Over three months after Vladimir Putin rolled his tanks into Ukraine, Moscow is still engaged in a war. Kyiv remains intact and the Ukrainians are fighting back strongly backed by the West. While the war continues across the border, reports are rife of an inner war within Russia where academics are quietly ensuring that their colleagues who backed the invasion are not elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences.
According to a report by The New York Times, the campaign is aimed at thwarting the attempts of scientists, and researchers who supported Putin, from being elected to the top body, which brings not just prestige in the Russian society but also opens gates to higher research and collaboration.
The Russian Academy of Sciences was established in 1724 and manages scientific research in the Russian Federation. According to the details on its website, the “main goal of the Russian Academy of Sciences is to conduct and develop fundamental research aimed at obtaining new knowledge about the laws of development of nature, society, man and contributing to the technological, economic, social and spiritual development of Russia.”
The academy has a network of 1,900 members in Russia and elects new ones every three years. With the new poll beginning on Monday, a group of academics is circulating a list of dozens of candidates who have backed the war in Ukraine by signing-war declarations or letters their universities or institutions released. Hundreds of Russian scientists had supported the war by signing a letter that was released in March this year, days after Russian forces entered Ukrainian borders.
Meanwhile, over 8000 Russian scientists and science journalists had also signed an open letter opposing the invasion. “Most of the scientific community is definitely antiwar. Being on such a list could significantly reduce chances to be elected,” Alexander Nozik, a physicist at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology told NYT.
The Russian Academy of Science, which has had its controversies in the past, had in March released a statement saying, “the long-term confrontation in Ukraine, accompanied by the death and deprivation of civilians, has grown into an acute military conflict. We consider it extremely important through the negotiation process to achieve a cessation of hostilities and an early peaceful settlement. We experience serious fears for the life and health of people, including our fellow scientists, who are in the war zone in the territory of Donbass and Ukraine.”
The academy urged the Russian government to intensify scientific diplomacy and develop the movement of scientists for peace, international security, conflict resolution, reduction of military tension, and prevention of the threat of nuclear war.