31.7.07

1296.- Genocidio intelectual

No se por dónde empezar a explicar el ejercicio del post 1294. Hace unos días descubrí por azar el libro "You failed your math test, comrade Einstein", y tras leer el prólogo (disponible aquí), no lo pude soltar. Si se leen lo que sigue, verán que no me quedé corto cuando les dije que la historia pone los pelos de punta.

An important part of this book is devoted to a bizarre and, I would say, unique page in the history of science. It tells a story of how high- school mathematics was used as a weapon of racism in the USSR (...)

The place of action is the Soviet Union, the time is the 1970s and 80s, a time of a general decline of the regime. Among other ugly phenomena of the so-called real socialism that flourished under Brezhnev was state–sponsored anti-Semitism. (...) Of course, it was not the first peak, and not even the strongest, but it was strong enough to virtually close all reputable departments of mathematics in the Soviet Union, as well as some physics departments, to Jewish applicants. I do not know why, but it is a well-known fact that the Russian mathematical establishment was pathologically anti-Semitic. Such outstanding mathematicians as Pontryagin, Shafarevich and Vinogradov, who had enormous administrative power in their hands, were ferocious antiSemites. The tactics used for cutting off Jewish students were very simple. At the entrance examination, special groups of "undesirable applicants" were organized. They were then offered killer problems which were among the hardest from the set circulated in mathematical circles, quite frequently at the level of international mathematical competitions. Sometimes they were deliberately flawed. Even if an exceptionally bright Jewish student occasionally overcame this barrier in the written examination, zealous professors would adjust the oral exam appropriately, to make sure that this student flunked the oral exam.

(...) Intellectual Genocide, was written by Boris Kanevsky and Valery Senderov in 1980. This book presents the first publication of this essay. As you will see, it is very factual and is based on a study of 87 Moscow high school graduates from six special math schools, many of whom had won prizes in national mathematics Olympiads. The bulk of the essay is an unemotional comparative analysis of various math problems given to "desirable" and "undesirable" applicants, with statistically motivated conclusions at the end. The essay was deemed a political provocation, and heavy consequences ensued shortly. One of the authors, Valery Senderov, was sentenced to 7 years in prison and 5 years in exile on charges of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. Boris Kanevsky was also arrested and spent three years in prison. It is hard to believe it now, but this is a true story. This is how it was...


El problema que puse era uno de los favoritos de los examinadores. Si se fijan en la página 113 (el capítulo Genocidio intelectual) en google books, verán un par de argumentos para desaprobar a gente que respondía bien.

Si buscan el review del libro en Zentralblatt van a encontrar una crítica feroz al autor de la primera parte del libro (que se puede bajar de aquí, y donde pueden ver cierto descargo del autor), y en cierto modo ese capítulo desentona con el resto: el autor se entusiasma con los "killer problems" y disfruta sus sutilezas y variantes...

De la lectura del libro se desprende que también eran "indeseables" los sospechados de no ser adeptos al régimen, o los disidentes políticos. V.I.Arnold, por ejemplo, fue castigado por aceptar ser editor de una revista (extranjera) sin consultar al partido (el castigo fue no permitirle viajar a conferencias en el exterior). Otro tema es que los hijos de funcionarios tenían prioridad para ingresar, lo cual reducía los cupos. Y otro grupo discriminado es de no creer: los ganadores de olimpíadas matemáticas... como denuncia Zelevinsky (sí, Andrei), por ser considerados "socially alien" (!).

Quedan historias por contar, mezcla de heroísmo y de ingenuidad: la "Jewish University", los "kerosinka", Bella (muerta en un accidente de tránsito tras hacer lo impensable: denunciar a la KGB -con estadísticas como pruebas- que en la universidad había discriminación)...

2 comentarios:

amio cajander dijo...

Buff pues la respuesta al problema no puede ser más repugnante.

Muy mal hemos de haber hecho como especie las cosas cuando las raices cuadradas son armas de genocidio intelectual.

Enhorabuena por los posts.

Yo por mi parte seguiré preparando el examen de Septiembre. [ No suspendí por discriminación sino por burro. :-) ]

JuanPablo dijo...

totalmente de acuerdo, elio (con la primera parte, no con lo de burro!)

impresiona que los responsables fueran científicos puros, muchos de primerísimo nivel, y estamos hablando del final de la era soviética, no en pleno stalinismo.