November 19, 2023

Do Not Talk to Foreigners


Do Not Talk to Foreigners
Aerial view of the Moscow State University campus. I.s.kopytov, Wikimedia Commons

The Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education has initiated the collection of personal data from students and teachers who participated in international scientific events in Russia and abroad in 2023.

These requirements were outlined in a communication distributed to Russian universities. Employees of institutes and universities are instructed to complete and submit multiple forms with this information by December 22, 2023. The forms should include the names and patronymics of all participants, their respective statuses, and the countries of origin of their foreign contacts.

An employee from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education confirmed the authenticity of the document to journalists. They noted that while records of international events were maintained previously, the scrutiny was not as meticulous. "I’ve dealt with a similar problem in the past, but this is the first time I’ve encountered lists on such a large scale," the employee stated.

The employee believes that these measures may be manifestations of spy concerns and could be utilized to investigate "inappropriate contacts," impose travel restrictions, and potentially recruit new agents from the scientific community into intelligence services.

Russian authorities routinely bring scientists to trial under charges of treason. Notably, 16 scientists from the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences recently faced legal action under this charge, including those involved in the creation of hypersonic weapons.

Moreover, universities are subject to scrutiny from various authorities under different sections of the criminal or administrative code, all in the context of a wider crackdown. For instance, Russian police drew up protocols at the European University at St. Petersburg after finding books from "undesirable organizations," and the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office designated the Free University as "undesirable." Some universities also grapple with internal challenges to freedom of thought, such as the dismissal of a professor from St. Petersburg State University for his anti-war remarks.

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