The Vexing Case of Igor Shafarevich, a Russian Political Thinker
This is the first comprehensive study about the non-mathematical writings and activities of the Russian algebraic geometer and number theorist Igor Shafarevich (b. 1923). In the 1970s Shafarevich was a prominent member of the dissidents’ human rights movement and a noted author of clandestine anti-communist literature in the Soviet Union. Shafarevich’s public image suffered a terrible blow around 1989 when he was decried as a dangerous ideologue of anti-Semitism due to his newly-surfaced old manuscript Russophobia. The scandal culminated when the President of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States suggested that Shafarevich, an honorary member, resign. The present study establishes that the allegations about anti-Semitism in Shafarevich’s texts were unfounded and that Shafarevich’s terrible reputation was cemented on a false basis.
· In the 1990s “the Shafarevich case” stirred a heated discussion in the mathematics community about a fundamental ethical principle: Can scientific honorary societies make demands to their members concerning their non-scientific views? Another obvious problem becomes topical with the present study and concerns the ethical repercussions of the fact that Shafarevich was demonized without reasonable justification· This study, written by a historian of ideas and a specialist of Russian studies, also introduces Shafarevich’s companionships with some of the most interesting cultural figures of the Soviet Union in his youth, his extensive activities for defense of human rights and struggle against communist propaganda in the heyday of dissent in the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and his role as an important opinion-maker in post-Soviet Russia· The large body of Shafarevich’s non-mathematical writings from the 1960s onwards includes texts discussing the contemporary, or “techno-scientific”, civilization. Shafarevich finds it deeply disturbing that this civilization sees machines, not living organisms, as the model of its life. However, while he maintains that contemporary man has ended up giving a virtual mandate in everything concerning his life to machines, he stresses that man – a living creature – is much more viable, creative, beautiful, sophisticated and adaptive than machines and, as such, much stronger than them