When Kazakhstan opened the doors of the Nazarbayev University in 2010, the institution was hailed as a fledgling bastion of academic excellence and freedom in an educational system still hobbled by Soviet standards.
A row brewing at the university now threatens to dent those aspirations and expose the limits of free-thinking against the backdrop of an increasingly tense international diplomatic scene.
On August 24, Professor Marcel de Haas went public with allegations that he is being squeezed out of the state-funded university over the management’s displeasure at a planned lecture on Ukraine that it deemed “politically sensitive.”
De Haas, 54, a retired military officer with the Dutch army with an extensive body of academic work on security issues across the former Soviet Union, said the initial impetus to prevent the talk came from the Russian embassy.
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Peter Leonard is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.