(New York, NY) — The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office last week labeled Bard College as an “undesirable” non-governmental organization in Russia, effectively banning the institution of higher education from continuing its operations on Russian territory. Institutions deemed “undesirable” are forced to disband and cease their activities in Russia—those that violate these expectations may face heavy fines and can face time in prison. Bard College has been partnering with St. Petersburg State University since 1997. In 2011, both institutions co-founded Smolny College, the first liberal arts college in Russia. The office’s decision to blacklist Bard College now jeopardizes this partnership.  

“The decision to ban Bard College demonstrates the Russian state’s continual censorship of education and civil society,”  said Polina Sadovskaya, PEN America’s Eurasia program director. “The blacklisting of educational institutions violates the rights of citizens to pursue education and knowledge and restricts freedom of expression. We strongly condemn this decision of the Russian state and request that it be immediately reversed.” 

PEN America has previously criticized the recent law in Russia limiting academic freedoms as well condemned usage of the law on “undesirable organizations.” On June 16, the Russian State Duma approved the third and final reading of another bill proposing to criminalize participation of Russian citizens in the activities of “undesirable” international NGOs, both inside and outside Russia.