It is not unknown for medical researchers in history to make themselves a test subject to avoid endangering others in their experimental treatments or medicines. Russian history professor Andrei Zubov took the same approach recently with his own field. As with many intellectuals in Russia, Zubov was convinced that Vladimir Putin has long worked to reestablish a dictatorship in Russia. He decided to put this theory to the test by writing an article comparing Putin to Hitler. The experiment was successful in a curious way. Zubov was immediately fired for the “immoral act” to criticizing the supreme leader.
Zubov wrote about an analogy discussed on this blog: Putin’s annexation of Crimea and the annexation of Sudetenland by Adolph Hitler. His op-ed entitled “This Has Already Happened,” had a subheadline stating “We are on the verge of complete destruction of the system of international treaties, economic chaos and political dictatorship.”
Zubov reminds all of us in teaching of the honor and the obligation that comes with our positions as academics. He is an inspiration to those committed to seeking and telling the truth as they see it. Conversely, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations has proven itself to be an outcast in the academic world with this action.
Zubov was promptly summoned to the university’s personnel office at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where he was fired without a word of explanation from the administrators. He just received a letter saying that his op-ed was immoral. Zubov, 62, is now out of a job but his theory was proven correct.
The letter cited Point 8, Article 81 of the state labor code that prohibits the “commission of immoral act(s) incompatible with the continuation of work.” This regulation usually serves to justify dismissals for substance abuse or sexual harassment.
In Zubov’s case, Point 8 , Article 81 was applied to his writing of an op-ed piece which had been published in Vedomosti, Russia’s most respected daily paper, March 1.
The piece was actually quite balanced with a recognition of the wishes of the people of Crimea but warned that Russia will have lost the people of Ukraine forever. They will never forgive Russia for the annexation.
He called on his fellow Russian to put an end “to this insane and . . . completely unnecessary aggression.”
The university called the article “irresponsible criticism on the actions of the state, thus causing damage to the teaching and educational process.” Of course, the first individuals targeted by the Nazi regime were intellectuals who were thrown off faculties and institutes in Germany. Putin’s people seem to miss that particularly irony in their response to this article.
Here is my question for fellow academics. It seems to me that there should be a counterpart to the diplomatic ban on certain government officials for academic officials engaging in this type of abuse. Why shouldn’t the faculty and administrators responsible for this abuse be publicly named and universities agree to ban them from visits or academic conferences. They are not being banned for their ideas but their actions to censor or silence intellectuals. They are denying the most basic commitment to academia and should be treated as outcasts. In the meantime, someone needs to give Zubov a job.