Re-Sovietization of Russian universities

Academics see a new need for Russian institutions for the moral development of students as another sign of a return to Soviet-style thinking.

With the Times Higher Education logo, a red T, a purple H and a blue E.Pro-rector post, introduced during the Soviet era vospitatel’naya workaWhich is roughly translated as “character building” – once a common fixture in universities. Such individuals were entrusted with the noble cause of organizing volunteer and student scholarships, as well as other deceptive activities — such as inciting publicity in their youthful allegations.

The term still exists in many universities, but now it will be compulsory for all of them. Announcing the measure, Russian Deputy Minister of Education Petr Kuchrenko stressed the importance of developing students not only as experts in their field, but also as “full citizens of Russian society”.

Scholars say the move is reminiscent of a time when communist Russia was more involved in shaping the youth worldview.

“With the old system gone, Russian re-Sovietists are looking for opportunities to rebuild similar structures in their universities,” said Anatoly Oleksenko, a post-Soviet study scholar in higher education policy at the University of Hong Kong.

“They are looking for someone who is personally responsible to the student body and thus conveniently punishes the whole system – as a scapegoat – for student protests.”

Oleksienko said it was uncertain whether Moscow would handcuff candidates for the job, but that giving the election to rectors could be a clever political ploy.

“Perhaps the Kremlin will give the rectors this responsibility, so that they feel more responsible – and thus become extra vigilant and concerned – in the process of student admission and development,” he said.

Iger Chirikov, a senior researcher at the Center for Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees that the move reflects a broader trend towards “re-Sovietization of Russian universities,” where institutions are “revived or revived” Soviet rhetoric.

He said Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has provoked protests by academics and students, and even the Kremlin’s lack of tolerance for political dissent, “certainly plays a role” in the sector looking to the past, but universities were directed to do so. For years.

“The Kremlin already has far-reaching implications,” Maria Popova, an associate professor of political science at McGill University, agreed, adding that it was “a way to make the process of achieving political goals more efficient and more centralized in the university setting.”

He noted that, in general, “there was pressure on universities to rein in students in the run-up to the elections” but predicted that now, “political observation will be permanently institutionalized” and pro-rector recruitment agencies across the board will be used. Smaller political gaps. “

Nevertheless, Popova disagrees with Oleksenko’s assessment that the move to establish a pro-rector for moral development was “an indication of growing concern among Russian politicians in the hope of mass protests in the population” as a result of growing economic frustration and war.

“There is no evidence of widespread protests and I suspect the regime has an indication of that,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. It covers all its bases, so if an anti-war movement emerges and becomes strong, it can be shattered. “

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