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Threats to Independent Education in Russia and Beyond

Theses for Roundtable at ASEEES Annual Convention (2023) "Building a Free University in the Post-Soviet Space: Challenges and Opportunities"

Published onDec 12, 2023
Threats to Independent Education in Russia and Beyond

Charles University, Free University

Independent education in Russia had all but disappeared even before the onset of full-scale military aggression against Ukraine. The main reason for this was a severe limitation on university autonomy and the subordination of academic self-governance institutions to the university rector.

A specific form of state control over the content of educational programs was introduced through the “Enlightenment Activity” law, which placed the content of all Russian educational and training programs under the censorship of the Russian state. Continuing the work of the Commission for the Prevention of Foreign Interference in the Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, which explicitly highlighted the need to “take measures aimed at restricting and controlling student circles, academic circles, as well as formats of enlightenment activity not controlled by the state,” the law effectively licenses any form of enlightenment activity, as defined comprehensively.

However, the state also imposed direct repression against independent educators and institutions. Regarding the former, legislation on “foreign agents” was utilized. Various Russian scholars and educators were labeled as “foreign agents” and, as of December 2022, they lost their capability to teach in state institutions. The practical implementation of this law (including cases such as Yulia Galyamina, Mikhail Lobanov, and Vitaly Kovin) indicates that, in reality, it leads to the inability to work in academia completely.

Simultaneously, the law “On Undesirable Organizations” was used against independent institutions, providing for severe sanctions against Russian citizens who collaborate with a foreign organization deemed “undesirable.” The list of undesirable organizations includes research and educational institutions such as the Center for Eastern European Studies (ZoIS), Bard College (NY), CEU (Vienna), and Free University (Riga, Latvia). Russian citizens who continue to work or study in such institutions are under scrutiny.

DOI: 10.55167/ce39d38089ce

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