European University Interdepartmental Center “Petersburg Judaica” is sealed off together with the University.
On February 8, following the order of fire inspectorate, the European University at St. Petersburg (henceforth, EUSP ) had to suspend its activity; many rooms in the building were sealed off, including the office and the classroom of the Interdepartmental Center “Petersburg Judaica.” On February 18, the court dismissed the appeal of the European University, leaving in force its prior decision on the suspension of EUSP activity. Measures undertaken in order to eliminate fire-safety violations were considered insufficient for the resuming of studies process. More detailed information on the current situation at the EUSP may be found at: www.eu.spb.ru.
For more than 10 years the European University is placed in one of the most beautiful palaces of St.Petersburg; fire inspections were annual, and yet never laid any claims that would require such radical actions. Various rumors circulate about the drastic change in the fire inspectorate’s attitude. Many hypotheses were suggested about this in mass media, both in Russian and in foreign
(e.g. http://www.polit.ru/science/2008/02/13/flame.html, The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/11/russia.highereducation,; or The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/opinion/13wed3.html?_r=3&ref=opinion&oref=slogin&oref=slogin&oref=slogin,). The range of these hypotheses is very wide: from purely political reasons to suspicions of raider attack aiming at taking over the building. However, what is most important is not the hypotheses, but, as EUSP Rector N.B. Vakhtin put it, the fact that “there is a threat not merely to plans for the second semester, but to the very existence of the university.”
Closing of the European University will have most serious negative consequences not only for Russian Humanities and education as a whole, but also for its youngest branch – Jewish Studies, which was established in Russia only after perestroika. In order to promote the formerly underrepresented or absent branches of scholarship, EUSP created the Interdepartmental Center “Petersburg Judaica.” Nowadays this is the only specialized graduate school in Jewish studies in Russia.
Depending on their dissertation topic, students of “Petersburg Judaica” Center are simultaneously enrolled at other departments of the University (Ethnology, History, Sociology). Classes at the Center are open not only for its own students, but for all EUSP students. “Petersburg Judaica” is heavily engaged in research work as well, primarily in field research in the former shtetls of Ukraine and Byelorussia. Starting with 2007, students from the United States of America also became a part of the field research program. In 2008 it was planned to further expand the number of foreign participants, and to establish a permanent summer exchange program targeted at foreign students with a serious interest in Jewish or Slavic studies who wish to acquire skills of fieldwork and collect materials relevant to their research.
“Petersburg Judaica” became a place where students from Russia received a possibility to attend lectures delivered by the outstanding specialists in Jewish studies, e.g. D. Roskies, J. Klier (b.m.), M. Krutikov, G. Estraikh, V. Chernin, H. Murav, M. Alpert, and others.
In its EUSP exhibition hall “Petersburg Judaica” organized over 10 exhibitions on various topics related to Jewish culture, history, and art. These exhibition are always attended by inhabitants and guests of St.Petersburg; in other words, EUSP “Jewish” exhibitions became an integral constitutive part of the city’s cultural life, as well as a constant and important element in the life of its Jewish commune. “Petersburg Judaica” organized a number of concerts, public lectures, and literary events in the European University. By this means, EUSP became an important place on the “Jewish map” of St.Petersburg.
Presently the classroom and the office of “Petersburg Judaica” is sealed off, which deprives the Center of the possibility not only to teach classes, but to prepare new exhibitions and conduct research work.
One of the “Petersburg Judaica” upcoming events in 2008 was the international conference “In Search of the Jewish History,” dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society. Among the organizers of the conference are the International Center for Russian and East European Jewish Studies (Moscow) and other research institutions. The history of this Society is closely associated with the names of such outstanding personalities in Jewish scholarship as S. Dubnov, M. Vinaver, S. Tsinberg, A. Harkavy, S. An-sky, etc. This conference was supposed to take place in the European University. As is known, the Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society, which was the most important center of Jewish Studies in Russia and in the world as a whole, was closed in 1929 by the order of the ruling power. Interdepartmental Center “Petersburg Judaica,” while considering itself heirs of this Society, does not, nevertheless, wish to share its fate.
We ask everybody who is not indifferent to the future of Jewish education and culture, to help the European University to resume its activity. To make this possible, the present-day hazardous situation should become a matter of wide-range open public discussion. We hope that the information about the current situation at the European University will appear in newspapers, including the Jewish ones. We hope that public discussion and response will encourage Russian authorities to pay attention at the current difficulties of the University and to take the necessary measures to resolve the problem. To help the European University and “Petersburg Judaica” Center one can, among other things, send letters at the addresses listed at the end of this letter (through regular mail or fax).
Research fellows, professors, graduates and students of the Interdepartmental Center “Petersburg Judaica,” European University at St.Petersburg.
Prof. V. Dymshits
O. Gabe O. Minkina
Prof. V. Kel’ner
Prof. M. Khakkarainen
Prof. A. Kushkova
Prof. A. Lvov
Prof. A. Sokolova
FAX (812) 576-76-41
ADRESS: 191060, SANKT-PETERSBURG, SMOLNY
MINISTER OF EDUCATION OF RUSSIAN FEDERATION
FAX +7 (495) 629-0891
ADRESS: 125993, MOSCOW, GSP-3, TVERSKAIA, 11