Every 10th history master's thesis or dissertation defended since 2000 plagiarized the majority of its material from other authors, according to a study commissioned by the Russian State Library.
Beginning in May, researchers from Anti-Plagiat, a technology company that uncovers plagiarism, compared 14,500 history papers in library archives and found that more than 70 percent of the content in about 1,500 of them had been copied directly from works written by other authors.
"Our objective was to assess the scale of the disaster. The scale of the disaster is huge," Russian State Library director Alexander Visly told RIA Novosti.
While a small number of authors were borrowing from their own previously published work, the vast majority of the 1,500 papers are now under additional examination for plagiarism, an offense that can lead graduates to be stripped of their degrees.
Current rules, however, state that a master's or doctorate degree may not be revoked more than three years after it has been awarded.
Visly said the amount of plagiarism could actually be much greater, as the study only compared each work with other history papers submitted this millennium and did not take into account any uncited text borrowed from sources like books or journals.
He added that a smaller study of economics papers revealed a similar share of plagiarized work, but the scale of copied material in the natural sciences was significantly lower.
Accusations of dissertation violations have recently become more common after an Education and Sciences Ministry committee discovered the "mass production" of fake theses at Moscow State Pedagogical University earlier this year.