With each bomb dropped on Ukraine and the Russian invasion entering its fourth week, scrutiny is intensifying in the country.
This includes growing calls for academic institutions to cut ties with Russia.
“Our universities need to show that they have some moral worth,” said Oleh Kotsyuba, director of publications at Harvard’s Ukrainian Institute.
As he explained during NBC10 Boston’s weekly “Russia-Ukraine Q&A” series, Kotsyuba, a Ukrainian Harvard scholar, signed a petition from the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Action Center.
Kotsyuba is calling on Harvard and other Massachusetts universities to end their partnerships with companies, institutions and oligarchs with ties to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.
The petition specifically calls on Harvard to “rename programs and buildings named after Kremlin oligarch Len Blavatnik, who derives enormous insider benefits from Putin’s regime.”
Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born American and British citizen and self-proclaimed billionaire, pledged $200 million to Harvard Medical School in 2018 through the Blavatnik Family Foundation, Harvard’s largest donation. The school now bears his name.
“If on the one hand you make this symbolic gesture of condemnation, but on the other hand you take millions and millions of dollars, and you rename schools and buildings after the Russian oligarchs in the Kremlin, you cannot have any moral superiority,” Kotsyuba said. .
NBC10 Boston contacted Harvard University, but the school said it had no comment.
Blavatnik’s Access Industries said in a statement that he has no involvement in Russian politics or the Russian government and has never been considered a Kremlin oligarch by any US government agency.
Other universities that have faced similar calls to distance themselves from Russia include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University.
MIT announced last month that it was ending its program with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, founded in Moscow in 2011 as a joint effort between Cambridge University and Russia.
Tufts announced on Tuesday that it has ended its eight-year relationship with the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
“You buy yourself a department or you buy yourself a building, especially at a big university and that gives your overall project for the Russian state, a bit of institutional legitimacy,” said Brooke Harrington, professor of sociology at Dartmouth.
Harrington, who studies Russian oligarchs, warns against oligarchs using their wealth and power to indirectly fund Putin’s war in Ukraine.
“If the oligarchs insinuate themselves into our government, our educational institutions, and our cultural institutions, then they distort the ability of those institutions to work for us, the American people,” she noted.
It is unclear whether the partnerships at MIT or Tufts will be restored in the future.
Harvard told his school’s newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, that it does not hold direct investments in Russian companies, but admitted that it does not have full transparency on every investment made by third-party managers. .