Target:
Relevant administrative and educational institutions in Russia
Region:
GLOBAL
Website:
www.euspb.blogspot.com

Dear colleagues.

By now many of you will have heard about the situation at the European
University in St Petersburg (EUSPb). The university has been suddenly closed by
the Russian authorities due to a reputed “violation of fire codes”. The classes
have been suspended indefinitely and the rooms have been sealed by fire
marshals.

The University faculty and students, whom many of you know as colleagues and
friends, have appealed to us, the international academic community, to write
collective letters to support the university and to urge the authorities to reopen
it.

There have been many speculations as to the real reasons for the closure of this
university, known for its high level of scholarship and independent social and
political analysis.

You can read about these various theories and explanations on the
web site provided above (and also here: http://ethnomet.livejournal.com -- and here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/12/russia).

However, colleagues at EUSPb have asked us “not to politicize” the situation, in
order to avoid creating more problems. Right now time is an issue – this is the
middle of the semester at EUSPB, as elsewhere –and we must act quickly.

We have written a petition, and invite all of you who agree with its content to
sign it. The text of the petition is provided below.

We plan to collect as many signatures as we can in a speedy fashion and send
this petition to administrative and educational institutions in Russia.

Thank you,

Alexei Yurchak, Department of Anthropology, University of California,
Berkeley

Michele Rivkin-Fish, Department of Anthropology, University of North
Carolina, Chapel Hill


20 February 2008

Esteemed members of the St Petersburg administration, academic community
and the general public:

We, the undersigned, write to convey our highest possible support for the
European University at St Petersburg and to express our dire concern about its
temporary closure. As scholars in the social sciences and humanities from North
America, Europe and elsewhere with research programs connected to Russia,
we have come to know the European University at St. Petersburg as a flagship
institution in Russia, Europe, and the world. Its faculty are leaders in
international scientific analysis of history and contemporary society. It is an
institution universally respected for its objectivity and independence. We
regularly look to the findings of their research as we develop our own. This
enables our scholarship and teaching to benefit from a more nuanced and
accurate understanding of Russian society than is available from the Western
mass media. Indeed, the European University is among the foremost
institutional centers where communication between Western and Russian
scholars takes place. In addition to consulting the European University faculty’s
research through their publications, their conference participation, and
international exchanges, the European University provides the opportunity for
our graduate students to train directly in Russia. The International Master of
Arts in Russian Studies (IMARS) of the European University offers Western
students who study Russia an unparalleled resource for gaining the highest
standard of knowledge about Russian history and society. Between 12 and 26
students annually take advantage of this unique program, the only one of its
kind in Russia. We greatly value the opportunity to send our students to the
European University to enrich their studies and ensure the superior quality of
their training.

Beyond its immense contributions in the international world of academic
scholarship, the European University in St Petersburg also plays a critical role in
the development of Russian society. The University’s goal is to train future
professionals in the spheres of education, science, culture, and state and
municipal management, fields that are of immense importance for Russia’s
future. The European University is a leader amongst universities in the Russian
Federation which seek to develop pedagogical standards and models for teaching
about contemporary areas of knowledge and training. The university plays
another extremely important role. As a center with internationally recognized
standards of education where top scholars and students from all over Russia can
study, teach, and conduct research, this university has been instrumental in
substantially slowing down the intellectual “brain drain” from Russia to Western
countries. This important, patriotic endeavor can only be welcomed by the
Russian public and the country’s leaders.

Right now all classes at the European University are suspended and classrooms
sealed, leaving students without studies, faculty without work, and Russia
without one of its most valuable intellectual centers. Addressing the need for
“fire safety” at the European University – the official reason for its sudden
closure -- must not be allowed to prevent the ongoing functioning of this
valuable institution. The important work of the administration, faculty and
students must continue, and we implore the city and the country’s
administration to do everything in your power to reinstate its operations as soon
as possible. The sudden suspension of university life in the middle of a semester
is an unprecedented action and raises unnecessary concerns about the political
climate in Russia from the international community. We strongly urge you to
renew the university’s right to work and to support its continued functioning.

Thank you.
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