Russian school to study 'domestic violence' after grisly murder

Representative image. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

AFP Moscow, Russia Nov 14, 2019, 07.40 PM (IST)

A university in Saint-Petersburg on Thursday launched a centre to study domestic violence after a professor murdered and dismembered his girlfriend, sparking criticism of the school.

The Saint Petersburg State University, a prestigious school in Russia's second-largest city, this week fired historian Oleg Sokolov after he confessed to chopping up his former student lover Anastasiya Yeshchenko and disposing of her body.

It came under intense criticism from former students, who said the professor had a history of acting inappropriately and complaints were ignored -- charges the school denied.

On Thursday, the university said it decided to "create a research centre that will study the problem of domestic violence in its entirety."

The university called domestic violence "one of the most urgent social problems of modern times".

Domestic violence is a pervasive issue in Russia but efforts by activists to lobby for a specialised law against violence and protect victims have failed. Police do not normally intervene, even in severe cases. 

The move by the university to establish the research centre follows accusations it has encouraged an atmosphere for sexual harassment and should have fired Sokolov long before the murder. 

A petition to dismiss and investigate several university officials, including the head of its Institute of History where 63-year-old Sokolov worked, has gathered nearly 80,000 signatures.

Sexual relations between faculty and students were "common" at the institute, where the "system" was to "sleep with your instructors and only study the area of their speciality", wrote former student Yulia Balakhonova on Snob.ru website, where she works.

Sokolov "should have been fired long before the murder," she wrote.

Another former student Yulia Chernyavskaya posted a photo of her professor giving her an embrace and kiss on the cheek on Facebook, describing "ordinary sexism" in the department.

"Everybody knows that female students have given birth to the children of several history professors," she wrote, adding it was normal to hear comments about "lovely legs" or "wiggling butts" from lecturers, while one told jokes about rape.

Story highlights

The Saint Petersburg State University this week fired historian Oleg Sokolov after he confessed to chopping up his former student lover Anastasiya Yeshchenko and disposing of her body.