Staunton, August 23 – In the wake of the recent protests in the streets of Moscow, scholars both individually and collectively have voiced support for the demonstrators and their program, while university managers have warned students that those who take part in protests will be punished by expulsion.
The two most prominent joint declarations of the scholars have been the Letter of the Political Scientists, a declaration signed by more than 70 prominent professors and researchers (facebook.com/kirill.rogov.39/posts/3243180679032863) and the Declaration of Scholars: Stop the Political Repressions! (https://trv-science.ru/2019/08/22/protiv-repressiy).
Both documents, Rosbalt commentator Sergey Shelin notes, “condemn ‘the escalation of force by the state toward peaceful citizens’ and in particular ‘the Msocowo case,’ where those arrested are being threatened with long prison terms for ‘the organization of mass disorders’” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2019/08/23/1798763.html).
But those signing these declarations and taking this position include “almost no one” from the university administration, the commentator says. “This is understandable and even natural. All our higher educational universities either belong to the state or entirely depend on its control and supervisory institutions.”
The managers of universities are “nomenklatura workers whose job is to subordinate themselves like soldiers to the powers that be” rather than reflect or represent the views of the scholars they supervise. That creates real tensions between the two groups and undermines any possibility of the emergence of corporate solidarity in the university community.
This debate is being fought over what constitutes university “neutrality,” with each side defining that term in ways that conform to its political views. But until the Russian political system changes as a whole, Shelin suggests, this will be largely a tempest in a teapot, with the professors having the more attractive position but the managers having the last word.