The pre-election purge goes on
The persecution of those, who are who not consent, in the Saratov State University continued. This time the victim is a researcher of Petrarka, the author of over that one hundred scientific works, professor Nina I. Devyataikina. During 15 years she headed the Chair of the History of the Middle Ages, the Department of History Studies. Recently she was reelected on this post by a majority vote, but in October 2 the Academic Council of the SSU voted against her appointment.
Formally all was by all the rules. By the new rules accepted in the beginning of 2007 on the threshold of the university purge. New procedure of elections of deans and heads of chairs is established. Now the opinion of the chair’s membership is not taken into account at all. Everything is decided exceptionally by the Academic Council, which consists mainly of representatives of the administration (for example, there are 13 pro-rectors in the SSU). It is natural, that the majority belongs to the head of the University L. Y. Kossovich. In April 2007 a new procedure began functioning; and the dean of the Department of the History Sciences Velikhan Mirzekhanov became the first one who left his post because of his disagreement with the vice-speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin. Next is Nina Devyataikina. Everybody on the Faculty, in the University and everywhere in academic circles knows well that she has lost his post because she has dared to support openly Velikhan Mirzekhanov. More than once she appeared in print criticizing illegal activity of the University administration. She dared to criticize the head of the University even in presence of Vyacheslav Volodin who is the president of the Guardian Board of the Saratov State University.
However the problems of the University are within the common crisis in the region. October 2, in the very day when Devyataikina was not approved on his post, in Saratov a meeting in support of the freedom of press took place. The organizers of the meeting are journalists of local mass media.
Their demands are stated in the letter addressed to the president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. For months the local Saratov department of the United Russia party carries out an informational purge in the city. From the July till September 2007 on claims of members of the United Russia 5 criminal proceedings against journalists were initiated. All cases are initiated under Articles 129(2) and 130(2) of the Criminal code of the Russian Federation, i.e. libel and insult.
The case with the daily Saratov Reporter (chief editor Sergei Mikhailov) is quite remarkable. The newspaper published a cartoon where Putin was depicted as Otto von Stirlitz, a fictional Soviet spy in Nazi Germany who was the main character of a popular Russian TV series “17 Moments Of Spring.” At once the Prosecution received a complaint from a member of the United Russia party Alexander Lando who was indignant at the fact that the newspaper “has identified the president with a Nazi officer”. Now the newspaper is on the verge of closing.
It seems that Saratov defenders of the freedom of speech and of academic freedoms should not anticipate the bright future. Having returned from the pre-election session of the United Russia the head of the SSU made an announcement concerning elections of heads of departments and chairs: whatever the result of the elections is, no court appeals will be accepted. “The decision of the Academic Council is a law which is not argued.”
Doctor of Historic Science, Professor of the Russian State University for the Humanities.