The likelihood that Russia's acting president, former internal security chief Vladimir Putin, will be voted into the Kremlin next month is casting a shadow over academic freedoms won during a decade of reform.
The presidential election follows three months after Duma elections in which Russians voted to maintain the road to reform. But Mr Putin's
appointment as Boris Yeltsin's successor threatens a return to Soviet-style controls.
Last month, President Putin outlined a national security philosophy calling for greater state control. The word "cooperation" rather than the "partnerships" talked of only three years ago pointed to cooler overseas links and a return to closed cities, where researchers on military or economic projects were cut off from Russian and foreign
visitors. Limits may be put on the breadth and freedom of projects involving western
James Hughes, senior
lecturer in government at the London School of Economics, said that talk of a return to closed cities reflects a realistic response to scientific espionage. "Some western security
agencies used the opening up of Russia after 1991 to intensify intelligence-gathering. Scientific centres have been a major
target in these operations. The new rhetoric about closed cities reflects legitimate concern in Russia about how to protect its secrets."
Security offices in all universities - the "first departments" that report back on foreign
students and academics to the Federal Bureau of Security - are resuming their activities.
Tatiana Matsyuk, a political analyst at Moscow's Institute for Employment Studies, said: "No one is sure what shape the security doctrine will take, but probably it will touch the press, freedom of information and the internet. Putin is like a cat in a sack: we do not know what we are going to get."
"Many Russian scientists have survived the economic slump by working for paltry
salaries on well-funded western research projects. It is
important to note that increased contact has often worsened mutual suspicions and
resentments," Dr Hughes said.