Goodbye, semiotics! Moscow State University disperses the unique Institute of World Culture
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Goodbye, semiotics! Moscow State University disperses the unique Institute of World Culture

9 October , 10:30Science
The unique, world-famous institute, which was founded and headed by the outstanding Russian linguist Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov more than a quarter of a century ago, is living out its last days.

Head of the Department of Antiquity Culture of the Institute of World Culture (IMC) of Moscow State University, academician of the Russian Academy of Arts Alexei Lidov recalled in his blog that three years have passed since the death of Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov, one of the last great humanitarians of the 20th century. As you know, the outstanding linguist and cultural theorist Ivanov created in 1994 and until his death in 2017 headed the Institute of World Culture at Moscow State University. Now his brainchild is also threatened with death. According to Lidov:

“For three years, the administration of Moscow State University did not consider it necessary to appoint even an acting director. director to the Institute of World Culture he created, although several members of the Russian Academy of Sciences were ready to head it. Now we are talking about the closure of this unique institute with the world's only specialists in various fields, united by the study of cultural semiotics. Is this not an example of the "preservation" of the scientific heritage and the destruction of priority research areas for the sake of bureaucracy and pseudo-reforms? It's sad, gentlemen..."

Philologist and civic activist Nikolay Podosokorsky contacted Lidov and asked him several questions about this. Here's what the scientist said:

The idea (of the institute, ed. ) Was to create a small“ academy ”inside the main university of the country for the most original-minded scientists working in various humanitarian specialties, but somehow dealing with the problems of cultural semiotics - an area of knowledge in which Ivanov's contribution cannot be overestimated. And this was fully succeeded, back in the 90s the first magnitude stars worked at the Institute - academicians and corresponding members of the Russian Academy of Sciences philologist Sergei Averintsev, historian of philosophy Piama Gaidenko, linguist Alexander Kibrik. Around them, a team of like-minded people of different ages has formed, now they are 20 researchers, from relatively young to internationally recognized scientists, working in five departments, originally invented by Academician Ivanov: the culture of antiquity, Christian culture, Russian culture, medieval culture of Western Europe, and ethno-linguistics. The linguistic group is working on a unique and priority project in world science for the study and preservation of dying languages.

Problems arose when a new political situation developed in the country, which Ivanov did not accept and more than once criticized the current government. Interest in him and his brainchild quickly cooled, although the Institute continued to work, publishing outstanding monographs, collections of articles and the periodical Anthropology of Culture, which over time became more and more difficult to publish. After Ivanov's death, interest in the Institute practically died. Suffice it to say that, despite numerous requests, the administration of Moscow State University did not even bother to appoint an acting director. director, although there were real candidates from members of the RAS. The staff continued to work and received their very modest salaries, but all administrative activities were paralyzed.

To be honest, in my memory the situation is unprecedented and scandalous. It seemed that the administration was pondering how to get rid of the unloved and already unnecessary child. At the moment, all part-time workers have been dismissed, accounting for two-thirds of the employees. Mostly outstanding scientists from RAS institutes, who ensured close interaction with university science. Some of those dismissed have been spearheading ongoing R&D projects that hang in the air. Who will close these large programs and be accountable for them? Three permanent employees of Moscow State University have not renewed their contracts since June and have not announced a competition for their positions. This is a gross violation of the Labor Law. Apparently, all these abuses are associated with the notorious reform of Moscow State University, and the administration decided to get rid of what it seems to be ballast, in fact, from the most interesting innovative projects in the humanities. But they have their own bureaucratic logic, and they think of the priorities in world science last, calling for the exact opposite in words. Nothing new, alas.

We will lose a unique scientific Institute, which has already made a huge contribution to the humanities, at an absolute minimum cost. A number of employees will just find themselves on the street, others will leave Moscow State University and thereby bleed university science and cut its ties with RAS institutes. The practical result of this policy, again, turns out to be the opposite of what is declared, that is, the usual bureaucratic demagogy, which is becoming more and more in our academic life.

The Academic Council of Moscow State University in November may not approve the decision to close the Institute. Although now it seems unlikely. But the Council includes outstanding and thoughtful scientists who are able to assess the harmfulness of the proposed solution. But for this they should just think about the topic and learn about the work of the Institute, which occupies hundredths of a percent in the total budget. In this matter, the role of public opinion can be invaluable..."

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