In an insightful long-ranging conversation, the newly appointed Rector of the RUDN University (Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia), Oleg Yastrebov, discusses the latest developments, educational reforms, students’ enrollment as well as cultural diversity in his multinational university.
During his meeting with our Media Executive Kester Kenn Klomegah, Rector Oleg Yastrebov, particularly stressed the importance of effective monitoring and evaluation of students’ performance by the hard-working academic staff. He unreservedly argues that the university staff and academic teams provide the necessary knowledge and cutting-edge skills for young aspiring leaders and that makes the university first-class among many others in the Russian Federation.
The RUDN University (Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia) is an educational institution located in Moscow. Established in 1960, it primarily provides higher education to Third World students during the Soviet days. Many students especially from developing countries still come this popular university from Latin America, Asia and Africa. It is Russia’s most multidisciplinary university, which boasts the largest number of foreign students and offers various academic disciplines. Here are the interview excerpts:
What are your remarks to the popular saying – a new leader, new management approach?
The previous rector of the RUDN University, who is now its President, Professor Vladimir Filippov gathered a unique scientific and expert team. I am not a new person for them, as a graduate of Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia – that is the full name for the RUDN University. I was the head of the Law Institute, so I am familiar with most of the teaching staff. All the administration of the university, are all obliged to preserve and strengthen the achievements. We are the most international, the most multidisciplinary and the friendliest university in Russia. I am sure that with the arrival of new people in the team, the university will become even more ambitious, international, digital, and with a new approach to the quality of education. We are a modern university and we are ready to remain as a dream-university for many bright students.
Quite recently, you assumed the position of rector. What would you count as the marked achievements and success stories during these few years?
Over the past year, the RUDN University has strengthened its position among the best universities in the world. We are the greenest university in Russia. More and more talented students are coming to us. Bright international students continue to enroll in RUDN – last year we had new students, for example, from Portugal and Lesotho. We have signed agreements with strong partners – Sistema (the largest Russian investing organization), Kaspersky Lab, and the European Medical Center. I would like to note separately that RUDN was the first in Russia to receive the right to validate and verify greenhouse gas emissions.
What are the current challenges and tasks as you take up the position of rector of the RUDN University?
The first priority is a new approach to recruitment criteria to teachers. These should be people with real professional practical achievements. A teacher who retells books is a transmitter of information, but not a source of new knowledge. We understand that it is important to move on to motivate students and to initiate startups in collaboration with employers. By this direction, it creates a competitive environment among students and employers will be able to notice talented students even before their graduation.
We will continue to strengthen science at the university. We integrate successful educational technologies into the education process. We expand the network of partner universities. There is a serious progress in a multilingual environment — all our graduates of bachelor’s programs speak at least one foreign language at a serious proficient level. The pan is to make two languages.
I would like to mention here that we updated the whole university environment. The campus is transformed – this is also an important factor for students. Co-working areas, sports and recreation spaces, dormitory rooms are becoming more stylish and fashionable. It is interesting to say that 300 students have already moved into the rooms in the new design. In fact, 450 rooms are being transformed for the new semester. RUDN was the first university in Russia to open the first multifunctional student center, where you can get all the basic documents about studying. The process will take just 5-15 minutes.
On the other hand, what do you suggest as significant steps to raise the cultural profile among students who have come from different countries?
RUDN worthily preserves long-standing traditions: weeks of national cultures for instance, and we signed the Declaration of Tolerance. We have more than 100 community organizations and international study groups. We have active students who help freshmen to adapt to the new study and living conditions. There is a volunteer center of more than 200 volunteers — this is a kind of international student office, which helps foreign students adapt to live in Russia. Their work is based on the principle “Buddy For Each Foreigner”. Each foreign student is assigned a Russian curator friend. The curator is in touch and ready to help out a foreign ward in any situation — from “I am lost” to “help me with this home task”. In addition, students arrange informal meetings, where they get acquainted with fellow countrymen, make friends, help each other with their academic studies.
What are the peculiarities of running an educational institution such as the RUDN University, especially in a liberal market economy?
Approximately 70% of the budget the University earns itself. This is not only educational activity, but also additional professional education, income from science. Mainly, the income is generated by physical and mathematical sciences, chemistry, mathematics, and the Institute of Innovative Engineering Technologies. Humanities mainly work on a grant basis, it provides all kinds of scientific advisory services.
What are the competitive edge of the RUDN University? What advantages it has over other similar educational institutions in the Russian Federation?
RUDN is the most multidisciplinary university in Russia. A student can choose from 446 directions. Here you can get a technical, scientific, medical, economic, humanitarian education. Engineers, lawyers, doctors, diplomats, financiers, agrarians, physicists, mathematicians, linguists, journalists are educated at the RUDN.
RUDN has the strongest language school. By studying languages, students receive an extra diploma of a translator. A student can choose from 12 foreign languages to study: European, Oriental or Russian as a foreign language.
RUDN has all the conditions to do science. We have more than 200 laboratories, more than 40 scientific and scientific-educational centers with modern equipment, annual scientific conferences, grants, scholarships, joint research projects with leading foreign universities.
What can you say about the system of education and training particularly for foreigners, as well as regular educational exchanges as a means of forging closer relations with the university?
RUDN is an international university. Representatives from 160 countries study here. We have an established system for recruiting foreign students. We interact with applicants from Asia, Africa, Latin America directly through Olympiads, our pre-university classes and training centers.
Last year, 4395 foreigners enrolled into the RUDN University. This is almost 500 people more than was previously planned. Most of all – on “Medicine”, “Dentistry”, “International Relations”. Egypt, Zambia and Nigeria were among the top three (3) African countries in terms of numerical strength of international students.
We have exchange and internship programs, double degree programs in cooperation with foreign universities, international conferences, summer schools. The geography of educational and scientific cooperation of the RUDN is extensive: more than 250 agreements have been signed with educational institutions of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Since 2007, graduates have received an European Diploma Supplement, and that is recognized worldwide.
What keeps you motivated as a rector in this educational environment? Who are some of the most notable people, besides Russians, that you have interacted during the work at the RUDN University?
Students motivate me a lot especially when I see their success in scientific, educational, sports and creative fields. Besides students, I am also highly motivated by my colleagues who sacrifice a lot, devote their energy and considerable time to perform their work effectively, efficiently and conscientiously.
By all appearances – education and professional skills training – are aspects of diplomacy. Do you think that the youth should be involved in this public diplomacy?
Without mincing words, the youth is our future. The whole development and technological progress depend on them – the present young generation. Therefore, at RUDN we teach them to become professional leaders in various fields, equip them with the necessary skills, and help them to acquire the knowledge of communication internationally.
Human Security Perspectives on Hate Speech
As readers of this article, including myself as the writer, we have all likely encountered hate speech, sometimes without even realizing it. The way each of us perceives hate speech can vary, and its impact on individuals may also differ. This recognition leads us to acknowledge that both you and I have been victims of hate speech at one point or another. The challenge arises in whether we can classify what we’ve experienced as ‘hate,’ or if it was simply ‘speech’ that caused discomfort. Regardless of its nature, severity, or impact, hate speech is harmful and acts as a barrier to the well-being of our society.
What is hate speech?
What constitutes hate speech? According to the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, it is defined as ‘any form of communication in speech, writing, or behavior that attacks or employs derogatory or discriminatory language towards an individual or group based on their characteristics, such as religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender, or other identity factors.’ The strategy emphasizes that there’s no universally agreed-upon definition of hate speech within international human rights law. Furthermore, it clarifies that hate speech can take various forms of expression, including images, cartoons, memes, objects, gestures, symbols, and can be disseminated both offline and online.
Digital age as a challenge
In contrast to the past, today’s society is deeply entrenched in the digital realm. Consequently, social media has emerged as a prominent platform for communication. However, not all forms of communication on these platforms promote healthy discourse. Due to their wide-reaching usage, accessibility, and constant availability, even radicalized individuals, terrorists, and separatists have harnessed these platforms to further their agendas. While some employ social media to express genuine emotions, foster unity, and engage in constructive debate, others employ it to manipulate, mock, belittle, or denigrate individuals and specific groups.
As noted by Research Outreach, ‘The digital age has facilitated the sharing of online speech and content, often anonymously and without considering the consequences. While online publishing is instant, the mechanisms designed to regulate speech are frequently cumbersome and slow. In traditional media, editorial oversight from someone other than the author has historically served as an effective check on hate speech—a safeguard that doesn’t apply to self-published content on social media platforms.’ Additionally, as highlighted by Thorleifsson and O Düker, ‘Online environments have proven to be fertile ground for violent extremism, enabling socialization, recruitment, and accelerated radicalization. These digital spaces are often referred to as “virtual communities” or “radical milieus,” where information dissemination and involvement are actively encouraged. Even lone actors find connections within these virtual communities, sharing their worldviews and interpretations.
Impact of hate speech on human security
Before delving into what is hate speech and its impact on human security, it is pivotal to discuss briefly what human security is. Undoubtedly, society has changed and evolved and due to that reason concerns and priorities have also taken a change. Unlike in past, where military security is about the military forces and protection from intervention, at present security, includes notions which deal with human existences, such as human rights, food, water, energy, cyber and politics. As per the (Human Security Handbook, 2016), In 2012, the adoption of General Assembly resolution 66/290 marked a significant moment in the promotion of human security. The resolution outlined Basic Rights which means that people have the right to live in freedom and dignity, without getting subjected to poverty or despair. These rights apply to all, particularly vulnerable groups, ensuring freedom from fear and want and equal opportunities for all. The approach is as follows people-centric, context-specific, and prevention-focused. In addition, it is important to merit attention to Interconnectedness, where Human security recognizes the interconnected nature of peace, development, and human rights, encompassing civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Another point is, it is Distinct from the Responsibility to Protect and is Non-Coercive. Another important element is, National Ownership, as Human security is based on national ownership, acknowledging the diversity of conditions across countries.
Therefore, hate speech violates human rights since it impacts the dignity and rights of human beings. The impact of hate is disastrous. The word “hate” itself is derogatory since it is prejudicial, angry and also condescending. The words “hate speech” go a step beyond. Some hate speech can be made at an instance, some can be more systematic, coordinated and pre-planned. Hate speech’s impact is multi-faceted and it is hard to rank it since hate speech is psychological. Firstly, it is crucial to note that hate speech affects the mentality of the person. According to, (Pluta et al, 2023) “the widespread ubiquity of hate speech affects people’s attitudes and behaviour. Exposure to hate speech can lead to prejudice, dehumanization, and lack of empathy towards members of outgroups”. According to (SELMA partners,2019) “more specifically, victims of online hate speech may show low self-esteem, sleeping disorders, increased anxiety and feelings of fear and insecurity”.
The said hate speech does not stop from inflicting pain on the mind only, it goes beyond. The reason is, that hate speech can be against a specific ethnicity, race, gender or religious community, which will result in division resulting in the erosion of social cohesion. In addition, the violence incurred on the mind of the individuals transcends to physical violence where hatred will result in riots and bloodshed.
An example of hate speech based on race is the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, which involved ethnic discrimination. According to the United Nations, decades of hate speech exacerbated ethnic tensions in Rwanda. This was achieved by spreading unfounded rumors and dehumanizing ethnic Tutsi citizens. The hate propaganda was disseminated through the infamous Radio Libre des Mille Collines, which incited the Hutu majority to commit violence against their fellow Tutsi citizens. Another example can be found in the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The role of hatred and disinformation campaigns in inciting and legitimating war crimes during the Bosnian war (1992–1995) has been established. In Serbian majority areas, constant nationalist propaganda was disseminated through party-controlled media. This demonized the Bosnian Muslim population and other groups, portraying them as violent fundamentalist enemies plotting against the Serbs.
Another example involves hate speech directed at gender. One prominent instance is Gamergate, an online harassment campaign that occurred in 2014–15, targeting women in the video game industry. This campaign was mainly attributed to white male right-wing gamers who opposed the increasing influence of women and feminism in the industry. Notably, Gamergate acted as a recruitment tool for the emerging alt-right movement and played a role in propagating the online “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which later gave rise to the broader QAnon conspiracy movement. Another instance of hate speech related to culture and ethnicity is the Christchurch Mosque Shootings. Just before his deadly attack on Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, the perpetrator posted a 74-page manifesto on 8chan titled “The Great Replacement.” This manifesto referred to a conspiracy narrative outlined by Renaud Camus in his book ‘Le Grand Replacement.’ In the manifesto, the attacker justified mass murder as necessary to defend Europe against what he saw as an ongoing “cultural and ethnic genocide” caused by multiculturalism and mass immigration. In his post, he urged others to spread his message, create memes, and engage in online activities. This serves as a stark example of how virtual platforms can be exploited to promote hate speech.
Internationally as well as domestically there are laws against hate speech. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in Article 19(1) states that “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference”. 19(2) mentions about “freedom of expression”. In addition, this can be “either orally, in writing or print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. However, these rights can be curtailed as provided by law and are necessary, (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others, (b) For the protection of national security or of public order or public health or morals. Article 20 states that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law”. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in Article 4 mentions that “States Parties condemn all propaganda and all organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin, or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form, and undertake to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, such discrimination and, to this end, with due regard to the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” In Sri Lanka, there are four laws against hate speech. Namely, the International Covenant On Civil and Political Rights Act 56 of 2007, The Penal Code Ordinance No. 2 of 1883, The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 Of 1979 and regulations under it as well as the Police Ordinance (No. 16 of 1865).
There are social media regulations as well. For example, Transparency Center, states that on Facebook, “We’re committed to making Facebook a safe place. We remove content that could contribute to a risk of harm to the physical security of persons. Content that threatens people has the potential to intimidate, exclude or silence others and isn’t allowed on Facebook.” An example of a global imitative is, the United Nations Population Fund. It is a (UNFPA) “global movement to address gendered hate speech online. It co-convenes the Advisory Group to the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse, and issued the UNFPA Guidance on Safe and Ethical Technology for Gender-Based Violence and Harmful Practices.”. An example of another global initiative is, Social Media 4 Peace, which was “Initiated in January 2021 in three pilot countries, with the support of the European Union, this UNESCO project aims to strengthen the resilience of societies to potentially harmful content spread online – in particular hate speech inciting violence – while protecting freedom of expression and promoting peace through digital technologies, notably social media.”
In spite of all the measures in place, the prevalence of hate speech in our daily lives continues to escalate, and this is a genuine tragedy. Therefore, it is imperative that we do not merely react to hate speech but take proactive steps to prevent it from occurring. Addressing hate speech in the 21st century requires a multifaceted approach that involves all stakeholders and paradigms. To enhance the effectiveness of hate speech prevention, several additional measures can be employed. For instance, governments worldwide should prioritize media literacy, enabling individuals to critically evaluate information. Furthermore, it is essential to promote counter-narratives to counteract hate speech campaigns. Additionally, educational initiatives should be strengthened to instill good practices and nurture empathetic individuals.
Robotization and the Future of Humanity
Robotization is the final form of capitalist degeneration of humanity. Capitalism does not transform robots into humans, but humans into robots. Instead of human evolution having a historical character, it takes on a technocratic character. Capitalism destroys man’s personality and reduces him to a functional component of technical processes through which capitalism destroys the human and living world. Marx’s concept of “reification” (Verdinglichung) points to the prevailing tendency of world development. Capitalism abolishes man as a human and natural being and turns him into technical means for the development of capitalism.
Robots are a projection of the capitalistically degenerated humanity. Capitalism abolishes interpersonal relationships and, in doing so, abolishes man as social being. Society becomes a crowd of atomized individuals reduced to a labor-consumer mass. People lose the need for human connection. Man no longer seeks humanity in another man, but in virtual worlds, pets and technological devices. Robots become a substitute for human beings.
Measured by capitalist criteria, one of the most significant advantages of robots over humans is that robots, as technical “beings,” can constantly be improved based on the productivist efficiency that has a profitable character. The rate of capital turnover is the driving force behind the robotization of humans and the technization of the world. In the end, the process of robotization comes down to the development of capitalism, which involves the increasingly intensive destruction of man as a human and life-creating being. Robotization indicates that there are no limits to the capitalist future.
This is especially significant when it comes to the “conquest of space.” The technocratic approach to space and to the cosmic future of humanity is conditioned by a dehumanized technocratic mind. Man is abolished as a historical being, and thereby as a unique and irreplaceable cosmic being. Rather than endeavoring to create a humane cosmos, man is instead, through technical means, abolished as a human and natural being and reduced to cosmic processes that have an energetic and mechanical character.
Robots are an organic part of the technical world, and their characteristics are conditioned by the nature of capitalism. They are mass-produced and, as such, disposable commodities. Robots are not social or historical beings; they lack emotions, mind, libertarian dignity, cultural and national self-awareness, moral criteria, rights, they don’t get sick, they work 24 hours a day as programmed, they are replaceable, and can be instantly turned off and destroyed…
Capitalists do not strive to create robots that are increasingly similar to humans in their qualities but rather humans who are increasingly similar to robots. Humans are not the role models for robots; robots are the role models for humans. Through the spectacular model of robots, capitalist propaganda machinery imposes on people the image of the capitalist man of the future. In reality, robots are surrogates of humans turned by capitalism into ideal slaves.
Sport is an area where the robotization of humans in the existing world has reached its highest level. The human body has become a technical means to achieve records, and the “quest for records” is based on a productivistic fanaticism with a technical and destructive character. This is what defines the personality of an athlete, as well as their relation to the world and the future.
Considering that capitalism is increasingly destroying the living conditions in which man as a natural and human being can survive, the distinctive ability of robots to function in environments that are deadly to humans becomes of paramount importance. The destruction of the living environment devalues man as a human and natural being and further encourages the process of robotization.
Robotization suggests that capitalism can survive without humans. In the capitalistically degenerated world, humanity is not just superfluous; it has become an impediment to “progress.” With the development of consumer society, which means capitalism’s becoming a totalitarian order of destruction, capitalism has come to the final reckoning with the living world and with man as a human and natural being. Man has become an “obsolete being” that is to conclude his cosmic odyssey in the capitalist landfill.
Talking tolerance in polarised societies
EU research projects provide fresh insights into what it takes for communities to accept different religious and world views.
By ALISON JONES
Ann Trappers harnessed a shock in her native Belgium to help heal social wounds across Europe.
After Islamic terrorist attacks in Brussels in March 2016 left 35 people – including three suicide bombers – dead and more than 300 injured, Trappers and her colleagues at a non-governmental organisation called Foyer sought to rebuild community trust and cohesion.
They used the NGO’s long-established youth centre in the religiously and ethnically diverse neighbourhood of Molenbeek. Their experience fed into a research initiative that received EU funding to explore and foster religious tolerance in eight European countries.
‘One of the ways in which we worked to counter radicalisation was to ensure it didn’t become a taboo subject,’ said Trappers, programme coordinator at Foyer. ‘We wanted young people to be able to talk about it freely and safely in the setting of the youth centre.’
Concerns about growing polarisation in Europe have pushed the issue up the EU political agenda.
The portfolio of a vice-president of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, includes dialogue with churches as well as religious associations and communities. The portfolio is called “Promoting our European Way of Life”.
The EU is also putting its weight behind various initiatives – including the Radicalisation Awareness Network – aimed at helping communities in Europe live harmoniously together.
The EU project in which Trappers was involved ran from May 2018 through October 2022 and was called RETOPEA. It brought together academic organisations from Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Poland and Spain as well as non-EU countries North Macedonia and the UK.
The project explored ways in which religion is regarded in the educational, professional and social realms. It also examined how peaceful religious coexistence has been established over history.
Past and present
The idea was to use insights gained from the past to inform thinking about religious tolerance today.
‘It’s not often you get the opportunity as a historian to make your work relevant,’ said Patrick Pasture, who coordinated RETOPEA and is a professor of modernity and society at Catholic University Leuven in Belgium.
The project delved into more than 400 primary source extracts from historical peace treaties, contemporary news reports and cultural snippets.
Based on these materials, teenagers from Foyer and other youth associations in each of the participating countries joined workshops to create their own video blog – or “vlog” – about religious tolerance and coexistence.
The vlogs, available on the RETOPEA website, include interviews with passersby, drawings and other creative work.
Pasture said the act of working together took the focus away from the participants’ differences.
‘The most important thing will always be that people have to learn to talk – to refrain from immediately judging,’ he said.
Spreading the word
Pasture was struck by the number of students who were unaware of the religious beliefs of classmates and by how open they were to talking about the issue.
He said most participants were upset about the divisiveness of contemporary discussions of religion and ‘hated’ the rise of polarisation.
Around a year after RETOPEA wrapped up, the results and materials collected are informing actions by interfaith organisations, governmental bodies and European teacher associations.
The project team is regularly invited to make presentations at teaching workshops and seminars in the EU and beyond – places ranging from Austria and Italy to Jordan and Wales.
And the European Association of History Educators – established in 1992 to build educational bridges on the continent following the collapse of communism in eastern Europe – includes the RETOPEA materials on its website.
Another EU-funded research project looked specifically at the notion of tolerance – how it feels for people to push themselves to accept “others” and what it feels like to be “tolerated.” The research relied mainly on questionnaires and online experiments.
‘People have their own opinions and their own beliefs and we can’t just expect them to give them up and consider everything of equal value,’ said Maykel Verkuyten, who led the initiative and is a professor in interdisciplinary social science at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
Called InTo for Intergroup Toleration, the project ran for five years through September 2022.
In conducting studies in the Netherlands and Germany, Verkuyten and his team were pleasantly surprised to find that a clear majority of people regarded tolerance as an important societal value.
He said that most respondents agreed with, for example, the following two presented statements: “I accept it when other people do things that I wholeheartedly disapprove of” and “Everyone is allowed to live as he or she wants, even if it is at odds with what I think is good and right”.
On a cautionary note, the team also found that it’s far easier to move people towards greater intolerance than it is to make them more tolerant.
Verkuyten is driven by an interest in the middle ground of the whole subject – where space exists for differing views without any desire either to crush or to celebrate them.
He said this zone must be promoted through civics courses, human-rights lessons and other educational initiatives to help ensure the health of democracies and multicultural societies.
‘There is something in between being very negative, discriminatory, and fully embracing all diversity,’ Verkuyten said. ‘That’s essential for a functioning liberal democracy and indispensable for a culturally diverse society.’
Research in this article was funded by the EU via the European Research Council (ERC). This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
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