June 23, 2014
Faculty from the Political Science Department at the University of Toronto speak on behalf of their PhD Student, Alexander Sodiqov
Since 16 June 2014, University of Toronto PhD student Alexander Sodiqov has been detained incommunicado in Tajikistan. Faculty from the Department of Political Science, where he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree, speak highly of Alexander as a student of politics and a young, budding scholar.
Professor Simone Chambers, Director of the Centre for Ethics at the University, has known Alex Sodiqov since he arrived in our graduate program, as she was the director of graduate studies at that time and participated in his recruitment. “I can remember how excited we were about his joining our PhD program because his academic file looked so promising and his interests so central to political research. He did not disappoint us. He is a superb scholar who takes research seriously and will make important contributions to our knowledge about political regimes.” Over the years Alex has also worked as a research assistant for Professor Chambers on projects at the Center for Ethics and his work has been exemplary professional. She adds that “Alex is a wonderful scholar who deserves our help and support in this difficult time”.
For his part, Professor Jeffrey Kopstein attests to the fact that Alexander Sodiqov is a very promising your scholar. “I first met Alexander when I was director of the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Toronto. I was very pleased that he came to complete his graduate training with us” – especially because at this University he would find a broad community of scholars with expertise and stature in the field of Eurasian Studies. Professor Kopstein promptly added that “It is very troubling to learn of Alexander’s arrest and detention. I hope that all measures are being taken to secure his release and safe return to his family.”
Professor Edward Schatz, Chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, specializes in the politics of Eurasia. He taught Alexander in 2013 in his POL2505 course in Qualitative Research Methods. “Alexander was thoughtful, serious, well-prepared, conscientious, and open-minded. His written work was exceptionally good, and his contributions to our in-class discussions were outstanding. He wrote a top-notch paper about the value of interview-based research for scholarship. In short, he was everything that a doctoral student of political science should be.” He earned a grade of “A” in the course and showed himself well suited for the rigors of fieldwork-based research. Professor Schatz added, “I wish that all our students were as good as Alexander.”
Zbigniew Wojnowski, taught Alexander in 2012 in his class ‘Nations and Nationalisms in the Former USSR’ at the University of Toronto. Mr Sodiqov received the top grade in his class, where he wrote his final essay on the importance of dams as national symbols in contemporary Tajikistan. Professor Wojnowski says, “It was a truly outstanding piece of work grounded in a solid theoretical framework and based on extensive research.” The fact that he remembers it so well two years later testifies to Mr Sodiqov’s skills as a researcher and writer. “Mr Sodiqov made a crucial contribution to class discussion, asking in-depth questions that challenged not only other students’ understanding of the material, but also my approach to the key issues we studied. Mr Sodiqov went beyond basic requirements for the class as he presented a fascinating research paper on ethnic relations in contemporary Central Asia. He is a witty, independent, and inquisitive scholar.”
According to Professor Neil Nevitte, who had Mr. Sodiqov as a student in the core PhD course in Comparative Politics, “he proved himself to be a talented student who is motivated to understand the difficulties associated with democratic transitions. His commitment is to excellence in scholarship and research for his dissertation; he has no interest in the transient micro-politics of particular regimes.”
For her part, Professor Sylvia Bashevkin had Alexander Sodiqov enrolled in her course POL450/2316F in the fall of 2012. “Alexander proved himself to be an exceptionally astute young scholar of gender and politics. He wrote a fine course paper on the participation of women in post-Soviet political systems in central Asia. To his credit, the essay drew on a large international literature about political representation and women’s leadership challenges in transitional systems. I was enormously impressed by Mr. Sodiqov’s commitment to learning and academic analysis, and by his willingness to share his knowledge with other students in the course.”
In turn, Professor Judith Teichman, Professor of Political Science and fellow at the Centre for Critical Development Studies expressed dismay at this turn of events. She wrote: “Alex Sodiqov was a student in POL2400 when I taught it in the winter of 2013. Although the material was completely new to him, he performed superbly in the course, achieving one of the highest grades. I was impressed with his breadth of knowledge, his writing and analytical capabilities, and his enthusiasm with exploring new literatures. He is a fine scholar and I urge the department and the University to press for his release so that he can continue and complete his dissertation research”.
Professor Christopher Cochrane also spoke of Alex as a pleasant young man who worked hard in his class, cooperated with other students on difficult assignments and was very well liked by everyone in the room. “Alex Sodiqov was a student of mine in POL2504, Statistics for Political Scientists, in the fall of 2011. Students in the class were allowed to choose any topic area that they wanted to study and were then asked to apply statistical analyses to that topic. Alex worked on the connection between media attention and political opinions among Russian citizens in the European Social Survey. The European Social Survey, which is the dataset that most students used to hone their statistical skills, has extensive questions on media exposure and political opinions. Alex’s work was very strong.” Professor Cochrane added that “Alex is the type of student from which we, as teachers, draw our motivation”.
Finally, Professor Jacques Bertrand, the Department’s Teaching Coordinator, commented that apart from being a PhD student in our department, Mr Sodiqov has also been a teaching assistant for the last two years. “He has primarily taught in our course on Politics in a Global World (POL114H5S). He has received very good student evaluations, and has approached his teaching duties with a high degree of professionalism and care.” This experience constitutes a key component of his current training as a scholar. The Department has hired him again as a Teaching Assistant for this course in the forthcoming academic year (2014-15).