In the New York Times Ellen Barry writes about the outcry among academics St Peterbsurg University (alma mater of Putin and Medvedev) who are concerned about new legislation that may require their work to be submitted to the authorities before it can be published overseas. Whilst defenders of the order, such as the university’s rector, Putin-Medvedev friendly Nikolai M. Kropachev, say it is a standard move to defend intellectual property, detractors claim that the project recalls the Soviet-era censorship program and suggest that those interested in controversial topics, such as human rights, will be the first to suffer from its restrictions.
In an interesting footnote, under the rector’s leadership, the University has, says Barry, strengthened in the league tables, but critics are fearful that a more authoritarian vision is descending upon the university itself as a whole . . . Could this be anything to do with its most famous alumni?
The order, which was circulated internally and made its way onto a popular Internet forum, says professors must provide their academic department with copies of texts to be made public outside Russia, so that they can be reviewed for violation of intellectual property laws or potential danger to national security.
Administrators say they are simply bringing the university into line with Russia’s 1999 law on export control, passed after a decade in which some impoverished scientists sold strategic technology to foreign customers. But some professors are protesting, saying such a system is unheard of in Russian universities — and could be a step toward broader academic censorship.
“Some of our faculty will not comply with this order,” said SergeiSamoletov, the assistant dean of the university’s journalismdepartment. “That kind of bravery is more likely to come from our majoracademics. The basic mass of scholars are more likely to turn downtrips, or else comply.”
Though scientists have long been subject to export control rules, the St. Petersburg order applies to the humanities as well. It asks for copies of grant applications to foreign organizations, contracts with foreign entities, curriculums to be used for teaching foreign students and a list of foreign students, along with their plans of study.
Deans will clear the work for publication or submit it to an internal export control commission for review, said Igor A. Gorlinsky, the university’s vice rector for scholarly and scientific work. The order was issued to clarify a rule that has been on the university’s books for a decade, but that existed “only on paper,” he said. Dr. Gorlinsky added that the plan might be adjusted or streamlined in response to faculty feedback.
He said he did not believe that the order would interfere with professors’ efforts to publish abroad. “One of the psychological problems we’re encountering is that some of our colleagues, instead of reading the documents carefully to understand what will be examined, and for what purpose, are speaking out against any kind of control,” Dr. Gorlinsky said.
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