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Clouds are looming over the future of Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov. Three parliamentary factions, except for United Russia, have signed a message addressed to President Vladimir Putin demanding his resignation. Experts believe that one of the reasons behind the campaign against Livanov is his crusade against plagiarism in dissertations, which has already affected some politicians and legislators.
Three State Duma factions asked President Vladimir Putin in written form to dismiss Dmitry Livanov. The appeal was signed by Gennady Zyuganov, of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Sergei Mironov, of the A Just Russia party, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, of the Liberal Democrat party. All accused Livanov of incompetence. They also argue he is ruining the system of education and cannot establish a dialogue with the scientific community.
In their message to Putin the factions’ leaders say that Livanov should not remain at the head of the ministry any longer and ask the president to consider the question “whether his further work in the capacity of minister is feasible.”
“Each of the factions has its own grievances to make against Livanov,” the first deputy head of the State Duma’s education committee, Oleg Smolin (of the Communist faction) explains. United Russia and LDPR members are mostly angry over dissertation scandals. “We together with A Just Russia criticize the law on education, which would increase the price of daytime childcare center services five-fold, slash the number of budget-financed university students and cancel university admission preferences for orphaned children.”
Dmitry Livanov, 46, is a specialist in theoretical physics, holder of a doctor’s degree in physics and mathematics. Before his appointment to the post of Education and Science Minister in the Dmitry Medvedev Cabinet in May 2012 he was the rector of the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys. An author of 60 works, including 49 publications in the foreign press and of a university manual called Physics of Metals.
Livanov is a minister who over less than twelve months in office drew more attention of the mass media than any other.
In September 2012 Putin reprimanded Livanov and two other government ministers for their failure to act on the presidential decrees. Livanov agreed the reprimand was fair.
In December 2012 Livanov strongly criticized the law that prohibited US citizens from adopting Russian orphans, which had been proposed by the United Russia faction and supported by President Putin.
In 2013 Livanov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that the Russian Academy of Sciences was degrading from the standpoint of its scientific productivity. In particular, he mentioned the age of RAS seniors to declare that the RAS was doomed as not viable. RAS members interpreted this as an insult to thousands of members of the RAS and other state-run academies. Nobel laureate Zhores Alfyorov and several other members then left the Public Council under the Academy of Sciences.
A special software, Anti-Plagiarism, was created at Livanov’s initiatives. It is capable of automatically identifying passages and paragraphs borrowed from dissertations and monographs written earlier. As a result, the authenticity of works by many legislators, politicians and scientists has already been called in question. Social network users have joined in the campaign for the exposure of falsified dissertations to have unearthed compromising evidence against some legislators, including United Russia members.
Livanov has launched a campaign to monitor the effectiveness of universities of higher learning. Many well-reputed universities were branded ineffective and liable to reorganization. This campaign has drawn strong protests from researchers and university teachers, who disagreed with the minister’s approach.
The public at large is not on Dmitry Livanov’s side, either. According to a VSTIOM opinion poll conducted in March 2013 it was education and science minster who was doing the worst job in the Cabinet (his rating was as low as 2.6 points on a five-point scale).
United Russia legislators, although they do not support the education minister, refrained from putting their signature to the resignation demand. In the meantime, State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin said on Monday that he supported the idea of Livanov’s dismissal.
“All four factions voiced this position during the government’s report to parliament,” however United Russia found it “inexpedient to repeat this position in a written message” to the president.
This means that United Russia is in fact supportive of Livanov’s critics.
Under the Constitution the president can dismiss a government minister at the prime minister’s request. As he presented the government’s report to the State Duma on April 17, Medvedev, when asked about the possibility of Livanov’s resignation, put in a word for him to declare that “a government minister is not a newly-minted coin everybody likes.”
“I believe that a government minister who is to everybody’s liking is most probably someone who fails to do one’s job right,” Medvedev said. “There are a number of posts in the government that make the one holding them feel like a convict in front of a firing squad. Those of the education minister and the health minister are on that list.”
Experts attribute the war on education minister to some very simple reasons.
Biologist Mikhail Gelfand is quoted by the daily Kommersant as saying the campaign against the education and science minister was launched because “some LDPR and United Russia members fear the scientific degrees awarded without a sufficient reason might be taken away from them. The Communists, he said, “are attacking a weak antelope like jackals.”
The editor-in-chief of the Ekho Moskvy radio station, Alexei Venediktov, asks in his blog:
“What is it Dmitry Livanov has done to make the whole elite demand his resignation? He has begun to award ratings to universities and to identify ineffective ones that virtually sell their diplomas. He said that the Academy of Sciences has turned into a clumsy bureaucratic organization that only demands greater financing, while Russia’s fundamental science is getting ever more inferior to competitors. Also, he declared a crusade against phoney diplomas and dissertations of senior civil servants and legislators.”
“Is this untrue?” Venediktov asks. “Livanov has gone to war on several fronts and he was doomed to lose.”