Sunday, September 12, 2021

Russian Researchers Providing State What It Wants Even at Cost of Destroying Genuine Scholarship, Dubrovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 12 – The Russian authorities want the legitimation that scholarly research appears to offer, but in their desire to have it, they are corrupting the humanities, because some of those involved in those fields are only too willing to offer the powers what they want even at the price of isolating and even destroying their fields of research, Dmitry Dubrovsky says.

            The Higher School of Economics historian draws on two concepts, the idea of “native” scholarship in which those willing to sell out to the powers promote what the latter want to hear rather than the truth (, and the notion of “uncivil society,” originally developed by US scholar Stephen Kotkin.

            Such people, including those in universities and research institutes, Dubrovsky continues, “use the forms and methods of civil society for the achievement of goals which are far from democracy and human rights” (

            Unfortunately, he says, “within any scholarly and educational milieu in any country are always scholars and instructors who themselves are … opponents of democracy.” They are usually held in check by academic standards, but when the state controls financing, they often find themselves in demand and quickly adapt to the state’s requirements.

            “Such scholars,” he says, “begin to create ‘scientific’ conceptions and develop ‘scientific’ justifications for repression or for this or that limitation of freedom in this or that state” because there is always a demand for such things. Russia is no exception to this rule; indeed, because of the influence of the powers on financing, it is a classic example of this kind of degeneration.

            The process involved usually works like this, the HSE scholar says. Such people pick up an idea from the West, gut its meaning or extend its application far beyond what its originators indeed. Thus, their work looks like scholarship but in fact it is something entirely foreign to the humanities as such.

            He gives as an example the way Russian “scholars” have taken up the Western concept of “information war” which is narrowly defined in terms of military conflict and extended it to all aspects of international information flows including the kind that have no links to the original concept.

            Many are deceived as a result. They know and these writers even tell them that the concept was developed in the West, and they are thus inclined to accept what these authors say even if there is no basis for it. The Russian authorities are pleased, and the Russian writers of this kind of think are rewarded – even when they should be criticized and condemned.

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