Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia: U.S. Academics Charge Putin With Plagiarizing Thesis

Putin received a graduate degree in economics in 1997 (official site) Thousands -- if not millions -- of pages have been written about Russian President Vladimir Putin, but little has been said about the dissertation he wrote in the mid 1990s for his candidate's degree in economics. Recently, a panel of scholars at the Washington-based Brookings Institute shined a spotlight on this little-known document.

WASHINGTON March 26, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- "Let me just make a flat statement about the quality of the dissertation," Clifford Gaddy, an economist at the Brookings Institute and a longtime specialist in the Soviet Union, told a March 24 conference. "It is very poor. It is poorly organized. It is poorly written. It is poorly researched. Its contents are second rate. And in terms of content and structure, this is not a PhD dissertation, would not qualify as a PhD dissertation at any first, second, or third rate university in the United States."

Gaddy has read the over 200-page-long dissertation with the title "Strategic Planning Of The Reproduction Of The Resource Base." Putin received his candidate's degree in economics from the St. Petersburg Mining Institute in 1997.

Charges Of Plagiarism

During his study, Gaddy noted a certain unevenness in style -- almost as if certain passages had been written by different people. In Chapter Two, he noticed a citation for a U.S. textbook called "Strategic Planning And Policy" by William King and David Cleland. He obtained a copy of the book in its Russian translation and began to compare its contents with the dissertation.

"I calculate that there are more than 16 pages worth of text taken verbatim from King and Cleland," Gaddy said. "Also a number of the figures. There are six -- at least six -- diagrams and tables lifted directly or slightly modified from King and Cleland with no attribution whatever."

Bought And Paid For?

Clifford Gaddy (courtesy photo)

That doesn't mean necessarily that Putin is a plagiarist himself. It is possible that he purchased his dissertation -- a not uncommon practice among Soviet-era officials -- and didn't review it very closely. Putin was allegedly writing his dissertation while he was working as the deputy mayor of Russia's second largest city, St. Petersburg.

"It's very clear he never wrote the thing in the first case," Gaddy charged. "This is a clear diploma-mill-type operation. This is a dissertation, paid for, made-to-order."

The Brookings scholars also noted that Putin rarely cites his academic background in economics.

"Even Vladimir Putin himself doesn't reference or cite his own dissertation," said Igor Danchenko, a senior research assistant at Brookings. "This fact is also omitted in his famous book of interviews, "In The First Person," which most of us read a long time ago. Moreover, Putin seems to evade questions about his dissertation. He [has] never openly said that he has a degree in economics."

An Old Tradition

The questions about his dissertation could provide some uncomfortable moments for Putin during the G8 summit in July. After all, one of the agenda items he selected for that meeting is higher education.

However, it is unlikely that there will be an outcry from the Russian public against Putin for buying a shoddy dissertation. Scholars on the Brookings panel recalled that there was a long tradition in the Soviet Union of writing dissertations for other people. Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian political commentator and a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, confessed that when he was younger, he participated in the "collective writing of several dissertations." He added, however, that the quality of the dissertations was much higher than that of Putin's.

RFE/RL In Russian

RFE/RL In Russian

UPDATED CONSTANTLY: Visit RFE/RL's Russian-language website, featuring news, analysis, features, streaming audio, and more, in Russian, from RFE/RL's Russian Service.


RFE/RL's English-language coverage of Russia.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.