December 19, 2021
From Libcom

101 Russian mathematicians sent the following letter to the
International Mathematical Union Executive Committee, concerning the
case of our colleague Azat Miftakhov.

Dear members of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) Executive

For working links, check original at…

101 Russian mathematicians sent the following letter to the
International Mathematical Union Executive Committee, concerning the
case of our colleague Azat Miftakhov.

Dear members of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) Executive

In Summer 2022, mathematicians of the world are going to convene to mark
the achievements of our colleagues and discipline on the whole during
the International Congress of Mathematicians scheduled to be held in
Saint Petersburg, Russia. This event is of utmost importance for the
global mathematical community. Freedom of association, open scientific
cooperation between academic communities from different nations, and
political neutrality are all cornerstone values that the Congress is set
to secure for all mathematicians, which is why we laud the decision to
hold the Congress in Russia and make it possible for hundreds of our
colleagues to participate. Yet one of Russian mathematicians is deprived
of this opportunity on political grounds by Russian authorities — in
contrast to the very values that IMU holds dear.

We are referring to Azat Miftakhov, a graduate student at Faculty of
Mechanics and Mathematics of Moscow State University and an anarchist
activist, who has been unlawfully incarcerated by the Russian
authorities since February 1, 2019. Accused of breaking a window of a
local office of Russia’s ruling party, he was initially detained under
charges of attempting a terrorist attack. Thanks to the prompt reaction
of civil society and the global mathematical community, this charge was
dropped by the state prosecutors, but Miftakhov was nonetheless
convicted of committing “hooliganism” and sentenced to six years in
federal prison — the term he has been serving to the present day. As of
now, he is forced to work on a timber mill despite health conditions and
is refused access to the recent English-language mathematical publications.

Facts leave no doubt about the political motivation behind his
persecution. It has been scrupulously reported that Azat and other
detainees were tortured in order to force out confessions (including
threats of penetration with a screwdriver); authorities pressured Azat’s
family in the course of criminal proceedings. The whole indictment is
based solely on the testimony of a “secret witness” that fails to stand
up to public scrutiny. In addition, there was an apparent smear campaign
against Miftakhov in jingoist media, some of them state-controlled, that
involved using homophobic slurs against him and sharing private
information that could not have been acquired in a legal way, such as
leaked intimate photos of Azat or recordings of the phone calls with his

The Miftakhov case is by no means an outlier: ever since January 31,
2018, when the crime Azat had been accused of took place, Russia’s
Federal Security Service (also known as FSB) only doubled down on its
crackdown on people with anarchist views in Russia. However, the
academic community in general has since become the target of mounting
pressure or even outright repression from Russian authorities. There is
a long list of Russian scientists arrested by FSB for alleged treason or
espionage including Valery Mitko, Valery Golubkin, Viktor Kudryavtsev
and many others. The repressions against Russian scholars are not
limited to the natural sciences, with a sociologist and a rector of a
major Russia’s non-state university Sergei Zuev being among the most
recent victims.

Endorsements coming from the American Mathematical Society, London
Mathematical Society, Mathematical Society of France, Italian
Mathematical Union, Brazilian Society of Mathematics, and, last not
least, from 54 members of the Russian Academy of Sciences serve as ample
evidence that the international mathematical community is indeed gravely
concerned with the situation. A petition to raise the voice about the
Miftakhov case was signed by more than 300 mathematicians and supported
by Mathematical Societies of Spain, France, and Ukraine. After all, the
International Mathematical Union has itself called the Russian
government to let Miftakhov finish his graduate studies in France, where
he was proposed a position by the Fondation Mathématique Jacques
Hadamard and the Laboratoire de Mathématiques d’Orsay.

Without taking a more steadfast and active stance on the matter, the
call for Miftakhov’s release would fall upon deaf ears and result in no
action on behalf of the Russian government, like the call of the 54
Russian academicians fell. Simply letting the FSB officer Dmitry
Derevyashkin to be listed as a co-organizer of the International
Mathematical Congress (ICM) and allowing the Prime Minister of Russia
Mikhail Mishustin to promote himself on the ICM official twitter
account, while Azat is kept incarcerated and forced to work on a timber
mill in lieu of doing mathematical research, is an act that goes against
the values of political neutrality and professional solidarity that IMU
is built upon. We agree that boycotting scientific events is
unacceptable, but neither is continued collaboration with the very
people and organizations who perpetrate political persecution of
scientists in our country. This is why we support the idea expressed by
Ahmed Abbes and Cédric Villani and call for IMU to do something it has
once had the bravery to do in response to repressions against fellow
mathematicians — that is to defer the International Congress of
Mathematicians to the moment Azat is released from prison or his case is
reviewed in a process that respects his constitutional rights. Moreover,
we believe that the Congress, being held in Russia, must include a
sectional panel on mathematicians in danger, such as those persecuted on
political grounds by authoritarian regimes, which would be open to the
public and widely covered by independent journalists.

Azat’s sentence is expected to end on December 5, 2023, which makes it
completely possible to preserve the kind of celebration ICM is for
everyone, not just those lucky not to be arbitrarily persecuted by an
authoritarian government.Reluctance to act would be a scar upon the good
name of IMU as a professional organization committed to the values of
scientific freedom and political neutrality.

Signed by 101 Russian mathematicians, including 24 non-public
signatories whose names we are withholding for their safety and protection.

List of the 77 public signatories:

Arseniy Akopyan, Institute for Information Transmission Problems,
Russian Academy of Sciences
Dmitri Alekseevsky, Institute for Information Transmission Problems
Maxim Balashov
Alexey Balitskiy, IAS
Mikhail Borovoi, Tel Aviv University
Alexander Bufetov, CNRS
Alisa Chistopolskaya, NRU HSE
Petr Chunaev, ITMO University
Rodion Deev, IMPAN
Anna Dmitrieva, University of East Anglia
Ilya Dumanski, MIT
Alexander Efimov, NRU HSE and Steklov Mathematical Institute
Alexander Elashvili, Tbilisi State University, Razmadze Mathematical
Sergey N. Fëdorov
Boris Feigin, HSE
Sergey Finashin
Yan V Fyodorov, King’s College London
Azat Gainutdinov, CNRS France
Nikita Gladkov, UCLA
Artem Gureev, University of Western Ontario
Leonid Gurvits, The City College of New York
Lyalya Guseva
Michael Hitrik, UCLA
Andrei Ionov, MIT
Grigory Ivanov, MIPT and IST Austria
Victor Kac, MIT
Ilya Kapovich, Hunter College of CUNY
Roman Karasev, Institute for Information Transmission Problems
Nikolai Konovalov, University of Notre Dame
Dmitri Korshunov, IMPA
Gregory Kucherov, CNRS
Nikolai Kuchumov, NRU HSE
Yury Kudryashov, University of Toronto
Mikhail Lobanov, Lomonosov Moscow State University
Igor Lysenok, Steklov Mathematical Institute
Dimitri Markushevich, University of Lille
Irina Mamsurova, NRU HSE
Anastasia Matveeva, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
Sergey Melikhov, Steklov Mathematical Institute
Leonid Monin, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences in
Slava Naprienko, Stanford University
Nikita Nikolskiy, NRU HSE
Ilya Novikov, The Gertner Institute, Chaim Sheba Medical Center
Victor Ostrik, University of Oregon
Anna Perevalova
Alexander Petrov, Harvard University
Leonid Petrov, University of Virginia
Aleksei Piskunov, NRU HSE
Semën Podkorytov
Gleb Pogudin
Alexander Popkovich, NRU HSE
Sergey Popov, University of Porto
Vladimir Potapov, Sobolev Institute of Mathematics
Leonid Prigozhin, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Vladimir Protasov, Moscow State University
Andrei Rodin, Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences
Vasily Rogov, Humboldt University of Berlin
Daniel Rogozin, Institute for Information Transmission Problem of
Russian Academy of Sciences
Slava Rychkov, IHES
Alexander Shen, CNRS & University of Montpellier
Ilias Sibgatullin
Ivan Solonenko, King’s College London
Mikhail Tamm, Moscow State University and Tallinn University
Grigory Taroyan, NRU HSE
Yana Teplitskaya
Gleb Terentiuk, University of Michigan
Arkady Tsurkov, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN)
Alexandra Utiralova, MIT
Dmitri Vassiliev, University College London
Misha Verbitsky, IMPA
Anatoly Vershik, Saint Petersburg branch of Steklov Mathematical Institute
Vladimir Vinnikov, HSE
Vladimir Zakharov
Bogdan Zavyalov, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics
Efim Zelmanov, UC San Diego
Vadim Zharnitsky, University of Illinois
Boris Zilber, University of Oxford