On March 24, 2014, Dr. Andrey Zubov, a professor of history at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), was fired from his position after writing an editorial critical Russian actions in Crimea.
On March 1, 2014, the day Russian lawmakers authorized Vladimir Putin to send troops into Ukraine, Professor Zubov published an article in Russia’s Vedomosti Daily expressing concern that Russian actions would lead to deterioration of Moscow’s relations with the West and Ukraine, and would move Russia toward economic chaos and isolation. In the article, Professor Zubov stated, “we must not behave the way Germans once behaved, based on the promises of Goebbels and Hitler.”
According to Professor Zubov, on March 4, 2014, following the publication of the article, he was approached by the MGIMO administration and given the choice either to resign, or to wait to be fired. Professor Zubov stated that he refused to resign, and was called before the school’s vice-chancellor the next day and given notice of his dismissal.
MGIMO officially announced Professor Zubov’s dismissal on March 24, 2014, accusing Zubov of making “inappropriate and offensive” historical analogies, irresponsibly criticizing government actions, and making statements that were contrary to the foreign policy of Russia. MGIMO officials further alleged that Zubov’s statements were harming the teaching environment and educational process within the institution. They reportedly claimed that Professor Zubov’s termination was permitted under Article 81 of the Russian labor law, which provides that an employer may terminate a teaching professional’s contract in the event the professional commits an immoral act that makes continuation of his teaching function impossible.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of an academic in apparent retaliation for the content of his academic work and 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.
Professor Zubov was reportedly restored to his position on April 11, 2014. The restoration is only temporary however: he will still be required to leave the MGIMO in June 2014.