Monday, April 03, 2006

More on Putin's Plagiarism

Johnson's Russia List has a reprint of Washington Profile's interview with Brookings Senior Fellow Clifford Gaddy, one of the men who revealed Vladimir Putin's "Kandidat ekonomicheskikh nauk" dissertation was likely plagiarised. I had talked about this last week, and upon reading this interview, felt I should add this in the name of thoroughness. It has some futher details regarding how they managed to obtain a copy of the paper and the extent and style of the plagiarism. Gaddy seems rather fair about it, but he certainly doesn't pull any punches:

Washington Profile: You can say without a doubt that we are talking about plagiarism?

Gaddy: Absolutely…The dissertation itself has something like 180 pages of text.…About 16 pages of text come straight out of King and Cleland, with no footnotes, no quotation marks, and never in the text are the names King and Cleland ever mentioned. Moreover, this material that comes directly from King and Cleland is from the very first sentence of chapter two, the chapter on strategic planning, taken straight from the book. So there’s no original introduction by Mr. Putin that then gets into this. So clearly the reader assumes these are the thoughts, the ideas of the author of the dissertation. Speaking as a professor, you can’t do this; this is not the way you do it. This is plagiarism. If you want to include this much of a work, which is probably too much under any circumstances, you must put quotation marks around it, you must acknowledge that these authors did all this thinking. These are elementary steps that you must take. But it wasn’t done. So I think this would classify as plagiarism at any university around the world that’s adhering to international standards, commonly accepted standards. It’s definitely plagiarism. The next question of course is: was it intentional plagiarism, or what was it all about? And that’s always the question with plagiarism. In this case, I don’t think it was really intentional in the sense that if you had wanted to hide where the text came from you wouldn’t even list this work in the bibliography. Had they not listed the book in the bibliography, I could never have checked it…I can say for sure that they’ve plagiarized from King and Cleland, but there are another 160 pages whose sources have not been checked at all, or at least I haven’t checked them. I don’t know if they’ve been plagiarized or not. I suspect they might have been, because they’ve been written in a very different style….

Washington Profile: You have said that Putin might not even have written the dissertation himself…

Gaddy: I’m not the only one who says that; many people’s response to this whole discussion about plagiarism is that of course he didn’t write the dissertation at all, so why should we care whether it’s plagiarism or not, because this was one of the many, many, many cases we know of government officials, and including in the Soviet period (it’s not clear whether it was more or less prevalent in the Soviet period), not really earning their degrees, but they were written for them…[The practice] is well known. The only thing that changed after the fall of communism was that rich people, wealthy business people, could now join the list of those who were getting these phony degrees because they could pay money for them…This brings up an interesting point. The St. Petersburg Mining Institute is a very reputable, prestigious institution, and the rector, Mr. Litvinenko -- who was directly involved in the dissertation, allegedly helped [Putin] choose the topic and was more or less the advisor for the dissertation -- is himself a member of the higher accreditation commission, which is the government-appointed body to be the watchdog over standards about degree-granting, dissertations and quality control for higher education in Russia. So it’s extra scandalous that he would be involved in this case of, at minimum, shoddiness and plagiarism, possibly something worse, which would be the literal purchase, either by money or political influence, of a dissertation by someone who didn’t actually do the work. That second point is not clear. I don’t have proof about that. All I have is proof about the plagiarism.

Washington Profile: Given this revelation, how do you believe it will affect relations between Putin and the international community; how will Putin be viewed both internationally and domestically?

Gaddy: Internationally, I doubt that it will have any particular impact. This is not something that typically influences any international relations. Domestically, I don’t know, it’s up to the Russians. Again, some people will say, everybody did it, what’s the big deal? That’s not what we elected him for; we didn’t elect him as a scholar. I can see that argument, there’s a certain pragmatic appeal to that. On the other hand, others will say, this is an example of real hypocrisy because here’s a man who prides himself on his legalism, his adherence to legalities, to a ‘dictatorship of the law’, and he of course wants other people to do the same. Well, he broke the law if he got a degree under false pretexts. Here’s a man who talks about making education a point on the agenda at the G-8 meeting; strange that he himself is so disrespectful of standards and education… I can imagine that people who did do the work to earn their candidate degrees, some of them might be a bit resentful and feel that this is unfair. And of course Putin is someone who always talks about fairness and spravedlivost’ [justice] being the hallmark of the Russian identity. Again, it’s a bit hypocritical to say that and give yourself a degree you didn’t earn. Finally, there is the role of Mr. Litvinenko in this. Mr. Litvinenko, remember, was a campaign manager for Mr. Putin twice, in 2000 and 2004 in St. Petersburg. Mr. Litvinenko is described as having Mr. Putin’s ear, he has influence, he gives advice. Well, that’s an important person in the country, and if in any way his influence with Mr. Putin is based on an exchange of favors – having done him the favor of getting this degree – that’s probably not a good thing either in terms of good governance or transparency...

Washington Profile: To your knowledge, have there ever been similar incidents in other countries?

Gaddy: In the United States there’s an excellent example which shows a similar sort of thing, but on different systems, and they may well have different effects. In 1997, in the campaign for the nomination for the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Joe Biden, who of course is still very active, still a senator, and still very important in the U.S. Senate, was a strong contender to become the Democratic presidential nominee. Someone noticed that in one of his campaign speeches he seemed to be using the same words as had been used in speeches by a British Labor Party politician, Neil Kinnock, and was able to show that whole phrases and passages were the same. Then later it was seen that he had taken parts of speeches from Robert F. Kennedy. Well, people noticed this; they didn’t pay all that much attention to it because rhetoric and spoken verbal language… this is not that big of a deal. However, someone then, in investigating this, found out that when he was at law school at the University of Delaware, Joe Biden had received an F in a course because he had plagiarized in a term paper that he had written. This was a required course, so he had to take the whole course all over again in order to receive his degree. But what he had done there was exactly what Mr. Putin did, which was he had taken without quotes and without attribution some eight or ten pages from a legal brief. He listed in his bibliography the work that was copied, but he didn’t put it in quotes and didn’t specifically reference where it came from. That demonstrated case of plagiarism turned out to be enough to finally force Mr. Biden to withdraw from the candidacy. So, yes, there has been at least a case, and maybe more, in the U.S. where it had serious consequences, but again the U.S. may be very specific about this, because it may be more sensitive to these things. This of course was while he was still a candidate; he wasn’t in office. It never prevented him from winning his Senate races; he’s still a senator. His own constituents seem to think that this isn’t serious enough to keep him out of the Senate…

The Senator Biden comparison is an interesting and valid one. Of course, there were repercussions for Senator Biden ... he hasn't been a serious Presidential candidate since.

I've been a bit surprised that I haven't seen any comments in Russian newspapers about this plagiarism business. Perhaps I've just missed it, but there are 7 Russian newspapers I check online every day, as well as several news services. Given the vehemence of Putin defenders, I expected some sort of outcry about Americans making up lies again, trying to embarass Putin and Russia. Isn't that the usual song and dance? It would be a remarkably easy point to disprove, if anyone wanted to take the time to do that ... the documents in question are all public.

Again, it likely isn't critically important ... it isn't as though anyone thinks of Putin as a scholar. But as posed by someone earlier ... one has to wonder what Putin has done himself (outside of judo and learning German, I guess).


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