Moreover, the increasingly common injection of “political logic” into governance processes in fact works against the state’s own agenda of improving the situation in science and education, resulting in a policymaking process that is inefficient and contradictory.
In parallel with the repeated calls for the internationalization of Russian research and improvement in the international rankings of Russian universities has come a growing securitization restricting academic mobility, limiting the international scholarly exchange, and establishing special-purpose units within scientific organizations to control relations with foreigners.
Regardless of whether state interventions are evidence of the strength or, alternatively, of the weakness of the regime, they have unfortunate and destructive effects for the social sciences. As the example of the EUSP vividly demonstrates, even the most absurd claims of the controlling agencies have the potential to lead to disastrous consequences for the best Russian universities.
As a result of the persecutions of independent organizations and critically minded social scientists, many Russian scholars have begun looking for opportunities abroad, where they can enjoy better working conditions and greater freedom of expression. Those who remain in Russia prefer to temper their criticisms and try to meet the state’s expectations.
By continuing its attacks on academic freedoms the state actually shoots itself in the foot, lowering the quality of scientific expertise. If this is the long-term trajectory of the state, negative impacts not only for the social sciences but also for the state itself can be expected.
Irina Olimpieva is a senior researcher at St. Petersburg Center for Independent Social Research
This article was first published by the Kennan Institute.