NewsRussia clamps down on academic freedom, expelling liberal students and professors

Russia clamps down on academic freedom, expelling liberal students and professors

Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow
Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow
Images source: © Google Maps

8:22 AM EDT, May 8, 2024

In universities across Russia, authorities are expelling students with liberal views and dismissing professors who advocate for freedom of speech, all to align with President Putin's preferences. Since the conflict in Ukraine began, Russia has increasingly distanced itself from the Western world, emphasizing the indoctrination of its youth with approved ideologies. Those expressing liberal or pro-Western sentiments face expulsion from their educational institutions.

This crackdown on academic freedom is part of a broader set of changes within the last two years aimed at "correcting" the education system. Universities are purging professors who refuse to adhere to the government-prescribed narrative.

"Professors who spoke out against the war, or allowed safe spaces for students to question it, have been fired. Students who picketed or posted on social media for peace were expelled," reports The Washington Post.

With or against Russia

The stance in Russian universities is unequivocal: support the state or face expulsion. A student recounted to The Washington Post how academic offerings, such as courses on American history, democracy, and political science, including those focusing on US-Russian relations and the intricacies of warfare, have been eliminated.

"We had many classes on U.S. history, American political life, democracy and political thought, as well as courses on Russian history and political science, history of U.S.-Russian relations, and even a course titled ‘The ABCs of War: Causes, Effects, Consequences...They are all gone now," said Ksenia, who requested anonymity due to fears of reprisal.

Suppressing Student Voices

No one is exempt from these university purges, not even top-performing students or student council leaders. In the most severe cases, students face imprisonment.

"This is all very reminiscent of the Stalinist 1930s purges... The limit of tolerated protest now is to sit silently and say nothing. There is despair at the faculty and a feeling that they have crushed everything," revealed 22-year-old Michael Martin.

Martin, once celebrated at his university for his academic achievements and leadership, was forced to flee the country after being charged with discrediting the military, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Ceasing academic exchanges with the West

Russian students are now barred from participating in exchange programs with Western institutions. In 2021, Russia terminated its long-standing exchange program with Bard College in New York, labeling the liberal arts school "undesirable."

Moreover, Russian universities have withdrawn from the Bologna process, which aimed at standardizing academic degrees across Europe. This indicates a desire amongst Russian academic leaders to resist foreign influence.

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