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This is not a formal judgment, when a certain number of jurors are required.

This is not a formal judgment, when a certain number of jurors are required.

Do you believe this?

M.V .: Yes.OO: Of course.

And I was completely terrified. I ask: who read Dostoevsky? Three excellent students, it turns out – there is such a breed, excellent students … Two charming girls, well, typical excellent students, we pulled such pigtails in childhood. It was disgusting with them. We return to the question of whether a philosopher should be educated. If you please, what kind of a philosopher is he without this? But can you really call yourself a Russian person if you, excuse me, have not read The Idiot?

OO: Is it necessary for a philosopher to call himself Russian in order to philosophize?

No, I’m talking about Russian now. I am philosophizing in Russian here – in England, of course, in English. But in matters of language, I am a Russian patriot on the verge of chauvinism. I am beginning to hate people with ugly vulgar Russian language. This is terrible. People are not ashamed to speak such a language.

OO: This is their freedom.

Is this their freedom ?! Then guys, drive yourself! Do you think it is better with English students in England? I have long ceased to make scandals about the fact that I am terribly in love with English, but good!

MV: Maybe you just love the old language? Old Russian and Old English. And now the language has changed.

No, we change the language.

OO: We ourselves are changing, and we are changing the language.

So it’s you who change the language, but it’s not the language itself. Therefore, it suddenly turns out that both in England and in Russia the best language for the children of some strange semi-educated mechanics, lieutenant colonels of artillery of the Soviet period, that is, it is obvious that both in England and in Russia the degeneration is not coming from below, but from above. Any degeneration and any rebirth does not come from below, as they say, from the roots invented by morons – it can only come from above. If there is an elite with an elite Russian language, they are on top, right? And if, you know, a professor at the Russian State Humanitarian University starts a conversation: "Well, after all, we must proceed from the analysis of the available situations." Yes, with his level of thinking, he will not have any real situation at all !?

OO: And you know, sometimes you want to justify those who speak bad Russian. For example, if you listen to the old programs of Radio Liberty of the 1950s, 1960s, which were hosted by emigrants with excellent Russian – Georgy Adamovich, Vladimir Veidle, Gaito Gazdanov …

How I loved them!

OO: Yes, of course, this is a brilliant language, but it is impossible to listen to such radio broadcasts now. This is the rate of speech of people who sit in the carriage of the past …

…and who have a lot of time. But true culture, true philosophy and true science are impossible without leisure. If you are in a hurry, all the time you run to the phone, you say when you are in a fever, you fly on these nasty planes, instead of, like my beloved Pyotr Andreevich Vyazemsky, shaking all over Europe in a carriage …

OO: In the literal sense of the carriage of the past?

Yes. That’s the whole point.

MV: Will you soon be back in Russia – at the Days of Science in St. Petersburg, held by the Dynasty Foundation? What are you going to talk about there?

When I go to Leningrad … ugh, to St. Petersburg … I wanted to talk there about some problems of philosophy, as I understand them … But they told me: “No, tell me about yourself. About your way … ”What the hell is the way! The road is bumpy, not repaired for the last four and a half thousand years.

In the post-war era, the Russian mathematical school was famous for two things – significant results and the forced lack of constant contacts with foreign colleagues. What has changed in mathematics since Russian scientists became part of the world community? We asked Jean-Michel Bismut, the editor-in-chief of one of the most prestigious mathematical journals Inventiones Mathematicae, professor at the University of Southern Paris (Paris-Sud 11). He came to Russia for the International School-Conference in memory of A. N. Tyurin, which was held at the Mathematical Institute. Steklov Institute of RAS.Interviewed by Olga Orlova.

– Mr. Bismuth, this is your first time in Moscow, but you studied Russian for a whole year before coming to Russia. Why?

– I have been interested in Russian literature and history for a long time. I have also always been very interested in Russian mathematics. And I thought that if such two important lines of my life – mathematics and literature – are united in one country, then this is enough to start learning its language. Russia was twice a mysterious country for me, because I come from Portugal. And we, as you know, at that time did not have diplomatic relations with the USSR. And my acquaintance with Russia began through music.

Once in my childhood (I was five or six years old) my parents took me to Lisbon for a music competition in which two pianists from Russia took part. I was amazed at their performance, they played much better than the rest. I remembered them for the rest of my life: Naum Shtarkman and Gleb Axelrod. The Lisbon audience was absolutely delighted, and the musicians from Russia shared the first two places. And then the violinist Oistrakh came to Lisbon. And it was so incredible! Then, of course, there was a companion and Gagarin … That is, the sensations from Russia were very complex, mysterious and romantic.

– When you were young, did you communicate with any of the Russian mathematicians?

– I heard about the great Russian mathematical school, but in our perception it was almost a mythical school, primarily because contacts were extremely rare. We practically did not see Russian mathematicians. We only heard that scientists in Russia are doing fantastic things, but for us Russian mathematics was completely closed – “terra incognita”. After all, then Soviet scientists could not freely travel abroad, and we, in turn, not being able to see colleagues from the USSR in person, were very impressed with the scientific results that came from Russia. It was surprising that the Russians were solving exactly the same tasks that we were engaged in in Europe – during our lifetime without any restrictions.

I remember how Grigory Margulis could not come to the congress in Helsinki in 1978 to receive the Fields Medal personally. It seems that the authorities did not give him permission to leave the country. It was terribly offensive, because many people went to this congress just to see Russian mathematicians who were able to do such important fundamental things. I wanted to talk personally, especially since the articles of Russian mathematicians at that time were very short. In our magazines there was no limit on the number of pages, but in Russian magazines there was such a limit. Therefore, many Russian articles with important results were presented with reduced evidence. But on the whole, I have always liked the Russian school of mathematics extremely.

– Well, actually, a short proof is typical not only for the Russian mathematical school. In our other sciences, including the humanities, scientists are also not very fond of "chewing" evidence. Perhaps, in a sense, this can be called a distinctive feature of the Russian scientific style.

– Yes? Is this not only in mathematics? But they explained to me precisely by the fact that Russian journals had limitations on the number of pages in published and translated articles … I did not know that there were other explanations.

– Do you read any Russian scientific journals now?

– But most of them are published in Russian, and you know that Russian is still a very difficult language (laughs). True, we have translated versions of Russian journals, usually with a delay of about a year after publication in Russia. And, unfortunately, there are some pretty funny mistakes, especially when it comes to foreign names that have already been changed in Russian transcription, and then, when they were "translated" back into their native, say, English, they change beyond recognition. So, for example, I remember how a man named John Tate, when he "returned" to his native language, became a zeta-function. That is, the translator did not understand at all what was being said.

– Can you formulate the principles of a good scientific journal? Do you have a prescription?

– First of all, we must remember that it takes years to create a decent magazine. It takes several months for a journal to be destroyed. Thus, if we want to organize a respected, professional scientific journal, we must tune in to a very, very long process based on trust and faith in journal work, the belief that it is an integrating process.

In fact, my personal experience shows that one must be extremely thoughtful and careful in this matter. We believe in the process of scientific integration, the scientific community and mutual assistance. But we are the editorial board, not the Lord God. You have to understand that we are based on information from people, which means that we can make mistakes, we can reject the article, the only article that should not be rejected … Moreover, it is possible to make mistakes in retrospect: we think, that this publication will be very interesting, and over time it turns out that there was nothing meaningful in it. Of course, we believe that we have every reason to believe that the articles we publish will be highly appreciated. And then, after a while, having opened the next issue of the magazine and just looking at the publications, suddenly we realize that we do not like what was published. Yes, yes, it happens! You have to understand that this happens.

Thus, I repeat once again that you have to be very careful. Every day and hour you have to confirm the quality of your work and meet expectations, and for this you have to be very careful and delicate. And, as I believe, one should not forget that the main work that a scientific journal does is work with authors. They are the main characters of our book, because it is they who prove the most complex theorems and do the hardest work. And we, the editorial board, are just the producers of this business, in a sense, a service.

– Is it difficult to find suitable experts among your colleagues?

– There are two aspects. The first aspect: mathematics, as I said, is becoming more and more technically complex, proofs are extremely difficult. And therefore, sometimes it is simply difficult to find, besides the author himself, another person who would actually understand the essence of the proof – someone who can evaluate and check the work as a whole.

– But you need to get feedback from two people?

– No not always. This is not a formal judgment, when a certain number of jurors are required. Sometimes you can take one expert’s word for it. It is important that this expert fully understands all the arguments presented in the article.

But there is also a second aspect: our magazine is very attractive. After all, if a scientist is published in a prestigious journal, this already means that he has done a quality job. And since our mathematical community is quite friendly, people collaborate very faithfully to honestly evaluate the article. For example, in the same case with Perelman’s proof, it took a lot of work of many people to verify the proof itself. And it took three or four years. So I think the global system of the math community is working pretty well. Depending on the area, of course.

And then, you know, there aren’t many erroneous results published in mathematics. It seems to me that the assessment and selection system is quite effective. This is not to say that after twenty years we often find something fake or wrong. This can happen in some places. But there are no serious general misconceptions in post-war mathematics.

However, in any case, a true, self-respecting journal must remember: if you find a published article that is incorrect or in which there are errors, you must immediately find an expert who understands why this is incorrect and invite him to publish the correction.

– That is, the editor takes over the pedagogical functions, the functions of the teacher?

– No, no, teacher is too soft a word! Sometimes the editor of a scientific journal can be a policeman. In a way, you have to be able to keep the place clean! And you should call a spade a spade. Sometimes someone wants to pass off as proven what is not proven. And you should definitely point this out to the author. But to do this, you should be absolutely clear about what is evidence in this case and what is not. After all, sometimes the situation in science is similar to sports. And some person publishes half of the proof, and another has already completed it in full. And the first one wants to get all the advantages of the second one. And then you have to become the judge between them.

– The problem of the quality of scientific journals is now very acute in Russia. In many areas, we have almost no world-class magazines. What advice do you have?

– Russia is a big country, and of course there are many magazines in it. But all this huge number of magazines cannot be world-class. Top is top, there must be a difference and gradation. Magazines of different levels must be published. You need to have magazines where young people can publish. And maybe national magazines are just for this. For example, in mathematics, if young people try to publish only in world-class journals, they will wait several years until their work is just accepted for consideration. What for?

However, the logs should not degrade. And the first sign of dying is when publications start publishing works that are of no interest to anyone, except for the authors. If there is no own – albeit a small – scientific community that would be interested in certain publications, things are bad.

In this sense, I do not know the situation in Russia at all, and therefore cannot give specific recommendations on how to improve the management of journals. You see, I see that my Russian colleagues work in Russia in very difficult conditions, and I cannot assess their ability to maintain the level of the magazine. But on the other hand, I do not consider striving to get into the top ten as an end in itself of a good scientific journal. It’s ridiculous to say: "Our magazine should be the first magazine in the world!" You don’t have to declare it. After all, as I said, creating a good magazine is a very long process.

But, so that the level of the journal does not drop, you need to be very clear about the tasks facing your journal, understand what you want to do, what to achieve, and know exactly who you want to print in your journal. It is possible to make a brilliant journal for young scientists. Everyone knows that in a "big, adult" magazine, a wonderful article can be overlooked and thrown into the trash. I think every science editor has had a similar error. Remember the story of Galois and Cauchy.

– Physicians in such cases say that each doctor has his own small cemetery.

– Yes, no one is immune from this. And thus, you just have to strive for the journal to remain independent, for an honest examination to work, and then, perhaps, even the task of representing young people in science in itself will turn out to be very worthy. So I cannot give specific advice, but I can only confirm these general principles.

– What could you say about the Russian Academy of Sciences, comparing it with the French Academy?

– You see, it is extremely difficult, having the experience of a scientific system from one country, to judge what is happening in the scientific system of another country – especially when it comes to such a huge country like Russia, a country of great traditions.