ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – At this time of year, the halls of the European University of St. Petersburg, a private liberal arts university in the heart of Russia's second largest city, would normally be filled with students returning from summer vacations .
For the second year in a row, however, the university's conference rooms are empty and dark, and the canteen is filled with a mysterious silence. The only signs of life are in the faculty rooms, where underemployed professors complain about their mandatory sabbatical.
The European University has a world-class faculty, a generous endowment and an excellent reputation as a research institution. What he has lacked since August of last year, when the authorities took away the university's teaching license, are the students.
When that happened, the students were forced to leave and the university began a desperate search for high-ranking sponsors in the Russian government. At times, that seemed like a lost cause, even after President Vladimir V. Putin signed three resolutions ordering officials to support the school.