Conference e-mail

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Elizaveta Potapova (Central European University in Budapest, Hungary)

Academic Freedom in Russia: Representation and Appraisal

There is a common assumption that only ‚democratic‘ environments enable the functioning of successful academic institutions. However, modern autocracies demonstrate that universities can also work in conditions of restricted democracy, reaching the internationally recognised levels of excellence in terms of both teaching and research. The goal of my research is to trace the borders of academic freedom in the Russian Federation, which combines the gradual development of academia in accordance with world practices, formal democratic norms fixed in the Constitution and violation of democratic principles in real practice. The intuition is that understandings of academic freedom might be contextual and we could even look at a pluralistic conception of ‚academic freedomS‘ This allows to raise the following research questions: - How is academic freedom represented and appraised by academics in Russia? - In what way are their representation and appraisal similar (different) to the understanding of academic freedom in the democratic context? The ambition is to widen the scope of democracy measurements investigating how academic freedom is performed in authoritarian context and whether it can be considered a chanel of emancipation for academics. The theoretical contribution is the critical engagement with the liberal discourse which ties academic freedom to democracy not leaving a room for performance of certain freedoms, in particular academic freedom, in non-democratic regimes. The practical value is to increase academic awareness of the topic which normally occurs in activist contexts (for example, in cases when particular universities experiences oppression from the state). The part of the research to be presented on the conference is the first step on the way to my dissertation. Therefore, at this stage I plan to discuss the design of the research and the preliminary results of pilot field trip, not the final empirical findings.