Bryan Caplan  

Putin's Potemkin Dissertation

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Vladimir Putin's supposed to be an economist. Kind of embarassing. But it turns out that he plagiarized his dissertation, so we can justly banish him from the club:

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.

Of course, by the historical standards of the Soviet secret police, Putin's offense isn't worth mentioning. From mass murder to plagiarism - I'd say the glass is half full.

Thanks to Ilia Rainer for the pointer.

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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Silas Barta writes:

In my opinion, Caplan's practice of writing "an historical" (emphasis added) in his papers is worse than plagiarism. But, that's just me. ;-)

Mike Dubov writes:

Well, to be fair: A lot of russian VIPs including politicians and businessmen get these 'degrees' for no real purpose. Sometimes just because the university want to repay for a favor, which makes sense in this case since Putin used to be close to St Petersburg mayor. Probably they gave him this degree for a new building or something like this. As for the thesis I think Putin himself never even saw it. Some of the lower-end university employees prepared it and since they all did not think someone will be interested he did not do a very good job and just copied the older source.

This of course does not mean Putin is innocent but just to note that this happens every now and then in Russia. In the same way Russian politicians often gain military ranks

dearieme writes:

Gosh, you mean that he qualifies to be an honorary Kennedy?

Bob Hawkins writes:

These semi-honorary advanced degrees could serve a purpose in the old USSR. If you spot the purge coming soon enough, you can get yourself appointed director of some provincial research institute in your supposed field, keep your head down, and ride it out. Like kings retreating to a monastery in preference to being beheaded.

But the usual practice was to make a talented underling write it for you. The old "two dissertation" method -- once your boss gets his degree, you're allowed to start work on yours.

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