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The President as Candidate
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A candidate's dissertation in Russia (roughly equivalent to a U.S. Ph.D. dissertation) can be bought, sold or copied freely, and strategic planning is still made using models from the 1970s, say two researchers from the U.S. Brookings Institute, Clifford Gaddy and Igor Danchenko. They made these banal conclusions from sensational material: they studied Russian President Vladimir Putin's candidate's dissertation and found trivial plagiarism.
The Creative Method

Chairman of the Higher Attestation Commission of the Ministry of Education and Science Mikhail Kirpichnikov, whose agency is responsible for confirming all the higher degrees awarded in the country, did not know what fire he was pouring oil on in an Internet conference on March 23, when he stated bitterly that up to a third of the dissertations in Russia are purchased and that plagiarism is an everyday occurrence in science. On the next day, on the other side of the world, Gaddy and Danchenko touched on the same topic while speaking on energy policy in Russia. On March 25, The Washington Times, a popular and frequently scandalous newspaper, reported that Vladimir Putin plagiarized parts of his dissertation “Strategic Planning of the Replacement of Mineral Reserves in Conditions of the Formation of Market Relations (St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region).”

“Sixteen of 20 pages of the key section were taken either literally or with minimal changes from an American work,” the researchers say of the dissertation that Putin defended at the St. Petersburg State Mining Institute nine years ago. That news had made its way through the entire yellow press of the English-speaking world by Monday. In Russia, only a tiny handful of publications mentioned the scandal, although Russian Internet publications were somewhat less inclined to self-censorship. No one attempted to confirm the researchers' claims.

Gaddy and Danchenko say that the point of their investigation was the content of the Russian president's scientific work, not its originality “We were interested in Vladimir Putin's understanding of the optimal economic model for Russian's development,” Danchenko explained, adding that he was disturbed by the “obviously excessive attention from the yellow press.”

It would be hard to consider chapter 2 of Putin's dissertation anything other than a borrowing from William King and David Cleland's book Strategic Planning and Policy, a Russian translation of which was published in Moscow in 1982. There are abridgments and paraphrasing, of course, but nothing new was added and entire sentences and paragraphs coincide. Reference is made to King and Cleland's work on the second page of chapter 2 and in the bibliography of Putin's dissertation. But plagiarism is the borrowing of ideas without direct reference, whether literally quoted or not, and the references made by Putin cannot be consider sufficient.

Professors King and Cleland are around 80 years old today. They had been unaware of the popularity of their work in Russia. “Who will we sue?” Cleland asked in an interview with the Pittsburgh Times. “The copyright belongs to the publisher, Van Nostrand Reinhold.” King joked, “Maybe I should run for president of Russia,” then added quickly, “But I don't want to live in Moscow.”

Practical Interest

It is easy to understand why the plagiarism was not noted in 1997 – the Higher Attestation Commission still does not see it. Anatoly Suslov, provost of economics at the Mining Institute, who was present at Putin dissertation defense, recalled, “The opponent was someone from Moscow. The defense went calmly. There were many questions, of course, since it was a candidate's dissertation, but there was no question of plagiarism. No one uncovered anything of the kind. Vladimir Putin defended himself, and he prepared his own work. All those conversations about dissertations being bought are untrue. Ours isn't the kind of institute where you can do that.”

Natalia Pashkevich, chairman of the dissertation council, agreed. “The authors of the article obviously didn't look at the dissertation very well. There are references to the article mentioned. Everything is done correctly… It is only a plus for Vladimir Putin that he used not only Russian authors, but foreign ones as well. We will make a statement soon and provide photocopies of the page where the reference to the work by King and Cleland is.”

The study of the Russian president has developed rapidly since its beginning in 2000 with the question “Who is Vladimir Putin?” and is the in the forefront of Kremlinology. In that field, Putin's dissertation was already the stuff of legends. Martha Brill Olcott, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, was one of the first to take an interest in the dissertation and is usually mentioned when Putin's dissertation is discussed in scholarly circles. Olcott wanted to determine how much the president's activities in office were predetermined by his worldview and scientific findings. She admits though that she never saw that dissertation and made use of later publications for her analyses. The world press made reference to her, however, when it claimed at the end of last year that Putin's policies – the creeping nationalization of the thermo-electric complex, state intervention in the economy and “energy security” – follow from his work on the mineral base at the Mining Institute.

Olcott commented, “Why do Russian politicians and officials need to write dissertations? In America, politicians don't usually pretend to be scientists. Everyone understands any way that most of such works are not written by their formal authors… If he didn't write the text himself, why didn't he find more professional people who would not do such a banal cut and paste?”

Vladimir Litvinenko, rector of the Mining Institute, insists that Putin is the author of the text. “I followed the work on it from the very beginning,” he noted. “The first version of the dissertation of Vladimir Putin, who did not come from an academic background, was commented on and rejected. We recommended that it be reworked. A few months later, he brought a completely reworked version that took the comments into account and it was accepted for defense. Therefore, I have no doubt that he worked independently. He was an average bureaucrat then and we had no reason to give him special treatment.”

Outside Reading

“At first I wanted to read the dissertation because I was studying the oil and gas industry in Russia and was interested in how the distribution of income from resources affects economic policy in Russia. I wanted to understand whether or not Mr. Putin wrote anything important on that topic in his dissertation. Its title implied that it might have some relation to the matter,” Gaddy recounts. “I read it and saw that it was pretty badly written and boring, except for one part, about 20-25 pages, that looked really interesting. That was the section on strategic planning where Mr. Putin developed ideas that are very close to those around which he reorganized the whole country.”

Gaddy is not very pleased with his new discovery. “In reality, I didn't spend that time looking for plagiarism. I didn't have the least idea how it would all end,” he said. “I never thought and do not think now that the most interesting thing about the dissertation. It seems to me a lot more interesting to understand how the ideas of King and Cleland propelled Putin into the management of the country.”

Vladimir Litvinenko has a response to Gaddy. “The authors [King and Cleland] themselves used many findings that were known before them, that scholars at Stanford wrote about and the Russian Lvov in 1972,” he said. This leads to the speculation that the actions of the president of Russia, whose political agenda is the rapid modernization of the Russian economy according to the best international practices, has been guided for the last decade by ideas of strategic management that were expressed in the 1970 by Soviet economists. Gaddy, Olcott and dozens of Kremlinologists was just one step away from the most important discovery: that Russia's economy is being modernized according to prescriptions developed in Soviet times.

That is true only if Putin wrote his dissertation himself, or at least read it. Gaddy is not too sure of the former possibility, but isn't worried about it. “I'm not a citizen of Russia,” he observed, “and it is for them, not me, to decide whether or not they care that Mr. Putin is being accused of plagiarism. I doubt that it will affect his popularity.” We doubt it too.

Whom Putin Copied

David Cleland is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, where he has taught since 1967. He has also taught at the Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton, Ohio, and has been a civilian employee of the U.S. Air Force, working as a project manager on military systems design and development. He had been a consultant to many large U.S. companies. Cleland is considered one of the most experienced lecturers and teachers on the topics of project management and group management. He is the author of more than 30 books and winner of numerous awards. The David Cleland Prize for management literature was established in 1997.

William King is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business, where he has worker for 37 years. He is a specialist in information systems. He is a founding member and former president of the international Institute of Management Sciences and author of more than 300 works on information systems.

From the Author

Prof. Cleland agreed to speak to Kommersant correspondent Konstantin Benyumov about the controversy surrounding Vladimir Putin's dissertation. This is what he said:

I first found out about it on March 27, 2006, from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the leading newspaper in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The book President Putin is accused of copying from is Strategic Planning and Policy (Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1978). As far as I remember, the second chapter of the book, Systems of Strategic Planning,” was used in President Putin's dissertation.

I should say that, in the United States, a dissertation for an advanced degree should not contain any material published earlier without the necessary references and explanations of how the previously published material was used. It is also important to receive the permission of the person or organization that holds the copyright. Did President Putin know that the information he was using had been published previously?

If n American degree candidate, or one in many other countries, widely used published material in his dissertation with out permission, it would probably disqualify him to receive the degree.
by  Maxim Shishkin, Dmitry Butrin; Mikhail Shevchuk, St. Petersburg
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