Alexandra Elbakyan

Alexandra Asanovna Elbakyan (Russian: Алекса́ндра Аса́новна Элбакя́н,[1] born 1988[2]) is a Kazakhstani computer programmer and creator of the website Sci-Hub, which provides free access to research papers without regard for copyright.[3][4][5] According to Elbakyan, Sci-Hub has served over a billion science articles to its visitors since 2011.[6]

Alexandra Elbakyan
Alexandra Elbakyan
Elbakyan in 2021
Born (1988-11-06) 6 November 1988 (age 32)
Alma materSatbayev Kazakh National Technical University
Known forSci-Hub
Scientific career
FieldsNeural engineering, Computer science

Elbakyan has been described as "Science's Pirate Queen".[7] In 2016, Nature included her in their top ten people that mattered in science list.[8] Ars Technica has compared her to Aaron Swartz,[9] and The New York Times has compared her to Edward Snowden.[10]


Elbakyan was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan on 6 November 1988.[2][11] She identifies as multiracial, being of Armenian, Slavic, and Asian descent.[12]

In 2009, she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from the Kazakh National Technical University, specializing in information security.[13][14]

After a year working in computer security in Moscow, she had sufficient funds to go to University of Freiburg in 2010 to work on a brain–computer interface project.[15] She then developed an interest in transhumanism, which led to her summer internship in "Neuroscience and Consciousness" at Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States.[16]

According to a 2016 interview, her neuroscience research was on hold, but she had enrolled in a history of science master's program at a "small private university" in an undisclosed location. Her thesis would focus on scientific communication.[13] In 2019, she graduated from Saint Petersburg State University with a master's degree in linguistics.[17]


Elbakyan at Wiki-award 2016

Elbakyan returned to Kazakhstan in 2011.[18] 2011 was the same year she developed Sci-Hub, characterised by Science correspondent John Bohannon as "an awe-inspiring act of altruism or a massive criminal enterprise, depending on whom you ask."[13]

Following a 2015 lawsuit brought in the US by the publisher Elsevier, Elbakyan remains in hiding due to the risk of extradition;[19] Elsevier was granted an injunction against her and $15 million in damages.[20][21] Elbakyan and Sci-Hub were again involved in a US lawsuit in 2017, this time with the American Chemical Society. ACS sued the site for copyright and trademark violations, and conversion.[22] Later that year, the court ruled in favor of ACS, fining Sci-Hub $4,800,000 in damages, enjoining further infringement, and prohibiting search engines and domain name registries from "facilitating access" to Sci-Hub.[23][24]

Recognition and awardsEdit

In December 2016, Nature named Alexandra Elbakyan as one of the 10 people who most mattered in science that year.[8]

In 2017, a species of parasitoid wasps discovered by Russian and Mexican entomologists was named after Elbakyan (Idiogramma elbakyanae), although Elbakyan was not happy about this (see below).[25]


Elbakyan is a strong supporter of the Open Access movement, and argues that websites like Sci-Hub are part of the goal Open Access proponents are striving towards.[26] Elbakyan believes that via this Open Access movement, citizens can become more informed.[27] In 2018, Elbakyan asked supporters of Sci-Hub to join their local Pirate Party in order to fight for copyright laws to be changed.[28]

Elbakyan has stated that she is inspired by communist ideals, although she does not consider herself a strict Marxist.[29] She has stated that she supports a strong state which can stand up to the Western world, and that she does not want "the scientists of Russia and of my native Kazakhstan to share the fates of the scientists of Iraq, Libya, and Syria, that were 'helped' by the United States to become more democratic."[30] In particular, Elbakyan is strongly critical of the former Dynasty Foundation (shut down in 2015) and its associated figures. She believes that the foundation was politicized, tied to Russia's liberal opposition, and fit the legal definition of a "foreign agent". Dynasty's founder, in her opinion, financed researchers whose political views agreed with its own.[30] Elbakyan states that after she began to investigate the foundation's activities and published her findings online, she became the target of a cyberharassment campaign by Dynasty's supporters.[31]


In 2017, a species of parasitoid wasps discovered by Russian and Mexican entomologists was named after Elbakyan (Idiogramma elbakyanae).[25] Elbakyan was offended by this, writing, "If you analyse the situation with scientific publications, the real parasites are scientific publishers, and Sci-Hub, on the contrary, fights for equal access to scientific information."[32] Following this event, and in the context of her long-running tense relations with the liberal, pro-Western wing of the Russian scientific community, she blocked access to Sci-Hub for users from the Russian Federation.[33] Sci-Hub access was later restored to Russia and Elbakyan said in an interview that many fans contacted her and convinced her "that the opinion of the so-called 'science popularizers' who attacked me on the Internet cannot be considered the opinion of the scientific community."[34] The Russian entomologist responsible for naming the wasp stated that he supports Sci-Hub, and that in any event, the naming was not an insult, in particular because parasitoids are closer to predators than to parasites.[35]

In December 2019, The Washington Post reported that Elbakyan was under investigation by the US Justice Department for suspected ties to Russia's military intelligence arm, the GRU, to steal U.S. military secrets from defense contractors.[36] Elbakyan has denied this, saying that Sci-Hub "is not in any way directly affiliated with Russian or some other country's intelligence," but noting that "of course, there could be some indirect help. The same as with donations, anyone can send them; they are completely anonymous, so I do not know who exactly is donating to Sci-Hub."[37]

On May 8, 2021, Elbakyan tweeted that the FBI had served a subpoena to Apple seeking her data. The tweet included a screengrab of the notice from Apple.[38]


  • Elbakyan, Alexandra (2016-02-24). "Why Sci-Hub is the true solution for Open Access: reply to criticism".
  • Elbakyan, Alexandra (2016-05-20). "Why Science is Better with Communism? The Case of Sci-Hub". Open Access Symposium 2016, University of North Texas.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Элбакян Александра Асановна / RUNET-ID". Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  2. ^ a b Coralie Trinh Thi (2016). "Alexandra Elbakyan: la pirate scientifique" (in French). Archived from the original on January 11, 2017. Née en 1988 au Kazakhstan... elle étudie les neurosciences à Astana et son université n'a pas les moyens de payer l'abonnement aux publications des éditeurs scientifiques. Pour son projet de recherche (l'interactivité cerveau-machine), elle aurait dû acheter chaque article autour de 30 dollars – un prix faramineux quand on sait qu'il faut consulter des dizaines ou des centaines d'articles. Elle n'a qu'une solution: les pirater
  3. ^ Elbakyan, Alexandra; Bozkurt, Aras (2021). "A Critical Conversation with Alexandra Elbakyan: Is she the Pirate Queen, Robin Hood, a Scholarly Activist, or a Butterfly Flapping its Wings?". Asian Journal of Distance Education. 16 (1): 111–118.
  4. ^ "Transcript and translation of Sci-Hub presentation". University of North Texas. Retrieved January 1, 2017. We have a recent addition to our lineup of speakers that we'll start off the day with: Alexandra Elbakyan. As many of you know, Alexandra is a Kazakhstani graduate student, computer programmer, and the creator of the controversial Sci-Hub site.
  5. ^ Dylla, H. Frederick (2016-03-21). "No need for researchers to break the law to access scientific publications". Physics Today. doi:10.1063/PT.5.2031. ISSN 0031-9228.
  6. ^ "sci-hub". Vkontakte. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  7. ^ Graber-Stiehl, Ian (2018-02-08). "Science's Pirate Queen". The Verge. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Nature's 10: Ten people who mattered this year". Nature. 540 (7634): 507–515. 2016-03-12. Bibcode:2016Natur.540..507.. doi:10.1038/540507a. PMID 30905952. In 2009, when she was a graduate student working on her final-year research project in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Elbakyan became frustrated at being unable to read many scholarly papers because she couldn't afford them...
  9. ^ Kravets, David (3 April 2016). "A spiritual successor to Aaron Swartz is angering publishers all over again". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on January 11, 2017. Retrieved 18 April 2016. Just as Swartz did, this hacker is freeing tens of millions of research articles from paywalls, metaphorically hoisting a middle finger to the academic publishing industry, which, by the way, has again reacted with labels like "hacker" and "criminal." Meet Alexandra Elbakyan, the developer of Sci-Hub, a Pirate Bay-like site for the science nerd. It's a portal that offers free and searchable access "to most publishers, especially well-known ones."
  10. ^ "Opinion | Should All Research Papers Be Free?". The New York Times. 2016-03-12. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  11. ^ "Alexandra Elbakyan". (in Russian). Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  12. ^ Elbakyan, Alexandra (February 19, 2016). "Wiki identifies me as ethnic Armenian while I'm multiracial having both armenian, slavic and asian roots. Politics?". Twitter. Archived from the original on 25 August 2020.
  13. ^ a b c Bohannon, John (29 April 2016). "The frustrated science student behind Sci-Hub". Science. 352 (6285): 511. Bibcode:2016Sci...352..511B. doi:10.1126/science.352.6285.511. PMID 27126021.
  14. ^ "Bacteria Hunt:A multimodal, multiparadigm BCI game" (PDF). University of Twente. p. 22. Alexandra A. Elbakyan graduated from KazNTU with a bachelor's degree in IT in June 2009. She conducted a study regarding person identification by EEG in her final year thesis. She is going to continue her research in brain-computer interfaces and brain implants
  15. ^ Gameiro, Denise Neves (June 4, 2016). "This 27-year-old Woman is Shaking up the Scientific Publishing Industry". Archived from the original on January 11, 2017. Alexandra Elbakyan, a 27-year-old researcher from Kazakhstan...was studying ‘Neuroscience and Consciousness' in labs at Georgia Tech (US) and University of Freiburg (Germany)...she was forced to pirate papers for herself and other researchers
  16. ^ "People". Georgia Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on January 11, 2017. Alexandra Elbakyan [...] Summer 2010 [...] Programming and data analysis
  17. ^ "Alexandra Elbakyan | Sci-Hub".
  18. ^ Peet, Lisa (August 25, 2016). "Sci-Hub Controversy Triggers Publishers' Critique of Librarian". Library Journal. Archived from the original on January 11, 2017. Elbakyan, a software developer and neurotechnology researcher, created Sci-Hub originally out of frustration over lack of access to scholarly material in her native Kazakhstan
  19. ^ Bohannon, John (29 April 2016). "Who's downloading pirated papers? Everyone". Science. 352 (6285): 508–512. doi:10.1126/science.aaf5664. PMID 27126020. Elbakyan also answered nearly every question I had about her operation of the website, interaction with users, and even her personal life. Among the few things she would not disclose is her current location, because she is at risk of financial ruin, extradition, and imprisonment because of a lawsuit launched by Elsevier last year.
  20. ^ Schiermeier, Quirin (22 June 2017). "US court grants Elsevier millions in damages from Sci-Hub". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2017.22196.
  21. ^ Buranyi, Stephen (27 June 2017). "Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?". The Guardian.
  22. ^ United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, American Chemical Society vs. JOHN DOEs 1–99, Case 1:17-cv-00726-LMB-JFA, Document 1, Filed June 23, 2017, pp. 1–21.
  23. ^ United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, American Chemical Society vs. Sci-Hub d/b/a, John Does 1–99, Civil Action No, 1:17cv0726 (LMB/JFA), Document 22, Filed Sept. 28, 2017, pp. 1–16.
  24. ^ "American Chemical Society Wins Lawsuit Against Sci-Hub" on The Scientist [1]
  25. ^ a b Khalaim, Andrey I.; Ruíz-Cancino, Enrique (31 August 2017). "Ichneumonidae (Hymenoptera) associated with xyelid sawflies (Hymenoptera, Xyelidae) in Mexico". Journal of Hymenoptera Research. 58: 17–27. doi:10.3897/jhr.58.12919.
  26. ^ Ojala, Marydee (May 2016). "Sci-Hub, Elsevier, Piracy, and the Future of Scholarly Publishing". Information Today. 33: 122–125.
  27. ^ "Alexandra Elbakyan – Science Should be Open to all Not Behind Paywalls -".
  28. ^ "Why Sci-Hub is illegal, and what you can do about it". 2018-07-07.
  29. ^ Кузнецов, Даниил (23 December 2016). "Пиратка года: До Сноудена или Ассанжа мне пока далеко" (in Russian). Life. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  30. ^ a b Владимиров, Василий. "Политизация популяризации науки в современной России: о фонде "Династия"" (in Russian). APN. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  31. ^ Зораб, Руслан (6 September 2017). "Александра Элбакян: о либералах, троллинге и блокировке Sci-Hub в России" (in Russian). Naked Science. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  32. ^ Elbakyan pulls Sci-Hub from Russia, 7 September 2017
  33. ^ Sivcova, Alexandra (6 September 2017). "Именем создателя бесплатной базы научных публикаций назвали насекомое. Она пожаловалась на травлю и заблокировала сайт для ученых из России — Meduza" [The 'Edward Snowden' of pirated scholarly literature has banned Russian Internet users because of a personal grudge]. Meduza (in Russian). Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  34. ^ "Вернуть Sci-Hub". Status Prаеsens (in Russian). 2017-09-12. Retrieved 2017-09-12.
  35. ^ Котляр, Павел (5 September 2017). "Варитесь в своем дерьме сами" (in Russian). Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  36. ^ "Justice Department investigates Sci-Hub founder on suspicion of working for Russian intelligence". The Washington Post. 2019-12-19. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  37. ^ Rohrlich, Justin (23 December 2019). "The "Robin Hood of science" says she's not a Russian asset". Quartz. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  38. ^ "'received a few minutes ago to my GMail. at first I thought it was a spam and was about to delete the email, but it turned out to be about FBI requesting my data from Apple'". Twitter. Archived from the original on 8 May 2021. Retrieved 9 May 2021.

Further readingEdit

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