The doctoral dissertation controversy of Vladimir Medinsky, Russian Minister of Culture and Chairman of the Russian Military-Historical Society that supported the recent publication of Ivan Serov’s controversial memoir Notes from a Suitcase, continues to be uncertain. In April 2016, two Russian historians, Drs. Vyacheslav Kozlyakov and Konstantin Yerusalimsky, specialists on the Russian history of the 15th-17th Centuries, and Dr. Ivan Babitsky, an expert in the Latin Renaissance literature, accused Medinsky of unprofessionalism and demanded Medinsky be stripped of his Doctor of Sciences degree that he acquired in 2011.
The dissertation should have been reviewed on October 4, 2016 by the Dissertation Scientific Council of the Ural Federal University (UrFU). However, on that date the meeting was postponed. The Council received letters from Medinsky and the Higher Attestation Commission (VAK) with the request to postpone the discussion “due to the impossibility of the presence” of Medinsky. On October 7, VAK withdrew from the review process of the doctoral degree because “the two months period of consideration by the Scientific Council has expired.”
On October 28, 24 academicians and corresponding members of the Academy of Sciences supported the demand to deprive Medinsky of his scientific degree. According to the authors, the question of the thesis “must be totally within the competence of scientists, and no administrative pressure is acceptable” and “the unprecedented intervention of the VAK into professional expertise undermines the whole system of certification of scientific degrees in Russia.”
On November 25, the Presidium of VAK formed a Dissertation Scientific Council at the Historical Faculty of the Moscow State University (MGU), to discuss Medinsky’s doctoral dissertation. The Council included the Scientific Director of the Russian Federation State Archive (GARF) Sergei Mironenko, and the Press Secretary of the Federal Protective Service (FSO) Sergei Devyatov, who is also Chair of the Department of Russian 20th-21st Centuries History of MGU. As is well known, until March 2016 Mironenko headed up the GARF, and he left his post after a public conflict with Medinsky, defending the need to declassify documents and fight myth-making. However, he has been a member of the Scientific Council since 2007, when he became Chair of the Department of Russian 19th Century History.
Contrary to the opinion of history specialists, on December 10, 2016, Olga Vasilieva, Russian Minister of Education and Science, officially supported Medinsky: “I can say that there is no plagiarism in [Medinsky’s] work. No one blames him for that […] Let him defend his right. He received great reviews, [and] he comes out for an open conversation. I’m taking my hat off to him and I think that he is right.”
The first meeting of the new MGU Council was scheduled for December 27, 2016. However, it did not take place. Professor Nikolai Borisov, a member of the Council, explained that 10 days ago, he and his colleagues received in the mail a notice of adjournment of the meeting. “The date of the new meeting is unknown to me as is the reasons for the transfer”, he added.
The Council needs to make its decision on the dissertation before January 25, 2017.
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The scandal over the minister’s dissertation is just the latest example of Russian intellectuals fighting back against what they see as rampant fraud in academia and the devaluing of serious research under President Vladimir Putin’s conservative rule.
Today, an unjust historical action has been set right,” said Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia during the opening ceremony, which was also attended by Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky and Sergei Ivanov, the head of the Presidential Administration, Russian media reported.
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