"For education and science!" Leaflet for a meeting at Lenin Square, Saturday 11 November. This Saturday, 11 November, students and staff of St Petersburg universities will protest in support of the European University at St Petersburg, which is now on the brink of closure. The meeting’s agenda also includes protesting against the amalgamation of the city’s Publishing and Printing College and the College of Construction and City Administration, political repressions in the education sector, optimisation and cuts, as well as the influence of the Orthodox Church.
We, students and graduates of the European University at St Petersburg (EUSP), which is currently facing closure, declare that our university is being persecuted on political grounds. This text is our manifesto, we call on the public to join us in our fight against the ideologisation and bureaucratisation of education and other spheres of intellectual and cultural production. We call on anyone who cannot remain indifferent to help us to stop the closure of the European University, and resist the destruction of Russian education and culture.
In the past 18 months, our university has fallen victim to the unthinking bureaucratic machine on several occasions. Representatives of 14 different agencies and inspectorates have made unplanned inspections. Following these results, Rosorbnadzor, the Russian state education monitor, forced EUSP to withdraw its license for education. This is despite the impressive position the university occupies in the Ministry of Education and Science’s ratings, or the support of leading research centres and the many letters in our defence. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the Saint Petersburg City Property Relations Committee unlawfully ended EUSP’s lease on the building it has occupied for 23 years.
What has happened to EUSP is outrageous, but not unique. We are not the only university that has encountered this kind of bureaucratic terror in recent years. In Saint Petersburg alone, the Saint Petersburg State University, East European Institute of Psychoanalysis, the city’s Publishing and Printing College and Russian State Hydrometeorological University have suffered at the hands of the bureaucrats. It’s important to understand that, in our country, the bureaucracy does not limit itself to education — it strangles all spheres of civic life.
We no longer believe what is happening to our university is a bureaucratic mistake, and we are ready to state publicly that the aggressive pressure our university faces is political
However, the situation with EUSP is not just a bureaucratic or legal collision. The refusal to grant our university an education license on principle, and without grounds, showed that the problem goes beyond the confines of “procedural issues”. We no longer believe what is happening to our university is a bureaucratic mistake, and we are ready to state publicly that the aggressive pressure our university faces is political. The bureaucratic persecution is enforced by real people, and the situation that has emerged is the result of a planned operation, which began in spring of 2016. The opacity of the relations between controlling and educational institutions has led to a situation whereby we can’t point the finger at a single person, but we believe it’s necessary to name the people who support it. Their names are Andrei Anokhin (deputy on St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly), Sergei Makarov (chairman of the city’s Committee on State Control, Use and Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments), Vitaly Milonov (State Duma deputy, St. Petersburg), Georgy Poltavchenko (Governor of Leningrad Region) and Sergei Rukavishnikov (head of Rosorbnadzor’s education inspection and monitoring directorate).
This open attack on one of Russia’s leading universities became possible due to the general atmosphere of social atomisation, obscurantism and conservative rhetoric of censored Russian media. The “conservative turn”, which relies on ultra-traditional values, is leading to the corrosion and intellectual degradation of the majority of research institutes, and the closure of scholarly and artistic initiatives. The attack on EUSP once again confirms that the productive and healthy existence of any project which transcends the borders of the dominant ideology in Russia today is impossible.
We cannot approve of this cruel and cynical attitude to Russian education. We do not want to fall victims to someone’s political game. We will fight for the European University, for the freedom to learn and teach. But our own efforts will not be enough, we call on you to support us — in any possible form. We want to initiate a public discussion of what is happening and call on everyone to participate. The future of Russian education depends on us. Together we can change the current situation, and show that bureaucratic terror will not remain unpunished and that ungrounded political pressure, the reasons and aims of which are known to only a few, demands a collective answer. We can, so we must.
You can help in the following ways:
- Join us on Saturday at 3pm, Lenin Square, Petersburg
- Write messages of support and open letters from your institutions
- Raise the cause of EUSP at public meetings, international conferences
- Visit open events at our university
- Share the article with the hashtag #saveeusp
- If you’re an artist, create artistic actions in support of EUSP