Staunton, May 3 – According to the Moscow Center for Independent Social Research, “it is quite difficult to specify the actual level of anti-war resistance in [Russian] universities.” Many students are afraid to speak out lest they be expelled and face the prospect that they could be immediately drafted.
But one thing is clear, the Center says, those universities which had pre-existing student organizations were more likely to resist taking part in rectorate-organized pro-war gatherings and more likely to participate in anti-war activities than others (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-студенческие-сообщества-после-24-февраля and t.me/s/studentprotiv/30).
There are three reasons for this, according to the Center’s researchers. First, students in universities with existing student groups already have a greater sense of corporate identity within the university than others. Second, they can provide support to people whom the rectorate might want to expel, raising the costs to the university administration of doing so.
And third, these student organizations, regardless of the basis on which they were formed, can provide information to those expelled that may allow them to avoid being drafted, thus lowering the consequences for such students whose expulsion the student groups cannot prevent from happening.
Where there are student organizations, something intriguing appears to be going on – the creation of a new balance between the students and the administration, one captured in the phrase, “a university outside of politics.” That is, the administration doesn’t push Kremlin lines but the students don’t protest.
That keeps things quiet but undermines the political control over students and ultimately over the universities that Vladimir Putin has long sought to promote.