Denis Skopin, a Russian professor at St. Petersburg State University, described how Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s war in Ukraine is affecting Russia’s education system.
“I think that Russian research and education system is collapsing, actually,” Skopin recently told the BBC. “And, in my knowledge, in some good St. Petersburg and Moscow universities, there are lots of vacant teaching positions now just because people have left.”
Skopin was fired from the university on October 26 for opposing his country’s invasion of Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported last Saturday. The associate professor, who taught philosophy at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, also protested against Russia’s “partial mobilization” that sent 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine.
The professor was also arrested and detained for 10 days for participating in a protest against the Kremlin’s mobilization effort, which was announced in late September by the Russian leader.
After his arrest, he received a dismissal order from the university that said that “the act committed by the employee is immoral and incompatible with the implementation of educational functions and the continuation of this work.” Still, the professor was lauded by his students on his last day of work, according to the BBC.
Skopin told the news outlet that “it’s quite unusual and unprecedented” for professors and academic staff to leave Russia “because it used to be very hard to get a teaching position in Russia.”
“Now, it’s very different and, as far as I know, at some universities, they ask MA students to teach instead of professors,” he added. “You can imagine how it will impact Russian system of education, Russian university system. It’s a catastrophe.”
Skopin continued: “Russia is losing the best people now. The most educated, the most energetic, the most critically-thinking people are leaving the country. It’s easy to understand what kind of consequences it will have on Russian economy, Russian education, Russian culture.”
According to the professor, a country without internationally-renowned scientists has no future, adding that “Russian science is dead after 24 February,” which is the date of when the country invaded Ukraine in what Putin called a “special military operation.”
Russia’s Crackdown on Opposition
Russian authorities have been cracking down on its opposition in different ways since the war in Ukraine began. In August, authorities blocked the social media account of the Russian human rights group OVD-Info because of its media coverage of the war. The group is a watchdog that monitors and reports on political persecution in the country.
“We do not know the exact materials that Russian authorities questioned,” Maria Kuznetsova, OVD-Info’s spokesperson, told Newsweek at the time. “As a project, we stated our anti-war position from the beginning, so any of our posts can be regarded as ‘discrediting’ the Russian military.”
Her house arrest was the consequence of her actions during a protest in July in which she held an anti-Putin poster and placed dolls on the ground that were meant to symbolize dead Ukrainian children.
Newsweek reached out to the Russian foreign affairs ministry for comment.