Moscow State University researchers forced to obtain FSB approval for publications

posted 26 Oct 2015, 08:52 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Oct 2015, 08:54 ]
21 October 2015

Source: (info)
Researchers at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Biology in Moscow State University have been told that they must submit copies of their papers to the FSB for approval before they can be published. Similar instructions have apparently also been received by staff within the University’s geography department.

According to, which cites an article appearing in the journal Nature, these instructions were developed in line with amendments to the Law on State Secrets and were made known to researchers at a meeting which took place on 5 October 2015.

As well as indicating that "current legislation obliges scientists to obtain approval prior to the publication of any article, conference talk or presentation”, the minutes of the meeting underline the fact that the rules apply to all staff “without exceptions”, and that such approvals are necessary “despite the obvious absurdity of the whole situation”.

The biochemist Mikhail Gelfand gave the following statement to the journal Nature; “This is a return to Soviet times, when before sending a paper to an international journal we had to get a permit confirming that the result was not new and important and could therefore be published abroad.” He said that did not intend to follow the rules imposed by the institute, and had encouraged his colleagues to follow suit. “It is a sad sign of the overall deterioration of the situation in our country that so many are meekly comply with any absurdity dreamt up by the bureaucrats. I intend to ignore these rules and hope that a sufficient number of colleagues will do the same”.

According to Professor Vyacheslav Shuper, staff at Moscow State University’s geography department have received similar instructions to obtain approval before publishing their work. In his own words, “Many scientists in Russia don’t dare to speak openly. But I know that many are very unhappy about the degradation of their academic freedom.” Shuper further claims that researchers at some institutes who have written papers in English for foreign publications are forced to translate them into Russian for the security services.

The scope of the Law on State Secrets was significantly broadened following its amendment in 2012. Article 283.1 – “illegal receipt of information which constitutes a state secret” – was added to the Criminal Code, and the number of people who can be held accountable for disclosing state secrets increased. Both those with access to secret information during the performance of their official duties and those who have obtained such information “in the course of research” are subject to punishment under the new law.

The new law has also broadened the definition of state treason provided for by Article 275 of the Criminal Code: the disclosure of secret information not only to a foreign state but also to international organisations is now regarded as treason.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds