Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | July 12, 2022

Azat Miftakhov Days Against the War – Program – July 5-6, 2022

In view of the unprecedented brutality and destructiveness of Russia’s criminal aggression against Ukraine, we have renamed our event, that was originally announced before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, into “Azat Miftakhov Days Against the War”. As we continue to fight for Azat’s release from prison, we stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian mathematicians and the people of Ukraine who suffer the terrible brunt of the war.

The Azat Miftakhov Days Against the War will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday July 5-6, 2022, in solidarity with Azat Miftakhov, a mathematics graduate student from the Moscow State University who has been arbitrarily imprisoned by Russian state authorities since February 2019.

This event is sponsored by the French (SMF and SMAI), EuropeanBelgian and Catalan Mathematical Societies. It is also announced by the American Mathematical Society and the London Mathematical Society.

Registration is mandatory by filling out the form here.

Tuesday July 5, 2022 from 4pm to 7pm Central European Summer Time (UTC+2) – online

4 pm Opening remarks

4:10 pm Alexander Petrov (MPIM)
Title: Representations of Galois groups and families of algebraic varieties (abstract)

5:10 pm Ilya Dumanski (MIT)
Title: Schubert varieties in the Beilinson-Drinfeld Grassmannian (abstractslides)

6:10 pm Slava Rychkov (IHES)
Title: “Bootstrap” method in physics and mathematics (abstractslides)

Wednesday July 6, 2022 from 5pm to 7pm Central European Summer Time (UTC+2) – hybrid

A panel to assess the human rights situation in Russia through the cases of persecuted academics, coorganized by the Azat Miftakhov Committee and the prominent Russian NGO Memorial Human Rights CenterThe panel will make a special emphasis on the Russian academics and students persecuted for opposing Russia’s war in Ukraine.

For technical reasons related to the hybrid nature of the event, this panel is transferred to the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) in Paris. Instructions to access IHES are available here.

We are very pleased to announce the participation in this panel of

– Chandler Davis, mathematician, University of Toronto

– Alexander Cherkasov, Chair of the Council of the Memorial Human Rights Centre

– Fabien Durand, President of the French Mathematical Society

– Elena Gorban, Azat Miftakhov’s wife

– Anatoly Vershik, former president of the St. Petersburg Mathematical Society, member of the European Academy of Sciences, chief researcher of the St. Petersburg section of the Steklov Institute of Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences

– Barry Mazur, mathematician, the Gerhard Gade University Professor at Harvard University, member of Scholars at Risk Harvard

– Grigory DurnovoOVD-info

– Maria Menshikova DOXA

– Vera Chelishcheva, independent journalist

– Ilya Nuzov, Head of Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk for the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

– Rachel Denber, Deputy Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, specializes in countries of the former Soviet Union

– Natalia ZviaginaAmnesty International Moscow Office Director

– Martin Andler, mathematician, Université de Versailles St Quentin, for Memorial France

Registration is mandatory by filling out the form here.

Further information will be available on

The Azat Miftakhov Committee

#StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | March 21, 2022

Azat Miftakhov Days – July 5-6, 2022

Azat Miftakhov Days – July 5-6, 2022

Registration is mandatory by filling out the form here.

We are pleased to announce that the second Azat Miftakhov Days will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday July 5-6, 2022, in solidarity with Azat Miftakhov, a mathematics graduate student from the Moscow State University who has been arbitrarily detained by Russian state authorities since February 2019. Azat has been mistreated and tortured by the authorities while in detention. His trial, which took place after much delay in the Fall of 2020, was based largely on the testimony of “secret” government witnesses. In a grossly unjust and excessive decision, in January 2021 a court in Moscow sentenced Azat to six years imprisonment in a penal colony for “hooliganism”. Azat is currently serving this sentence in a labor colony in Omutninsk.

  • Tuesday July 5, 2022 from 4pm to 7pm Central European Summer Time (UTC+2) – online

On the first day, we will honor the new generation of Russian mathematicians committed to human rights. The speakers are Ilya Dumanski (MIT), Alexander Petrov (Harvard) and Slava Rychkov (IHES). Their mathematical lectures will be broadcast live on Zoom and youtube.

  • Wednesday July 6, 2022 from 5pm to 7pm Central European Summer Time (UTC+2) – hybrid 

On the second day, we will co-organize with Memorial Human Rights Center a panel to assess the human rights situation in Russia through the cases of persecuted academicsThe panel will be hybrid, online and in person at the École normale supérieure in Paris, open to academics, human rights organizations and journalists.

On 29 December 2021, the Moscow City Court has ordered the closure of the prominent Russian NGO Memorial Human Rights Center for allegedly violating “foreign agent” legislation. Founded in 1991, HRC Memorial is one of the most respected human rights organizations in Russia and in the world. The prosecutors claimed that HRC Memorial repeatedly violated the “foreign agents” law by refusing to label their content as produced by a “foreign agent”.  They also claimed that HRC Memorial justified “terrorism and extremism” by keeping a list of people detained for political reasons on its website. The list featured individuals imprisoned following unfair, politically-motivated trials, including Azat Miftakhov. On 28 December 2021, the Supreme Court ordered the liquidation of its sister organization, International Memorial.

The first Azat Miftakhov Day organized last year, attracted over 1600 participants and raised awareness in the mathematical community of the injustice suffered by our young colleague. We are counting on your participation in this second edition to send a strong message of solidarity to Azat and to press for his immediate and unconditional release.

Registration is mandatory both for participation online or in person. The registration form is available here.

Further information will be available on

The Azat Miftakhov Committee



Sponsored by
Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | July 31, 2021

Strong Beard Game

The memorial plaque for John Venn (1834 – 1923) in Drypool, Hull, England, contains a mysterious phrase:


John Venn is, of course, is a mathematician who proposed Venn diagrams, this is clear. But the phrase

Really strong beard game

is more interesting. “Really strong X game” can be found in print media and on the Internet for some other value of X as well. It means that something is impressively done (or, by extension/humor, impressive). Taking into consideration his social class, Englishness, and times of his life, it suggests connections with cricket — in those days, more fanatical cricket  players frequently exhibited very impressive beards. This my conjecture was immediately confirmed by brief glance in the Wikipedia. First of, all John Venn’s beard:

John Venn (1834 – 1923)

Secondly, a quote from Wikipedia:

He built rare machines. A certain machine was meant to bowl cricket balls. The machine was so fascinating that when Australian cricketers were visiting Cambridge, the machines were used to entertain their arrival. The bowl cricket ball machine that Venn built actually bowled out the top ranked player of the team four times consecutively.

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | June 24, 2021

From Kant, and applicable to mathematics

Attributed to Kant:

We understand nothing so well as that which we could also make, if we were given the necessary material.

Mathematics has its owns means of providing material.

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | June 17, 2021

The Azat Miftakhov Day: Videos are on Youtube.

Videos are on Youtube,

Fantastic mathematics lectures, and very powerful speeches from Cedric Villani and Ilia Kapovich.

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | June 16, 2021

The Azat Miftakhov Day: Speech by Cédric Villani

The Azat Miftakhov Day  is now on and on the Youtube channel DayAzatMiftakhov
Text of the opening speech just given by Cédric Villani:
Dear friends and colleagues,
It is an honour — although a sad honour — for me to introduce this day of lectures, dedicated to our Russian colleague Azat Miftakhov. I thank the Azat Miftakhov Committee for their trust in inviting me to introduce this jade
Just a few days ago, I was among the group of mathematicians and officials who welcomed our Turkish colleague Tuna Altinel. For 2 years he had to endure persecution by the Turkish institutions, forbidding him to come back to his University in Lyon. A whole international community was mobilized in France and in Turkey. From the University to the city of Villeurbanne to the Parliament, to raise voice and accompany Tuna throughout each step of the kafka-style maze.
This was not the first time that I was involved in a team work to help the light shine again in the darkness. For years I have been one of those calling for a memory work in favour of the mathematician Maurice Audin, arbitrarily captured, tortured and killed in the Algeria war. It took more than sixty years between the moment when Audin was arrested, 11 June 1957 and the historical declaration of President Macron on 13 September 2018. Some of our mathematician colleagues such as Laurent Schwartz, Michel Broué, Gérard Tronel and many others have been quite active, starting with the public PhD defence of Audin, organised by Laurent Schwartz in the absence of Audin himself.
Today we are gathered for another one of these cases in which a fellow human is being prosecuted by an administration. It may look like an endless pit to go through all these individual cases! After all, it is estimated that there are more than 100 000 prisoners of opinion around the world. So why focus so much energy on individual cases? First, because each of them, as a fellow human, deserves our wholehearted support. As they say, “He who saves a single life, saves the world entire. » But also, some individual cases become emblematic of the cause, and have repercussions for many other cases. And, in the case today, this is one of our colleagues, member of our community, with whom we have shared work and mathematical dreams.
And so this is the fate of Azat Miftakhov today. 28-year old, originally from Tatarstan, pursuing studies of mathematics at Moscow State University, and now persecuted for more than 2 years. First arrested for « explosive manufacturing », with no proof, case dismissed, then re-arrested for breaking a window, one year ago, at an office of the United Russia Party, under the testimony of two secret witnesses, one of whom was already dead during the trial. Does it not sound like a joke?! No joke, Miftakhov was beaten by the police, Miftakhov was sentenced to 6 years of prison. It is heartbreaking to see Russia, with its glorious scientific tradition, still fighting with the demons of political persecution which broke the careers and lives of so many people.
It is my conviction that mathematicians and scientists always have to stand up against absurdity and unfairness and re-expose their faith in the power of daring thought, free speech and the combination of logics and imagination which is so important for us. In this very special day, we shall not only hear words from our very respected colleagues Anatoli Vershik and Tuna Atlinel, but also hear great mathematics by world-renowned experts. Maryna Viazovska rom the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Alexander Bufetov from CNRS, Institut de Mathématiques de Marseille, and Steklov Institute, and last but not least our young colleague from Bonn, Peter Scholze, who as you know received the Fields Medal in Rio 3 years ago. It is a pleasure to thank the French Mathematical Society for their support of this outstanding event.

The Azat Miftakhov committee:

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | June 16, 2021

The Azat Miftakhov Day – Live broadcast

The Azat Miftakhov Day will take place this Wednesday June 16, 2021 starting at 4pm Central European Summer Time (UTC+2)*
It will be broadcast live on our website ( and on the youtube channel DayAzatMiftakhov.

It will be organized online by the Azat Miftakhov committee in solidarity with Azat Miftakhov, a graduate student from Moscow State University who was sentenced to six years in a medium-security penal colony and has already been arbitrarily detained by Russian state authorities for almost two years and half.

The Azat Miftakhov Day is sponsored by Société Mathématique de France (SMF). 

Here is the program:

4pm Cédric Villani (Member of the French National Assembly)

Opening speech

4:15 pm Maryna Viazovska (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland)

Sphere packings, universal optimality, and Fourier interpolation (abstract)

5:15 pm Alexander Bufetov (CNRS & Institut de Mathématiques de Marseille, France & Steklov, IITP RAS, Russia)

Determinantal point processes: quasi-symmetries, minimality and interpolation (abstract)

6:15 pm Peter Scholze (Universität Bonn, Germany)

Condensed Mathematics (abstract)

On Wednesday, June 16, please join the international mathematical community in showing solidarity with Azat.

The webinar will be broadcast live on our website and on the youtube channel DayAzatMiftakhov.


The Azat Miftakhov committee

* Tokyo at 11pm, Moscow at 5pm, Bonn, Paris and Warsaw at 4pm, London at 3pm, New York at 10am, San Francisco at 7am

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | June 9, 2021

A white horse is not a horse

My attention was brought to this two millennia old paradox:

Horse can be black.

White horse cannot be black.

So white horse not horse.

See Wikipedia,  When a white horse is not a horse for a discussion.

This paradox is of interest to me because I started to think that one of the reasons of collapse of the New Math reforms in the 1960s and 1970s was introduction of sets and not predicates;  in my view, children appear to be more perceptive to the concept of unary predicate, or property. Properties are closely related to sets, but they are not sets. I was unaware that the universe of properties also has its share of paradoxes.

A colleague wrote to me as a comment on my paper

A. Borovik, A mathematician’s view of the unreasonable ineffectiveness of mathematics in biology. Biosystems 205, July 2021, 104410, :

On the subject of unreasonable ineffectiveness, here’s a hilarious problem that might have a mathematical solution, but seems well outside the scope of current mathematics. […]

The Centipede Segmentation Problem: Prove that it is impossible to have a centipede that has an even number of pairs of legs, or 17 or 19 pairs of legs.

Apparently, there are fairly good datasets in biology which suggest that this is the case:

This reminds me one of the greatest mysteries of the Forest in Strugatsky Brothers‘ novel “The snail on the slope” from 1960s: the number of pups in a brood is always a prime number.

Their novel is admittedly the greatest book of Russian sci-fi, fantastically multifaceted; in particular, it is a vicious satire of the Soviet system, Soviet society, and Soviet science. The Forest is a symbol of many things, and one of them is unreasonable ineffectiveness  of not only mathematics, but also any kind of science in comprehension of Life.

You may skip most of the fragment from the novel that I included — I highlighted a few key lines at the end of the fragment.

The pups had already gone quite a way, but Stoyan, driving with great skill, keeping the offside wheels on the path and the nearside on the dusty moss, soon overtook them and crawled slowly behind carefully using the clutch to adjust his speed. […]

Pepper stroked his swollen finger and looked at the pups. The children of the forest. Or perhaps its servants. Or maybe its experiments. They were proceeding slowly and tirelessly one after the other in line ahead, as if flowing along the ground; they oozed across rotting tree stumps, crossed ruts, pools of stagnant water in the tall grass, through prickly bushes. The track kept disappearing, diving into evil-smelling mud, hiding itself under layers of tough gray mushrooms that crunched under the wheels, then again appearing, while the pups held their direction and stayed white, clean, smooth; not a blade of grass stuck to them, not a thorn wounded them, they were unstained by the sticky black mud. They oozed along with a kind of stupid unthinking confidence, as if along a road long-known and habitual. There were forty-three of them.

I was dying to get here and now I’ve arrived, at least I’m seeing theforest from inside and I’m seeing nothing. I could have imagined all this sitting in my bare hostel room with its three empty bunks; late night insomnia, everything quiet all about, then right on midnight the piledriver starts thumping on the construction site. I could have thought it all up: mermaids, walking trees and these pups, turning into pathfinder Selivan–the most absurd things, the holiest. And everything there is in the Directorate I can imagine and bring to mind. I could have stayed at home and dreamed this all up, lying on my sofa listening to symphojazz or voices talking unfamiliar languages on the radio. […] But that doesn’t mean a thing. To see and not understand is the same as making it up. I’m alive, I can see and I don’t understand. I’m living in a world someone has thought up without bothering to tell me, or maybe even himself. A yearning for understanding–that’s my sickness, thought Pepper suddenly, a yearning for understanding.

He stuck his hand out of the window and held his aching finger against the cool car-body. The pups were paying the landrover no attention. They probably had no suspicion of its existence. They gave off a sharp unpleasant smell; their membrane now seemed transparent and it was as if wave-like shadows moved beneath.

“Let’s catch one,” suggested Quentin. “It’s simple enough, we’ll wrap it in my jerkin and take it to the lab.”

“Not worth it,” said Stoyan.

“Why not?” Quentin asked. “We’ll have to catch one sooner or later.”

“Doesn’t seem right, somehow,” Stoyan said. “In the first place, God help us, the thing’ll die on us and I’ll have to write a report for Hausbotcher.”

“We’ve had them boiled,” Acey announced suddenly. “I didn’t like the taste, but the boys said it was all right. Bit like rabbit, I can’t touch rabbit, to me a cat and a rabbit’s just the same; can’t bear the stuff… .”

“I’ve noticed one thing,” said Quentin. “the number of pups is always asimple number: thirteen, forty-three, forty-seven… .”

“Nonsense,” objected Stoyan. “I’ve come across groups of six or twelve.”

“That’s in the forest,” said Quentin, “after that groups scatter in different directions. the cesspit always produces a simple number, you can check the log, I’ve put all my conclusions down.”


“Well all right, write an article then,” said Stoyan.

“I already have,” said Quentin.

Translation from Russian by by Alan Meyers, 1980.

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | April 13, 2021

Help Leicester Pure Maths fund Legal Support

Sibylle Schroll would like you to support Help Leicester Pure Maths fund Legal Support by making a donation and spreading the word.

About this fundraiserThe faculty of pure mathematics at Leicester needs your help. They would like to hire legal counsel in relation to the circumstances described in the links below:

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