SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 27, 2023

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis

Region & Country:Europe | Russia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 27, 2023, the Moscow City Court ordered the liquidation of the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (SOVA Center) after the Ministry of Justice claimed that the NGO had violated its charter.

The liquidation order comes after Russia’s Ministry of Justice filed a motion to permanently shut down the Sova Center for Information and Analysis (SOVA Center) on March 10, 2023. The motion states that an unplanned investigation into the organization found that SOVA members had attended international events and carried out seminars and workshops outside of the Moscow region. According to the Ministry of Justice, SOVA is registered as a “Regional Public Association” in Moscow; it cannot engage in activities outside of this region.

The closure and liquidation of SOVA comes in the midst of the heavy crackdown on Russia’s human rights groups and independent organizations since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Founded in 2002 and based in Moscow, the SOVA Center conducts research and produces publications on a variety of human rights issues, including hate crimes, nationalism, xenophobia, and political radicalism. The center is widely considered a regional leader in researching hate crimes and extremist movements. The center has faced challenges from state authorities in the past in apparent retaliation for its human rights research; in December 2016, it was placed on Russia’s “foreign agent” list.

Previously, in 2017, Russian authorities notified the SOVA Center that it was in violation of Russia’s law on “undesirable organization” (see report).

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the closure of an independent research center by national authorities in apparent retaliation for academic conduct and content. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the exercise of the rights to academic freedom and freedom of association, so long as those activities are undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Actions aimed at limiting research and collaboration harm academic freedom and undermine society generally.