Nemtsov's Son Studies at a University Where the Vice Dean Welcomed His Murder

Tens of thousands demonstrate in memory of Boris Nemtsov, Moscow March 1, 2015, by Zurab Javakhadze. Demotix.

Tens of thousands demonstrate in memory of Boris Nemtsov, Moscow
March 1, 2015, by Zurab Javakhadze. Demotix.

“That makes one less piece of scum.” This is how Vladimir Talismanov, a vice dean at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MFTI), responded to the news of Boris Nemtsov's murder last week.

On his Vkontakte social media page, Talismanov showed no sympathy for Russia's slain former deputy prime minister turned opposition figure, accusing him of being “scum” and a “prostitute” of the United States:

Американцы сами мразь породили, финансировали ее, сами же и убрали. Такова судьба всех проституток. Вчера вечером на одну мразь стало меньше.

The Americans themselves bred this scum, they financed it, and then they disposed of it. Such is the fate of all prostitutes. Last night makes one less piece of scum.

Perhaps most offended by this vicious statement was Boris Nemtsov's son, Anton, who is currently a student at MFTI.

The university leadership publicly condemned Talismanov’s comment as “deeply inappropriate and offensive,” and a group of MFTI students, faculty, and alumni released a signed letter, which read:

Мы, студенты, выпускники и преподаватели МФТИ, привыкли к тому, что Физтех — институт высоких стандартов. Стандартов не только образовательных, но и моральных и нравственных. Мы признаём право Владимира Сергеевича на выражение своего мнения, даже если чувство такта не заставляет его в такой момент держать это мнение при себе. Но мы считаем, что любую смерть можно воспринимать только как трагедию, и никак иначе. Мы приносим Антону свои искренние извинения за тех, кто не смог проявить себя достойно. Нам больно это видеть и слышать.

Антон, мы глубоко соболезнуем тебе в твоей утрате.

We, the students, alumni, and faculty of MFTI, are accustomed to the fact that Fiztech [“Physics and Technology,” the nickname for MFTI] is an Institute of high standards. Not only educational standards, but also moral and ethical ones. We recognize the right of Dr. Talismanov to express his opinion, even if he lacked the tact to keep that opinion to himself at such a moment. But we believe that any death can be perceived only as a tragedy, and nothing else. We offer Anton our sincere apologies for those who are not able to conduct themselves decently. It pains us to see and hear this.

Anton, we offer deep condolences for your loss.

As the story gained media attention, Talismanov deleted his comment from VKontatke, and publicly apologized for his “excessively emotional act,” saying he was “embarrassed.”

On March 2, Talismanov then resigned as vice dean at MFTI, although it appears that the university may continue to employ him in another capacity.

Talking to Echo of Moscow on the day of his resignation, Talismanov elaborated:

Я расцениваю это в принципе изначально как высказывание на своей личной странице. У меня есть там даже пометка – что это исключительно личная страница. Никак это нельзя расценивать как высказывание должностного лица. И никто особо ее не посещал. Я не ожидал такой реакции. Целью была просто какая-то моя реакция. Не было цели обидеть кого-то и уж тем более расколоть общество. Я просто достаточно патриотично настроенный человек. И с некоторым негативом вспоминаю, что у нас было в стране в 90-е годы, ту форму правления, как все это происходило. Как-то со страхом все это вспоминаю. Сейчас патриотические силы – им в общем-то дали возможность высказываться. Говорить о родине, о том, что надо ее любить. Ну, как-то я воспрял духом. Но сказано это было, несомненно, в некорректной форме.

Initally, I regarded this as a statement on my personal page. I even have a note there that this is exclusively a personal page. In no way can my Vkontakte page be regarded as an official platform. And no one in particular visits my page. I did not expect such a reaction. The point was just kind of to express my reaction. The goal was not to offend anyone, much less divide the public. I'm simply a very patriotic person. And it is with negative emotions that I recall how it was for our country in the 1990s, the form of government, [and] how everything happened. Once it was with fear that I remembered all of this. Now, patriotic forces are, in general, given the opportunity to express themselves. To talk about the Motherland, and that we must love her. And well, my spirit was raised. But this was expressed, of course, in an inappropriate way.

That the vice dean of a top Russian university would make such a vitriolic comment in a public, albeit virtual, space symbolizes just how poisonous and polarized Russia's political climate has become recently. 

The story also demonstrates yet again how, in today's world, an online post can unexpectedly throw its author into the middle of a public scandal overnight.

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