The War on Academic Free Speech in Russia

snowden

Why Should Professors Have Free Speech?
Pavel Aptekar
Vedomosti
November 10, 2019

The desire of certain universities to control the things the public intellectuals they employ as professors say about socially important issues teeters on the verge of censorship and can hardly benefit their reputations, demonstrating only the growing fears of their administrators.

On Friday, the Higher School of Economics made public the decision of its ethics board, which voted seven to one in favor of recommending that Gasan Gusejnov, a linguist employed in the university’s humanities faculty, apologize for his “ill-considered and irresponsible” remarks on his personal Facebook page regarding the “cesspool-like” Russian used by the Russian media. The majority of council members found the statement had caused “serious harm” to the university’s “professional reputation.”

In particular, the ethics board referred to recommendations for university staff members regarding public statements: “If the public statements of employees touch on issues that are matters of considerable public controversy […] it is recommended they refrain from mentioning the university by name.”

However, Gusejnov did not mention his position at the university in the Facebook post that sparked a witch hunt against him on social media and in pro-Kremlin media outlets. Gusejnov said he did not intend to apologize, as he had not yet received an official request to apologize from the university. This triggered a new wave of invective against him.

The persecution of university lecturers and students for political reasons cannot be called something new. In March 2014, MGIMO terminated its contract with Professor Andrey Zubov after his statements about the situation in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. In April 2015, the Smolny Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences at St. Petersburg State University fired political scientist and human rights expert Dmitry Dubrovsky for his public remarks. In November 2016, Alexei Petrov was fired from his post as deputy dean of the history faculty at Irkutsk State University, allegedly, for disciplinary violations, but it was actually a complaint to the prosecutor’s office by a member of the National Liberation Movement (NOD) that led to his dismissal. In March 2018, the Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyarsk forced philosophy lecturer Mikhail Konstantinov to resign after he had shown students Don’t Call Him Dimon, a 2017 video exposé by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.

The right to one’s opinions, even critical opinions, cannot be made dependent on a person’s job. Even with regard to civil servants, the Russian Constitutional Court ruled that their official positions could not be tantamount to a total ban on the public expression of critical opinions, including in the media. It is all the more impossible to train and educate professionals without critical thinking, free discussion, and the exchange of opinions: without these things, learning turns into scholasticism. Lecturers capable of lively, unconventional thought make the reputations of universities.

There have been other such examples in the history of the Higher School of Economics. The university did not react when, in October 2013, Vladimir Putin called Professor Sergei Medvedev a “fool” for arguing that the Arctic should be administered internationally. Now, however, its administrators have probably been forced to yield to the pressure, hoping that by sacrificing individuals it can maintain control over its professors. But this is a precarious path to a questionable goal.

Image courtesy of democraticunderground.com. Translated by the Russian Reader

Russia Should Be World’s No. 1 Tourist Destination

zarinaZarina Doguzova. Photo courtesy of Maxim Stulov/Vedomosti

New Rosturizm Head Assesses Russia’s Tourist Potential
Vedomosti
February 11, 2019

Russia’s tourist potential was as huge and immense as the country itself, said Zarina Doguzova, Rosturizm’s new head. On Monday, Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin introduced Doguzova to staff at the agency, which has been given a new leader at the same time as it has come under the  jurisdiction of the Russian Economic Development Ministry.

“The principal task you and I face is discovering this potential and realizing it to the maximum extent,” Doguzova said.

She argued Russia should be the first country that came to mind when foreigners were planning their next holiday, while Russians should be happy to show Russia’s unexplored corners to their children and plan to travel to a neighboring region during the next long weekend, not to a neighboring country.

“This won’t happen tomorrow, but maybe it should,” she said.

When introducing Doguzova, Oreshkin noted that, under her leadership, Rosturizm would be tasked with creating the right image within the country, an image that would present the real picture and thus attract both domestic and foreign tourists.

In September 2018, President Putin signed a decree transferring Rosturizm from the purview of the Culture Ministry to the Economic Development Ministry’s jurisdiction. On February 8, Prime Minister Medvedev appointed Doguzova the agency’s new head.

Doguzova was born in 1985. In 2008, she graduated from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO) and, according to friends, got a job in the press service of Vladimir Putin during his stint as prime minister. In 2012, Putin won the presidential election, and Doguzova transferred to the Kremlin’s office of public relations and communications.

Thanks to Sergei Damberg for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

It’s a Done Deal, or, The Miracle of the Bridge That Builds Itself

done deal

Putin Calls Issue of Crimea’s Ownership Done Deal
Kirill Bulanov
RBC
September 3, 2016

The question of Crimea’s ownership is closed, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum.

“The people of Crimea made a decision and voted. Historically, it’s a done deal,” he stressed, as quoted by Interfax.

“There is no way of returning to the previous system. None,” added Putin.

Crimea joined Russia on the basis of a referendum [sic] that took place March 16, 2014. More than 95% of those who took part in the plebiscite voted for joining the peninsula to Russia. Ukrainian and western authorities called the move an “annexation,” and the US and European Union introduced sanctions against a number of Russian citizens and Russian companies.

The head of the government made a similar statement at the beginning of the year.

“This issue is closed forever. Crimea is part of Russian territory,” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in February.

On September 1, the US extended its sanctions list against Russia. The new sanctions affect companies involved in building the Kerch Strait Bridge. In particular, the list now includes construction subcontractor Mostotrest and SGM Most. The list also included seventeen individuals, among them Crimean officials and security officials.

Crimean Bridge, published on YouTube by user Krymskii Most on October 2, 2015. The annotation to the video reads, “They made a video about me. Wow!”


The same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the west’s political position of not recognizing Crimea’s accession to Russia [sic].

“No legal obstacles to recognition of Crimea’s accession, its reunification with the Russian Federation, exist,” he said, speaking to students at MGIMO.

_________

Meeting with students at MGIMO, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the main reasons the West had not accepted Crimea’s accession to Russia.

According to the minister, Europe and the US do not recognize Crimea as belonging to Russia solely for their own benefit and out of a desire to use the situation to their own political ends. Moreover, Ukraine and Kiev’s position on this issue have not interested the West for a long time.

“The West pursued this policy, a policy of containing Russia, long before the events in Ukraine,” said Lavrov.

The diplomat stressed it has long been recognized worldwide the peninsula’s reunification with Russia took place in full accordance with all the canons [sic] of the international world [sic], and in accordance with the wishes of the residents of Crimea themselves. Publicly, however, no one wants to confirm this.

Source: PolitEkspert, September 1, 2016

Translated by the Russian Reader. Inspirational message courtesy of Pinterest.com