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Human rights a thorn in the side of the International Mathematical Union: the case of Azat Miftakov

By Ahmed Abbes and Cédric Villani

At the end of September, the International Mathematical Union (IMU) will celebrate its centenary with great pomp in Strasbourg, the city where it was created in 1920. The event, entitled “Mathematics without Borders,” has been postponed for one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “The centennial of the foundation is a moment to reflect on the long and varied history of international cooperation of mathematicians and show that the modern IMU seeks to include mathematicians from all countries,” announce the organizers.

The IMU oversees and convenes the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) every four years, which is the largest congress for mathematics and at which prestigious prizes are awarded, including the Fields medals. The next Congress will take place in St Petersburg in July 2022. The Russian government has pledged to grant visa-free entry to mathematicians from all countries, which seems to have tipped the scales in favor of St Petersburg in its bid against Paris. However, the ideal of “Mathematics without Borders” will not be achieved in this ICM. Several colleagues have already expressed strong reluctance to travel to Russia, whose government violates human rights and suppresses fundamental freedoms, including members of the LGBTQ community and Ukrainian mathematicians. They will not be the only ones who cannot attend the festivities. The young Russian mathematician Azat Miftakhov will not participate either. He will probably be imprisoned in the correctional colony number 17 in Omutninsk in Kirov province, following an iniquitous judgment.

Miftakhov’s doctoral studies at Moscow State University were interrupted in February 2019, when he was arrested by police and charged with manufacturing explosives. At the police station he was tortured, but after three days the court threw out the case for lack of evidence. He was released but then rearrested before leaving the police station; this time he was charged with having participated in a plot more than a year earlier to break a window at an office of President Putin’s United Russia Party. Miftakhov pleaded not guilty, but this January 18, 2021, a Moscow court pronounced a six-year sentence in a penal colony, on the basis of testimony by two secret “witnesses” — one of whom claimed to have identified the masked Miftakhov by his “expressive brows,” and who died several months before the trial. The other two defendants, who admitted their guilt while denying that Miftakhov was involved in the incident, received suspended sentences of between two and four years.

The Russian human rights organization “Memorial” recognized Miftakhov’s political prisoner status as early as 2019.  Two petitions in his support had been published by the time of his January sentencing: one in Russia had gathered more than 86000 signatures, while a second petition was signed by over 3,400 mathematicians from 15 countries. Before the verdict, academicians, professors, and corresponding members of the Russian Academy of Sciences had published an open letter calling on the court to release Miftakhov. Human Rights Watch declared after the verdict that “Azat Miftakhov’s conviction is clearly unjust and unfair, and authorities should immediately and unconditionally overturn it.” 

Mathematicians around the world were shocked by the court’s decision.  Just before the court announced the sentence in January, 47 mathematicians sent a letter to the St Petersburg ICM Organizing Committee asking them to take an active position on this case. The Hadamard Doctoral School of Mathematics at Paris-Saclay University issued a statement on March 4, 2021 naming Azat Miftakhov an honorary student and inviting him to complete his doctorate in Paris once he is released. Many professional associations, including the national mathematical societies in the US, UK, France, Brazil, Italy, and Spain, have issued public statements expressing their concern about his case. 

A committee of mathematicians was formed last January to defend Azat Miftakhov. It organized several actions, including the Azat Miftakhov Day on June 16, 2021, which once again demonstrated the strong solidarity of the international mathematical community with Azat.

A few weeks later, on August 1st, Azat Mifatkhov was  moved to the correctional colony number 17 in Omutninsk in Kirov Province, which is known for the mistreatment and torture of prisoners. He was first assigned to hard physical labor in a woodworking shop, consisting in cleaning sawdust from under the sawmill. Later, he informed his wife that his working conditions have improved somewhat and he now “carries boards instead of sawdust,” which, according to him, is much easier. He described his life in the penal colony in detail in a personal letter to his wife. “At the entrance to the camp, almost all of my clothes were not allowed through. They left me only socks, underpants, gloves and thermal underwear (…) the same with books: all my books were taken, supposedly for a check” he wrote. 

Despite the strong support of the mathematical community, one voice is conspicuously lacking in its support for Azat, namely the voice of the International Mathematical Union. Although the IMU expressed, in rather conditional terms, concern about his fate in the past, it still has not called for his release. On August 23, 2021, the Azat Miftakhov Committee, supported by 322 mathematicians including Fields Medal and Abel Prize winners, and 4 mathematical societies, sent a letter to the IMU Executive Committee regarding Azat’s case. “It is now time for the IMU to follow the position adopted by the international mathematical community it represents and to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Azat Miftakhov” they wrote. “As the IMU’s partner in the organization of the next ICM in July 2022 in St Petersburg, the Russian government cannot ignore such a call,” they added.  To date, the IMU Executive Committee has not responded to this letter.

It is not the first time the IMU has faced blatant human rights abuses. The 1982 ICM was initially planned in Warsaw. But following General Jaruzelski’s coup d’état in Poland in December 1981, a state of emergency was declared and thousands of activists were thrown into prison or camps, including several mathematicians. The IMU decided in April 1982 to postpone the ICM. It was finally held in August 1983 after the release of the imprisoned mathematicians and the lifting of the curfew. 

This famous historical case should have inspired the IMU Executive Committee to work to obtain the release of our young colleague. Instead, it continues to ignore the support calls issued by the international mathematical community. In doing so, the IMU Executive Committee may jeopardize the upcoming ICM; attending the congress in St Petersburg while Azat is arbitrarily detained will pose a serious dilemma for the entire mathematical community.

Ahmed Abbes, mathematician, Director of research at CNRS, IHES, Paris

Cédric Villani, mathematician, Laureate of the Fields Medal (2010), Université Lyon 1 Claude Bernard, Member of the French Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy and Member of the French National Assembly

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Over 300 mathematicians call on the IMU to speak out on the case of Azat Miftakhov

The IMU Executive Committee did not respond to our message of August 23, 2021 regarding the case of our colleague Azat Miftakhov. We sent them the following new message on September 6, 2021.

Dear members of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) Executive Committee,


We sent you a letter regarding the case of our colleague Azat Miftakhov on August 23. We would like to inform you that since then, the letter has been signed by more than 300 mathematicians and 3 learned mathematical societies. The full signatories list is available at this address

We take this message to inform you that Azat has started serving the rest of his sentence in the Omutninsk penal colony number 17 after a period of quarantine. He was first assigned to hard physical labor in a woodworking shop, consisting in cleaning sawdust from under the sawmill. Later, he informed his wife that his working conditions have improved somewhat and he now “carries boards instead of sawdust,” which, according to him, is much easier. He described his life in the penal colony in detail in a personal letter to his wife. “At the entrance to the camp, almost all of my clothes were not allowed through. They left me only socks, panties, gloves and thermal underwear … the same with books: all my books were taken, supposedly for a check” he wrote.

We renew our urgent request to the IMU to follow the position adopted by the international mathematical community it represents and to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Azat Miftakhov. The physical and moral integrity of our young colleague are at stake.

The Azat Miftakhov Committee

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Azat Miftakhov writes to his wife about his life in the penal colony number 17 in Omutninsk

Azat Miftakhov said in a telephone conversation with his wife Elena Gorban that his working conditions in the Omutninsk penal colony # 17 have improved somewhat and he now “carries boards instead of sawdust,” which, according to him, is much easier. The mathematician described his life in the penal colony in detail in a personal letter to his wife. “Idel.Realii” published some excerpts with the consent of the wife of the political prisoner, which we translate below.

I dislike many things here. The stupid militarism, the smart-mouth employees, some of whom communicate extremely dismissively with the convicts, including obscenities, and the prospect of working at a stupid mind-numbing job. All this elicits protest. (…)

When they [the colony authorities] first meet me, they all immediately ask the same question, what kind of [the criminal code] article is this 213rd. 
I explain that it is hooliganism. Employee: “What did you do to misbehave?” “I did not do anything”. He: “What was written in the verdict?” I say that I was accused of vandalizing the United Russia office. He: “Why did you smash it?” “I did not smash, and I have nothing to do with the case,” and I begin to explain about the secret witness, but he no longer listens to me and begins to prove to me that there are no innocent people here … ” (…)

Here is one employee who distinguished himself from the others. When he found out what I was accused of, he asked me sternly: “What are you against Russia? I mean, not United Russia, but Russia?” Me: “ No, I am for the Russian people, but against this party. ”He:“ Is that why it was necessary to smash the office? Have you built anything before you smashed? Did you build a house, planted a tree, raised a child?” I say: “Let’s start with the fact that I have nothing to do with this business … ” Have you been sentenced? Was the sentence confirmed? So, you were involved! “. Almost always during such conversations, a biographical questionnaire is conducted, and in this connection they talk about my education. Then, having learned that I studied and worked at Moscow State University, that I am a mathematician, etc. they claim that everything was fine with me, and I ruined everything myself, being drawn into anarchist movements.” (…)

As for the conditions, there are no complaints.  We live next to the forest, so we sleep well at night. The food here is good, even better than in the Kirov SIZO, and much better than in Butyrka. (…)

At the entrance to the camp, almost all of my clothes were not allowed through.  They left me only socks, panties, gloves and thermal underwear … now I have no T-shirts and pants at all, but there is only a T-shirt and overalls issued by the colony … the same with books: all my books were taken, supposedly for a check. (…)

If I had at least some guarantees that for my obedience I can count on parole, say in about in six months, I would probably endure everything and obey the requirements of the administration. But since I expect every trick that could take away my parole, I am considering refusing my assigned work. Sometimes, I think that if they reprimand me for some trifle, like an unbuttoned button on my uniform, this will be sufficient reason for me to do so.

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Novaya Gazeta: MSU graduate student Azat Miftakhov, convicted in the case of the “broken window”, was sent to hard labor in the colony

Translation of an article published on August 24, 2021 in “Novaya Gazeta”.

Anarchist and mathematics graduate student of the Moscow State University Azat Miftakhov, sentenced to six years in prison in the case of a broken window in the office of United Russia, was assigned to hard physical labor in a woodworking shop. This was told to Novaya Gazeta by his wife Elena Gorban.

Now Miftakhov is serving his sentence in correctional colony No. 17 of the Kirov region (Omutninsk). During the visit of a local lawyer Svetlana Frolova, Miftakhov said that after two and a half years in the pre-trial detention center cell, he was sent to clean sawdust from under the sawmill. Miftakhov would like to transfer to a different work assignment.

Relatives of the anarchist, according to Gorban, fear that this work may be chosen as a tactic of pressure on Miftakhov.

“This is hard unreasonable work, which in other colonies is usually automated. If he is sent to a strict, poorly known colony far from the place of his residence, and immediately upon arrival he is given such work, after two and a half years of forced restriction of no physical activity, it may well be a desire to make his remaining term as difficult as possible within the law. But other prisoners who probably do the same job, too, are not in the best conditions either,” Gorban says.

Former political prisoner Ivan Astashin, who has served almost 10 years in prison in the case of the Autonomous Combat Terrorist Organization (banned in the Russian Federation), said in his Telegram channel that in the colonies such sawmills can be automated, and work on the Soviet sawmill, which “has seen Brezhnev”, is “a lesson for masochists”. “I don’t know what’s going on at the production site in Omutninsky IK-17 – the sawdust suction hood broke there, or it’s not installed there at all, so that prisoners don’t have any strength to defend their rights. But one thing I’ll say for sure is that it is very hard for Azat there now. <…> It’s akin to torture,” he wrote.

It became known that Miftakhov was transferred to IK-17 of the Omutninsky district in early August. Prisoners of this colony talked about torture, and their testimony was published by Radio Liberty.

On August 15, Miftakhov came out of quarantine. He said that the administration demands to welcome the colony’s employees with the words “Hello, citizen boss”. He was queued to call his relatives, but so far the anarchist has not had the opportunity to contact his family, says Gorban.

Earlier, the Moscow City Court recognized Miftakhov’s sentence as legal. At the same time, the court excluded the smoke bomb from among the weapons, but the hammer that broke the window in the office of United Russia was retained in the case.

Miftakhov was arrested on February 1, 2019 in Moscow in the case of illegal manufacture of explosives (Part 1 of Art. 223.1 UK), found at a bus stop in Balashikha. The investigation found no evidence indicating the anarchist’s involvement in the case, and Azat was released. At the exit from the detention center, he was detained again in the case of vandalism (Part 1 of Art. 214 of the Criminal Code). Later, the prosecution was reclassified as hooliganism.

On January 18, 2021, the Golovinsky court found Miftakhov guilty of hooliganism motivated by political hatred committed by a group of persons (Part 2 of Art. 213 of the Criminal Code) – January 30, 2018, the defendants in the case attacked the office of United Russia. According to the court, Gorban broke the window with a hammer (she was assigned a suspended sentence), Alexey Kobaidze (wanted) threw a smoke checker into the office, Andrey Yeykin (conditional term) filmed everything that happened on video, Svyatoslav Rechkalov (wanted) published a record on the Internet, and Miftakhov stood close and watched the situation. The whole criminal case is based on the testimony of secret witnesses.

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The International Mathematical Union must support Azat Miftakhov

The Azat Miftakhov Committee, supported by 336 mathematicians and 4 mathematical societies, sent the following letter to the International Mathematical Union Executive Committee, concerning the case of our colleague Azat Miftakhov. Mathematicians who wish to support this letter can sign it by filling out the form here; an updated list of signatories will be sent to the IMU in a few weeks.

August 23, 2021

Dear members of the International Mathematical Union (IMU) Executive Committee,

On January 5, 2021, we sent you a letter to draw your attention to the case of Azat Miftakhov, a doctoral student in mathematics at Moscow State University, arbitrarily detained by Russian authorities since February 2019.

On January 8, 2021, following our letter, you issued a statement “expressing your deep concern for the well-being of Azat Miftakhov”. “While the IMU cannot know the facts of the case and does not condone acts of vandalism, there has been widely held concern in the media over Miftakhov’s treatment while in custody and over the fairness of the trial and sentencing proceedings, soon to be completed” the statement reads. 

Prof. Carlos E. Kenig, President of the IMU and Prof. Helge Holden, Secretary General of the IMU, wrote on January 11, 2021 to Dr. Daya Reddy, President of the International Science Council (ISC), referring the case of Azat Miftakhov to the ISC, for consideration by its Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science.

On January 18, 2021, the Golovinsky District Court in Moscow sentenced Azat Miftakhov to a six-year prison term in a general-regime colony. “Miftakhov’s rehabilitation is possible only in isolation from society in a medium-security penal colony,” the court decided.

On February 26, 2021, you issued a statement about the detainment and arrest of several members of the Russian mathematics community in which you “called for leniency and compassion for Azat Miftakhov as he appeals this sentence.”

On June 9, 2021, the Moscow City Court heard the appeal of the verdict in the case against Azat Miftakhov and it unfortunately upheld Azat’s conviction and six-year prison sentence in a general-regime colony. 

On July 15, 2021, we learned that Azat Miftakhov has been moved from the Moscow pre-trial detention center at Butyrka and began the journey to the penal colony where he is to serve the remainder of his six-year sentence. He has then been moved on August 1st to the correctional colony number 17 in Omutninsk in Kirov Province, which is known for the mistreatment and torture of prisoners by the authorities.

The international mathematical community is appalled and horrified by the arbitrary detention of Azat Miftakhov, the ill-treatment he suffered, including torture, and the verdict inflicted on him. Mathematicians from all over the world have expressed their solidarity with Azat through multiple letters and petitions, including our Russian colleagues whose actions, we all know, can cost them dearly.

The solidarity of the international mathematical community was once again manifested on the occasion of the Azat Miftakhov Day, which we organized on June 16, 2021. The reactions to the event — several renowned mathematicians immediately accepted our invitation to speak, the announcement was quickly relayed by learned societies and prestigious universities around the world, and the event was followed by a large number of colleagues — shows the importance that our community attaches to the case of Azat Miftakhov. 

However, there is one voice conspicuously lacking in its support for Azat’s case, namely yours. Admittedly, you have expressed, in rather conditional terms, your concern regarding the case of Azat. But to our knowledge, you still have not called for his release.

It is now time for the IMU to follow the position adopted by the international mathematical community it represents and to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Azat Miftakhov. As the IMU’s partner in the organization of the next ICM in July 2022 in St Petersburg, the Russian government cannot ignore such a call.

Three senior Russian security officials sit on the ICM Executive Organizing Committee: Dmitry S. Derevyashkin, first Deputy Head of Department “P” of the Economic Security Service of the FSB of the Russian Federation, Aleksey G. Zinin, Deputy Head of the Main Directorate for the Protection of Public Order of the National Guard of the Russian Federation and Roman Yu. Plugin, Head of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region. It is hard to imagine them attending the opening ceremony of the ICM while our colleague Azat Miftakhov languishes in a penal colony.

The Azat Miftakhov Committee

Supported by 336 mathematicians and 4 mathematical societies [full list below – updated October 17, 2021]

Mathematicians who wish to support this letter can sign it by filling out the form here; an updated list of signatories will be sent to the IMU in a few weeks.

Learned societies

Real Sociedad Matemática Española (RSME)

Société de Mathématiques Appliquées et Industrielles (SMAI)

Société Mathématique de France (SMF)

Ukrainian Mathematical Society (UMS)

Individuals

  1. Ramla Abdellatif, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, France
  2. Piotr Achinger, IMPAN, Poland
  3. Zofia Adamowicz, Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
  4. Nicolas Addington, University of Oregon, United States
  5. Alejandro Adem, University of British Columbia, Canada
  6. Andrei Agrachev, SISSA, Italy
  7. Mark Agranovsky, Bar-Ilan University, Israel
  8. Patrick Allen, McGill University, Canada
  9. Ricardo José Alonso-Blanco, Universidad de Salamanca, Spain
  10. Tuna Altinel, Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, France
  11. Daniel Alvarez-Gavela, MIT, United States
  12. Ekaterina Amerik, Université Paris-Saclay and HSE Moscow, France, Russia
  13. Nalini Anantharaman, Université de Strasbourg, France
  14. Fabrizio Andreatta, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy
  15. Pablo Angulo, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain
  16. Andrii Anikushyn, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine
  17. Tom Archibald, Simon Fraser University, Canada
  18. Pierre Arnoux, Université d’Aix-Marseille, France
  19. Michèle Artigue, Université de Paris, France
  20. Michèle Audin, Mathematician and writer, France
  21. Tim Austin, UCLA, United States
  22. Joseph Ayoub, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  23. Rouchdi Bahloul, Université Claude Bernard, Lyon 1, France
  24. Viviane Baladi, CNRS, Paris, France
  25. John Baldwin, University of Illinois at Chicago, United States
  26. Michael Barany, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  27. Jean-Marc Bardet, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France
  28. Arnaud Beauville, Université Côte d’Azur, France
  29. Joël Bellaïche, Brandeis University, United States
  30. Olivier Benoist, CNRS – ENS Paris, France
  31. Sylvie Benzoni-Gavage, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France
  32. Arkady Berenstein, University of Oregon, United States
  33. Vitaly Bergelson, Ohio State University, United States
  34. Roland Berger, University of Saint-Etienne, France
  35. Nicolas Bergeron, Département de Mathématiques de l’ENS Paris, France
  36. Ayse Berkman, Mimar Sinan University, Turkey
  37. Vladimir Berkovich, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
  38. Daniel Bertrand, Sorbonne Université, France
  39. Gérard Besson, CNRS-Université Grenoble Alpes, France
  40. Vincent R.B. Blazy, Université de Paris, France
  41. Thomas Blossier, Université Lyon 1, France
  42. Ben Blum-Smith, NYU Center for Data Science, United States
  43. Cédric Bonnafé, CNRS – Université de Montpellier, France
  44. Vincent Borrelli, Université Claude Bernard, Lyon 1, France
  45. Boris Botvinnik, University of Oregon, United States
  46. Serge Bouc, CNRS-LAMFA-UPJV, France
  47. Vincent Bouis, École Normale Supérieure, France
  48. Christophe Breuil, CNRS, France
  49. Tom Bridgeland, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
  50. Michel Brion, CNRS – Université de Grenoble, France
  51. Marc Brunaud, Université de Paris, France
  52. Claude Bruter, Retired, Université de Paris XII-Créteil, France
  53. Alexander Bufetov, CNRS Institut de mathématiques de Marseille, Steklov, IITP RAS, France and Russia
  54. Igor Burban, University of Paderborn, Germany
  55. Kevin Buzzard, Imperial College London, United Kingdom
  56. Jean-Baptiste Caillau, Université Côte d’Azur, CNRS, Inria, LJAD, France
  57. Philippe Caldero, Université Claude Bernard, Lyon 1, France
  58. Pierre-Emmanuel Caprace, UCLouvain, Belgium
  59. Olivia Caramello, University of Insubria and IHES, Italy
  60. Antoine Chambert-Loir, Université de Paris, France
  61. Marc Chardin, CNRS & Sorbonne Université, France
  62. Grégoire Charlot, Institut Fourier, France
  63. Zoe Chatzidakis, CNRS – Paris, France
  64. Jean-Yves Chemin, Sorbonne Université, France
  65. Alain Chenciner, IMCCE et Université Paris 7, France
  66. Gregory Cherlin, Rutgers University (Emeritus), United States
  67. Artem Chernikov, UCLA, United States
  68. Bruno Chiarellotto, Universita’ degli studi Padova, Italy
  69. Shiva Chidambaram, MIT, United States
  70. Alexandre Chorin, University of California at Berkeley, United States
  71. Laurent Clozel, Université Paris-Sud, France
  72. John Coates, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  73. Ronald Coifman, Yale University, United States
  74. Christophe Cornut, CNRS, France
  75. María Isabel Cortez, P. Universidad Católica, Chile
  76. Marie Cottrell, Université Paris 1, Laboratoire SAMM, France
  77. Thibaut Cuvelier, CentraleSupélec / Université Paris-Saclay, France
  78. Gentiana Danila, IMJ-PRG, France
  79. Olivier Debarre, Université de Paris, France
  80. Pierre Deligne, Institute for Advanced Study, United States
  81. Adrien Deloro, Sorbonne Université, France
  82. Jean-Pierre Demailly, Institut Fourier, Université Grenoble Alpes & Académie des Sciences, France
  83. Christopher Deninger, University of Muenster, Germany
  84. Lucie Devey, Institut Fourier, France
  85. Lorenzo J. Diaz, PUC-Rio, Brazil
  86. Francois Digne, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, France
  87. Daniel Disegni, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
  88. Yuriy Drozd, Institute of Mathematics, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Ukraine
  89. Stéphane Druel, CNRS – Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France
  90. Olivier Dudas, CNRS & University of Paris, France
  91. Victor Duval, UPMC Sorbonne Université, France
  92. Mirna Dzamonja, IRIF (CNRS & Université de Paris), France
  93. Theresia Eisenkölbl, University of Vienna, Austria
  94. Jordan Ellenberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
  95. Richard Elwes, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
  96. Jess Enright, Glasgow, United Kingdom
  97. Jean-Pierre Escofier, Université Rennes I, France
  98. Hélène Esnault, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
  99. Ernesto Estrada, IFISC, CSIC, Spain
  100. Pavel Etingof, MIT, United States
  101. Francis Filbet, Université Toulouse III, France
  102. Michael Finkelberg, NRU HSE Moscow, Russia
  103. Giovanni Forni, University of Maryland, United States
  104. Matthieu Fradelizi, Université Gustave Eiffel, France
  105. Martin Francqueville, Université de Bordeaux, France
  106. Javier Fresán, École polytechnique, France
  107. Susan Friedlander, University of Southern California, United States
  108. Dmitry Fuchs, University of California, Davis, United States
  109. Yan Fyodorov, King’s College London, United Kingdom
  110. Perets Gadi, University of Lyon, France
  111. Azat Gainutdinov, CNRS, France
  112. Isabelle Gallagher, ENS Paris and Université de Paris, France
  113. Ricardo García López, Departament de Matemàtiques i Informàtica, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain
  114. Ignacio García-Fernández, Universidad de Valencia, Spain
  115. Thomas Gauthier, Ecole Polytechnique, France
  116. Damien Gayet, Université Grenoble Alpes, Institut Fourier, France
  117. Misha Gekhtman, University of Notre Dame, United States
  118. Katrin Gelfert, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  119. Ivan Gentil, Université Claude Bernard, Lyon 1, France
  120. Giambattista Giacomin, Université de Paris, France
  121. Francois Gieres, Universite de Lyon 1, France
  122. Philippe Gimenez, University of Valladolid, Spain
  123. Alexander Givental, University of California Berkeley, United States
  124. Alexey Glutsyuk, CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon & HSE University, Moscow, France & Russia
  125. Gilles Godefroy, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France
  126. Andrey Gogolev, The Ohio State University, United States
  127. Catherine Goldstein, CNRS, Paris, France
  128. Carlos González Alcón, University of La Laguna, Spain
  129. Vasilii Goriachkin, Lund University, Sweden
  130. Anton Gorodetski, University of California Irvine, United States
  131. Olivier Goubet, SMAI President, France
  132. Timothy Gowers, Collège de France and University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  133. Michel Gros, CNRS & University of Rennes 1, France
  134. Stéphane Guillermou, CNRS – Université Grenoble Alpes, France
  135. Antonin Guilloux, IMJ-PRG, Sorbonne Université, CNRS, INRIA, France
  136. Alice Guionnet, ENS Lyon, France
  137. Uğur Gül, Hacettepe University Department of Mathematics, Turkey
  138. Artem Gureev, University of Western Ontario, Canada
  139. Michel Habib, IRIF, Paris University, France
  140. Christian Haesemeyer, University of Melbourne, Australia
  141. Hinda Hamraoui, Université Hassan II Casablanca, Morocco
  142. Pascale Harinck, CNRS – Ecole polytechnique, France
  143. Frédéric Hélein, Université de Paris, France
  144. Tim Henke, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
  145. Denis Hirschfeldt, University of Chicago, United States
  146. Helmut Hofer, Institute for Advanced Study, United States
  147. I-Shing Hu, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan
  148. Cyril Hugounenq, Institut Fourier, France
  149. Daniel Huybrechts, Universität Bonn, Germany
  150. Luc Illusie, Université Paris-Saclay, France
  151. Cyril Imbert, CNRS & ENS (Paris), France
  152. Andrei Iordan, Sorbonne Université, France
  153. Jim Isenberg, University of Oregon, United States
  154. Mohamed Ali Jendoubi, Université de Carthage, Tunisia
  155. David Jerison, MIT, United States
  156. Francois Jouve, Université de Paris, France
  157. Nicolas Jouvin, Ecole Centrale Lyon, France
  158. Victor Kac, MIT, United States
  159. Borys Kadets, University of Georgia, United States
  160. Bruno Kahn, CNRS, France
  161. Sten Kaijser, Department of mathematics, Uppsala University, Sweden
  162. Dmitry Kaledin, Steklov Mathematical Institute, Russia
  163. Barbara Kaltenbacher, University of Klagenfurt, Austria
  164. Svetlana Katok, Penn State University, United States
  165. Nicholas Katz, Princeton University, United States
  166. David Kazhdan, Hebrew university, Israel
  167. Juliette Kennedy, University of Helsinki, Finland
  168. Richard Kenyon, Yale University, United States
  169. Assaf Kfoury, Boston University, United States
  170. Alexander Kirillov, Stony Brook University, United States
  171. Roman Kossak, City University of New York, United States
  172. Jan Kotůlek, VSB – Technical University of Ostrava, Czechia
  173. Alexander Kuznetsov, Steklov Mathematical Institute, Russia
  174. Yulia Kuznetsova, University Bourgogne Franche Comté, France / Russia
  175. Max Lahn, University of Michigan, United States
  176. Pascal Lambrechts, UCLouvain, Belgium
  177. Andreas Langer, University of Exeter, United Kingdom
  178. Rémi Langevin, IMB, université de Bourgogne-franche comté, France
  179. Francis Lazarus, CNRS, Grenoble, France
  180. François Lê, Institut Camille Jordan, France
  181. Alice Le Brigant, Université Paris 1, France
  182. Patrice Le Calvez, Sorbonne Université, France
  183. Hervé Le Dret, Sorbonne Université, Paris, France
  184. Joel Lebowitz, Rutgers University, United States
  185. François Ledrappier, Sorbonne Université, Paris, France
  186. Séverine Leidwanger, Université de Paris, France
  187. Samuel Lelièvre, Université Paris-Saclay, France
  188. Kathryn Leonard, Occidental College, United States
  189. Christian Léonard, Université Paris Nanterre, France
  190. Nicolás Libedinsky, Universidad de Chile, Chile
  191. Robert Lipshitz, University of Oregon, United States
  192. Eva Löcherbach, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, France
  193. Bertrand Lods, Università degli di Torino, Italy
  194. Sara Lombardo, Loughborough University, United Kingdom
  195. Eduard Looijenga, Universiteit Utrecht/University of Chicago, Nederland
  196. Dino Lorenzini, University of Georgia, United States
  197. Ivan Loseu, Yale University, United States
  198. Daria Loukianov, Université d’Evry, France
  199. Volodymyr Lyubashenko, Institute for Mathematics, Kyiv, Ukraine
  200. Angus Macintyre, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  201. Vincent Maillot, CNRS, France
  202. Sagar Kumar Maity, S N Bose National Center for Basic Sciences, India
  203. Bernard Malgrange, InstitutFourier, Grenoble, France
  204. Fyodor Malikov, University of Southern California, United States
  205. Gunter Malle, TU Kaiserslautern, Deutschland
  206. Timothée Marquis, UCLouvain, Belgium
  207. Antonio Martinón, Universidad de La Laguna, Spain
  208. Pierre Mathieu, Université d’Aix-Marseille (AMU), France
  209. Barry Mazur, Harvard University, United States
  210. Michael McBreen, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR
  211. Taras Mel’nyk, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine
  212. Yves Meyer, ENS Paris-Saclay, France
  213. Christian Michaux, Uninversity of Mons, Belgium
  214. Jacek Miękisz, University of Warsaw, Poland
  215. Nicolae Mihalache, Université Paris-Est Créteil, France
  216. Haynes Miller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States
  217. Sevak Mkrtchyan, University of Rochester, United States
  218. Michel Mollard, CNRS and Université Grenoble Alpes, France
  219. Ben Moonen, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  220. Laurent Moret-Bailly, Université de Rennes 1, France
  221. Clement Mouhot, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  222. Frank Neumann, University of Leicester, United Kingdom
  223. James Newton, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  224. Roman Nikiforov, National Dragomanov University, Ukraine
  225. Stéphane Nonnenmacher, Université Paris-Saclay, France
  226. Filippo A. E. Nuccio Mortarino Majno di Capriglio, Univ de Lyon, UJM Saint-Étienne, France
  227. Brita Nucinkis, Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom
  228. Ernesto Nungesser, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain
  229. TC O’Neil, The Open University, United Kingdom
  230. Arthur Ogus, University of California at Berkeley, United States
  231. Fabrice Orgogozo, CNRS, Paris, France
  232. Victor Ostrik, University of Oregon, United States
  233. Vasyl Ostrovskyi, Institute of Mathematics, NAS of Ukraine, Ukraine
  234. Gilles Pagès, Sorbonne Université, France
  235. Pierre Pansu, Université Paris-Saclay, France
  236. François Parreau, Université Paris 13, France
  237. Dmitrii Pasechnik, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  238. Simon Pepin Lehalleur, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Netherlands
  239. Ricardo Pérez-Marco, CNRS, Université de Paris, IMJ-PRG, France
  240. Tomas Persson, Lund University, Sweden
  241. Ragni Piene, University of Oslo, Norway
  242. Anand Pillay, University of Notre Dame, United States
  243. Gilles Pisier, Sorbonne Universite, Paris, France
  244. Jérôme Poineau, Université de Caen Normandie, France
  245. Bjorn Poonen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States
  246. Mason Porter, UCLA, United States
  247. Leonid Prigozhin, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
  248. David Pritchard, University of Strathclyde, Scotland
  249. Enrique Pujals, Graduate Center, CUNY, United States
  250. Jiří Rákosník, Institute of Mathematics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic
  251. Peter Ralph, University of Oregon, United States
  252. Sujatha Ramdorai, University of British Columbia, Canada
  253. Paul Raynaud de Fitte, University of Rouen Normandy, France
  254. Eric Remila, Université de St-Etienne, France
  255. Marc Reversat, Institute of Mathematics of Toulouse, France
  256. Thomas Rey, Université de Lille, France
  257. Gonzalo Robledo, Universidad de Chile, Chile
  258. Jose Rodriguez, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain
  259. Claude Roger, Université Lyon1, France
  260. Constanza Rojas-Molina, CY Cergy Paris Université, France
  261. Joachim Rosenthal, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  262. Raphaël Rossignol, Université Grenoble Alpes, France
  263. Ceferino Ruíz Garrido, Universidad de Granada, Spain
  264. Gabriel Sabbagh, Retired Professor (Mathematical Logic), University Paris Diderot, France
  265. Claude Sabbah, CNRS & Ecole polytechnique, France
  266. Laure Saint-Raymond, ENS de Lyon, France
  267. Takeshi Saito, University of Tokyo, Japan
  268. Maria Saprykina, KTH Royal institute of Technology, Sweden
  269. David Savitt, Johns Hopkins University, United States
  270. Jordan Sawdy, University of Kentucky, United States
  271. Florent Schaffhauser, Universidad de Los Andes, Colombia
  272. Pierre Schapira, Sorbonne University, France
  273. Sam Schiavone, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States
  274. Olivier Schiffmann, Université Paris-Saclay, France
  275. Peter Scholze, Universität Bonn ; Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik, Bonn, Germany
  276. Lionel Schwartz, Université Sorbonne Paris Nord, France
  277. Paul Seidel, MIT, United States
  278. Eric Sere, Université Paris-Dauphine, France
  279. Vlad Sergiescu, Université Grenoble-Alpes, France
  280. Marcello Seri, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
  281. Michael Shub, City University of New York, United States
  282. Susan Sierra, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  283. Adam Skalski, IMPAN, Warsaw, Poland
  284. Alexander Smirnov, St. Petersburg Departement of Steklov Mathematical Institute, Russia
  285. Christophe Soulé, CNRS & IHES, France
  286. Wolfgang Steiner, CNRS, France
  287. Christopher Stith, University of Michigan, United States
  288. Matthias Strauch, Indiana University, United States
  289. Benoit Stroh, Sorbonne Université, France
  290. Balazs Szendroi, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  291. Sergei Tabachnikov, Penn State University, United States
  292. Daichi Takeuchi, RIKEN, Japan
  293. Denis Talay, INRIA, France
  294. Clifford Taubes, Harvard University, United States
  295. Donna Testerman, EPFL, Switzerland
  296. Nicolas Tholozan, CNRS, France
  297. Richard Thomas, Imperial College London, United Kingdom
  298. Dylan Thurston, Indiana University, Bloomington, United States
  299. Anna Torstensson, Lund University, Sweden
  300. Minh-Tam Trinh, MIT, United States
  301. Jan Trlifaj, Univerzita Karlova, Praha, Czech Republic
  302. Anush Tserunyan, McGill University, Canada
  303. Daniele Turchetti, University of Warwick, United Kingdom
  304. Lyudmila Turowska, Chalmers University of Technology and University of Gothenburg, Sweden
  305. Mykhaylo Tyomkyn, Charles University, Czechia
  306. Arkady Vaintrob, University of Oregon, United States
  307. Gerard van der Geer, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Netherlands
  308. Tim Van der Linden, Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique-FNRS, Belgium
  309. Hugo Vanneuville, CNRS, France
  310. Marco Varisco, University at Albany, State University of New York, United States
  311. Roman Vasquez, Auburn University, United States
  312. Eric Vasserot, Université de Paris, France
  313. Misha Verbitsky, IMPA, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  314. Anatoly Vershik, Chief researcher of the St. Petersburg branch of the Steklov Institute of Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia
  315. Marie-France Vigneras, Université Paris-Diderot, France
  316. Fabien Vignes-Tourneret, CNRS & Université Lyon 1, France
  317. Cédric Villani, Université Lyon 1 Claude Bernard, Académie des Sciences, Académie pontificale, France
  318. Andrés Villaveces, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia
  319. Yannick Vincent, Ecole polytechnique, France
  320. Claude Viterbo, Ecole normale supérieure, Paris, France
  321. John Voight, Dartmouth College, United States
  322. Claire Voisin, CNRS, France
  323. Frank Wagner, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France
  324. Michel Waldschmidt, Sorbonne University, France
  325. Micah Warren, University of Oregon, United States
  326. Philip Welch, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
  327. Ursula Whitcher, Mathematical Reviews (AMS), United States
  328. Jaroslaw Wisniewski, University of Warsaw, Poland
  329. Michal Wrochna, Cergy Paris Université, France
  330. Yuan Xu, University of Oregon, United States
  331. Iryna Yehorchenko, Institute of Mathematics, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Ukraine
  332. Zhiwei Yun, MIT, United States
  333. Mikhail Zaidenberg, Institut Fourier, Grenoble, France, France
  334. Fernando Zalamea, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia
  335. Maciej Zdanowicz, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  336. Vadim Zharnitsky, University of Illinois, United States
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Azat Miftakhov had been moved to the Correctional Colony number 17 in Omutninsk

On August 1, Azat Miftakhov had been moved from SIZO in Kirov to the Correctional Colony number 17 in Omutninsk in Kirov Province.  This colony is known for mistreatment and torture of prisoners by the authorities, brutal even by the Russian prison system standards. Azat is currently in quarantine there and a local lawyer has been in touch with him. Although Azat has not reported being mistreated, we continue to be gravely concerned about his safety and health. We also continue to call for Azat’s immediate and unconditional release.


The Azat Miftakhov Committee

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Azat Miftakhov transferred from Moscow prison to SIZO-1 in Kirov

It is with great sadness that we learned today that Azat Miftakhov has just been moved from the Moscow pre-trial detention center at Butyrka and began the journey to the prison colony where he is to serve the remainder of his six-year sentence. This development comes after a Moscow court on June 9, 2021 dismissed Azat’s appeal against the verdict and sentence handed down in his case. Azat’s sentence and continued imprisonment constitute a profound and shocking miscarriage of justice and cannot be allowed to stand. The international mathematical community, particularly its main representative body, the International Mathematical Union, and all other people of good will need to continue to call for an immediate release of Azat Miftakhov by the Russian authorities. On this difficult day we stand in solidarity with Azat and affirm our commitment to fighting for his freedom.


The Azat Miftakhov Committee

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“Attempts to link scientific activities to political and societal issues”: Boycotts, politics, and the creation of the International Mathematical Union.

In their statement issued February 26, 2021, in response to the arrests and detention of Russian mathematicians, and specifically to Azat Miftakhov’s sentence to six years in a penal colony, the IMU Executive Committee asserted that their position has always been to “oppose all boycotts of scientific events and all attempts to link scientific activities to political and societal issues.”  

In his recent lecture to the Sociedade Brasileira de Lógica, historian of mathematics Michael Barany calls this “a phenomenally historically ignorant statement.”  “To the contrary,” he continues, “the International Congresses and the International Mathematical Union directly came from and function as attempts to link science and politics.”  Barany’s talk, just over an hour long, reminds us of this history.

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“Stand Against Absurdity and Unfairness”: Mathematicians Support Political Prisoner Azat Miftakhov

[This is an English version of an article that appeared in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on June 29, 2021]

by Allyn Jackson

Last week mathematicians around the world joined in an expression of solidarity with one of its young members, 28-year-old Azat Miftakhov, a political prisoner in Russia.  He has been jailed for the past two and a half years and now faces a six-year prison term. 

A total of about 1.660 people tuned in to the live broadcast of the event, the Azat Miftakhov Day, which took place on Wednesday 16 June 2021 (the videos are now posted on YouTube).  Organized by the Miftakhov Committee, an international group of ten mathematicians, the event combined three mathematics lectures with information about Miftakhov’s case and expressions of concern and outrage by mathematicians from several countries.

“This is one of our colleagues, a member of our community, with whom we have shared work and mathematical dreams,” said Cédric Villani in his impassioned opening statement for the event.  Villani, who in 2010 received the Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics, now serves in the French National Assembly.  Focusing on Miftakhov could aid the approximately 100,000 prisoners of conscience the world over, he said.  “Mathematicians and scientists always have to stand against absurdity and unfairness.”

Born in the Russian republic of Tatarstan in 1993, Miftakhov showed early talent in mathematics and went on to study at Moscow State University, one of Russia’s major centers for mathematics.  As a student he got involved in anarchist movements.  By 2018 he had done brilliant work in probability theory and stochastic processes and was well on his way to get his PhD when he was suddenly arrested in February 2019, on charges of building explosives.

Three days later, the police, lacking evidence to support the charges, released Miftakhov—only to re-arrest him the same day, this time charging him with breaking a window of a building of the United Russia political party. The window had been broken more than a year before.  Two witnesses, whose identities have been kept secret, provided testimony.  One of the witnesses died in January 2020 and therefore could not be cross-examined.

“Does it not sound like a joke?” said Villani of the case against Miftakhov.  But it is no joke.  The trial took place in the last few months of 2020.  In January this year he was sentenced to six years in a penal colony on charges of “hooliganism” stemming from political hatred.  Throughout Miftakhov has steadfastly maintained his innocence.  He said he has been beaten and tortured, and human rights representatives have confirmed signs of this on his body.

After Alexei Navalny, Miftakhov is probably the best known political prisoner in Russia.  Two online petitions demand Miftakhov’s release: one in Russia has 86.000 signatures, and the other has 3.200 signatures of mathematicians from fifteen countries.  In January 2021, fifty members of the Russian Academy of Sciences signed a letter calling for the release of Miftakhov. Mathematical societies in Brazil, England, France, Italy, and the United States have made statements protesting his incarceration, as have human rights organizations.

One of the Russian mathematicians rallying to the cause is Anatoly Vershik, a professor in the St. Petersburg branch of the Steklov Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Born in 1933, Vershik spent much of his life under the Soviet system. It is obvious that the court had no proof of unlawful activity by Miftakhov, said Vershik in his presentation for Miftakhov Day.  Russia is “returning to a Soviet, Stalinist system and drifting further and further from a civilized norm.  Miftakhov’s case is an obvious demonstration of this fact.”

Russia has a stellar mathematical history.  The field flourished in the Soviet years, when mathematics provided a refuge for some of the nation’s most brilliant minds.  The Russian mathematical tradition was greatly weakened when many of the best mathematicians left after the fall of the USSR.  Recognizing the rebuilding of Russian mathematics over the past few decades, the International Mathematical Union (IMU) decided to hold its quadrennial congress in St. Petersburg in 2022.  The congress is the most important international event in mathematics and includes the awarding of the Fields Medals.

In January this year, 47 mathematicians, including the ten members of the Miftakhov Committee, signed a letter to the organizers of the congress.  “Attending the congress while our colleague Azat Miftakhov is arbitrarily detained will pose a serious dilemma for us and for the entire mathematical community,” they wrote.

While imprisoned Miftakhov has been able to do mathematical work, partly through correspondence with Russian mathematician Alexander Bufetov of the Institut de Mathématiques in Marseille and the Steklov Institute in Moscow.  Bufetov was one of the mathematical lecturers for the Miftakhov Day.  Before starting his lecture he looked straight into the camera and said the word “freedom” in eight languages.  One was Miftakhov’s native tongue of Tatar, where the word is “azatlyk”; his given name, Azat, means “free”.

The other mathematical lecturers were German mathematician and Fields Medalist Peter Scholze of the Universität Bonn and the Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in Bonn, and Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

A week before Miftakhov Day, mathematicians received the grim news that Moscow City Court had denied Miftakhov’s final appeal.  He will be transferred to a penal colony any day now.  “I was more hopeful before the horrible six-year verdict,” said Bufetov.  But he and his colleagues are not giving up.

“We will not let go until Azat is free,” said Miftakhov Committee member Ahmed Abbes, a researcher at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques outside Paris.  “Our community’s long tradition of defending human rights has demonstrated that stubbornness pays off.”

Allyn Jackson is a freelance writer and editor with over 30 years of experience and a specialty in mathematics and theoretical computer science. She served as a senior writer and deputy editor of the Notices of the AMS.

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The Committee of Concerned Scientists: “Gifted Mathematician Sentenced to Six Years for Alleged Act of Vandalism”

The Committee of Concerned Scientists, a premier international science human rights group, released an informational statement about Azat’s case and the Azat Miftakhov Day, and posted a letter, dated June 28, 2021, to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. The letter urges a “pardon and rapid release” of Azat and notes that the committee will closely follow further developments in the case.