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Transcript - The war in Ukraine and Russian perspectives

A conversation with Tatyana Deryugina

Published onFeb 09, 2023
Transcript - The war in Ukraine and Russian perspectives
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Jo: Welcome to access to perspectives on our podcast and conversations due to the current unfoldings around Ukraine. We're here today with Tatana Taragana, who has posted on our website and via social media a wide array of different perspectives on how the situation is unfolding for Russian and Ukrainian researchers alike. So thank you very much for joining us today, Jenna. Thank you for having me here. Okay. So I came across also since I'm personally heavily at work following obviously like everybody on this planet currently, I guess how the situation is unfolding and the tragic events that keep happening on a daily and daily basis in Ukraine. And then also having published the open letter that was issued already last month towards the end of February by a court of scholars, researchers, and science journalists in Russia expressing their stand against the war and solidarity with Ukrainian people and therefore also personally see a necessity to like yourself. Obviously, if we post to try and share a full picture and take into consideration also the dangerous and threats that Russian researchers find themselves in order for the general public. Really. So when you share with us, how did that happen in front of your eyes? And what led you to these actions now that you expressed on your page and in your journals? Sure. So as part of my research, I had a database of a lot of academic email addresses. We did a survey two years ago, almost two years ago, about the impact of COVID-19 on productivity. And so I realized that I had a means of reaching out to a large number of researchers in Russia, basically by finding the Ru email addresses. And so that's what gave me the idea to reach out. And I have to admit, I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into in the sense that I thought, okay, let me just reach out to them and encourage them to take some actions. I understood that there was some risk in doing that. I have friends from Russia who are now living in the US who are afraid to speak out publicly because they worry what might happen to their families. So I already knew that. So I put together some suggestions that didn't involve going out in the streets and protesting. And then together with some other Russian speaking academics, we started sending out kind of our own versions of this letter. And I didn't ask for replies. I just kind of thought there was just too many people to engage with. So I just sent the letter. But I did get quite a few replies, maybe 5% of people, but I sent thousands of emails, so that's lots of replies. And the range was shocking because these emails came from English speaking journals. So these are researchers that are publishing in English speaking journals, so that are at least some part of the international scene. And yet I got some responses that kind of work. We're just saying Putin is doing what is right, you are the one that is misinformed and then just presenting this misinformation. And then I also got quite a few responses that were sympathetic that said that they had signed the petition. I sent one petition by Russian scientists. And then I also got some responses about people saying, I understand that this is a terrible situation, but I'm afraid so. There was like a whole gamut of responses, and I honestly didn't expect to get so many negative ones. I think we both agree on. History keeps teaching us war cannot be the answer. But what do you do with a nation that acts aggressively? And there's one point that I tried to see also, that this didn't come from nowhere, really. But we don't have to go into political analytics here since we're both from different discipline as well.

Participant #1:

Yeah. I mean, there are certain nation leaders who will take to the extreme sooner or later if too much pressure is being applied. I'm just mentioning that because it's not a question of good or bad or who's right in this. I just need to find a way and use this platform that we have here for this conversation and hopefully transpire others to speak up and find poor to discuss this further. What can we, as scholars or other people in other communities do to come together again to find ways to join dialogues again between Russians and Ukrainians, the international scientific community? I saw also as responses to your posts, also from yesterday, in particular, that there was some research who explained in more detail what the risk actually entails that they're putting themselves into by taking to the streets. And many of them did not in large numbers, as we've seen in other cities around the globe, but in smaller groups. And yet they were basically attacked by the authorities. So the risk is real. And they might not put their life at risk just yet, but it certainly risks their careers and their well being and their physical health. We like to share some more insights from such kind of responses. Yeah, it's very scary. And I think I can feel their fear through some of their responses. And I joined a demonstration last Sunday, and I knew that it would just be a walk through the streets. That's all that it was for me, for these researchers to think about going on the streets is to risk losing everything. One researcher said that his wife cries when he talks about kind of taking more action because she's afraid that he will get fired, beaten, jailed. That's the reality that they live with. And that is one fact that nobody has disputed. I've gotten letters saying you don't understand what's going on, but nobody has said that it is safe for a Russian to go out on the streets of Russia or even signing a petition or tweeting, as the letter that I published explained, can land you in jail or cost you your job. And a lot of universities in Russia are government run public universities, and the government yields a lot of control over them, unfortunately. And just be clear, in Russia, when we talk about jailing individuals, it's not for a night or week, but we're talking about years here, right? Yeah, it could be years. So the Russian government recently published a clarification saying that any help aid offered to Ukraine, financial or otherwise, can be construed as treason and you can be jailed for up to 20 years.

Participant #1:

Okay. So maybe that also puts things to the listeners a little bit more into perspective in terms of what it means for the Russian population and Russian scholars in particular. There was also one letter, probably the same we referred to earlier, what Russian researchers currently experienced when I tried to publish or have them say and also seek refuge to be able to continue their research and also to be able to side with Ukrainian researchers. Can you share what was expressed in that letter? Yeah. So some journals are refusing to review manuscripts from Russian researchers, and that's obviously affecting both researchers who support this war and researchers who maybe are risking their lives to speaking out. And that is very unfortunate. No, I think it's but it's hard because there are many Russian researchers who are not sympathetic toward Ukraine. And how can you tell who is who? Right. That is the unfortunate consequence of sanctions is that it affects both innocent people and people who might be completely misinformed and people who are actually culpable. The tragedy of this war is that everybody suffers. Yes. I personally would wish for a world where we could say that academic freedom is beyond any political disagreements and even conflicts around the world. Do you think that would ever be possible, keeping in mind that research often drives to a certain extent also military developments and also quite a large extent not only in Russia but also in many countries around the globe, military finances, quite a large extent of research that's going on in this country. So then the two be separated because we as a global scientific community come together and kind of continue the ties with also seemingly researchers in oppressive States for the sake of keeping up the dialogue on the scientific and scholarly level. That's a really hard question. And I guess in the broader question of sanctions, I should say that we should be doing things that deliver kind of the biggest bang for the buck in terms of putting pressure on Russia. And I do not know whether this is such a sanction. So that's one question would kicking Russian academics out of the global academic scene in terms of publication even have any effect. But beyond that, I think there is also this slippery slope when it comes to sanctions, because you could argue that maybe lots of things should be beyond politics. But then you don't end up with effective sanctions. And again, I think that's the unfortunate nature of sanctions is that their goal is to make the country feel the pain, and that's the way forward we have without resorting to hopefully outright war. Right. So I think we have to keep that in mind that, yes, these sanctions are hurting ordinary Russian people, but the alternative is to let this conflict get even more out of hand potentially. Again, with this specific keeping researchers out, I'm not sure how much of a bite it's having. I think certainly we should engage in one on one conversations with these researchers and any sympathetic ones that want to have a dialogue. I absolutely would love to have that one on one dialogue. So I don't think we should be demonizing the Russian researchers as a group, assuming that they support this war. It's clear many of them do not or ostracizing them. On a personal level, I think the question of formal sanctions of journals, and I know not every Journal is doing this right. This is definitely an ongoing debate in the academic community that I think is a harder question. And I honestly don't have a strong feeling one way or the other about that specific type of sanction. Yeah, I share that notion. Like it's really difficult to have an opinion at this moment and in this time and with such severe topics. I just personally think and also agree with you that it's important to keep dialogue, even if it's undercover or especially undercover, to keep everybody involved as safe as possible. And just to mention also the forementioned open letter by Russian scholars and science journalists has currently been signed by more than 7400 individuals, and the number keeps rising. I don't know how the organizers keep up with that and are able to continue to have this online given the pressure that's also in place by the Russian authorities against independent media outlets. And having scholars figure out in such large numbers is certainly impactful and hurtful for Poutine and his life. But yeah, it's still online, and we are linked this also on the show notes coming to conclusion, is there anything else you would like to share on this topic and also looking forward and is there a way also, your links will certainly be linked in the Dimension blog post that you have shared will be linked in the show notes and associated blog. Is there anything else you like mentioned here as remarks and outlook? Yes. So the reason that I started with emailing researchers in Russia and not Ukraine is because in my opinion, the most important actions we can take are those aimed at stopping the war, the shooting, saving lives. We want as few refugees as possible. But now that I've concluded that email campaign, I'm going to be reaching out to Ukrainian researchers because I have a smaller but similar set of emails for them, and I'm going to be asking them, what can I do to help? And I'm also going to be looking for opportunities for them because some might be displaced, some might be currently abroad and with visas running out, but obviously they cannot go back home. So I will be doing what I can and recruiting other people to help me to start and these will be more kind of one on one exchanges and more personal to try to help the Ukrainian academic community which has been totally approved by this yeah. There's also the hashtag science for Ukraine which is an initiative by scholars from various institutions and several Google spreadsheets are Google forms where scholars from around the world can sign up in their support and we're very much looking forward to also collect well, not looking for it, but we're happy to also forward any expressions of interest to support you in particular and also the dimension initiatives. So if any of your listeners have capacity to support in what manner whatever to reach out, to Satya directly the mentions, activities and initiatives and also to us with access to perspectives. Thank you so much to the Jana for all you do and let's continue in solidarity and for academic freedom and peace and to end this war as soon as possible. Thank you very much for inviting me here. It was great talking to you. Thanks.

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