N’isolez pas les scientifiques russes !

Nous avons reçu de l’historien russe Askold Ivantchik, professeur à l’Université de Moscou et correspondant étranger de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, hostile à la guerre en Ukraine, la lettre suivante, qui plaide pour le maintien de relations entre communautés scientifiques et culturelles russes et occidentales. L’auteur s’inquiète d’une possible mise à l’écart des savants russes par leurs collègues américains et européens, dont il estime qu’elle ferait le jeu de Vladimir Poutine en isolant le pays du monde extérieur et en réduisant les contestataires au silence.

L’ancienne Université de Moscou, en face du Manège, aujourd’hui Faculté de journalisme
Gravure d’après Constantin Juon Wilipedia Commons

Dear colleagues and friends,

I would like to share with you some thoughts about the situation in which we all find ourselves.

Putin’s attack on Ukraine and the transition to a new level of aggression against this country, which began in 2014, has deeply shocked the whole world. It also came as a great shock to many Russian citizens, including members of the scientific community. On the very first day, an open letter of scholars came out strongly condemning the invasion of Ukraine ; within six days it was signed by 7,000 scholars (signatures are still coming in), including some 130 members of the Russian Academy of Sciences (the text in English and other languages is here : https://trv-science.ru/en/2022/02/we-are-against-war-en/). Some 1,200,000 Russian citizens signed the anti-war petition on Change.org in six days - an absolute record for such a statement in Russia.

In the current circumstances, in my opinion, the first task of the global scientific community should be to support, including materially, Ukrainian scholars, both those in warring Ukraine and those who find themselves in refugee situations in other countries. They must be given the possibility to live decently and to continue their research. The solidarity with Ukrainian colleagues should be an absolute priority.

Russian scholars have also become victims of Putin’s aggression, especially those in the opposition who are not afraid to speak out. The regime is tightening very rapidly. There have already been statements from the authorities to the effect that public anti-war declarations are identical to high treason, anti-war protesters have been arrested by the thousands, and the last independent media have been closed down.

At the same time, European and American research institutions, journals and individual scholars are halting cooperation with Russian researchers, as well as are refusing to publish them and inviting them to conferences. This reaction is understandable from an emotional point of view, but seems to be wrong and unfair. This is exactly what Putin wants : in order to retain his power, he needs to isolate the country from the outside world and shut up all dissenters inside the country. By isolating Russian academics, among whom there are many such dissenters, the Western colleagues are helping Putin. Those who have signed anti-war petitions have openly declared themselves as opponents of the regime, and the consequences for them could be very serious. Paradoxically, their Western colleagues also want to punish them once again. Those who cooperate with Western scholars share common values with them, and among them the supporters of the war in Ukraine are rare, so the restrictive measures are aiming at the wrong target.

There is another side to the problem. Science and culture are the last bridges that bind peoples together when political dialogue and economic cooperation are not possible. They should not be destroyed in order to keep a possibility of dialogue with the Russian people, including re-establishing of normal relations after the the change of the regime in Russia.

I urge European and American colleagues to maintain academic cooperation with Russian academics wherever possible and not to discriminate against them on the basis of their origin, affiliation or citizenship. Those who are in danger after having openly condemned Putin’s aggression should be supported. The Austrian Academy of Sciences and some other institutions have already taken such decisions(https://www.oeaw.ac.at/news/oeaw-unterstuetzt-offenen-brief-russischer-wissenschaftler-innen-gegen-den-krieg) ; the Russian scholars are very grateful to them.

I don’t know, if the UAI can or its members can help, but perhaps this situation could be discussed by the bureau.

Best regards,
Askold Ivantchik