OPEN LETTER to the European Commission and national governments - from scientists and cultural figures
In the face of the repression in Russia and Belarus, eminent personalities from the Western world and Russia are calling for the creation of a university where thousands of opponents forced into exile by the Putin and Lukashenko regimes can teach and study. This is an unprecedented initiative to create an environment for training of future Russian and Belarusian elites.
Kidnapping and arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich. Poisoning and imprisonment of politician Alexei Navalny. Fabricated charges and show trials of historian Yuri Dmitriev, artist Yulia Tsvetkova and many human rights activists. Detention centers for the editors of the student magazine DOXA. Arrest and torture of hundreds of peaceful demonstrators. Murders of several political activists. Continued occupation of parts of Ukraine. Threats of detention, violence, and death for hundreds of thousands of people who openly oppose these measures.
It is a grim menu of state violence offered by Russian and Belarusian authorities to their populations. Political leaders around the world condemn this violence. Experts watch for violations of human rights, domestic law and international treaties. But closing airspace, boycotts, and statements of support are not enough. We need a holistic approach that complements traditional policies by engaging citizens, not governments, creating new opportunities, not limiting established relationships — offering a carrot, not just a stick.
THE EUROPEAN UNION AND ITS MEMBER STATES SHOULD REVIEW THEIR POLICIES TOWARD THEIR EASTERN NEIGHBORS BY REVITALIZING THEIR EXISTING BODIES SUCH AS THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE AND THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP. THEIR AMBITIONS NEED TO BE RECONSIDERED, THEIR COMPETENCES EXPANDED, AND THEIR RESOURCES INCREASED.
The key to success lies in direct communication with the honest people of Belarus, Russia, and other eastern neighbors. The European Convention on Human Rights (signed by Russia, but not Belarus) defines the rights and dignity of these people; the Eastern Partnership (which includes Belarus, but not Russia) calls “engagement with civil society… and investing in people and society” its main objectives. Unfortunately, in practice these tasks are not realized. More than ever, it is clear today that promoting the education, health and mobility of citizens of neighboring states is an essential element of European stability.
AS THE NUMBERS OF THOSE INNOCENTLY ARRESTED AND TORTURED GROW AT AN ALARMING RATE, WE URGE OUR POLITICAL LEADERS TO GO BEYOND EXPRESSIONS OF SOLIDARITY.
Sanctions may matter, but they target ruling regimes and individuals, leaving citizens indifferent or even increasing their deprivation. In the current situation, we urge you to redirect some of the frozen EU aid to support civil society, education and mobility. Eastern policies must be generous. It should include funds for visas, grants and scholarships, academic, therapeutic and humanitarian visits. We need to be ambitious and creative in creating fresh ways of civil diplomacy, new institutions for shared learning, and more opportunities for productive work. Shaken by the atrocities of the Belarusian regime, the continuing Russian occupation of parts of Ukraine, and signs of demodernization in Russia, we need to respond in ways that make our borders more welcoming, transparent, and fertile.
WE NEED TO CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE IN RUSSIA, BELARUS AND OTHER AUTHORITARIAN COUNTRIES. WE NEED TO CREATE BEACONS OF HOPE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION.
Building on the successful experiences of transnational higher education institutions such as the European University Institute, the Central European University, the European Viadrina University in Frankfurt, the European Humanities University in Vilnius, the College of Europe, and CIVICA (an alliance of eight European social science universities), a new East European University must be established, located in an EU member state. We, the undersigned scholars and cultural figures, welcome public and private initiatives to fund and host such an institution of higher learning. This will open new opportunities for those who have been dismissed, repressed and forced to leave their homes, as well as for those who wish to study, teach and do research according to high European standards.
We will devote our intellectual resources, experience and leadership to the creation of such a university.
- Ellen Rutten, Slavic & cultural studies, University of Amsterdam
- Alexander Etkind, history, European University Institute, Florence
- Jan Claas Behrends, history, Leibniz-Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF), Potsdam & Viadrina University, Frankfurt-on-Oder, Germany
- Ernst van Alphen, literary studies, Leiden University
- Alexander Astrov, international relations, CEU Vienna
- Mieke Bal, cultural analysis, University of Amsterdam
- Dorothee Bohle, political science, European University Institute and University of Vienna
- Judith Butler, philosophy, University of California, Berkeley
- Dmitrii Bykov, writer, Moscow
- Wolfgang Eichwede, history, Research Center for East European Studies, University of Bremen
- Sergei Erofeev, sociology, Rutgers University, USA
- Nancy Fraser, philosophy, New School for Social Research, New York
- Juliane Fürst, history, Leibniz-Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF), Potsdam, Germany
- Masha Gessen, Distinguished Writer in Residence, Bard College USA
- Simon Goldhill, classical studies, Cambridge University
- Leonid Gozman, psychology, Free University, Moscow
- Boris Groys, philosophy, New York University
- Sergei Guriev, economics, Instituts d’Etudes politiques/Sciences Po, Paris
- Gasan Gusejnov, philology, Free University, Moscow
- Marianne Hirsch, comparative literature, Columbia University, New York
- Eva Illouz, sociology & communication, Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design, Jerusalem
- Lola Kantor-Kazovsky, history of art, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Michael Kemper, Eastern European Studies, University of Amsterdam
- Ulrike Kistner, philosophy, University of Pretoria, South Africa
- Leszek Koczanowicz, philosophy, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Wrocław
- Pavel Kolar, history, University of Konstanz
- Ivan Krastev, political science, Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen, Vienna
- Geert Lovink, cultural and media studies, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam
- Edward Lucas, journalist, Center for European Policy Analysis, London
- Ingunn Lunde, linguistics, University of Bergen, Norway
- Luciano Mecacci, psychology & history, University of Florence
- Mikhail Minakov, philosophy, Kennan Institute, Washington DC & journal Ideology & Politics, Kyiv
- Aleksandr Morozov, journalist, co-director of the Boris Nemtsov Academic Center for the Study of Russia, Moscow & Charles University, Prague
- Susan Neiman, philosophy, Einstein Forum, Potsdam, Germany
- Elena Nemirovskaya, political science, School of Civic Enlightenment, Riga
- Zhanna Nemtsova, journalist, co-director of the Boris Nemtsov Academic Centre for the Study of Russia, Moscow
- Joy Neumeyer, history, European University Institute, Florence
- Andrzej Nowak, history, Jagiellonian University, Krakow
- Julia Obertreis, Universität Nürnberg-Erlangen, Germany
- Luisa Passerini, history, University of Milan
- Andrea Petö, Central European University, Vienna
- Kevin Platt, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the Humanities, University of Pennsylvania
- Serhii Plokhii, history, Harvard University
- Matthew Rojansky, director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, Washington DC
- Elizabeth Roosevelt Moore, cultural studies, Cambridge University
- Lev Rubinstein, writer, Moscow
- Manfred Sapper, journal Osteuropa, Berlin
- Saskia Sassen, sociology, Columbia University, New York
- Jos Schaeken, Slavic studies and linguistics, Leiden University
- Yurii Senokosov, political science, School of Civic Enlightenment, Riga
- Timothy Snyder, history, Yale University
- Olga Tokarczuk, writer & Nobel Prize laureate, Krajanow, Poland
- Jay Winter, history, Yale University
- Eli Zaretsky, history, New School for Social Research, New York
- Boris Zilber, mathematics, Oxford University
- Slavoj Žižek, philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia