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Who Are DOXA and What Is the Case against Them?

Editorial note: Here, as part of an international solidarity campaign, LeftEast gathers four testimonies, all which tell, in very personal ways, the story of DOXA, a student journal at the Higher School of Economics (Moscow), which quickly outgrew the confines of its origins to become the voice of Russian students, and then one the main oppositional outlets in Russia. Following these testimonies is a translation of a more detailed account of the truly Kafkaesque legal case that the Russian prosecution has built against four DOXA editors. Today LeftEast stands with them.

The Doxa Four (source:

Who are DOXA: four testimonies

Ella Rossman, doctoral student at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies and feminist activist, one of the founders of “Anti-university” in Moscow.

On March 31 and April 1, Dorogomilovsky Court will hold the last hearings in the case of DOXA student magazine editors Alla Gutnikova, Armen Aramyan, Natasha Tyshkevich, and Volodya Metelkin. Even when I just write these names, there is a lot of love in me. All four of the guys who are being charged in this case are my closest friends, associates, and colleagues. Most of the most important conversations in my life have been with them, or have taken place because of them. And I know many who can say the same, because all four are very talented authors, organizers, and activists. They could have done a lot for others, but instead of acknowledgement, today they are prosecuted and under house arrest. I’m very afraid for Alla, Armen, Natasha, and Volodya. Even though their case has obviously fallen apart (none of the “victims” have seen the video on which the case is based and don’t even seem to know about the DOXA magazine), they can still get real sentences, up to 3 years in prison these days. A year into the DOXA case, it is no longer as high profile as there is almost no independent media left to cover it, and many activists and human rights activists have left the country. But silence is dangerous, especially when the verdict is about to be announced.

Mikhail Lobanov, Associate Professor at Lomonosov Moscow State University, Co-Chair of the “University Solidarity” labor union

What have we been missing most of all in recent weeks, when the world seems to be hurtling toward the abyss? In my opinion, first of all, we are lacking hope. And the belief that another world is possible. For me personally, one source of hope right now is the staff of DOXA magazine, which grew out of student media.

I knew some of the great people on the editorial board long before the magazine even existed. They studied at MSU, and together, on a few occasions, we made the university administration overturn inadequate decisions. Indeed, DOXA has always been not only a great magazine, but also an activist environment from which ideas and projects have scattered to various fields and directions.

Since its birth, DOXA has taken on such a pace and rhythm that it has been feared by the authorities. At first the former directors of the Higher School of Economics (Kuzminov and Kasamara) tried to have a bite at the magazine and broke their teeth. DOXA only grew stronger and better known.

Then the security apparatus took up the cause. Almost a year ago, after a series of searches, a criminal case was fabricated against four DOXA editors and editors. DOXA, as the country’s main university news channel, closely monitored situations in which university administrators intimidated students who participated in rallies. Young journalists used their publications to help some students resist illegal pressure and save others from reprisals. The prosecution built an absurd case on the basis of this case. 

The authorities wanted to shut DOXA up with the criminal case and a series of searches. They had the opposite effect. The team persevered, adapted to the new conditions, and continues to publish news and articles, despite the efforts of Roskomnadzor. In particular, it highlights the outrage and protest that the Kremlin’s actions in recent weeks have provoked in the academic community. And, of course, the wave of reaction that administrators are trying to orchestrate.

Tatiana Levina, Fellow at Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI), previously lecturer at HSE Moscow.

Armen Aramyan, Alla Gutnikova, Vladimir Metelkin, and Natalia Tyshkevich are very brave and smart, and in the few years they have been at DOXA, together with other members of the editorial staff, they have done a lot for Russian society. Doxa’s main goal was to talk about what is going on in modern Russian universities and how state ideology affects students and faculty. The main thing for them was not only to describe the problems faced by students and faculty, but always to find ways to solve them.

I remember how Doxa came about — in 2017 with the publication of a student survey about courses at the Higher School of Economics. At the same time I was doing my own volunteer project – organizing a children’s playroom at the university and was very happy that in parallel there is an amazing activity. They always responded to the problems of students, especially those that were silenced within the university environment. They had some great pieces on ethics and harassment issues at universities. When universities started to become rapidly ideologized and issued statements that “universities are no place for politics,” Doxa was one of the first to react.

Jan Surman, senior researcher at Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences, previously HSE Moscow, one of the founders of “Anti-university” in Moscow.

When I arrived in Moscow in 2018, DOXA was only a few months old. In the three years over which I could closely observe their activities, they developed from a student media into a whole intellectual institute. From an important part of student life, they became vital for the Russian academic sphere at large, developing investigative journalism related to university issues, publishing translations of important scholars, gathering money for students fined for participation in peaceful protests. DOXA has been instrumental in making authors like David Graeber popular in Russia; it has also confronted harassment at universities, a problem that only recently has been recognized as a serious issue in a few universities in Moscow (and is still ignored at most of them). DOXA summer schools, where activism and intellectual debate went hand in hand, attracted scholars and students from all around the world. Now, during the war, it remains one of few media which publishes notwithstanding censorship. 

Since 2018, much has changed: many people who started the journal have moved to other projects and four editors, Armen, Natasha, Vladimir and Alla, are under house arrest. Maybe this is actually the most lasting effect DOXA has, showing that a student community can be organized outside of academic hierarchies and independent of administration and its resources and can develop into a non-hierarchic rhizome, which continues to work even if its main branch is currently inactive. In Russia such an innovation truly seems revolutionary.

Armen, Natasha, Vladimir and Alla, whom I am happy to call my friends, have been under house arrest for almost a year, and soon the judge will be announcing the verdict. We all hope for the voice of sanity in these crazy times – and a mild sentence. Colleagues from the academic community, be they in Russia or abroad, have been standing with them from the beginning of the persecution and we should not cease doing it now. Silence is one of Putin’s regime’s main weapons and we have to raise our voices in support of those who want to break it. 

Supporters in front of the court (source: The Insider)

The Case Against Doxa (translation from

On April 14, 2021 a case was brought against four editors of the magazine. Armen Aramyan, Alla Gutnikova, Volodya Metelkin and Natasha Tyshkevich were charged under article 151.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation on the involvement of minors in acts dangerous to their lives.

The basis for the case was a 3-minute YouTube video that the editors recorded before the first winter protest rally of 2021 in support of Alexei Navalny. It said that expelling and intimidating students for participating in rallies is illegal. A few days later, the magazine’s editors removed the video at the request of Roskomnadzor, simultaneously filing a counter-suit in court. Nevertheless, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case under a strange, relatively new article “on the involvement of minors.” Allegedly, minors could watch this video, get “inspired”, go to the rally, and contract the coronavirus there – that is, cause harm to their health.

Leonid Volkov, the former head of Alexei Navalny’s network of headquarters closed in April 2021, was also under investigation in the same case. According to the prosecution, after Volkov published a video “How We Can Get Navalny Out of Jail,” DOXA journalists, amid increased activity on social networks, “developed an intent to support the above appeals and create their own publications. Later, the DOXA editors’ case will be transferred to a separate investigation.

After seven house-searches in the morning of 14 April, the DOXA editors were subjected to “prohibition of certain actions,” which is not much different from house arrest: they can go out of the house only two hours a day – from 8 to 10 am (before the appeal they could go out only for a minute). They were forbidden from using the Internet, communication facilities and communicate with each other. The court extended the restraint four times. In April 2022, the “ban on certain actions” of Armen, Alla, Volodya and Natasha will be a year old.

During this time the editors had time to become ex-editors, three of the four under house arrest got married, the Investigative Committee opened a second case – for slander against the investigator (part 2 of article 298.1 of the Criminal Code) against Volodya Metelkin for telling about the pressure and inappropriate behavior of his investigator Ekaterina Zhizhmanova. The investigators interrogated almost the entire editorial board of DOXA, and other editors are witnesses in the case. The DOXA editors have been classified as political prisoners. Media from all over the world have written and continue to write about our journal, and an open letter in support of the defendants has been signed by philosophers Slavoj Žižek, Etienne Balibar, Judith Butler and several hundred other researchers. The journal continues to grow and now speaks not only about the problems of the university. The main topic now is war and the anti-war movement.

The Trial

The ex-editors of the magazine and their defense attorneys are currently on trial. Judge Anastasia Tatarulia is listening to the parties one by one. The prosecution is represented by the state prosecutor, while the defense is represented by the defendants and their attorneys.

After the beginning of the substantive sessions in November, the prosecutor read out the indictment and qualified the charges. Armen, Alla, Volodya and Natasha pleaded not guilty, as they always do. Then the prosecutor read out the evidence from 212 volumes of the criminal case, which lasted for 4 months, taking into account the postponements of the hearings for various reasons. The prosecutor read aloud the numbers of the volumes of the case, the pages and names of the documents at the sessions. Among them were, for example, reports on preventive conversations with schoolchildren, which said the inadmissibility of attending protests. We don’t understand why these papers are in the criminal case.

Now the parties present their witnesses and interrogate them – the prosecution, the defense and the judge ask questions to each witness in turn. The prosecution presented sixteen witnesses, but yesterday, March 21, at the fourteenth witness, the prosecutor said that the presentation of evidence for the prosecution was over. None of the prosecution witnesses had previously seen Armen, Alla, Volodya and Natasha or seen a video clip of them. Only one witness said that he had heard about our magazine.

Then the defense will present their experts and witnesses; it must be done in one day. This will probably be the end of the investigation stage. Then the debate stage will begin.

At the debate stage, the prosecution and defense will say their final positions, and the prosecutor will ask for the verdict. Then the defendants will be given the last word and the day of the announcement of the verdict will be set.

Verdicts on the DOXA trial will be announced on early April.