I would like to pursue my master's studies in mathematics in Russia. Yet, I was told that there's a possibility of foreign universities not recognizing Russian degrees due to the current political situation and sanctions. Eventually, I would like to begin a PhD in Europe.

Is this a valid concern? Is it true that Russia is isolated academically due to their involvement in the war?


  1. I have always appreciated Russian mathematics culture, and got admitted into the few universities I applied prior to the war. I'm in a situation where most of the scholarship windows for international students are closed. If I do not attend a university now, then I have to wait until fall 2023.
  2. I'm from a third world country which is politically and economically unstable. There's no access to higher education in mathematics, either in my country or neighboring countries.
  • 10
    FWIW the International Congress of Mathematics originally scheduled for St Petersburg this summer will not happen there. Apr 19, 2022 at 21:10
  • 32
    Russia invaded the Ukraine. Relations between Europe and Russia will be cut off for decades again. Apr 19, 2022 at 22:19
  • 74
    It's not about "not recognizing degrees", but about "why would you want to go to Russia in the current (awful) situation?" Apr 19, 2022 at 22:51
  • 42
    @paulgarrett: One could consider that Russia still has excellent mathematicians and they are not responsible for the war. Actually, the Western mathematical community tried to keep ties with their colleagues in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Of course, there are certainly better countries to do mathematics and build a career these days.
    – Taladris
    Apr 20, 2022 at 6:43
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    @Taladris Also: the Soviet mathematical community tried to keep ties with their colleagues in the West during the Cold War! Apr 20, 2022 at 15:31

13 Answers 13


Disclaimer: I did my BSc, MSc and PhD in Russia and I was Russian citizen from birth up until 2020.

You ask about the recognition of degrees, and thus your question sounds as if it was about the decisions that other people or organisations may make in relation to your MSc degree.

I think that this way of framing your question is slightly misplaced. The real question here is about your decision to study in Russia at this time. What do you feel about the fact that Russian army invaded Ukraine, destroying their cities and killing thousands of people? Do you think that this situation, as you nicely put it, is irrelevant to the education experience you will receive in Russia? How will you respond if the administration of your University publicly supports the "special operation" of Russian army forces in Ukraine? Will you take side in political discussions that might happen in your classroom or among your fellows?

You need to consider these questions before making a decision about studying in Russia right now, as the answers will significantly affect your experience while doing your PhD and your future career, particularly if you plan to do a PhD in EU/US/UK later. The quality of your MSc degree probably won't be compromised, but some people who will read your CV later might reasonably ask questions: Why did you decide to go to Russia? Did you condemn or did you support the war? Which other options did you have at this moment and why did you choose this one?

When conflict arises, we might not be able to make things go our way, but we can express our disagreement by speaking up or by walking out. Ordinary people in Russia might not have an option to make their Government to stop the war, but some of them have an option to express their disagreement either by protesting (under a risk of detention or imprisonment), or by leaving the country to live elsewhere. Depending on your nationality and personal circumstances, your decision to walk in and live in Russia when it attacks Ukraine might be interpreted as your (silent) support of the ongoing war. This might not compromise your degree, but it might cast a shade on yourself as a moral human being. Do you have answers which will displace people's doubts about your character in future? Or would you rather take this risk?

Please consider the questions above while making your decision. Good luck.

  • 21
    «if the administration of your University publicly supports the "special operation"» — this actually is very valid, because the professors now are encouraged to read lectures on it. See e.g. this article (in Russian) on a news website blocked by RosKomNadzor. (BTW, keep this in mind too: we do have strong censorship here, one has to jump through hoops like VPN to read independent media.)
    – Ruslan
    Apr 20, 2022 at 22:44
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    While it is prudent to be cautious of negative effects (if an association banned Russian cat breeds by being stupid enough to think that will do any good, there might be some academics who'd discriminate against Russian degrees), you shouldn't try to guilt-trip the OP. Because then, according to your logic, the OP should not pursue a US degree (because then the OP would be complicit in US attacks in Syria, and past invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan), nor a Turkish degree (Turkey recently invaded Iraq to bomb some Kurds), nor an Israeli degree, etc.
    – vsz
    Apr 22, 2022 at 4:35
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    This is all very true but it doesn't answer the question. The opportunity costs of taking the moral high ground are also lower if you live in the West than if you're from an impoverished "third world" country where choices are limited to say the least. So I feel the actual question is valid and shouldn't be dismissed. Apr 22, 2022 at 7:28
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    @henning The question is, broadly - will it is bad for me if I did my MSc in Russia now. The OP thinks that bad consequence might be that MSc is not recognised. I can't predict the future on that. Instead, I pointed out that there may be another, perhaps more important, bad consequence. I believe this is a useful consideration, which might help OP answer their question. You are welcome to write your own answer suggesting the best strategy for a student from a third-world country now. Apr 22, 2022 at 8:17
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    If OP is studying on a stipend and not paying for the education, then I don't think studying in Russia amounts to support of the war in any practical sense. I rather encourage OP to think about the psychological hazards. When I was a master student in Russia, a friend of mine, who got imprisoned for his opposition of the war, got tortured in prison. I didn't feel safe talking about it with any of my teachers, so I had no support. One person who taught me math in school said that I was too emotional and we liberals all deserve to burn in hell forever.
    – seed
    Apr 22, 2022 at 9:01

It seems risky to go to Russia at the moment for lots of reasons, but I think that recognition of a degree is probably lower on the scale than many others. Academics are generally more open to dealing with individuals as individuals than may be generally true. But, at the moment, Russian individuals are having a hard time in the "West", much of that unwarranted.

I haven't heard of Russian academics in the US having difficulties, for example, unless they vocally support the Russian government's war in Ukraine. Keeping my fingers crossed that it won't happen.

However, Russian institutions may have a hard time with funding over the next year (or perhaps much longer). Travel will be difficult to impossible. Acceptance by Russians of foreigners may not be optimal at the moment. Even communication in and out of Russia is becoming difficult.

I can't predict how the world will behave long term but think it would be very sad if individual academics suffer for the acts beyond their control. There is certainly the possibility of an overreaction. So, some caution is certainly reasonable.

I doubt that there is much mathematics done in Russia that isn't also done elsewhere. Unless you have made contact already with a top Russian mathematician who wants to work with you, I'd advise not doing a degree in Russia in the current environment.

And if there is some particular Russian mathematician you want to work with, perhaps you can do it remotely in the context of a degree from elsewhere, working remotely. Or manage an invitation for them to leave. Many might well be anxious to do so.

If you want to, for example, also explore Russian language and culture, you may have an opportunity to do that later in, hopefully, better times.

War is not healthy for children and other living things.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 21, 2022 at 14:31

Russia has a mathematical culture that is among the best in the world, so the mathematics that you will be taught in a Master’s program at a good Russian university will be of a very high level, and will prepare you well for a PhD program. In that sense, any university in Europe that is evaluating you for admission should not have any concerns about your mathematical preparation. Your degree will surely be “recognized” for the academic value of the knowledge that it signifies that you acquired.

The issue of concern is purely a political one. There have been many times and places in history where citizens of country X, or even people from other countries who spent time in country X or were seen as affiliated with X in various ways, were not welcome in country Y, because of a political conflict between X and Y. And at this particular moment in time, clearly many countries around the world — meaning, both their governments and large segments of their populations — are extremely upset with the specific “X” that is Russia, which is widely seen as having illegally and immorally instigated one of the most serious global geopolitical crises of the last 75 years.

Can we predict whether this will be a problem for your academic career, because of such obstacles of a political nature ending up affecting you somehow, if you go to a Russian university for your Master’s? No, obviously we cannot. But if you ask whether it is reasonable to have concerns that something like this might happen, and if those concerns are valid, I’d say: YES. Quite clearly it’s very, very reasonable, and the concerns are very, very valid.

It’s a vague statement, but that’s all anyone can say right now. Good luck in any case with whatever decision you end up making.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 26, 2022 at 14:46

Do not study in Russia

Currently travel and communicating between Russia and "the west" is difficult. I cannot predict the future, but the west has passed several sanctions against Russia, and Russia has blocked access to many non-Russian sites and news sources. I would not count on the sanctions, or Russia's decision to isolate itself to change anytime soon.

I would have several concerns about studying in Russia at the moment.

  1. Current sanctions are likely to affect funding at Russian Universities in the short term. Even if you are not funded, this will impact class and professor availability. At the extreme level the University may have to make massive cuts or close due to lack of funding.

  2. There is little to no pro-Russian sentiment in the west. Like you, I would be concerned the degree would either not be recognized, or worse, be seen as a negative in the rest of Europe, even after the war has ended. Sanctions may be imposed for years or decades. Negative feelings in the west will last for years to come. Your admission to non-Russian universities could become a political fight.

  3. If the situation worsens, it may become untenable for you to stay in Russia. Russia may decide to expel foreigners. Even if they don't, further sanctions and actions by the U.S. and Western Europe could render your degree worthless or make life so miserable you don't finish. Russia could decide to close all Universities and focus on the war effort.

  4. Travel and communication is difficult. You will almost certainly not be able to work with academics outside of Russia. If you have friends and family outside of Russia you may not be able to visit until the war is over.

  5. Conferences scheduled in Russia like the International Congress of Mathematics have been moved. You'll likely have to travel internationally to present your work. Travel is difficult and expensive. You may not get a chance to present your work outside of Russia.

  6. Russian universities will lose ground. For the reasons above, students with choices won't choose Russian universities. On top of sanctions, many businesses have cut ties with Russia. You may find yourself unable to (legally) use software you need. You may also find a dwindling supply of functional computers as the war continues and resources are reallocated.

  7. The war could escalate, the Iron Curtain could go up again. Which side do you want to be on? You and your University could be forcibly co-oped to participate in the war effort.

There are plenty of other great universities not in Russia. Attend one of those.

Do you support the invasion of Ukraine? By attending a Russian university many people and admissions departments will assume your answer is "Yes I do". You may not get a chance to explain your real sentiments.

If you are a Russian citizen

If you are a Russian citizen, people and admission departments may still assume you support the war by participating in Russian academia even though most polls show Russian academics are generally against the war.

If you are willing to leave Russia, I'd suggest moving up your plan to study abroad. Start studying abroad as soon as possible. Get out while the getting is good. Don't wait for more sanctions or for the Russian government to tightly control international travel or to be conscripted into the army.

EDIT - OP explained they are from a 3rd world country, not Russia

You did all the right things and got screwed anyway. Find another country you'd like to study in and apply for 2023. I would not advise you travel to a country in the middle of a war.

  • 16
    "Travel is difficult. You may not be able to visit friends and relatives until the war is over." You are assuming OP is not currently living in Russia. For Russians it would be the opposite.
    – Džuris
    Apr 20, 2022 at 6:47
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    "Do you support the invasion of Ukraine? By attending a Russian university you are implicitly saying "Yes I do." or "No I don't" The number of Russian academics supporting the war is much less than 50%
    – markvs
    Apr 20, 2022 at 16:23
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    @AyamGorengPedes I firmly disagree with this. This is a tabloid-level fear-mongering. My University offers counselling and support to Ukrainian and Russian students all the same. Any harassment based on nationality is strictly condemned and is not tolerated. Apr 20, 2022 at 21:49
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    @AyamGorengPedes Which EU country are you talking about? Surely you can't speak for all of them? Apr 20, 2022 at 22:02
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    @AyamGorengPedes I'd like to challenge the premise and state that perhaps being a second class citizen in the EU might be a better option than being a first class citizen in Russia. Also worth keeping in mind that people opposing the war in Russia are getting continuously and viciously harassed and threatened there, they are always at a risk of losing employment or getting jailed, so they are not "first class citizens" in their own country either, regardless of their ethnicity.
    – undercat
    Apr 20, 2022 at 22:22

It seems unlikely that recognition will be refused

It goes against all historical precedent to refuse to recognise degrees from nations engaged in such acts. Degrees from Nazi Germany continued to be recognised during and after the war, for example, and where academics were able to cross from East to West (or vice versa) during the cold war their credentials were accepted. If there is an issue it is more likely to be around book-keeping details of getting proof that the course is suitable in the right language.

However, there are likely to be other issues resulting from your choice

You will be choosing to enter a country that has started a war of aggression and is currently carrying out atrocities in Europe on a massive scale and spend your money there. It is quite likely that this choice will be viewed negatively by at least some of the people assessing your record in future. In a situation where there is a choice between you and another candidate of similar ability/record this may swing the decision against you.

Since you've updated with more details about your situation: I would think that in the circumstances you've described most people would consider that you behaved reasonably in going ahead with your plans made before the invasion began given your limited options. However, you may still encounter some negative reactions.

And sanctions may have an impact on you whilst studying

Limits on money transfer, availability of goods, travel difficulties, even the economic stability of the university at which you study may be threatened. These factors make choosing to do your MSc in Russia vs. elsewhere a more risky choice.


Some good answers already. Some additional practical considerations:

  1. The main issue for those foreign students that I have met here in Germany was always money. How do you expect to make a living in Russia? Will everything be covered by a scholarship? If yes, will this scholarship still work in times of economical crisis and a near-bankrupt Russian state? Do you plan on working? If yes, will this work in times of economical crisis? Or do you plan to receive money from your family? If yes, would this work with the current sanctions in place? Would the exchange rates be realistic or would you have to convert good hard currency via some officially inflated rate?

  2. Another answer has pointed out that there might be an increased risk of political instability. How would you leave Russia if the situation becomes unstable? Are there nearby countries where you can travel without visa? Do you trust your embassy to be able to evacuate you if the shit hits the fan? Some 3rd world countries are surprisingly good at this, but others not so much. You might use Wuhan in February 2020 or Ukraine in February/March 2022 as a reference. But keep in mind that Russia is much bigger.

  3. How would you deal with emergencies that require large-ish sums of money quickly, e.g. medical emergencies or the need to quickly leave Russia/quickly return home? Would you be able to receive money from your family under currennt circumstances (see above)?

  4. Autocratic regimes have a tendency to demand displays of loyalty and support. Displays of support from foreigners are expecially valuable. The fewer other foreigners there are in Russia, the more likely it becomes they might ask you in particular to show your support. They might also have their ways to trick you into situations where it is hard to say your actual opinion or to avoid commenting. Being perceived as having endorsed the Russian invasion of Ukraine will definitely be bad for any career in the west.

That said, I do not really see a grave moral problem here. If you think you can handle the points mentioned above, it's probably not a particularly bad idea to give it a try. Just be aware that there is a certain probability that you have to return early and without a degree, i.e. think hard about how much money and other stuff you are going to invest.

  • 1
    note that any money converted at official inflated rates is a de-facto donation towards the war effort. Apr 22, 2022 at 18:27

Yes, your degree will almost certainly be recognized, but you probably will not get what you want.

I thought I would provide an answer that is really addenda.

If an American went to Russia, it would likely have a very strong and very adverse impact on their career. A candidate from an unstable, developing nation would not likely be impacted in the same way. However, there are some things to consider that are not mentioned above.

The sanctions regime has taken on its own life. The official list of goods that were sanctioned ended up being much less than voluntary sanctions. Firms have decided to sanction Russia even though the goods are permissible under the laws of trade. So the governments have prohibited trade in X and allowed Y and Z, but the firms that produce Y are refusing to sell to Russia. Even if formal sanctions are lifted, informal sanctions may persist for years.

The reason that such things matter is that key components of standard things in computing and energy are now unavailable. It would be unsurprising to find their computers started failing due to a combination of cyberattacks damaging hardware and an inability to access components. A recent massive attack erased the hard drives of computers throughout Russia and Belarus. It was not performed by a government.

One of the reasons governments are racing to get rid of their dependence on Russian fuel is that the parts to make wells work are becoming unavailable at any price to Russians. Even if natural gas is not sanctioned, it may not be possible to get it from the ground to a European market.

It is quite possible that a university in Russia may find itself without hardware, software, and fuel for heating. While some math does not depend at all on the ability to use a computer, it restricts what you can do. A university is a very high-end proposition, in terms of supporting equipment.

The next concern I would have is the ability to enter or exit. Russia's air fleet has gone beyond its safe maintenance period. It has a stolen fleet of planes. It will have to cannibalize stolen planes for parts but many things that are dependent on software from a headquarters computer will be gone. Their civilian fleet may completely come to a halt. There may be a train to China, however. Serbia also flies one flight a week into and out of Russia.

You should consider the possibility of civil war. When Russia invaded, it brought 120 battle groups, each with 800-1000 men, to the field. They have reconsolidated their forces and now have 70 battle groups in the field. Roughly 40-50,000 soldiers are dead, wounded or captured. Thirty percent of their general staff has died in battle and a greater percentage of their colonels. It is quite possible that a group of generals may decide one morning that enough is enough. A general with an army in the field can direct that army to march in any direction, including for it to march on Moscow.

Degrees are certainly granted during civil wars, but sometimes a regime decides to kill the intelligentsia. They will not bother distinguishing foreign students from professors from native students. War is very unpredictable.

Universities depend on both the quality of their professors and the quality of their students. Russia is suffering a massive brain drain. The last news story I saw said they lost 30,000 computer scientists and software engineers. I would assume mathematicians are going out the door too. Senior faculty probably cannot flee because it has become too late. Junior mathematicians are usually less rooted and may be gone already.

The university that you applied to may not be the one you graduate from in terms of quality. Universities may have difficulty with funding, equipment, basic necessities like fuel, water, electricity, and staffing. You may be going from an unstable, developing country into a very unstable developing country that recently had world-class mathematics programs, but no longer does. Your dorm room could have bullet holes in it and the train to China might be captured by a rebel army.

Russia is imploding. It is now a vassal state of China. The People's Liberation Army is not worried anymore about the ability of Russia's army or navy to fight. They were peers.

In January of 2022, Russia's math programs were world-class. They could deteriorate quickly because academia is an expensive, difficult, resource-intensive proposition. It is difficult to consider what their state of affairs may be in January 2024 or 2025.

  • 2
    "train to China" does probably not exist atm due to Covid.
    – Jan
    Apr 21, 2022 at 8:53

I don't believe your degree would be ignored (that's nothing more than a personal opinion, by the way), but there are other matters you should be concerned about.

If you're seeking a Master's, I would imagine it's because you would like to use it in your career, and maybe even as a stepping stone to a PhD. If this is the case, it's important for you to establish robust communication with others in your field, worldwide. The immediate situation is such that you may well find substantial obstacles to this important aspect of your career development.

  • 1
    . . . robust communication with others in your field . . . You must be a very demanding MS supervisor, Prof Seidman ! Most MS candidates I met didn't see it as anything more than a path to a better-paid job. Those aspiring to do doctorates saw it as a period where they could prepare themselves for it and cultivate relations with members of the academic staff, industrial contacts, etc. A significant percentage were marking time while a girl/boyfriend finished their course at the same college or city. Encouraging MS candidates to engage robustly with others in the field could lead to upset.
    – Trunk
    Apr 22, 2022 at 10:39

The answer is: it is quite possible.

  1. You can see the current state of mind of Western academia in the comments.
  2. If you consider the MS as a stepping stone to work in industry (oil, gas, etc.) then there are sanctions.
  3. If it is pure math and you want to do grad school eventually, it is much better to do the MS in the same country as the PhD.

I did my PhD math in Russia during the Cold War when the USSR was the enemy conducting several wars and a state sponsoring terrorism. My PhD was recognized but it was not trivial.

  • 4
    it might be useful to expand a bit on the last phrase: "it was not trivial".
    – Buffy
    Apr 20, 2022 at 14:18
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    @Buffy: It is unrelated to this Q.
    – markvs
    Apr 20, 2022 at 14:41
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    By the time I came to the US I had 35 papers published, several books, newspaper columns on math, etc. That helped
    – markvs
    Apr 20, 2022 at 15:57
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    @markvs I think Buffy's question (and it would have been mine too if I wasn't beaten to the draw) is quite in order. Are you saying that your "Russian" doctorate was recognized mainly because it was represented a substantial addition to your field of study - and by implication that other concurrent PhDs with less impactful theses had a much harder time ? If so, I think that this is germane to the question raised (maybe this may explain your raising it) and merits elaboration. As much for many foreign PhD job-hunting in USA. PhDs outside certain countries seem favoured unless outstanding.
    – Trunk
    Apr 22, 2022 at 0:27
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    It is not relevant to the question because I was not a recent PhD or MS when I came to the US.
    – markvs
    Apr 22, 2022 at 2:29

Firstly, I see no danger of intellectual collapse in Russia - today or any day. Things were so much worse in 1991 when senior scientists were reduced to flogging things in their local market to provide what we in the west see as everyday decencies. Russia is a top country for intellectual and artistic endeavour. It has been for many centuries. The Putin interlude has been a disappointment for many in Russian society. But this phase will pass.

Your decision to do postgrad work in Russia would be valid even if you had a better choice of university countries than you have from where you are. This is especially so if you were accepted at one of the top rank colleges in Russia.

But while it's not unusual for people with an MS to do a PhD in another country, it is not the norm and would require a certain amount of time to adjust to the new college and local culture. So if you have the choice of doing MS and PhD in Europe then that would be easier. But if you do not currently have offers from any European university on a par with the ones making you offers in Russia, then you must take the latter and do your best there.

When I did postgrad in UK, one of the research fellows from Africa had done his primary degree in Moscow, then a PhD in UK. So the path you consider has been trodden before.

I think that when your MS is complete all this situation will be sorted out. Most people even now, whether they are sportspeople or artists or academics, see that the Russian people cannot fairly be blamed for the cruelty of their political masters. To those who at future interviews may ask why Russia for your MS, you can honestly say that you applied to many good graduate schools in Europe or US but did not receive any offers from those countries equivalent to the Russian offer.

Finally, whatever you are offered in wherever it is, you must give a lot more consideration to your research topic, the values of your graduate school, your supervisor and the university as these will be crucial to what you achieve.

Buona fortuna.


Unfortunately yes, it is possible we might rise to that level of hysterical jingoism

Based on the historically high quality of Russian mathematicians, I would think that a Russian degree in mathematics would generally be of high quality (depending on which university it is). As other commentators have pointed out, there are various practical concerns to take into account presently, due to the war. In particular, you will need to consider issues of safety, the effect of economic sanctions, issues relating to university funding, and your own status in Russia depending on what country you are from.

As to your concern that the degree might be seen negatively in the West due to anti-Russian sentiment, unfortunately it does indeed appear that this level of psychotic jingoism could occur. Throughout Europe, the US, Canada and Australia, there has been a substantial increase in anti-Russian discrimination, the vast majority of which involves people of Russian descent who are entirely removed from any involvement with the war (see e.g., Chapman (2022), Adam et al (2022), Lika (2022), Law (2022), Marcetic (2022)). In particular, this has included instances where professionals are being excluded from events due to Russian descent, banning Russian products (including cultural products), refusal to serve customers of Russian descent (or with Russian-sounding accents), refusal to provide medical treatment to people of Russian descent, proposals for loyalty oaths prior to service, etc. In such an environment, it is plausible that some of the same people who engage in these types of exclusionary activities might populate institutions that assess the quality of your degree. It would be unfortunate, but it is possible.

As an illustration of the level of hysteria, you may be interested to know that the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra banned performances of Tchaikovsky, a Russian who died over 120 years before the present war (Weaver (2022)). This was one of the lesser cases, insofar as it did not involve a living person. In the comments below, user gerrit reports that in Germany some people removed an exhibit about volcanoes in Kamchatka in response to the war, so apparantly the anti-Russian sentiment extends to ancient non-conscious geological entities that have the effrontery to now exist in the same country as the government prosecuting the war. There is no particular reason that a Russian degree would be immune from this type of reaction.

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    This answer has attracted a long series of comments that have been now moved to chat. Please continue the discussion in chat and read this FAQ before posting another comment. Apr 20, 2022 at 21:44

Many good points have been raised already in other answers. I'd like to add something that I'm missing so far:

Isolated position as foreigner impacting studies

As a foreign student going into a new country for your masters, you start from a point where you don't know anyone, don't have friends locally, and in addition there are cultural differences (including/plus language) that you need to navigate.

Both factors are present for anyone studying abroad, and they require a certain amount of your energy and time. However, if you move to Russia right now, you move into a society that I'd expect to be very tensed and in consequence not very open and trusting. Plus, everyone has their own, recently increased, troubles. This will make it very hard for you to find friends, team up with your colleagues etc. If people already don't know whether/to what extent they can trust their long-time neighbour, they're unlikely to be very open becoming friends with a foreigner.
(Others have mentioned already that communication with your family & friends at home may also be more difficult than usual)

You're thus quite likely to be in a very isolated position. Such isolation is challenging (read some of the Q&As here of PhD students that moved into a foreign country into Covid regulations), and I'd say there is a substantial risk that this strain has a negative impact on your ability to study (in the sense that due to these circumstances you may not be able to learn as much maths there as you would in friendlier times).
An excellent maths program which you cannot utilize fully may be worse than a good maths program somewhere else where you can concentrate on your studies.

(I have no real knowledge about the situation inside Russia right now. Maybe someone with actual insight could comment)

Potential choices elsewhere

Even though application deadlines are over for other programs, if you decide you don't want to go to Russia, it may be worth while to contact them saying that you got accepted into a Russian program that you applied for long before the Ukraine war started, but are urgently looking for an alternative now.

Here in Germany, many universities accept fresh students either winter or summer term. I.e., you'd lose only half a year instead of a full year.

Acceptance seen as active pro-Russian-govt statement

Similar to what others have said, I'd expect western academics to be rather understanding if you explain that your choice was basically no higher maths education at home vs. attending an excellent Russian programme which you applied for long before the war started.

That being said, if that programme offers you a scholarship paid by the Russian government, accepting this right now will be far more likely seen as a pro-Russian-govt statement.
(And I'd also be very wary of that since it gives the Russian govt even more hold over you. See also what @Jan says about totalitarian govts requiring very clear expression of loyality.)


If your goal is to get a PhD in the West, then consider enrolling in a Master's (MS) program in the West, but during your first year of the MS, work with your Russian contacts on arranging a study-abroad exchange visit during the summer between years one and two.

Assuming you can get around any visa/travel restrictions, your degree would be Western, and you'd also have an opportunity to learn from Russian mathematicians.

  • 3
    Russia will likely be considered high risk for travel in the next few years, and student exchange schemes may discourage/prevent students from going there. Apr 21, 2022 at 15:51
  • Maybe. But then more fair-minded western universities will get a chance to make partnerships with any top-rank Russian universities that were abandoned - something that ain't to be sneezed at by most western universities. In fairness, I don't see too many Moscow State partnerships breaking up.
    – Trunk
    Apr 23, 2022 at 10:33

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