An Open Letter in Support of Arrested Students
American Association of Teachers of Slavic & East European Languages
AN APPEAL
TO ALL ADMINISTRATORS AND TEACHERS AT RUSSIAN UNIVERSITIES
FROM THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS OF SLAVIC AND EAST EUROPEAN LANGUAGES
We would like to express our profound concern in regard to the recent arrests of Egor Zhukov, a student at the Higher School of Economics, and Daniil Konon, a student at Moscow's Bauman Technical University. Both now find themselves in a detention center in connection with the Moscow protests of July 27, 2019. Egor Zhukov is accused of participating in riots (part 2 of article 212 of the criminal codex of the Russian Federation); he is threatened with eight years in a maximum security facility. We know that Egor and Daniil's classmates — as well as students of other institutions of higher learning and their teachers — support these young men, who are facing fabricated charges of crimes that they did not commit.
Esteemed colleagues, administrators and teachers at Russian universities,

We address you on behalf of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL). Founded in 1941, our association exists to advance the study and development of Slavic and East European languages and cultures outside of Russia on all educational levels. Among our members are more than a thousand teachers and Ph.D. students in the USA and Canada, many of whom have close professional ties to colleagues at institutions of higher learning in the Russian Federation.

We would like to express our profound concern in regard to the recent arrests of Egor Zhukov, a student at the Higher School of Economics, and Daniil Konon, a student at Moscow's Bauman Technical University. Both now find themselves in a detention center in connection with the Moscow protests of July 27, 2019. Egor Zhukov is accused of participating in riots (part 2 of article 212 of the criminal codex of the Russian Federation); he is threatened with eight years in a maximum security facility. We know that Egor and Daniil's classmates — as well as students of other institutions of higher learning and their teachers — support these young men, who are facing fabricated charges of crimes that they did not commit.

The persecution of dissent is not a new phenomenon in post-Soviet Russia. But we are truly alarmed by what is occurring now in the sphere of Russian education — the open threats of reprisals coming from certain university administrators and directed at students, including expulsion for participation in so-called unsanctioned meetings. This cannot but recall events that transpired in the USSR. Young people, your students, are demanding the right of free expression. Participation in peaceful demonstrations and marches is most definitely an integral part of a civil society and is directly vouchsafed by the constitution of the Russian Federation.

We completely support the position of the graduates, students, and staff of the Higher School of Economics as expressed in their letter of support for Egor Zhukov. A university is a place that teaches students to think critically, to speak freely and to ask questions. In a democratic society, based on the principle of respect for human rights, the peaceful expression of opinions cannot be the basis for criminal persecution.

Thanks to the independent mass media and to social media we are carefully monitoring the events in Russia. For many of you, our esteemed colleagues and experts, the ratings of Russian institutions of higher learning are important. Hence it is worth remembering that such ratings are determined not only by the quantity and quality of publications and peer-reviewed journals and books, but also by factors such as academic freedom, the guarantee of political neutrality and the social position of everyone affiliated with a given institution. If the Russian academic world does not wish to find itself in the position of a pariah among the world's learned societies, it must demonstrate a commitment to democratic principles and civic freedoms.

We appeal to the administrators of Russian institutions of higher learning to formulate clearly their position in this matter and to render legal support to the accused. We demand the immediate freedom of all students who have been turned into political prisoners by a repressive machine. And we urge you to respect the constitution of the Russian Federation by taking all measures to ensure that such flagrant disregard for the law does not continue.

We, the undersigned, on behalf of the Executive Committee of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages:

Professor Michael Wachtel,
Princeton University
AATSEEL PRESIDENT

Professor Gabriella Safran,
Stanford University
AATSEEL PRESIDENT ELECT

Professor Mark Lipovetsky,
Columbia University
AATSEEL PAST PRESIDENT

Professor Yuri Leving,
Dalhousie University, Canada
AATSEEL CONFERENCE PROGRAM & PUBLICATIONS COMMITTEES CHAIR
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