Vladimir Putin is frequently in the news for various political scandals. However, in the past his negative publicity has even included plagiarism. In 2000 reporters asked the St. Petersburg State Mining Institute for a copy of Putin’s doctoral thesis but were refused. A few years later in 2005 two researchers finally got their hands on a copy of the thesis, titled, “Strategic Planning of the Reproduction of the Mineral Resource Base of a Region under Conditions of the Formation of Market Relations”. They found that much of the information in it had been “borrowed” from a textbook without any attempt at citation. This book, titled “Strategic Planning and Public policy” was originally written by a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Entire pages of the book, with only minor changes, as well as six diagrams appear copied into Putin’s thesis. To make matters worse, the topic of the thesis was replenishing mineral resources, a topic it is said that Putin had no experience with prior to “writing” the paper, and it is even unclear whether he ever actually attended the St. Petersburg State Mining Institute.
Unfortunately, Putin’s story is not a unique one. According to an article in Time Magazine, out of “25 dissertations chosen at random from the prestigious history department of Moscow Pedagogical State University all but one were at least 50% plagiarized, with some as much as 90% copied from other sources”. After reading multiple articles on the subject, I was shocked to find this is such a common occurrence. High ranking officials like politicians have even been known to pad their resumes with entirely false degrees from academic institutions they did not attend. This widespread plagiarism is a tough problem to handle since so many are implicated and the culture of overlooking these errors is entrenched in society.
In february of 2013 Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev made an attempt to confront this issue. He is reported to have set up meetings with government officials and academics to discuss eradicating fake degrees throughout society. While this is an admirable goal based on the information I’ve read, it seems like a bigger change is needed in the way students are taught to do research and give credit to others if there is going to be any significant national shift. This question makes me wonder if the culture of communism plays a role in the discrepancy between how people in Russia and those in countries such as the US view the importance of owning ideas and producing original work.
Shuster, Simon. “Putin’s Ph.D.: Can a Plagiarism Probe Upend Russian Politics?” Time, Time, 28 Feb. 2013, world.time.com/2013/02/28/putins-phd-can-a-plagiarism-probe-upend-russian-politics/.
Strauss, Valerie. “Russia’s Plagiarism Problem: Even Putin Has Done It!” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Mar. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/18/russias-plagiarism-problem-even-putin-has-done-it/?utm_term.