Protesting Students Appeal to Patriarch Kirill


Students and faculty of the Russian State University of Trade  and Economics who last week vowed an indefinite strike over  the Education and Science Ministry’s decision to reorganize  the university have appealed to Patriarch Kirill to intervene  in the matter, news reports said Wednesday morning.

In an open letter posted  on the school’s website, members of faculty ask Patriarch Kirill  to step in and help save the university and its “spiritual  traditions.” They also complain of a “special cynicism” in the timing  of the Education Ministry’s decision to close the school  and merge it with the Plekhanov Institute, as the decision was  made just before the planned dedication ceremony for the university’s  newly constructed chapel, built with the help of donations  from students, faculty and staff.

This follows earlier reports Wednesday morning by RIA-Novosti  of students blocking the university’s entrance and refusing  to let the new rector, Andrei Shklayev, enter the building.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s press service has already responded  to the students’ plea with a short statement: “In Russia,  the church is separate from the state. We don’t have the right  to interfere in administrative matters, but we hope that  the situation is resolved smoothly,” reported.

The initial protests began on Dec. 18, when over 400 students  staged a sit-in in response to the Education and Science  Ministry deeming the school “ineffective” and subject  to reorganization. They argued that the ministry’s monitoring  of the school was done improperly and demanded that the ministry  reconsider its decision. The strike was called off on Dec. 20, after  the ministry agreed to re-examine the matter. That same day,  however, it was announced that the university would be merged with  the Plekhanov Institute.

Education and Science Minister Dmitry  Livanov, for his part, has assured students that the new  reorganization will not affect their studies