TONY ALLEN-MILLS, www.timesonline.co.uk/, 2006 03 26
THE career of President Vladimir Putin of Russia was built at least in part on a lie, according to US researchers. A new study of an economics
thesis written by Putin in the mid-1990s has revealed that large chunks of it were copied from an American text.
Putin was labelled a plagiarist yesterday after a pair of researchers at the Brookings Institution, a Washington DC think tank, established that the Russian president’s academic credentials were based on a dissertation he had lifted in part verbatim from the Russian translation of a management study written by two professors at the University of Pittsburgh in 1978.
According to the Kremlin’s official biography, Putin, 53, obtained a PhD in economics from the St Petersburg Mining Institute in 1997. But the US researchers also established that his thesis was for a lesser degree that would not have entitled him to a full doctorate.
The embarrassing revelation that Putin, a former KGB agent, may have cheated and lied about his qualifications follows a long search by US scholars for evidence of the president’s academic prowess. A copy of the thesis was eventually located in the electronic files of a Moscow technical library.
According to Clifford G Gaddy, a senior fellow at Brookings, 16 of the 20 pages that open a key section of Putin’s work were copied either word for word or with minute alterations from a management study, Strategic Planning and Policy, written by US professors William King and David Cleland. The study was translated into Russian by a KGB-
related institute in the early 1990s.
The Washington Times reported yesterday that six diagrams and tables from the 218-page thesis also appeared to “mimic” similar charts in
the US work. The newspaper quoted Gaddy as saying: “There’s no question in my mind that this would be plagiarism.”
Putin’s work was entitled “The Strategic Planning of Regional Resources Under the Formation of Market Relations” and was largely an essay on how a state should manage its natural resources. Experts on the former Soviet Union said last week it was common for ambitious “apparatchiks” to seek to inflate their credentials with an impressive-sounding degree, and that there were many cases at the time of officials hiring ghost-writers to produce work they passed off as their own.
After serving as a KGB agent in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Putin moved into politics in St Petersburg. US scholars say that his academic studies in the mid-1990s may have been intended to impress the western investors who were flooding into the rapidly modernising Russian city.
“Somebody was cutting corners,” Gaddy added, “whether it was Mr Putin or whoever cut and pasted the work for him.”
While plagiarism has come to be regarded in America as a fatal blot on any US politician’s copybook — Senator Joe Biden has never recovered from allegations that he stole sections of a 1988 speech by Neil Kinnock, the former Labour leader — the issue is not taken especially seriously in Russia, which is second only to China as a producer of pirated copyright goods.