Finnish archaeologist Julius Ailio recorded the following tale in the village of Mikulainen on the shore of Lake Ladoga: “The Neva River used to be tiny. If a tree fell, it would lodge between one bank and the other, and you could cross the river by walking over it. Then fifty or sixty years later, the river widened. Shepherds would toss burning brands across the river to each other to make campfires. But then the river eroded the land at its source and became quite broad.”

neva-4In 1716, by decree of Peter the Great, fishermen from Russia’s northern provinces were settled on the left bank of the Neva between its tributaries, the Murzinka and the Slavyanka, to supply residents of the capital with fish. Originally, the settlement was called just that—the Fishery Settlement [Rybnaya sloboda]. The name was later changed to Fishermen’s Village [Rybatskoye]. The locals still call the ravine in modern Rybatskoye Pike Harbor.

The Visyachka [“The Hanger”] is a ruined pedestrian bridge on a man-made embankment in the backwater of the Nevsky Shipyard in Shlisselburg.

neva-5The Neva smelt [koryushka] has long been considered a symbol of Petersburg. In 1705, Peter the Great issued a decree to support fishermen who caught smelt. According to legend, Peter called the smelt the “tsar fish,” since it could feed the growing population of his new capital city as it was built.

neva-6St. Petersburg ranks among the top per-capita consumers of water in Russia. Every twenty-four hours, the city “drinks” the equivalent of a lake one square kilometer in size and three meters deep. Despite the official ban, industrial waste continues to be poured into the river.

neva-7The origin of the name Neva is not completely clear. Some historians think it comes from the Finnish word neva, which translates as “bog” or “fen.”

Thanks to Ekaterina Vasilyeva for her permission to reproduce excerpts from her project here. You can look at her entire photo essay about the Neva on her website or on Republic. Translated by the Russian Reader

 

There’s a Useful Idiot Born Every Day

platypusThe duck-billed platypus. Photo courtesy of WEST 1

I have been a fan of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation‘s mighty Radio National (ABC RN) for many years now. I especially enjoy programs like “Late Night Live” with the redoubtable Phillip Adams, an Australian national treasure. ABC RN has definitely changed the way I think about lots of things by giving me a variety of Australian and non-Australian perspectives on Australia and the rest of the world.

And yet, like any other human endeavor, ABC RN is capable of getting it badly wrong, as in this interview on “Late Night Live” with former Australian diplomat Tony Kevin. Mr. Kevin is a card-carrying Putinist, apparently, and doesn’t mind painting an unbearably rosy picture of Russia today that is so at odds with reality you’ll find your hair standing on end if you listen to the interview.

To be honest, I turned off my radio when Mr. Kevin launched into his “debunking” of the Skripal case and the Douma gas attack.

It’s not my place to do it, but I hope Australian taxpayers, who foot the bill for the ABC, go after the corporation for this shameless platforming of utter mendacity and useful idiocy in the service of the neo-imperialist Russian police state.

___________________________

The new cold war

Tony Kevin has worked in Russia as a diplomat and has been writing about foreign policy in relation to Russia for years.

He believes that there are false narratives being pushed by the West to maintain the status of Russia as the evil enemy.

Could there be a path forward towards detente between the West and Russia?

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/the-new-cold-war/11742372

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MESSAGE FROM RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR 19 NOV 2019

Here is my transcription of the personal message from his Ambassador, Dr A Pavlovsky to me, that the Russian Embassy’s Deputy Ambassador Mr A Ovcharenko read out at my Canberra booklaunch 19 November 2019:

“I am pleased to take part in this presentation of a new book by Tony Kevin, Russia and the West – the last two action-packed years 2017-19.

In my personal view, Tony is a unique Australian author. Being a [former] career diplomat, he clearly sees and comprehensively analyses political forces. He spent many years in Russia, which helped him to understand deeper my country, its history, culture, political and social traditions. Such works as Return to Moscow and this new book offer realistic and honest views on Russia, which are fundamentally different from what are distorted images imposed by mainstream Western media, portraying Russia as an aggressive and hostile country. Tony Kevin stands against such biased approaches towards Russia. He advocates for good relations between Russia and Australia based on common interests and mutual respect. I believe that Tony Kevin‘s new work will help many Australians to understand the real situation around Russia.”

http://www.tonykevin.com.au/