The Siberian university community strongly condemns the war in Ukraine

Akademogorodok (university town) outside Siberia’s largest city, Novosibirsk had been known since Soviet times for fostering democratic thought away from the totalitarian shadows of the Kremlin walls.

While several of Russia’s leading opposition figures have launched anti-war campaigns to protest the invasion of Ukraine from exile, few organized public attempts at protest are seen inside the country.

This week-end statement signed by 133 bridgeheads with the University of Novosibirsk is therefore stunning.

“We, students, graduates, teachers and other employees of Novosibirsk State University, strongly condemn the war that the Russian state started in Ukraine on February 24, 2022 and express our support for Ukrainian citizens.

The statement continues:

“There are no reasonable grounds for this war, thousands of Ukrainian and Russian servicemen and civilians from Ukraine have already died there, and with each day of hostilities there are more and more casualties.”

Those who signed the appeal clarify that this is a private statement that is not related to the administration of Novosibirsk State University. The official site from the university says nothing about the petition. the Vkontakte social media forum.

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Of the 133 signatures, 109 signed with their name. Several are academicians of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The number of signatures is steadily increasing and has more than doubled since Monday morning.

Strongly condemning the war, the petition calls for an investigation into the numerous war crimes against civilians in Ukraine.

“Those responsible for these crimes must be punished,” reads the community statement, released simultaneously in Ukrainian.

“The Russian state must immediately stop the war and the Russian army must leave Ukrainian territory.”

The voices of Siberian academic society contrast sharply with a heartbreaking statement from the Russian Union of Rectors in early March, supporting President Putin’s actions to “achieve the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine”.

Four rectors and a leader from three other Novosibirsk universities signed Putin’s support.

Surveys by state polling agencies have shown that a majority of Russians support Putin’s so-called special military operation in Ukraine. These polls, however, are criticized by independent figures as not accurately reflecting the views of society.

Meanwhile, Russian authorities have launched a witch hunt against any opposition, including stopping and prosecuting any attempt to publicly express anti-war views.

A week after the massive military attack on Ukraine, Russia’s State Duma unanimously passed a law criminalizing the spread of ‘fake news’, including a prison sentence of up to 15 years for those who tell the truth about the war in Ukraine.

The statement by the Novosibirsk academic community is probably just the tip of the iceberg of Russians supporting Ukraine.

Akademogorodok is located 30 km south of Novosibirsk and is home to 35 research institutes in addition to Novosibirsk State University. Founded in 1957, the city was directly supported by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

Away from Moscow, the city quickly developed its own political life, with social clubs discussing literature, society and culture. In 1968, scientists from Akademogorodok signed a letter protesting the violation of human rights by the Soviet authorities. Soon after, all social clubs in the city were shut down by the government.

In July 1990, a year and a half before the breakup of the Soviet Union, a group of eminent scientists from the university were invited to the first-ever UNESCO international study tour along the Ob River, from Novosibirsk via Tomsk to the Arctic capital of Salekhard. , a doorway to what until then had been a closed part of northwestern Siberia.