The Russian academic community reacted with shock and alarm to the recent decision by the Washington, D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson Center to shut down the Moscow office of the Kennan Institute. The oldest of the Wilson Center’s programs, the Kennan Institute brings together “scholars and governmental specialists to discuss political, social, and economic issues affecting Russia,” according to the organization’s website. 

In an open letter, published on Feb. 10 at Russia Direct, Russian scholars called the decision “inappropriate, ill-timed, and extremely harmful to the long term prospects of U.S.-Russian relations.”

According to the letter, budget cuts were the reason behind the move.

“We understand that financial constraints are a serious issue. And we understand that funding for Russian studies in general and the Kennan Institute in particular is limited. But we also believe that the importance of maintaining Kennan Institute alumni activities in Russia is greatly underestimated in Washington,” reads the letter.

Moscow-based alumni of Kennan programs have asked that the decision to close the Institute's Moscow office be reviewed and they are now working to collect names for a petition to protest the shut down.