Saturday, April 05, 2008

Saved! - The European University in St. Petersburg can re-open

I have been a little slow in passing on a piece of good news, but it's the kind of good news that remains timely.

First, background. As I said back on February 22 (Academic freedom alert - The Kremlin shuts down the European University in St. Petersburg):
Part of the Putin government's long-term campaign to consolidate an increasingly tight system of authoritarian control, while maintaining some of the outward forms of representative democracy and constitutional government, has been a systematic and wide-ranging effort to shut down, suppress, or marginalize independent institutions, organizations, and associations--especially, though not exclusively, those with any western or other international ties. (Of course, independent journalism has also been systematically undermined and suppressed, in a process that has included some suspicious deaths.)

So far, this campaign has largely spared the academic world. But that is no longer the case. The European University in Saint Petersburg has been the object of strident public attacks, and now it has been shut down on the basis of what looks to everyone like a transparently fraudulent pretext. [....]
After a month of uncertainty, legal & political maneuvering, and a certain amount of international protest, the closure of the EUSP has been rescinded.

This is not unqualified good news, since the interruption has presumably damaged the work of the university, and the whole incident has probably helped to intimidate other independent voices and institutions. Also, we don't know what new blows may come in the future. But for the moment, given the alternative possibilities, this outcome is a cause for celebration.

The announcement below comes from the useful website set up by Mischa Gabowitsch, a post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University, to collect relevant information, updates, and suggestions for constructive action (Save the European University at St. Petersburg). Mischa concludes:
This success is obviously due to the widespread Russian and international support the university has received over the past weeks. I think we should all be proud of ourselves! :-)
Congratulations to the EUSP and, more generally, to the international Republic of Letters.

--Jeff Weintraub
Save the European University at St. Petersburg
Friday, March 21, 2008
Mischa Gabowitsch

The European University may return to its building!

[Translated from] "The European University may resume its regular activities. Federal Judge Anzhelika Morozova, of the Dzerzhinsky Court, granted the university's request for an early lifting of the administrative suspension of its activities.

The university's activities had originally been suspended for 100 hours by court order so that it may correct all fire code violations [...].

At the court hearing, a fire department representative stated that the university had fully complied with most of the fire inspectors' injunctions, and that those instructions whose removal required co-ordination [with other authorities?] are currently being implemented.

The university had drawn up a plan for removal of the violations and had it approved by the chief fire inspector; the fire department therefore considers it possible for the building to be used at this time. According to the rector of the EUSP, Nikolai Vakhtin, a meeting of all students and faculty will take place tonight to celebrate their victory." (

The city's science and education committee has already restored the EUSP's license.

This success is obviously due to the widespread Russian and international support the university has received over the past weeks. I think we should all be proud of ourselves! :-)