For a long time, the Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH) was proud of the close and long-term cooperation with the Polytechnic University of St. Petersburg. In 2019, 35 years of cooperation were celebrated. A university newspaper reported at the time that St. Petersburg Rector Andrei Rudskoi had been awarded the title of honorary senator “in recognition of his contribution and great commitment to promoting the internationally visible partnership”. LUH President Volker Epping in turn received an honorary doctorate from the Russian partner university.
But the cooperation came to an abrupt end when Russia invaded Ukraine. The LUH condemned the war of aggression and, like all German universities, suspended cooperation with Russian partner institutions.
Ironically, the Rudskoi personnel is now catching up with the university executive committee. It had to deal with how it was possible that a fervent supporter of Vladimir Putin’s politics and his war of aggression had been honored – and he still bears the title today.
In mid-2017, Rudskoi joined Russia’s governing party United Russia, three years after the annexation of Crimea, which the party was promoting. At the time, he said the party wanted “to see our fatherland as big, to take care of the economy and science, and to ensure national security.”
The reference to Rudskoi’s political position was overlooked both in Hanover and in Cottbus, where the Russian rector received an honorary doctorate from the Brandenburg Technical University (BTU) Cottbus-Senftenberg at the end of 2017.
After the Russian attack on Ukraine, Rudskoi finally wrote in an open letter to colleagues at the Russian Academy of Sciences in early March that he was “convinced that we will manage to unite in these difficult days for our people and our President, our President to give our clear, science-based support to the army and peoples of Ukraine and Donbass”.
The letter sounds like a lecture from a propaganda show on Russian state television. In it, Rudskoi criticizes those voices in the Academy who had spoken out against the war. These would accept a “rebirth of Nazism and fascism in Europe”. True to the Kremlin narrative, Rudskoi writes of “genocide in the Donbass”.
At the beginning of April, the faculty council at the BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg dealt with the question of how to deal with Rudskoi’s honor. The committee came to the conclusion that the doctoral regulations do not offer any legal basis for the withdrawal of the honorary doctorate, as would be clearly required in the case of scientific misconduct. The university announced this on request. Rudskoi’s party affiliation was not known at the time of the award.
At the beginning of June, the cause also became a problem in Hanover, when the university management was made aware of Rudskoi’s statements by the independent Russian association “Alliance of Teachers”. At that time, the LUH replied that the person concerned had to be heard for a revocation. This must openly take a stand. This condition is not met. The university apparently assumed that Rudskoi might have written the letter under pressure.
Only after a request from WELT AM SONNTAG at the beginning of the week did things start to move. On Wednesday, the Presidium discussed the personnel. A spokeswoman said afterwards that the university management was “deeply dismayed and shocked by the content” of Rudskoi’s publication and would discuss it with the university senate “against the background of the legal requirements of the code of honor”.
President Volker Epping, on the other hand, who was honored by Rudskoi, acts immediately. As the spokeswoman announced, Epping will refrain from holding his honorary doctorate at the Petersburg partner university. With the note that the title can only be revoked by the institution that awarded it.