8
$\begingroup$

A while ago, in USSR there were published two very voluminous collections entitled "Mathematics in USSR for 30 years. 1917-1947" and "Mathematics in USSR for 40 years. 1917-1957". These collections featured surveys for various fields of mathematics (algebra, differential equations, etc.) as well as biographical and bibliographical data of virtually all Soviet mathematicians of that time.

Throughout the book by A.D. Myshkis, "Soviet mathematicians. My reminiscences", URSS, Moscow, 2007 (in Russian), it is mentioned several times that even a more voluminous "Mathematics in USSR. 1958-1967" was planned, on which circa 200 people worked. However, writes Myshkis, the publication was blocked on a rather later stage by a group of "influential members of USSR Academy of Sciences" who were not happy how their research is reflected in those surveys. And indeed, only the second volume of "Mathematics in USSR. 1958-1967" was published, containing biographical and bibliographical data.

Who blocked this publication? (At one place, Myshkis mentions the name of Pontryagin, though rather equivocally).

$\endgroup$
7
$\begingroup$

I cannot name a person. But I can describe what probably happened. (My PhD adviser, A. Goldberg was one of the authors of the second volume (1958-1967), and he told me the story). At some point, this publication was criticized by the people who stood much higher in the Soviet hierarchy than the editorial board. Such decisions were usually made secretly by some Communist party body. Goldberg cites a report signed by Yu. A. Buslaev (a full member of the Soviet Academy of Science, but not a mathematician). The person who signed the report is not necessarily the person who made the decision. I remember one sentence from this report: "The history of Soviet mathematics is reflected in the book like in a curved mirror". It was clear that they did not like the prominent role of mathematicians of Jewish origin in the book, though this was never stated explicitly. I do not know any evidence that Pontriagin played any role in this. I suppose that the command to stop the publication was issued by much higher authorities in the Communist party.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.