Universities War

Rectors of the “Russian world”. Who heads the universities in the occupied Ukrainian territories?

Who are they – convinced patriots who brought the offensive of the Russian world closer? Or banal opportunists who took advantage of the situation for mercantile purposes? T-invariant presents the results of a study of the biographies of heads of universities located in the occupied Ukrainian territories: (“DPR”, “LPR”, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions).

In March 2023, 29 universities in the occupied Ukrainian territories became Russian federal property and were placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation and relevant federal departments. That is, they became exactly the same federal educational institutions as other Russian universities. A significant part of them have worked in the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” since 2014.

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Since then, one university (the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the DPR) has become a branch of the Volgograd Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, and a “double” of another (the Kherson Maritime Academy) has appeared in Novorossiysk. The vast majority of universities continue to operate: hundreds of thousands of students study in them (mainly at the expense of the Russian budget), they issue Russian-style diplomas and even receive grants for scientific research. But the rules of Russian education do not fully apply there: for example, there is no transparent system of government procurement and the Unified State Exam is mandatory for admission.

Who runs these universities? In this study, for the first time, we collected and analyzed data on all heads of Russian universities in the occupied Ukrainian territories. In most cases, their biographies had to be reconstructed bit by bit, since on university websites many of them talk about themselves very sparingly (if at all). But we can learn something about them from social networks, extracts from the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, analysis of scientometric databases, and even the database of criminal cases of the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office (where they end up as collaborators).

In short, the overwhelming number of university rectors in the occupied territories are the heads of the second echelon of the same universities, who agreed to head them after the evacuation of the legitimate Ukrainian leadership. These are mostly specialists unknown in the scientific world, and, one can easily assume, careerists who took advantage of the situation and spoke the right words.

Rectors of the “Russian world”: the number of scientific publications, the Hirsch index, the presence and absence of academic degrees and other data, see here.

Pirate Territory

The territories occupied by Russia, which in official rhetoric are called “new regions”, are a zone of complete legal chaos, which for many years has been supplying the Russian market with state diplomas and dissertations of dubious quality, and making this is almost exclusively at the expense of the Russian budget.

Russian state accreditation began to appear at the universities of the “DPR” and “LPR” 5-7 years ago – since then they have been issuing diplomas that have the same validity as the diplomas of the others Russian universities. After the start of a full-scale war (and even before the annexation of these territories), each of the 29 universities in the “new regions” received a curator – an ordinary Russian university. This “curator” is responsible for retraining teachers from the “new territories” and teaching them Russian standards, and also issues Russian diplomas to graduates. That is, a 2022 diploma from the Don Technical University (Rostov-on-Don) may in fact mean that its owner actually studied in Gorlovka or Mariupol and is not familiar with any Russian academic subject.

In 2023, special operating rules were adopted for universities in the annexed regions. Their applicants do not have to take the Unified State Exam until 2027 and enter universities in the “new territories” using lenient tests (they are determined by the universities themselves). There are special rules for state final certification for students: for example, they are ready to issue a Russian diploma to everyone who studied at these Ukrainian universities, but did not graduate by 2022. In addition, diplomas issued in the “DPR” and “LPR” from 2014 to 2022 are automatically recognized as Russian.

Officially established five-year “specialThe current legal status of higher education in the “new territories” does not prevent these universities from receiving completely ordinary Russian subsidies. Apparently, hundreds of billions of rubles go into this “gray zone”. This is also money for the “restoration” of the destroyed universities of Mariupol (no one knows how much exactly: open tenders are not held there). This is also a disproportionately huge number of budget places (28.5 thousand out of 620.5 thousand for the whole of Russia in 2023). As well as hundreds of multimillion-dollar scientific grants (for example, on the topic “Methods, models and information technologies for managing new territories of the Russian Federation” for Kherson Technical University). As a result, we will get a completely pirated territory, at the same time flooded with budget money. This is the field for the work of all the heroes of this study.

Twin universities

The vast majority of Russian universities in the occupied territories are Ukrainian universities captured either in 2014 or already in 2022. There are only five exceptions. These are Melitopol State University, created in 2022 on the basis of several Ukrainian universities (including one private), Donbass Agrarian Academy (created in 2016 within the walls of a private economics and humanities institute headed by its rector) and specialized universities of law enforcement agencies : Donbass University of Justice, Donetsk Higher Command School (it existed in Donetsk, but was closed back in 1995) and the Academy of Civil Defense of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the DPR (however, it was actually artificially separated from the local technical university)

What do you mean – created on the basis of captured Ukrainian universities? In most cases, somewhere in Ukraine there is still a twin university with the exact same name that was removed from the occupied territories. According to estimates of the Ukrainian government, since 2014, 40 thousand students and 3.5 thousand teachers have been taken out of Donbass and Crimea alone: ​​from the Tauride National University, which moved to Kyiv, to the Lugansk Medical University in Rivne.

Naturally, not everyone was evacuated: some of the teams remained in the occupied territories. Naturally, both of them believe that they saved the students. And naturally, each of the twin universities considers itself the only legal successor to the Ukrainian one, which functioned here until 2014 or 2022.

Svetlana Drozhzhina at the award ceremony for the “At the Call of a Woman’s Heart” award. Photo: www.donetsk.kp.ru

The teaching staff of these universities periodically exchange statements. For example, the rector of the Donbass University of Economics and Trade Svetlana Drozhzhina says: “My team is those who did not leave for any Krivoy Rog.” And the Ukrainian rector of the Kherson Maritime Academy reports urbi et orbi that all documents issued by the Russian Kherson Maritime Academy have nothing to do with educational documents.

Careerists of two waves

An analysis of the biographies of rectors of Russian universities in Ukrainian territories clearly demonstrates a significant difference between the universities that operated in the “people’s republics” of the DPR and LPR since 2014, and the new ones that were captured already in 2022. In the first, the team already consists of doctors of science, who seized power eight years ago and are not ashamed of it. In universities captured in 2022, the leaders are often not identified even on official websites. Their secrecy is understandable: at least one is known attackon the Russian rector in the territories occupied since 2022.

However, they have much more in common than they have differences. First of all, the vast majority of rectors of these universities did not lead them in Ukraine. That is, almost all legitimate Ukrainian rectors of these universities refused to cooperate with the occupation authorities. There is only one exception – the rector of the Lugansk State Academy of Culture and Arts Valery Fillipov, who founded and has headed this university since 2002.

Their portraits are typical. As a rule, these are 40-45 year old second-echelon managers (vice-rectors, heads of departments, deans of faculties), who, after the evacuation of the legitimate administration, made a quick careerI’m wrong. The average age of rectors in the territories occupied since 2014 is 58 years, and in those occupied since 2022 – 48 years. It is clear that in the “people’s republics” the next generation has already come to power in universities, but even there, in half (10 out of 20) of universities, rectors have remained unchanged since 2014–2015.

In 90% of cases, the administrative team of universities worked in these same universities – these are not “Varangians” or occupiers, but completely ordinary teachers and heads of departments of the same university. Only one of the 29 rectors of universities in the “new territories” had never held any positions at his university before being appointed head – Nikolai Toivonen, who went to Melitopol University from the post of vice-rector of St. Petersburg University of Economics.

Nikolai Toivonen is the only one who had no connection with local universities before his appointment as rector. Foto: mgu-mlt.ru

The university professors who came to power in the occupied territories are not scientists of the first and not the second row. The vast majority of them have profiles in the Russian scientometric database Elibrary, where they show noticeable activity. The average number of publications for rectors of the “first wave” is 81 per person (rectors of the “second wave” are much more modest: they have an average of only 14 publications per person). At the same time, the average H-index is only 2.8 and 1.25, respectively, despite the fact that almost half of our heroes are doctors of science.

We even roughly understand what exactly all these power grabs looked like from the inside. For example, there is a video on the Internet June 2022, when in Kherson, just occupied by the Russian army, the new rector Dmitry Krugly is introduced to the assembled staff of the Kherson Maritime Academy. First, the deputy head of the “military-civil administration of the Kherson region” Kirill Stremousov (he will be killed in six months) tells the teachers how they were oppressed by the Ukrainian nationalist government, and after that a noticeably worried Dmitry Krugly, in a trembling voice, tells how he will restore everything: both the fleet and the shipyards and the academy.

The security forces have their own people and are on contracts

There are only two exceptions to this rule: “Varangians” from Russia head either power universities, or universities into which tens of billions of budget money have been and are being poured “for restoration.”

So, in the Donetsk Higher Combined Arms Command School, a career officer from the Southern Military District, Colonel Sergei Zolotarev, replaced the DPR militia “colonel” Mikhail Tikhonov as head. After the Russian annexation, Mikhail Kozhevnikov, an employee of the Academy of the State Fire Service of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia, became the head of the Academy of Civil Protection of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the DPR. The Donetsk State University of Justice was headed by the former head of the Department of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation for the DPR Nikita Naryzhny (however, before that he worked at this university as a regular teacher).

Exactly the same principle applies to those universities into which huge budget money is poured. For example, at the Azov Technical University of Mariupol (where in the summer of 2023 alone, 6.5 thousand square meters of buildings were actually rebuilt) under the local rector Igor Kushchenko, Vyacheslav Pudovikov, who has a construction business in Crimea, works as vice-rector for administrative and economic work.

Finally, there are isolated cases, but completely unique in their beauty. Thus, the acting rector of the Lugansk Academy of Internal Affairs is currently working Maxim Korobkin is a pro-Russian youth activist from Lugansk, combining his post with another important government position – “Minister of Education and Science” Kharkov region in the Russian occupation administration.

Idealists or opportunists?

Why scientists and teachersAre they going to cooperate with the occupation authorities? University rectors in the occupied territories have a fairly typical biography. They, as a rule, began their careers at the same university that they now head, as a teacher or minor administrative employee. In the 1990s, those who were more successful participated in all possible Western internships (funded from DAAD to the Open Society Foundation). After the Russian occupation, they changed their rhetoric and became ardent patriots of the “Russian world.” For example, the rector of Lugansk Pedagogical University Zhanna Marfina in an interview on February 22, 2022 thanked Russia for the evacuation of the population: “we are grateful to the Russian Federation for its help and support in accommodating the residents of our republics. The evacuation of the population is painless and smooth. This once again proves that we are one people!”

Rector of Leningrad State Pedagogical University Zhanna Marfina. Photo: russkiymir.ru

At the same time, among them there are staunch supporters of Russia. For example, teacher Tatyana Tomilina, dismissed from Kherson Pedagogical University in 2015 for wearing the St. George Ribbon, already banned in Ukraine by that time, in 2022 became the first pro-Russian rector of the same university. “10 years ago Tatyana Yuryevna almost single-handedly stood up against fascism in Ukraine. She was deprived of her position, but not broken,” said Secretary of the Kherson regional branch of United Russia Igor Kastyukevich spoke about her. Now Tomilina is the chairman of the regional Duma of the Kherson region.

Rector of Azov Pedagogical University Ekaterina Stepanyuk in all her speeches is proud that she lives in Russia and wishes “the defenders of the fatherland a speedy return with victory.” And tells about the “Nazi ideas” of the previous Ukrainian government and the long wait for “liberation from the Kyiv regime”: “When the events happened in 2014, and the Ukrainian authorities proclaimed the veneration of the heroes of the “Heavenly Hundred”, recommendations came to our pedagogical university that it was necessary to honor the memory of these pseudo-heroes. I once worked as a deputy dean for educational work and know very well how the presence of all such events was monitored in the calendar. It was very tough.”

There are also several stories that are quite difficult to understand from any generally accepted perspective. Rector of the Azov Technical University in Mariupol Igor Kushchenko at the opening of the “restored” buildings of the university in September 2023 : 400;” thankedRussia for the new facilities, casually saying that in the courtyard of his university during the Russian blockade there was a cemetery and practically proudly displayed the inscriptions of those who were sitting in the basements of the university, hiding from Russian bombs. A similar story was told by and Vice-Rector of Mariupol State University Irina Vyalkova, who spent almost two months in the basement of her house under Russian bombing: “We were digging the ruins of our house, which – they were found in the intervals between shellings.” Nevertheless, she also thanks the Russian government for the “restored” university.

Rector of the Azov Technical University in Mariupol Igor Kushchenko. Photo: pstu.su

Rector of Donetsk State Medical University Grigory Ignatenko on the first page of his website informs that he is also proud to be a member of the National Academy of Medical SciencesUkraine and the star of the “Hero of Labor of the DPR”. It is difficult to understand why a doctor of science does not see a contradiction in listing these titles literally separated by commas.

Text: Sergey Chernyshov*, Candidate of Historical Sciences, researcher at the Ruhr University in Bochum

*Enlisted in the register of foreign agents


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