Summer 2022 Russia FSP likely to be canceled due to Russian invasion of Ukraine

Moving forward, academic partnerships with Russian institutions might be more complicated.

by Carly Retterer | 3/3/22 5:15am

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Updated 8:45 p.m., March 6, 2022.

The Russia Foreign Study Program slated for the summer of 2022 will likely be canceled due to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, according to faculty and staff members from the Russian department, government department and the Irving Institute for Energy and Society. The FSP’s organizers are reviewing the status of the program and expect to provide an update in the coming days, Guarini Institute executive director John Tansey wrote in an emailed statement.

The Russia FSP, first announced in 2019, is a collaboration between the Russian and government departments and the Irving Institute. The program, which was scheduled to run this upcoming summer for 10 weeks, features courses with the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and St. Petersburg, according to the program’s website. Students attending the program also expected to go on excursions throughout the country and stay in sleeper cars on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

But after Russian troops crossed into Ukraine on Feb. 24, causing thousands of military and civilian deaths and injuries and more than 800,000 refugees to flee the country as of Tuesday, the program’s future, at least for this summer, appears bleak.

Government professor and the Russian FSP faculty leader Joseph Bafumi said that while no final decision has been made, he believes it “very unlikely” that the program will run given the invasion. 

“It would be very complicated to run it right now,” Bafumi said. “Sanctions may not allow it, and there may be great difficulties with visas.” He added that due to financial sanctions and frozen bank accounts, it would be challenging to use credit cards and withdraw money from banks in Russia. 

Since the program would predominantly run in Moscow, Bafumi also noted in an emailed statement that there could be safety concerns for students, such as “detention of foreign nationals or harassment,” as well as “ethical concerns around maintaining institutional ties with government-funded institutions that likely have a compromised ability to provide high-quality instruction to students in politically sensitive areas like political science and energy studies.” 

On Feb. 28, the U.S. Department of State issued a level 4 travel advisory that strongly advises against traveling to Russia due to the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials, among other reasons.

Like Bafumi, Russian professor Ainsley Morse said that while the program has yet to be officially canceled, she feels “pretty confident in saying that it’s not going to happen.” She added that the Russian, history, and government departments are talking about offering additional courses this summer to all students, including ones that would have been offered on the program and additional courses related to Ukraine. 

“We’ll also definitely directly address the war in Ukraine, the build-up to that war, the history behind the war,” Morse said. “We will also certainly have the opportunity to [offer] a lot more than is usually available about Ukraine, about Ukrainian culture.” 

According to Morse, the FSP organizing team discussed the possibility of going to Latvia in hopes to infuse the program with experience abroad. She added that this proposed plan is contingent on the evolving situation in the region. 

“I don’t even know how feasible that will be, obviously,” she said. “I think people in Latvia [and] in the Baltic states right now are feeling justifiably very nervous, since the insane logic behind the invasion of Ukraine could be extended to other post-Soviet states.”

Irving Institute academic director Amanda Graham said that while the summer courses on Dartmouth campus will not provide the same kind of cross-cultural immersion that the FSP would, students will be able to explore the intellectual dimensions of Russian studies. 

“There’s so much richness in terms of the complexity of the relationship between energy and society in the Russian context, between the modes of government that we’re familiar with here in the States and the modes of government that Russia has experienced over the last several centuries,” Graham said. 

Despite the cancellation of the program this year, the FSP organizing team is committed to the eventual continuation of the program, according to Graham. 

“I think that cross-cultural exchange is a critical, critical strategy for us to continue to build good relations in all levels of society among our nations,” Graham said. 

Morse also spoke to the team’s commitment to continuing study abroad programs in Russia. 

“I would say that our team is very committed to Dartmouth having a study abroad program in Russia going forward,” she said. “[Even] if that means we have to redo the whole thing again and find new partners to work with.” Morse said. 

There is some question about future institutional cooperation between the United States and Russia and its impact on cross-cultural exchange, according to Bafumi, Morse and Graham. Bafumi said that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has already terminated its academic partnerships in Russia. On Feb. 25, MIT ended its relationship with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow, Russia.

Bafumi noted that with the end of these exchange programs with Russia, cultural understanding and cross-cultural education will be “much more limited and difficult.”

“I think that this is going to have a very negative impact on institutional relationships between the United States and Russia,” he said. 

Morse also cited concerns about scholarly freedom at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and St. Petersburg. 

“These are completely government-funded institutions and there are already indications that scholarly freedom, freedom of expression are being pressed in the context of these institutions,” Morse said. “And at this point, the kind of censorship that is going on is completely egregious.” 

Morse also added that if Russian President Vladmir Putin stays in power, she is unsure what the future academic institutional relationship will look like. However, she said that she is still in touch with her Russian colleagues. 

“We assure each other that it is very important for us to continue working together and for our intellectual efforts not to be destroyed by this political outrage,” she said.

Correction appended (March 3, 2022, 12:05 p.m.): An incorrect photo was attached to a previous version of this article. The photo was of the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, not the Guarini Institute for International Education. It has been replaced. 

Correction appended (March 4, 2022, 10:50 a.m.): A previous version of this article misstated Amanda Graham’s title. She is the academic director of the Irving Institute, not the director. 

Correction appended (March 6, 2022, 8:45 p.m.): In a previous version of this article, FSP faculty leader Joseph Bafumi stated that one potential reason for the cancellation of the program would be safety concerns, suggesting that there could be “some kind of retaliatory bombing or something by Ukrainian nationalists” in Moscow. In an emailed statement following the publication of this article, Bafumi wrote that he has no evidence this is a “real threat” and listed several other potential security concerns, such as the detention of foreign nationals or harassment. The reference to a retaliatory bombing has been removed and replaced with the other examples Bafumi provided. 

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