Friday, March 21, 2008


The European University may return to its building!

""The European University may resume its regular activities. Federal Judge Anzhelika Morozova, of the Dzerzhinsky Court, granted the university's request for an early lifting of the administrative suspension of its activities.
The university's activities had originally been suspended for 100 hours by court order so that it may correct all fire code violations [...].
At the court hearing, a fire department representative stated that the university had fully complied with most of the fire inspectors' injunctions, and that those instructions whose removal required co-ordination [with other authorities?] are currently being implemented.
The university had drawn up a plan for removal of the violations and had it approved by the chief fire inspector; the fire department therefore considers it possible for the building to be used at this time. According to the rector of the EUSP, Nikolai Vakhtin, a meeting of all students and faculty will take place tonight to celebrate their victory." (

The city's science and education committee has already restored the EUSP's license.

This success is obviously due to the widespread Russian and international support the university has received over the past weeks. I think we should all be proud of ourselves! :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I mentioned earlier in this blog that Simon Rabinovitch was launching a petition by former international students at the EUSP. This has now been signed by 30 alumni in Europe and the US and is being sent to the authorities.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New article: Governor Says Uni Will Open (St Petersburg Times).

Meanwhile, a EUSP team has lost a soccer match against a team of fire inspectors (2:3), but beat a team of journalists 3:2. Watch it here.
A new court hearing about the European University and its fire code violations is scheduled for Friday, March 21.

Monday, March 17, 2008

New hope?

Sorry for the hiatus, caused by bad health rather than a dearth of events.
First things first:
This morning, rector Nikolai Vakhtin spoke with Valentina Matvienko, the governor of St Petersburg. He was advised that the fire inspectors are apparently prepared to issue a positive verdict at a new court hearing to be held next week, after which the university is likely to be re-opened. It is hard to know what to make of this announcement after so many inconclusive promises by lower-level civil servants, but it does mean that all may not be lost. An earlier public meeting with the city's top education official, Nikolai Viktorov, was remarkable only by its lack of substance.

Last week, an offer of teaching facilities by yet another organization was revoked after a few days, meaning that the European University does not have the space it needs to receive a temporary license. Meanwhile, the Street University initiated by students and some faculty is becoming a regular event: the next open-air teach-in will be held on March 23.

In other news, a demonstration in support of the European University had been scheduled to be held on Sakharov Square on March 15. It was banned by the authorities because the pro-Kremlin Russian Youth Union had allegedly declared its intention to hold a concert there on the same day. Not surprisingly, the square was completely empty on that day: the Russian Youth Union probably decided to make it a virtual concert...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Latest news & events

The EUSP's official web site says that refurbishments undertaken to meet the fire safety code requirements will be finished by March 21.

March 6: Having signed a new temporary lease, the EUSP showed this to the relevant municipal authorities, taking them up on their promise to grant the university a temporary license quickly once such a lease had been obtained. Artemy Magun, a faculty member, openly acknowledged the political background to the shutdown. But he also said that the unspecified political issues had now been resolved, and thus there is hope that the EUSP will be able to resume its activities soon.
If all this sounds cryptic (including the fact that nobody seems to have mentioned which institution has offered to host the EUSP), it is probably because, understandably, the rector and faculty do not want to disclose any information that may endanger the university even further.

March 7: A vaudeville play about the shutdown was staged at a playground in St Petersburg despite icy temperatures. Watch it on video here and here.

March 9: Students and faculty organized an open-air seminar on student protest movements.

Other public manifestations had to be CANCELLED for safety reasons: The city authorities prohibited one meeting and called the play "inexpedient," although there is nothing in Russian legislation that would allow them to say anything of the sort. In addition, the students learned that there may be a threat of violence or agents provocateurs at scheduled events, and have decided to put safety first.

March 16: Various Jewish Studies centers are organizing a conference in SPb entitled "Fire safety practices and conspiracies in the Slavic and Jewish cultural traditions."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

More letters

I am not listing every letter of support to the EUSPb from Russian institutions (most of them are published in the save_eu blog or on, but two recent texts are worth mentioning:

- a letter signed by 28 Academicians published in today's issue of Kommersant ("Academician" is the highest official scholarly title in Russia, a very rough equivalent to Member of the Institut français): see it as an image or text file. 28 is, of course, a very small proportion of the Academy's over 1,000 full and corresponding members, though perhaps not that small if one only counts those whose interests overlap with the European University's five departments (sociology and political science, history, art history, economics, ethnography)
(UPDATE: Anya Kushkova at EUSP has sent me an English version of the letter)

- an official letter from the European Humanities University in Minsk, which was itself shut down by the Belarusian authorities in 2004 and forced to relocate to Vilnius (Lithuania)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Write letters!

Let me emphasize once again that INDIVIDUAL letters to the Russian authorities are more effective than collective petitions (although these are also useful if published as open letters). Many of them have bureaucratic guidelines which oblige them to respond to every letter individually, and statistics showing how many letters they have received. (Having worked with such letters in a Soviet-era archive, I can assure you that this bureaucratic rule is indeed a non-negligible counterweight to bureaucratic cynicism.) To be entirely honest, I don't know what their rules are on letters from foreigners, especially in languages other than Russian, but I would assume these might actually carry GREATER weight.

If at all possible (and I know it may be expensive), please send your letter by registered mail. You might want to write to the Russian ambassador in your country in addition to some of the Russian addresses mentioned in this link:

Here and here are detailed instructions (in Russian), including points you might like to mention, sample letters, and an expanded list of addresses.

To summarize:

1. Say who you are, write what has happened with the EUSPb.
2. Say that the EUSPb is a renowned scholarly institution and that the international scholarly community is very concerned.
3. At the moment the EUSPb is unable to function (its license has been suspended) because of the fire safety measures.
4. The university is prepared to meet the demands of the fire safety inspectors as far as possible, but it should be allowed to continue to function.
5. Ask the authorities to lend their support to the university.
6. IMPORTANT: Please include a formal request for a reply, stating your address (private addresses seem to work best).

And finally, please don't forget that it's counterproductive in such letters to lambast the 'evil Russian regime'. The point is to put enough pressure on the authorities that they will find a face-saving solution to restore the university, not to provoke them into making it a point of honor to keep it closed.

PS: If someone wants to draw up a list of relevant Russian embassies, or other addresses specifically relevant to letters from outside Russia, I would be happy to post it on this site.

Appeal to former visiting students at EUSPb

Simon Rabinovitch, a post-doctoral associate at the University of Florida and a former visiting student at the European University, has just sent me a letter of support.
He is asking all former visiting students to get in touch with him to put together a joint letter of support.

FYI, the EUSPb has one of Russia's best programs for foreign visiting students in history and the social sciences: students can attend lectures and seminars in English and get credits that are honored by their home universities. This may not sound like much, but it's extremely rare in Russia, where most academics don't have a sufficient command of English OR enough knowledge of the international social science literature to be able to teach students from English-speaking countries.
Once again, all this is now under threat.


1. Please note that the link lists on the right are updated almost daily, especially the list of articles, blogs etc. in Russian.
2. I have now enabled comments posting for everyone. Please share your views on how to help the European University.

Closed Days

Many universities around the world hold Open Days to attract prospective students.
This week, European University students are organizing Closed Days to draw attention the the closure of their university. Here is a program in Russian.

The highlights:

March 5: Press conference and photo exhibition on the EUSPb
March 7: Vaudeville roadshow on the shutdown
March 9: Open-air university with public lectures on students unions, protest movements, etc.
March 10: Urban orienteering competition: "The Running University"
March 15: Demonstration on Sakharov Square