On March 20, 2014, Dr. Alexander Konkov, head of the department of Sociology at Sakhalin State University and one of Russia’s leading sociologists, was dismissed from his position after more than 25 years at the university, reportedly for making statements critical of Russian actions in Crimea.
On March 17, 2014, the Sakh.com news agency published statements relating to Crimea by several Russian public figures, including Professor Konkov, as well as several government officials, activists and artists. Professor Konkov’s statement has been translated as follows: “It’s just a convenient occasion to pick up a compact territory, while Ukraine is weak…[Putin] will have some time to enjoy unprecedented ratings. He will swim in this pool called the Black Sea, but each time he wants to pass through the Bosporus or Gibraltar, he will need to ask permission of Turkey and NATO.” After analyzing the possible political and economic consequences of Russian actions in Crimea, Professor Konkov expressed regret about media propaganda and the failure by Russian media to report alternative views.
According to reports, Professor Konkov was ordered dismissed on March 20, 2014. The following day, however, Sakhalin State University’s rector denied that Professor Konkov was being dismissed in response to his public statements, claiming instead that his contract had simply expired.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of an academic in apparent retaliation for the content of his peaceful exercise of the right of free expression. State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with academic freedom or expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliatory discharge aimed at limiting such expressive activity harms academic freedom and related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.