Searches, seizures and broken glasses
Kazan, one of the largest educational centers in Russia, is silent today about the war and actively supporting the “special operation.” At least this is the impression at first glance.
After the start of the war in Ukraine, the high-rise buildings of the largest university – Kazan Federal University (KFU) – were lit up
with the letters Z and V (symbols of support for the war) for several weeks at nightfall. Representatives of 12 Kazan universities signed
a letter from the Russian Union of Rectors in support of the war. It voiced approval of the actions of Vladimir Putin, who was said to have made “perhaps, his most difficult, agonizing, but necessary decision.”
The Kazan Institute of Culture organized a flash mob
in support of the Russian army – students in hoodies with the letter Z chanted "Forward, Russia!" and raised their hands in a strange way. At the same time, the KFU administration banned
the university choir from performing the Soviet song “May There Always be Sunshine,” which contains the lines “war would make all of us losers” and “down with all war/we want no more/people stand up for you, children.” The leadership of the university convened
student leaders, who were lectured about Ukrainian neo-Nazis and US hegemony in the world. Professor Garnik Abgaryan urged
students to refrain from all sorts of parties, rallies and slogans such as “no war” and “we’re against war.” Associate professor Ravil Zeleev tore off anti-war leaflets and broke
the glasses of a student who tried to stop him.
KFU is among Russia’s oldest universities. Mathematician Nikolai Lobachevsky served as its rector, and its alumni include Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin). The university has found itself at the center of scandals more than once in recent years. For example, its teachers were implicated in academic plagiarism
, and in a report
by a Russian Academy of Sciences commission tasked with curbing falsification in scientific research, KFU was the most mentioned educational institution. In addition, rector Ilshat Gafurov was arrested
last winter on suspicion of being involved in contract killings.
Senator Lenar Safin, sanctioned by the EU, is seeking to replace him. He was recommended by the KFU supervisory board and approved by the certification commission of the Russian Education Ministry. Previously, Safin was Tatarstan transport minister. He admits that in his youth he dreamed of working in the KGB and is proud that he knows the Soviet anthem by heart: “Wake me up at night – we’ll tell it and sing it. Now I think that this is just how you ought to instill a sense of patriotism: a teacher wouldn’t let you take exams [before] if you didn’t know the words to the country’s greatest song.”
Amid the official support for the Russian invasion, however, a wave of anti-war protests also took place in Kazan in late February and early March. Both students and teachers were involved. Subsequently, searches were carried out in relation to dozens of people with computers, phones and bank cards being seized.