Russian public universities inherited from the perestroika years a system of governance that was highly democratic by international standards. Rectors and deans were elected by direct vote of inclusive conferences and collegiate bodies participated in making all major decisions. Since the mid-2000s, this system of faculty self-governance has gradually been abolished. This paper seeks to explain why these reforms have sparked surprisingly little resistance, even from academics known as vocal critics of the current Russian political regime. The paper reviews the results of the historical experiment with democratizing academic governance in Russia and thus contributes to the discussion around the status of faculty self-governance as an academic freedom.