Soviets Expelled Math Innovator from High School, When He Denied That Dostoyevsky Was Pro-Communist

(p. A12) Vladimir Voevodsky, formerly a gifted but restless student who flunked out of college out of boredom before emerging as one of the most brilliant and revolutionary mathematicians of his generation, died on Sept. 30 [2017] at his home in Princeton, N.J. He was 51.
. . .
Vladimir was kicked out of high school three times, once for disagreeing with his teacher’s assertion that Dostoyevsky, who died in 1881, was pro-Communist. He was also kicked out of Moscow University after failing academically, having stopped attending classes that he considered a waste of time.
. . .
How do mathematicians know that something they prove is actually true?
This question became urgent for him as mathematicians were discovering — sometimes decades after publication — that proof after proof, including one of his own, had critical flaws.
Mathematical arguments had gotten so complicated, he realized, that other mathematicians rarely checked them in detail. And his stellar reputation only made the problem worse: Everyone assumed that his proofs must be right.
Dr. Voevodsky realized that human brains could not keep up with the ever-increasing complexity of mathematics. Computers were the only solution. So he embarked on an enormous project to create proof-checking software so powerful and convenient that mathematicians could someday use it as part of their ordinary work and create a library of rock-solid mathematical knowledge that anyone in the world could access.
Computer scientists had worked on the problem for decades, but it was territory only a few mathematicians had ever ventured into. “Among mathematicians, computer proof verification was almost a forbidden subject,” Dr. Voevodsky wrote.
The problem was that these systems were extraordinarily cumbersome. Checking a single theorem could require a decade of work, because the computer essentially had to be taught all of the mathematics a proof was built on, in agonizing, inhuman detail. Ordinary mathematicians intent on expanding the borders of the field could not possibly devote that kind of effort to checking their proofs.
Somehow, computers and humans needed to be taught to think alike.
Dr. Voevodsky developed a stunningly bold plan for how to do so: He reformulated mathematics from its very foundation, giving it a new “constitution,” as Dr. Hales put it. Mathematics so reformulated would be far friendlier to computers and allow mathematicians to talk to computers in a language that was much closer to how mathematicians ordinarily think.
Today, Dr. Voevodsky declared in 2014, “computer verification of proofs, and of mathematical reasoning in general, looks completely practical.”

For the full obituary, see:
JULIE REHMEYER. “Vladimir Voevodsky, Dropout Turned Revolutionary Mathematician, Dies at 51.” The New York Times (Sat., OCT. 7, 2017): A12.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date OCT. 6, 2017, and has the title “Vladimir Voevodsky, Revolutionary Mathematician, Dies at 51.”)

Natural Gas Tanker Reaches South Korea 30 Percent Faster, Through Arctic

(p. 12) A Russian-owned tanker, built to traverse the frozen waters of the Arctic, completed a journey in record time from Europe to Asia this month, auguring the future of shipping as global warming melts sea ice.
The Christophe de Margerie, a 984-foot tanker built specifically for the journey, became the first ship to complete the so-called Northern Sea Route without the aid of specialized ice-breaking vessels, the ship’s owner, Sovcomflot, said in a statement.
. . .
The ship, transporting liquefied natural gas, completed the trip from Norway to South Korea Thursday of last week, in just 19 days, 30 percent faster than the regular route through the Suez Canal, the company said.
Sailors have for centuries sought a navigable Northwest Passage: a shorter, faster route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that transits the Arctic.

For the full story, see:
RUSSELL GOLDMAN. “No Icebreaker Needed: Thaw Lets Tanker Traverse Arctic.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., AUG. 27, 2017): 12.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 25, 2017, and has the title “Russian Tanker Completes Arctic Passage Without Aid of Icebreakers.”)

Russian Regulators Jail Entrepreneur for Innovating “Too Fast and Too Freely”

(p. A1) AKADEMGORODOK, Russia — Dmitri Trubitsyn is a young physicist-entrepreneur with a patriotic reputation, seen in this part of Siberia as an exemplar of the talents, dedication and enterprise that President Vladimir V. Putin has hailed as vital for Russia’s future economic health.
Yet Mr. Trubitsyn faces up to eight years in jail after a recent raid on his home and office here in Akademgorodok, a Soviet-era sanctuary of scientific research that was supposed to showcase how Mr. Putin’s Russia can harness its abundance of talent to create a modern economy.
A court last Thursday [August 3, 2017] extended Mr. Trubitsyn’s house arrest until at least October, which bars him from leaving his apartment or communicating with anyone other than his immediate family. Mr. Trubitsyn, 36, whose company, Tion, manufactures high-tech air-purification systems for homes and hospitals, is accused of risking the lives of hospital patients, and trying to lift profits, by upgrading the purifiers so they would consume less electricity.
Most important, he is accused of doing this without state regulators certifying the changes.
It is a case that highlights the tensions between Mr. Putin’s aspirations for a dynamic private sector and his determination to enhance the powers of Russia’s security apparatus. Using a 2014 law meant to protect Russians from counterfeit medicine, investigators from the Federal Security Service, the post-Soviet KGB, and other agencies have accused Mr. Trubitsyn of leading a criminal conspiracy to, essentially, innovate too fast and too freely.
. . .
(p. A9) Irina Travina, the founder of a software start-up and head of the local technology-business association, said Akademgorodok was “the best place in Russia,” with “outstanding schools, low crime and a high concentration of very smart people.”
But she said Mr. Trubitsyn’s arrest had delivered a grave blow to the community’s sense of security.
“In principle, anyone can fall into this situation,” Ms. Travina said, praising Mr. Trubitsyn as a patriot because he had not moved abroad and had invested time and money in science education for local children. “It can happen to anybody,” she added. “Everyone has some sort of skeleton in their closet. Maybe nothing big, but they can always find something to throw you in jail for.”

For the full story, see:
ANDREW HIGGINS. “Russia Wants Innovation, but Jails Innovators.” The New York Times (Thurs., AUG. 10, 2017): A1 & A9.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 9, 2017, and has the title “Russia Wants Innovation, but It’s Arresting Its Innovators.”)

“Unfettered Science, If We Have the Courage to Let It Unfold”

(p. 26) “How to Tame a Fox” sets out to answer a simple-seeming question: What makes a dog a dog? Put another way, how did an animal that started out as a bloodthirsty predator become one that now wants nothing more than a nice belly rub and the chance to gaze adoringly at a member of another species? In the late 1950s, a Russian scientist named Dmitri Belyaev decided to address this puzzle by taking the unheard-of tack of replicating the domestication process in real time. He and his colleagues took silver foxes, widely bred in vast Siberian farms for their luxurious pelts, and made them into friendly house pets. It was a deceptively simple process: Take the puppies from only the friendliest foxes, breed them and repeat. Lyudmila Trut, the current lead researcher of the silver fox experiment, who began work as Belyaev’s intern, along with Lee Alan Dugatkin, an American scientist and writer at the University of Louisville, documents their monumental effort in this sparkling new book.
Belyaev died in 1985, but the experiment is still ongoing, with 56 generations of foxes bred to date — a far cry from the snarling creatures that used to snap at the hands of their caretakers when the research began. The new foxes run toward people, jump on the bed and nuzzle one another as well as their human caretakers. Such a behavioral transformation was to some degree expected, since they were bred from the tamest members of their groups. Perhaps more intriguing, they also look more doglike, with floppy ears, wagging tails and piebald fur.
. . .
The book, . . . , is not only about dogs, or foxes, or even science under siege from political interests. . . . It may serve — particularly now — as a parable of the lessons that can emerge from unfettered science, if we have the courage to let it unfold.

For the full review, see:
MARLENE ZUK. “Fox and Friends.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., MAY 7, 2017): 26.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date MAY 5, 2017, and has the title “How Do You Make a Fox Your Friend? Fast-Forward Evolution.”)

The book under review, is:
Dugatkin, Lee Alan, and Lyudmila Trut. How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.

Lenin Sought to Enserf the Soul

(p. B11) Mr. Navrozov’s contempt for Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, and Stalin, his brutal successor, arose out of intellectual loathing, not of a personal history of exile or repression. In his book, “The Education of Lev Navrozov: A Life in the Enclosed World Once Called Russia” (1975), he described Lenin as a “barbarian” unworthy of his country’s deification.
“He had to enserf every soul psychologically,” he wrote. “He had to destroy inside every soul all the psychology of independence that had been accumulating throughout the history of Russia.”
The book, which was partly autobiographical, was praised by the philosopher Sidney Hook and the historian Robert K. Massie.
. . .
. . . , Saul Bellow, in his novel “More Die of Heartbreak” (1987), placed Mr. Navrozov among the dissident writers Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Maximov and Andrei Sinyavsky as “commanding figures, men of genius, some of them.”
. . .
. . . , [Navrozov] cautioned that the Affordable Care Act was reminiscent of Soviet-socialized medicine. “Obamacare will destroy the delicate fabric of existing free-market medical services,” he wrote in 2012 on Newsmax.

For the full obituary, see:
RICHARD SANDOMIR. “Lev Navrozov, Literary Translator and Soviet Dissident, Dies at 88.” The New York Times (Tues., FEB. 14, 2017): B11.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed word, added; italics in original.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date FEB. 9, 2017.)

The Navrozov book mentioned above, is:
Navrozov, Lev. The Education of Lev Navrozov: A Life in the Closed World Once Called Russia. New York: Harper’s Magazine Press, 1975.

Ukrainian Deal with E.U. Annoyed Russia and BLOCKED Ukrainian Egg Sales to Europe

(p. B1) SADKI-STROYEVKA, Ukraine — A cold wind whips through the streets. Vehicles that enter must drive through a foot-deep, moatlike bath of disinfectant, lest their tires track in disease. Computers raise and lower the levels of light to match circadian rhythms.
The scene is one of emptiness. One in four buildings is deserted. Fewer delivery trucks arrive than in years past.
As in much of Ukraine, hard times have befallen the Slovyany farm and its million or so inhabitants — all of them chickens.
“We could be a player, and not a small one,” said a forlorn Oleg Bakhmatyuk, the owner of Avangard, Ukraine’s biggest egg producer. “We could be a major supplier.”
The plight of his company, and the broader agricultural sector, has come to encapsulate a wider disenchantment in Ukraine with a trade agreement signed two years ago with the European Union. The deal, which went into force in January, included protections for farmers in the European bloc, and, as a result, one of Ukraine’s most successful industries has been effectively shut out of the new opportunities.
. . .
(p. B5) The deal itself was not particularly favorable to the agriculture sector, but there were other consequences as well. When the agreement was signed in March 2014, it almost immediately triggered conflict with Russia, Ukraine’s powerful neighbor. Moscow annexed Crimea, and Russian-backed separatists took control of parts of eastern Ukraine.
Avangard lost seven farms and 7.5 million chickens. It now keeps just 10.7 million hens, barely a third of its prewar capacity.
In effect, the deal provided a double blow to the agriculture sector: It went far enough to enrage Russia, but stopped short of immediately opening a lucrative new market.

For the full story, see:
ANDREW E. KRAMER. “Stunted Growth; Ukrainian Farmers, Poised to Broaden Their Markets, Stumble Under an E.U. Deal.” The New York Times (Sat., DEC. 24, 2016): B1 & B5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 23, 2016, and has the title “Ukrainian Farmers, Poised for Growth, Stumble After E.U. Deal.”)

Estonia Encourages Citizens to Own Guns to Defend Freedom

(p. A4) Since the Ukraine war, Estonia has stepped up training for members of the Estonian Defense League, teaching them how to become insurgents, right down to the making of improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.s, the weapons that plagued the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another response to tensions with Russia is the expansion of a program encouraging Estonians to keep firearms in their homes.
. . .
(p. A10) Encouraging citizens to stash warm clothes, canned goods, boots and a rifle may seem a cartoonish defense strategy against a military colossus like Russia. Yet the Estonians say they need look no further than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to see the effectiveness today, as ever, of an insurgency to even the odds against a powerful army.
Estonia is hardly alone in striking upon the idea of dispersing guns among the populace to advertise the potential for widespread resistance, as a deterrent.
Of the top four nations in the world for private gun ownership — the United States, Yemen, Switzerland and Finland — the No. 3 and 4 spots belong to small nations with a minutemen-style civilian call-up as a defense strategy or with a history of partisan war.
“The best deterrent is not only armed soldiers, but armed citizens, too,” Brig. Gen. Meelis Kiili, the commander of the Estonian Defense League, said in an interview in Tallinn, the capital.
The number of firearms, mostly Swedish-made AK-4 automatic rifles, that Estonia has dispersed among its populace is classified. But the league said it had stepped up the pace of the program since the Ukraine crisis began. Under the program, members must hide the weapons and ammunition, perhaps in a safe built into a wall or buried in the backyard.

For the full story, see:
ANDREW E. KRAMER. “TURI JOURNAL; Wary of Russia’s Ambitions, Estonia Prepares a Nation of Insurgents.” The New York Times (Tues., NOV. 1, 2016): A4 & A10.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 31, 2016, and has the title “TURI JOURNAL; Spooked by Russia, Tiny Estonia Trains a Nation of Insurgents.”)

Medal-Winning Official Steals Concrete from Public Road and Sells to Cronies

(p. A4) MOSCOW — Corruption in Russia sometimes amounts to highway robbery, literally.
A senior prison official has been accused of stealing the pavement from a 30-mile stretch of public highway in the Komi Republic, a thinly populated, heavily forested region in northern Russia, the daily newspaper Kommersant reported on its website on Wednesday [January 13, 2016].
. . .
While he was in Komi, Mr. Protopopov won a medal for fostering “spiritual unity,” the Kommersant report said, without specifying whether the unity was with the crews doing the illicit road work.

For the full story, see:
NEIL MacFARQUHAR. “Don’t Blame Snow for Missing Road in Russia’s North.” The New York Times (Thurs., JAN. 14, 2016): A4.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: online version of the story has the date JAN. 13, 2016, and has the title “Missing a Road in Russia? This May Be Why.”)

The Most Popular Kremlin Line

(p. A4) In an interview, Mr. Gorbachev shrugged off the fact that 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he remains among the most reviled men in Russia. “It is freedom of expression,” he said.
. . .
Some adore him for introducing perestroika, or restructuring, combined with glasnost, or openness, which together helped to jettison the worst repressions of the Communist system. Mr. Gorbachev led the way, albeit haltingly, toward free speech, free enterprise and open borders.
“Some love him for bringing freedom, and others loathe him for bringing freedom,” said Dmitri Muratov, the editor of Novaya Gazeta, one of the few remaining independent newspapers and one in which Mr. Gorbachev holds a 10 percent stake.
. . .
Mr. Muratov said they often recounted the same joke, based on Mr. Gorbachev’s infamous campaign to lower alcohol consumption:
Two men are standing in a long, long vodka line prompted by the limited supply. One asks the other to keep his place in line, because he wants to go over the Kremlin to punch Gorbachev in the face for his anti-alcohol policy. He comes back many hours later and his friend asks him if he had indeed punched Gorbachev. “No,” the man answered despondently. “The line at the Kremlin was even longer.”

For the full story, see:
NEIL MacFARQUHAR. “Reviled, Revered, and Still Challenging Russia to Evolve.” The New York Times (Thurs., JUNE 2, 2016): A4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JUNE 1, 2016, and has the title “Reviled by Many Russians, Mikhail Gorbachev Still Has Lots to Say.”)

Rudderless Russians Admire Stalin, Jobs, Gates and Gandhi

(p. A13) What makes Chelyabinsk compelling is its people. They are largely decent and undeniably intelligent, protective of what they have achieved, wary of the unknown, and, above all, clever and flexible at adapting to changing times. In a word, they are . . . wily men (and women) . . .
. . .
Perhaps most telling is Alexander, who lives in a village five hours from the city. He admires Mr. Putin and the system the president has built, even as he complains that corruption is rife, governance is poor, and the local economy is held back by an overbearing and rapacious state. Alexander’s criticisms mirror those of the citizens in the book who consider themselves dissidents and activists, though Alexander would never consider himself either one. “He is proud of Putin,” Ms. Garrels writes, “and between him and those who dread their country’s current course, there is an unbridgeable divide.”
This sort of internal contradiction isn’t unique to Alexander. Many of the Russians Ms. Garrels meets hold views that seem impossible to reconcile. She cites polls that show that two-thirds of ethnic Russians call themselves Orthodox believers, but many of those very same people say that they do not believe in God. At one point, the author visits a prestigious state secondary school where the students offer a curious mix of heroes: Joseph Stalin, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Gandhi. The search for a post-Soviet ideology has, in Chelyabinsk and across Russia, led to a strange mishmash, at once faithful and mystical, distrustful and fatalistic.

For the full review, see:
JOSHUA YAFFA. “BOOKSHELF; Russia’s Wily Men and Women; Russians hold views that seem impossible to reconcile. Students at a reputable school offer a curious mix of heroes: Stalin and Steve Jobs.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., April 18, 2016): A13.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 17, 2016.)

The book under review, is:
Garrels, Anne. Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

The “Freedom” of Soviet Cinema

(p. A13) In the world we live in–and the system we’ve created for ourselves, in terms of it’s a big industry–you cannot lose money. So the point is that you’re forced to make a particular kind of movie. And I used to say this all the time, with people, you know, back when Russia was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and they’d say, “Oh, but aren’t you so glad that you’re in America?” And I’d say, well, I know a lot of Russian filmmakers and they have a lot more freedom than I have. All they have to do is be careful about criticizing the government. Otherwise, they can do anything they want.

George Lucas, from an interview with Charlie Rose, as quoted in:
“Notable & Quotable: George Lucas and Soviet Cinema.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Jan. 4, 2016): A13.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 3, 2016.)

Compare what Lucas says, with the following:

(p. 164) Auteur cinema encountered difficulties in the and 1970s, partly because its poetic language remained inaccessible for the masses and made no considerable win at the box office, and partly because its symbolism was often feared to lead (p. 165) astray Soviet cinema’s political agenda. Sometimes international pressure or support could mean that film was released for screenings, while it remained undistributed or in low distribution at home. This applies to films of the leading auteurs of the period: Andrei Tarkovsky, whose Andrei Rublev was delayed for several years; Alexei Gherman, whose Trial on the Roads was banned; Alexander Sokurov, whose films were stopped during production (Anaesthesia Dolorosa); and Kira Muratova, who had two films banned and was prevented from working as director until the 1980s.

Auteur cinema, which emphasized the artistic impulse, in sharp contrast to socialist principle and was condemned, even with hindsight, by Sergei Gerasimov in 1988: ‘They [the auteur filmmakers] want to preach like a genius, a messiah. That is a position that is compatible with our communist ethics.’

Beumers, Birgit. A History of Russian Cinema. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2009.
(Note: bracketed phrase in original.)