In Russia, the head of the Moscow State Linguistic University is facing allegations of plagiarism in his PhD thesis.
The allegations target acting rector of the school, Igor Manokhin, sometimes known as “In-Yaz”, and are brought by Sergei Parkhomenko, the co-founder of Dissernet, a voluntary collective of researchers working to detect plagiarism in Russian theses.
According to Parkhomenko, Manokhin’s thesis, entitled “Armed Formations on the Territory of Siberia During the Civil War and Military Intervention,” was lifted more or less completely from a 1999 thesis written by military historian Vitaly Voronov.
“The dissertation has been lifted in full, from the first letter to the last, from a single source,” Parkhomenko said.
Dissernet has been very active in recent years having identified some 3,500 falsified theses, finding an average of five per day. They’ve also been involved in several high-profile plagiarism stories in the country including the nation’s Children’s Rights Ombudsman, the head of the country’s Investigative Committee and the Moscow Regional Governor.
However, Manokhin’s case is different from those in that, in all of the cases above, the alleged plagiarist is accused of lifting significant portions of their thesis, but not wholesale taking someone else’s work.
In that regard, Manokhin’s case more closely resembles the larger problem of fake PhDs in Russia. According to Andrei Rostovtsev, another co-founder of Dissernet, PhD forgery is an “integral part of Russia’s statehood” and that many who receive PhDs have never even read their thesis.
The problem, according to Rostovtsev, centers around the “PhDifying” of politicians, teachers and other government officials. Parts of the nation’s education system are centered around helping the politically well-connected obtain PhDs with minimal effort.
Whether or not this is what happened in Manokhin’s case is unclear, it is however, at the very least, the impression that many both in Russia and internationally will have of the story. That reputation, sadly, has done a great deal to harm those in the country that have legitimately sought and obtained PhDs.
With so many “conveyor unit” PhDs coming from the Russian system, those with earned degrees are finding it harder to have their work and authority taken seriously, a problem that is only is growing as Russia largely ignores the problem of fake PhDs.
Sadly, in most cases like Manokhin’s, nothing happens or becomes of the story beyond the media coverage. Colleges in the country are reluctant to revoke degrees, even those earned dishonestly. Though it does happen, such as with the speaker of the Moscow City Duma, they are the exception, not the rule.
Even in cases where degrees are revoked, such as a story from 2013, only 11 of the 24 plagiarized theses resulted in action.
With little risk and much to gain from obtaining a PhD, it’s likely that the “PhDifying” of prominent Russians will continue for the foreseeable future. Until further action is taken and the practice is successfully clamped down upon, there’s just no reason for it to stop.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today, and do not reflect the opinions of iThenticate.