Thursday, June 27, 2019

Kremlin Crackdown on Independent Thought in Universities Began on the Periphery but has Now Reached Moscow, Kynyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 25 – Over the last several years, the Putin regime has been working to suppress independent thought in Russian universities, clearly fearful that professors who take a critical line will pass it on to their students who may then take part in anti-regime protests, Aleksandr Kynyev says.

            The Higher School of Economics instructor, whose own future is now very much in doubt, says that, as often happens, the Kremlin began this campaign in the periphery but it is now attracting attention because scholars in the capital are being hit as well (

            According to Kynyev, a political scientist, “all these cases do not represent a single plan but there is in all this a certain logic: the authorities are nervously reacting to dissent in direct proportion to the decline of their ratings,” fearful that independent-minded professors will lead to independent-minded young people.

            The powers that be have succeeded in forcing out a number of scholars but what they are doing will have “only a counter-productive effect.”  Those who are fired acquire new status in their professions as independent-minded people and will get new positions if not in Russia than in universities abroad.

            That of course will lead to a further deterioration of intellectual life in the Russian Federation now and in the future, but that is not something that the Kremlin, for all its talk about innovation, appears to be concerned about, Kynyev continues. Unfortunately, many in universities aren’t either – and go along with the trend without direct FSB instruction.

            According to the political scientist, “the authorities in initiating cadre purges in the leading higher educational institutions of the country are trying to win yesterday’s war,” one they have already lost. And by firing professors, they are prompting students to ask more fateful questions than they would have as a result of the same professors’ lectures.

            The entire problem with the regime’s approach is that it is completely utilitarian in its outlook and concerned only about “the here and now.”  It wants people who will obey its orders and isn’t interested in what will happen when they do or don’t.  Political science and other social sciences can open a window on the future, but the authorities don’t want to look through it.

            Another indication of the Putin regime’s hostility to higher education and lack of concern for the future also came this week: Moscow announced that it plans to cut the number of scholarships for students by nearly a third, from 518,000 now to 432,000 then (

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