Universities War

Z-plasticity of social fabric.
What scientists understood while studying the “new reality” in Russia

February 24, 2022 is a date that divided the lives of millions of people into before and after. Millions of Ukrainians became refugees, hundreds of thousands of Russians were forced to leave the country, thousands of people became political prisoners. Schools and universities have been invaded by Z-ideology. This gave rise to a new Russian reality, which more than 75 sociologists, historians, demographers and economists who participated in the conference tried to comprehend  “Academic Bridges” laboratories.

Classification of fugitives

How, after two years, do researchers in various scientific disciplines continue to work in today’s conditions, including both those who left and those who remain in Russia? How do you manage to maintain your scientific specialization and realize your scientific interests in conditions of emigration for some and isolation for others? The participants of the round table “Russian teachers and scientists on both sides of the borders after 02.22.24” tried to answer these questions.

To understand what happened to the emigrated scientists, Nikolai Petrov, a visiting researcher at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, shared with the audience the results of a study in which about 50 respondents living in Germany (half of the sample), Great Britain, USA, Balkan countries.

The most successful relocants were young scientists (graduate students, young candidates):

“They know not only foreign languages well, but also foreign methodology, and easily integrate into institutions,” explains Nikolai Petrov. “They are young, not yet burdened with a family, which means they are not bothered by everyday problems. They are built into the global world and can be easily repurposed.

The second category is “young fugitives,” young people who left, running away either from mobilization or from war. They did not have a prepared place where they could study for graduate school or work. Often this group urgently traveled to any visa-free countries from where they were already looking for a place to live. Representatives of this group, as a rule, do not have a long-term contract. They move from one short-term grant to another, sometimes changing not only cities and universities, but also countries.

The third category is “famous professors”, well-known scientists with established connections, at the peak of their careers. They are often helped by foreign colleagues. But this is help for six months to a year, with no prospect of contract extension. At the same time, they have a family, which means their everyday problems are more acute. Because of the accumulated capital, it is already difficult for them to change their specialization, but it is also difficult to find a place in their specialization.

The fourth is “older fugitives.” These are usually politically active researchers and academics who have faced administrative pressure. They are often forced to flee without previously prepared ground. They have connections and a name. But usually they are not good at getting involved in the work of Western universities or NGOs.

The fifth is employees of the same team who moved together (Carnegie Center, Sakharov Group, etc.). A big plus of such a move is the already existing core of the team. But finding new finances for the work of the entire team is more difficult.

The sixth category is “Westerners,” people who have long worked in Western universities on short or medium-term contracts. On the one hand, it’s easier for them: they already had experience working and living abroad. On the other hand, before they did not have the question of growing into Western academic life.

Representatives of all groups believe that they have greatly benefited morally by changing countries. In professional terms, most of the groups consider themselves to have won, except for the “elderly runaways” and the teams that left. Socially, only “Westerners” do not consider themselves lost. The rest feel like they have lost, and lost badly. Financially, all groups lost: no one feels financially more stable and secure.

Nikolay Petrov drew attention to the fact that the losses of one person and the losses of science as a whole often do not coincide. The relocation of specialists often leads to either a person changing their field of activity completely or being forced to change topics. From such actions, according to Petrov, each individual specialist may benefit, but science as a whole loses. And not only the Russian one, which is losing specialists, but also the Western one – pbecause it is deprived of analytical resources in Russia, which helped to qualitatively collect and analyze information.

Without borders and without affiliation

The topic of scientific emigration from Russia was continued by Alexander Abashkin, associate researcher at the Davis Center, Harvard University, association coordinator Scholars Without Borders. He told the audience about the “Scientists Without Borders” project. The project appeared literally three months after the start of the war. And initially he sought to help scientists from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus leave and find work. The authors of the project paid special attention to the possible move to the countries of the post-Soviet space: Central Asia and the Caucasus, adaptation to which is much softer.

Work in this area almost immediately revealed several important problems. For example,the salaries that universities were ready to offer were insufficient for those arriving. These were the average salaries of the teaching staff of the corresponding university, but due to the sharp increase in housing rental prices, this amount was sorely lacking for relocants. In addition, the authors of the project could not even approximately estimate the number of scientists in need of their help. To better understand the situation on the ground, the authors interviewed about three thousand scientists (distribute The questionnaire was helped by such famous bloggers as Ekaterina Shulman and Sergey Medvedev).

According to this survey, 72% of those who left are specialists 25-45 years old, 22% are 45-60 years old, and the generation over 60 years old accounts for only 4%. 60% of scientists participating in the survey work in the field of humanities and social sciences (soft science), 40% of respondents work in exact sciences (hard science). More than a thousand respondents had a candidate of science degree at the time of the survey, 168 had a doctorate, 165 had a PhD, many wrote that at the time of departure they were studying in graduate school, but did not have time to defend themselves. Among the respondents were many former teachers from Higher School of Economics, Moscow State University, and St. Petersburg State University. This means we can talk about the departure of the academic elite.

You can help scientists not only by providing a vacancy. Currently, within the framework of the project, many meetings are organized on issues that are relevant to relocants. For example, seminars on writing articles for foreign scientific journals, including from the editors of such journals, advice and support in writing a resume and searching for current vacancies, courses to improve the level of English. Another problem that the Scientists Without Borders project helps with is the problem of lack of affiliation among scientists who have left. The project has an agreement with a number of universities that are ready to provide their affiliation (but without providing salaries or real employment).

“We are not a research project,” emphasizes AlexanderAbashkin. — But we regularly conduct surveys in our telegram channel, which allows us to better assess the situation.

According to recent surveys, 47% of respondents continue to work in their specialty, and 31% had to leave scientific work, 13% combine work in their specialty with another, 9% work in a related field fields of science. It is interesting that 38% of those who left continue to communicate with their remaining colleagues only through personal correspondence (this percentage coincides with the answers of scientists located in Russia). For 24%, communication was interrupted (in Russia, only 14% believe that communication with colleagues who left was interrupted); 15% maintain contact, but the remaining colleagues hide this from management (among respondents in Russia, this answer was chosen by 28%). 23% maintain relations officially, with the knowledge of management (in Russia the answer is 20%).

“I am ashamed that I am a representative of this country”

The report of Anna Kuleshova, head of the Social Foresight Group, co-founder of the association Social Researchers Without Borders, chairman of the Council on the Ethics of Scientific Publications, was devoted to how scientists inside Russia see the situation.

As it turned out, a significant part of her respondents did not note radical changes in their work: they are not under direct pressure, scientific work on many topics is still possible, there is sufficient funding, unethical actions are not directly forced. At the same time, an increase in self-censorship and voluntary rejection of topics that could potentially carry risks (anti-war sentiment, LGBT, etc.) were noted. But even here, scientists find an opportunity to continue their research, for example, replacing “gender studies” with “male and female studies”, etc.

Changes are felt more strongly in large metropolitan universities than in regional ones; dismissals, non-renewal of contracts, etc. are more common there. However, the opinions of the surveyed scientists differ in their assessment of the state of the academic community: some believe that it is destroyed, the level of systemic trust has sharply decreased and everyone has their own microcosm Others, on the contrary, said that they felt like-minded people in their colleagues, who were also against the war and also decided to stay in the country. One of the respondents, who chose to stay in Russia and continue teaching humanities, emphasizes:

— There is a layer of people who stayed here, who do not walk the streets with slogans for obvious reasons (you can’t go far with a slogan). But these people have a certain influence on their audience. And this is important. And even if the audience follows such people to the crematorium, then they arrive as people, not as brutalized creatures!

The availability of scientific information among survey participants does not yet cause acute concern. They use Google Scholar, ResearchGate, etc. to access scientific articles. In extreme cases, personal connections and letters to foreign colleagues or compatriots who have gone abroad with a request to share the latest article help.

Many said that connections with foreign colleagues at the individual level were preserved, emphasizing that foreign colleagues often clearly distinguish between the positions of the rectors who signed the letter in support of the SVO and the opinions of specific scientists . Many representatives of the Russian academic community continue to travel to foreign conferences (often in the status of an independent researcher, if they do not want to declare a Russian university as their place of work). Post-Soviet and Asian countries have also become popular areas of international cooperation (but in a number of cases, respondents drew attention to the imitative nature of such cooperation). Some stopped going to European conferences, citing the fact that they were ashamed:

“I’m ashamed that I’m a representative of this country, I don’t want to catch judgmental glances, even if there won’t be many of them, but they will be,” Anna quotes the words of one of the respondents.

A separate question is how to publish and cite articles by foreign agent scientists. Concerns were often expressed that such a publication could soon be regarded as the influence of a foreign agent or as aiding a foreign agent, which would negatively affect the fate of the journal/scientific team. Respondents are also concerned about the unpredictability of this status: today you are writing an article with a colleague, tomorrow he or she wrote something on Facebook, the co-author was declared a foreign agent, and then a joint article was published in print. How (and is it necessary?) to insure against this? At the same time, many hope that the ability to speak Aesopian language, cultivated in Soviet times, can protect them from the status of a foreign agent.

Most often, problems with publications, according to respondents, arise from Western universities, which do not allow scientists who have left to publish in Russian scientific journals under new affiliations or take on colleagues with Russian affiliations in co-authors.

Boris Knorre, Russian religious scholar, candidate of philosophical sciences, associate professor at the Higher School of Economics and the Higher School of European Cultures at the Russian State University for the Humanities, believes that the situation in Russian scientific institutes and universities is more serious than it might seem from his speech Anna. For example, in reports on RAS grants, publications in publications in “unfriendly countries” may not be taken into account. In addition, Boris himself faced a taboo against a certain point of view, in particular, criticism of the Russian Orthodox Church. A critical look at the church was not welcomed even before 2022: grants were not supported, work was not taken into account:

“They may not be punished for this, but such projects are not funded, and therefore are not included in academic activities,” noted Boris.

Summarizing the results of the round table, its moderator Andrey Yakovlev, one of the founders of HSE, researcher at the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg, noted that the situation in the humanities and social sciences is different from the natural sciences. In addition, a scientist in Russia is still highly dependent on the position of the leadership of a particular institute or university. According to his observations, if management does not strive for career growth, but strives to maintain a high level of scientific production, it turns a blind eye to active contacts with foreign colleagues. Such institutes are sympathetic to vacations at their own expense and trips to conferences abroad.

New course – old basics

How education has changed over the pasttwo years, discussed at the round table “History and modernity in the new educational space.”

Maria Tretyakova, senior lecturer, candidate of historical sciences, spoke about how the course “Fundamentals of Russian Statehood”, which is new to Russian universities, is taught. She shared her observations of what teachers reported at various events to exchange experience in teaching this course.

According to VTsIOM, who studied the attitude towards the new subject among Russian citizens, 68% of respondents consider this course important. True, as Maria noted, most likely, some of the respondents are not familiar with the course. The most skeptical attitude towards the course, according to this survey, is among students aged 18-24 (only 5% consider the course important)

The researcher draws attention to outlandish (for Russian universities) methods recommended in the corresponding manual: intellectual games, performances, immersive performances, performances, competitions, etc. That is, the creators of the course tried to involve students as much as possible and move away from the traditional lecture-seminar scheme. Maria judges how teachers implemented the recommendations of the initiators of creating the course based on several dozen reports from both individual universities and general conferences. Among the tested methods are video and audio materials, joint viewing of Soviet films, trips to museums, etc.

“The most important conclusion that can be drawn is that universities are actively striving to report on getting into the trend,” says Tretyakova. — One gets the feeling that thematic conferences are being started for this purpose.

The question remains what actually happens in classrooms.

But, in my opinion, teachers who are committed to career growth or who are patriotic actively implement the program. So, as is often the case with any course, a lot depends on the individual teacher.

“They cheated us again!”

Konstantin Pakhalyuk, Candidate of Political Sciences, affiliated researcher at the Post-Soviet Conflict Research Program (PSCRP) at the Center for Strategic Studies, spoke in his report about how history becomes a means of justifying the present. Begin-Sadat. In his opinion, history has become one of the value languages of the Russian government since the mid-2000s. And one of the reasons for using this language is its understandability and accessibility. At the same time, you can talk about anything in this language. With the beginning of the SVO, the situation changed, the Russian authorities moved from dialogue to monologue, in which, according to Pakhalyuk, there is a process of alienation from reality.

In the new textbooks, Konstantin sees several important principles on which they are built. Firstly, Russia is always a state. The history of Russia is the history of the state, the history of state bodies. Konstantin points out that when Putin talks about Ukraine, he does not call it a state, it is a “territory.” The unified history textbook, echoing the president, about the events of the Civil War or revolution that do not occur on the territory of modern Russia, writes that they occur “on the national outskirts.” It turns out that in 1919 Poland was the national outskirts of Russia!

— In the history of the state there were rulers, there were territories and there were people, but there is no society in the new textbooks! The extra-state and independent are excluded from history. In Medinsky’s textbook there is only one illustration about science – Tsiolkovsky’s drawing. There are no photographs from the life of society. But there are 11 different portraits of Stalin, 8 of Lenin, posters, paintings of socialist realism, ceremonial photos of heroes of various wars – this is the visual image of the era.

Secondly, the Russian government is always right. As an example, the scientist cites a description in a textbook of the Stalinist period of the 1930s: industrialization, collectivization, agricultural development. A small paragraph is devoted to repression: unfortunately, this happened, the costs of rapid growth. And the paragraph ends with the words: “Even those who were repressed contributed to the development of the country, which helped it win the Great Patriotic War.” Pakhalyuk points out parallels in the textbook’s rhetoric regarding Stalin’s time and the government’s position towards modern Russians: “You don’t have to do anything. You are patriots simply because you didn’t leave!”

The third through line in the history textbook, markedsaid by the speaker – a terrible insult to everyone.

— “In the First World War, Russia won a lot, a lot, and the allies staged an intervention, which led to the Civil War,” Konstantin retells the textbook. — Nothing is really explained about the Western concession of the 20s. It is only written that the Junkers did not fulfill its obligations. (In 1923, the German company Junkers received a 30-year concession to the Russo-Balt plant in Fili, committing to produce 300 aircraft per year. In three years, the company created only about 100 Yu-20 and Yu-21 aircraft, unsuitable for combat application. The concession was liquidated, but the abandoned drawings allowed the USSR to start producing its aircraft – editor’s note) We were cheated again! And so practically the whole story.

The textbook describes the partition of Poland before World War II with no less bias. It appears in the publication only in the 20s, about which it is written that Poland annexed western Ukraine and western Belarus. After a few paragraphs, readers will learn that Stalin returned these territories.

“However, Lvov was never part of the Russian Empire,” the speaker notes. – How did we “return” him?

And the most tragic and unpleasant pages of Soviet history, such as repressions or dispossession, are limited in the textbook to meager facts or semi-mythologization. Much of this is true for university textbooks on “Fundamentals of Russian Statehood.” In one of them, for example, it is said about Yekaterinburg that it is a city with a rich history: the Koptyakov culture, Arkaim, Ermak and the Kyshtym disaster. It would seem that these are in no way connected historical events, but with this presentation, all of them, according to Konstantin, are perceived semi-mythologically, equally far from a schoolchildor student.

The scientist does not see much advantage in the seemingly thought-provoking questions “What do you think about…”. There is not a single fact in the textbook that would prompt an alternative opinion.

“We are not subjective!”

Sergey Chernyshov, Candidate of Historical Sciences, independent researcher, founder and former director of NovoCollege began his report with the philosophical question “Does the school shape society (and then it is subjective) or does society shape school (and then we can’t have any questions about the school)?”

Teachers who teach “Conversations about Important Things” and line up children in the letter Z, according to Sergei’s experience, explain their behavior to themselves simply: we are small people, nothing depends on us, we are not subjective and we are under oppression. But at the same time, as the speaker notes, no one could tell him where exactly the system of oppression begins. Is the deputy director putting pressure or is he “under pressure”? And the director? Sergei recalled that on the Dachau memorial there is a quote from Theodor Adorno written in five languages: “The impossibility of repeating Auschwitz should be the main requirement for any education.” Sergei admitted that this is why two years ago he expected subjectivity from the school.

“Back then it seemed to me that our entire school was built on imitation, deception, that you couldn’t make a fist out of jelly,” he says. — The scale of evolution that the Russian school has undergone can be assessed using specific examples. When in April 2022, Tomsk journalists found out that a single “Conversations about Important” manual was being distributed to schools, it was a federal sensation, and the Department of Education of the Tomsk Region was forced to justify itself. It was somehow shy and awkward. Now no one should be ashamed of this; the rectors of leading universities signed all the necessary letters in early March — no one’s eyes even twitch!

The speaker got the impression that the Russian education system has no core at all, that it is ready for literally anything.

— If you tell teachers tomorrow that children need to be stabbed with pitchforks, the only question they will have is: “Should they bring the pitchforks with them or will they give them out?” – says Chernyshov.

— Why do they do this? Probably for the sake of a career. In the Novosibirsk region, an inconspicuous teacher traveled to the Donbass and became the director of a large college. And the current Minister of Education, Maria Zhafyarova, appointed in 2023, used to be the curator of the region in Donbass, “sponsored” by the Novosibirsk region, she herself traveled to the occupied territories many times and organized internships for teachers from the “DPR” in Novosibirsk.

As another possible reason, the speaker admits resentment: teachers are finallyfelt themselves needed by the state. According to all surveys (official and unofficial), teachers in Russia are carriers of a rather traditionalist paternalistic ideology, in which, if not specifically the topic of war, then the idea of ​​intensifying educational work and promoting “traditional values” is an absolute good. But the speaker does not have a definitive answer to this “why.”

Chernyshov found only one study about the influence of SVO on students and schoolchildren during two years of war. Doctor of Sociological Sciences Vladimir Smirnov and his team surveyed 1,400 people from 15 Russian universities. The majority of students surveyed were indifferent to the topic of SVO. The second finding in the study is a decrease in trust in the state. And the third conclusion is that SVO has led to a sharp polarization of young people, students are either strongly for or strongly against. Sergey himself concluded from the study that the propaganda of SVO in universities did not directly influence the worldview of student youth (and in this it is a fraud), but it definitely worked, since students began to think about it and become polarized against this background.

What awaits Russian schools after the end of the war can be judged from the history of post-war Germany. There, the school, as Sergei notes, also did not become a driver of change: the period of the Nazi dictatorship was either hushed up or presented as a long-past past that does not directly concern schoolchildren. Only in 1973, on the initiative of the Federal Chancellor of Germany, work with historical memory began. And it started from afar. The first topic for the competition of historical projects for schoolchildren was the revolution of 1848, then the November revolution of 1918. And only in 1980 the topic “Daily life during the Nazi regime before the Second World War” was offered to German schoolchildren. This example sets the time frame for eliminating the consequences of the invasion of Z-ideology into the educational space of Russia.

“It’s best to zig from the sofa”

Evgeny Nasyrov, deputy editor-in-chief of T-invariant, spoke about three examples of the z-movement in universities. Student z-movement at Moscow State University raises money for ammunition, drones, technical equipment for the PTSD Team. Participants in the movement bring the purchased cars to perfection and take them to the front line. The organization is headed by brother and sister Andrey and Maria Trutnev, children of Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Yuri Trutnev, and, according to Evgeniy, the university in this case does not so much initiate the movement as it does not interfere with the activists.

He is much more actively involved in the life of the student z-movement “White Raven” at the Higher School of Economics. As an official student organization “White Raven” participates in grant competitions, seminars, trips, etc.

Another characteristic initiative was an attempt to create a z-organization “Russian House of RUDN University” by Dmitry Sidorov, a family member high-ranking diplomats and telecom elite. But it hasn’t ended yet. Tired of fighting with his native university, Dmitry joined the “White Raven” movement and heads external relations there.

— Studying these cases and information from other universities, we came to the conclusion that it is difficult to measure the real level of student support for z-ideology, admits Evgeniy.

—Most universities do not have any war or war support material on their web pages. Once a month they exhaust themselves with the classic triad of “networks-candles-letters”, which is how they report. The most skillful ones, for example, Togliatti State University or the already mentioned Moscow State University, craft old cars, turning them into “armored loaves.” I am sure that there are those among students who see such promotions as an opportunity for rapid career growth. But I guess that most students perceive SVO as something that has nothing to do with their lives.

Dmitry Dubrovsky (CISRUS), commenting on the speech of Evgeny Nasyrov, drew attention to the fact that many universities have their own Russian houses.

— They, of course, are nationalists, conservatives, Orthodox, they have their own stormy patriotic agenda with the restoration of the names of the real heroes of Russia, but there,“As far as I can see, there is nothing about the current war,” Dmitry notes. — It turns out that there is some kind of, albeit not very stormy, patriotic life, but at the same time this is not z-patriotism.

In July 2023, Yuri Trutnev took the initiative to create a patriotic movement at every university under the threat of dismissal of vice-rectors for educational work. In the opinion of Evgeniy Nasyrov, this rather indicates the passivity of universities and a lack of interest in z-movements. But in the future, according to Evgeniy, Russian higher education will see an increase in the involvement of students in the z-movement. A new generation has grown up, which Evgeniy calls the “Shaman generation.” Their formation took place during the “fierce years of propaganda.” For them to become z-patriots, the state, according to Nasyrov, only needs to fulfill several conditions. Do not declare mobilization (“it’s best to zigging from the couch”), attract as wide a masses as possible (to work in the occupied territories, to participate in various conferences, for example, this year there will be an International Conference on Social Sciences in Mariupol) and use the natural interest of young people in new technologies (by actively encouraging the emergence of drone control circles, you can easily obtain the required number of drone operators, who can be easily drafted into the army if necessary).

This is why, according to Nasyrov, it is important to try to answer in advance the question of what Russia could become with a generation that has never lived without Putin.

Concluding the conference, Alexander Kukalev, an employee of the Berlin Institute of Systems Biology, a member of the Academic Bridges laboratory team, noted that when studying the new social reality of Russia, it is important to remember that it cannot be considered the norm, you can’t get used to it. And academic reflection is one of the most reliable ways of soberly assessing it.

Text: Yulia Chernaya


, , , ,