Survey War

«Science has not noticed the loss of Russia»

Machine assist­ed translation

Since February 24, 2022, we live in a new real­i­ty. It has touched all peo­ple on Earth, but sci­en­tists have been par­tic­u­lar­ly affect­ed. International sci­en­tif­ic ties, projects, and tra­di­tions that have been formed over decades are crum­bling in front of our eyes. We asked rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous sci­en­tif­ic fields to answer ques­tions about how the war affect­ed their activ­i­ties and them personally.

1. Science. One year after Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine, how do you assess changes in science?
2. Colleagues. What has changed in your spe­cif­ic pro­fes­sion­al envi­ron­ment, in your sci­en­tif­ic groups, orga­ni­za­tions, and communities?
3. Personally. How has this war year affect­ed you per­son­al­ly? What have you learned for yourself?


Igor Efimov, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Professor of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago IL USA

1. Science in the world’s lead­ing sci­en­tif­ic coun­tries is advanc­ing at full speed. Over the past year, many dis­cov­er­ies have been made. Scientific con­fer­ences are resum­ing all over the world after the covid. But not in Russia.

During the year of Putin’s war against Ukraine, Russia has actu­al­ly been iso­lat­ed by the world sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty as a sci­en­tif­ic part­ner. Whereas only a few years ago rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Foundation for Basic Research, Ministry of Education and Science, and oth­er Russian sci­en­tif­ic orga­ni­za­tions and uni­ver­si­ties fre­quent­ly came to Washington and oth­er U.S. cities, this has now com­plete­ly ceased. The Russian Embassy in Washington, which once attract­ed many to its musi­cal, sci­en­tif­ic and cul­tur­al events, has become a plague bar­rack that every­one avoids. This does not equal “can­cel­la­tion of Russian cul­ture”: music by Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky is played con­stant­ly from many U.S. stages. Art gal­leries are full of works by Kandinsky, Chagall, etc.

However, sci­ence has not noticed the loss of Russia, as the coun­try’s con­tri­bu­tion to the search for new knowl­edge is close to zero for the past 30 years, and after February 24, 2022 there was a col­lapse to zero. The mass exo­dus of Russian sci­en­tists, physi­cians, and engi­neers from Russia to Western coun­tries is also notice­able. Today’s sit­u­a­tion with Russia is rem­i­nis­cent of what hap­pened with regard to Nazi Germany in the coun­tries of the anti-Hitler coalition.

2. Colleagues. Our sci­en­tif­ic life is in full swing, not much has changed, except for the com­plete ces­sa­tion of joint projects with Russian uni­ver­si­ties. I per­son­al­ly informed MIPT rec­tor Livanov of the ces­sa­tion of joint projects in human heart phys­i­ol­o­gy a cou­ple of days after the ini­tial shock of Russia start­ing a full-scale war. Our Russian-speak­ing com­mu­ni­ty, orga­nized by the RASA, spoke out pub­licly and almost unan­i­mous­ly against Putin’s frat­ri­ci­dal war against Ukraine. The RASA con­fer­ence held in Los Angeles in November also con­demned Putin’s war with one voice and, for the first time in its his­to­ry, pro­vid­ed a plat­form for film and art rep­re­sen­ta­tives to dis­cuss the life of the Russian-speak­ing intel­lec­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty dur­ing the war.

The U.S. pro­fes­sion­al sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty is unequiv­o­cal­ly on the side of Ukraine. U.S. uni­ver­si­ties are accom­mo­dat­ing sci­en­tists and physi­cians in Ukraine and Russia who were forced to leave their coun­tries because of the war, and facil­i­tat­ing the process of employment.

3. Personally, the main les­son for me is the hor­ror of real­iz­ing that the bloody his­to­ry of the last cen­tu­ry has become our own real­i­ty, and we as a peo­ple have learned noth­ing from sur­viv­ing the ter­ri­ble cen­tu­ry of com­mu­nism and the Gulag. The awful real­i­ties of the Philosophers’ ships of 1922 became a real­i­ty in 2022. We ded­i­cat­ed the last RASA con­fer­ence to this. We have not pro­tect­ed the democ­ra­cy that Russia got at such a great cost 30 years ago. We need to start from scratch with a new gen­er­a­tion and fight for the Beautiful Russia of the Future.

Another les­son is the grat­i­tude of RASA col­leagues who, with few excep­tions, have been on the side of truth in sup­port­ing Ukraine and have spo­ken out pub­licly against Putin’s blood­bath. Alas, there are also those who, despite decades of liv­ing and work­ing in the United States, sup­port Putin’s impe­r­i­al gains, believ­ing that the post-Soviet bor­ders require revi­sion. But they are few in num­ber, and they do not speak out pub­licly as those pro-Putin schol­ars who live in Russia do.

I also final­ly felt a per­son­al close­ness to the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Russian sci­ence who had to leave the coun­try in the 1920s and 30s. I found Vladimir Ipatiev’s archive at Northwestern University in Chicago, where both he and many Russian schol­ars, includ­ing myself, were and are pro­fes­sors. It has now become my mis­sion to study his per­son­al archive and write about him.


Askold Ivantchik, his­to­ri­an, cor­re­spond­ing mem­ber of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Academy of Inscriptions and Fine Arts (Institut de France) and the German Archaeological Institute; Directeur des recherch­es, National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Ausonius Institute for the Study of Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Bordeaux, France.

1. Science as a whole, I do not think that it has expe­ri­enced any sig­nif­i­cant changes. If we talk about Russian sci­ence, then these changes, in my opin­ion, can­not be called oth­er than cat­a­stroph­ic. I think that this is true for all sci­en­tif­ic fields, but I see the sit­u­a­tion in the human­i­ties more clear­ly. Over the last thir­ty-five years Russian sci­ence has got used to be a part of the world sci­ence. In fact, this is the only way sci­ence can exist: it is either world sci­ence or noth­ing at all. Attempts to iso­late sci­ence in one coun­try lead to its grad­ual and some­times rapid death. We have seen this in those dis­ci­plines that were iso­lat­ed for var­i­ous rea­sons, pri­mar­i­ly ide­o­log­i­cal, in the USSR, and now in just one year the degree of iso­la­tion of Russian sci­ence has become even greater than it was then.

All ties have already been sev­ered or are being sev­ered. At least at the insti­tu­tion­al lev­el, vir­tu­al­ly all joint projects and col­lab­o­ra­tions have been frozen. Isolated from the out­side world, Russian sci­ence will be able to sur­vive for some time on old stock — some­where bet­ter, some­where worse — and then per­ish if the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues. Of course, there will not be a com­plete­ly emp­ty place, but an increas­ing role will be played by pseu­do-sci­en­tists and home­grown author­i­ties, who will do some­thing there «for the first time in nation­al science».

2. Colleagues. A lot has changed, lit­er­al­ly every­thing. Over the past thir­ty years, I have spent a lot of time and effort to ensure that Russian sci­ence in my field devel­ops as part of world sci­ence. I man­aged to build sev­er­al research and edu­ca­tion­al projects, I think, quite suc­cess­ful, in which inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion played a large role. A year ago, all of this was destroyed in one day. I am try­ing to pre­serve some rem­nants, part­ly with the hope of future restora­tion, but it is becom­ing increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult. The iso­la­tion of Russian sci­ence is hap­pen­ing from both sides: from the inside and the out­side. At first it was a ques­tion of ter­mi­nat­ing coop­er­a­tion with Russian insti­tu­tions while main­tain­ing it at the indi­vid­ual lev­el. And indeed, as recent­ly as last fall, some of my young col­leagues par­tic­i­pat­ed in inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ences in European coun­tries with­out too much trou­ble, while oth­ers were giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to study or work in these coun­tries by win­ning the rel­e­vant com­pe­ti­tions. Now, how­ev­er, these oppor­tu­ni­ties seem to be shrink­ing as well. I am aware of cas­es when the German embassy refus­es to issue a visa to those who receive an invi­ta­tion to work at a German uni­ver­si­ty, hav­ing passed a dif­fi­cult selec­tion in an inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion. The jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for such a deci­sions is sur­pris­ing: the per­son has worked or is work­ing in a state insti­tu­tion (and where else in Russia can a researcher work?), and thus alleged­ly sup­ports the pol­i­cy of the Russian author­i­ties and rep­re­sents a threat to the nation­al inter­ests of Germany. Even the clear­ly and pub­licly expressed anti-war posi­tion is not tak­en into account. On the oth­er hand, Russian uni­ver­si­ties are fir­ing pro­fes­sors with European pass­ports, who decid­ed a year ago not to aban­don their stu­dents and con­tin­ue to teach them.

A sep­a­rate and par­tic­u­lar­ly painful top­ic is rela­tions with Ukrainian col­leagues. Throughout my aca­d­e­m­ic career ties and coop­er­a­tion with them have been extreme­ly impor­tant to me: my aca­d­e­m­ic inter­ests make this nat­ur­al and nec­es­sary. It is not just the work­ing rela­tion­ship, many of my Ukrainian col­leagues have become close friends, and this friend­ship is decades old. Ukraine is an impor­tant part of my life, not only pro­fes­sion­al. I am very glad that none of my friends broke off our rela­tions, and I did not feel hos­til­i­ty or alien­ation in my rela­tions with them, though such a reac­tion could have been expect­ed. But, of course, our coop­er­a­tion is now pos­si­ble only because of my French affil­i­a­tion. By the way, I can only admire the courage and ded­i­ca­tion of my Ukrainian friends and col­leagues: despite the hard­est con­di­tions, they con­tin­ue to do research, pub­lish and edit sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals in a coun­try at war.

3. Personally. I think it is clear from all of this that for me, as for many, it was a dis­as­ter, both per­son­al­ly and pro­fes­sion­al­ly. I had to change a lot in my life and in my pro­fes­sion­al and per­son­al plans; it is like­ly that I will have to change even more in the future. Of course, my sit­u­a­tion is much bet­ter than that of most of my Ukrainian and Russian col­leagues, so I have noth­ing to com­plain about. As for what I under­stood, I can­not say that I under­stood some­thing I did not under­stand before. Maybe I began to under­stand bet­ter the nature of the cur­rent Russian author­i­ties, but in this respect I had no illu­sions before. Perhaps, look­ing around, I under­stand that the over­all sit­u­a­tion could have been much worse; how­ev­er, it might still be.


Sergei Popov, astro­physi­cist, Professor of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Leading Researcher of Lomonosov Moscow State University, Associate Research Officer ICTP, Italy.

1. Science. For about 30 years (the Russian Foundation for Basic Research appeared in 1992, the Soros pro­gram ISSEP start­ed in 1994) the feel­ing was grad­u­al­ly build­ing that it was pos­si­ble to do sci­ence in Russia. It was an impor­tant process, because, to put it mild­ly, there were doubts about it, which was expressed in the mass exo­dus of both sci­en­tists and grad­u­ates in the late 80’s — ear­ly 90’s, and lat­er. In February 2022, all three of those three decades of cre­ative work were sud­den­ly undone. I do not want to exag­ger­ate what has been achieved over 30 years, the read­ers of TrV-N are well aware of the huge num­ber of prob­lems in the orga­ni­za­tion of sci­ence in Russia and of the fact that in recent years there has been more of a neg­a­tive trend. Nevertheless, the feel­ing in the bulk of the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty has been quite pos­i­tive. However, the war with Ukraine, being a tragedy in itself, has set the coun­try back in every sense. Including in science.

  • At once, inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion above the per­son-to-per­son lev­el was destroyed (although in many cas­es the war some­how inter­rupt­ed the rela­tion­ship at the per­son­al lev­el too). For many col­leagues, this was a seri­ous blow, because years (if not decades) of effort and time had been invest­ed in cre­at­ing projects. And all in vain. A strik­ing exam­ple — shut­down of the German tele­scope eROSITA onboard the Russian satel­lite Spektr-RG.
  • Many sci­en­tists (both young and not so young) left the coun­try. Especially after the so-called par­tial mobi­liza­tion was announced in September.
  • Those who stayed in Russia now have a lot of prob­lems with pro­cure­ment and trav­el to conferences.
  • Finally, a num­ber of prob­lems have arisen relat­ed to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of express­ing one’s own posi­tion, or even sim­ply hav­ing a point of view that dif­fers from the offi­cial one. Strict self-cen­sor­ship always affects the cre­ative process, even if the restric­tions are not direct­ly relat­ed to this activ­i­ty. To live in such a sti­fling atmos­phere is excru­ci­at­ing. To aban­don self-cen­sor­ship com­plete­ly is scary: we see new exam­ples of cas­es being set up just for «likes,» not to men­tion out­right protests.

In the com­ing years, Russian sci­ence will be increas­ing­ly provin­cial. There will be few­er direct inter­na­tion­al con­tacts, few­er joint projects with strong sci­en­tif­ic groups. Obviously, there will be no inter­na­tion­al exper­tise, which is detri­men­tal to any nation­al sys­tem of sci­ence orga­ni­za­tion. Russia overnight ceased to be attrac­tive as a place of work for the vast major­i­ty of strong for­eign col­leagues. It is impor­tant to under­stand that Russia’s share of strong world sci­ence is at the lev­el of a cou­ple of per­cent (even less in some areas). Contacts with Iran and Central Africa will not get you very far in sci­ence. Even China, India and South Africa will not help here. And it is essen­tial that this trend towards provin­cial­iza­tion can­not be reversed quickly.

Here I want to return to my orig­i­nal the­sis. It took a long time to build up a rep­u­ta­tion. And it sim­ply can­not be returned overnight. This is a rep­u­ta­tion in the world (to trust Russian part­ners in a long-term project or not), and the rep­u­ta­tion inside (worth to go to the Russian sci­ence or not). If 10 years ago it was quite nor­mal when young peo­ple planned to con­tin­ue their sci­en­tif­ic career in Russia, now such plans (for com­pet­i­tive young peo­ple) will be less and less.

Also, spend­ing on basic sci­ence (in real com­pa­ra­ble prices) will prob­a­bly be less. More atten­tion will be paid to sci­ence relat­ed to the mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex. Even applied research focused on peace­ful uses will suf­fer, because it will be more dif­fi­cult to export some sci­ence-inten­sive goods and services.

In gen­er­al, the prospects for the fun­da­men­tal sci­ences in Russia are bleak. And I’m talk­ing about the nat­ur­al sci­ences! The socio-human­i­tar­i­ans have sim­ply had a cat­a­stro­phe. But they’d bet­ter tell us about it themselves.

2. Colleagues. In my inner cir­cle, the prob­lems gen­er­al­ly dupli­cate those described in the pre­vi­ous para­graph. Except that nei­ther I nor most of my col­leagues in my inner cir­cle have been very close­ly involved in inter­na­tion­al projects where Russia would par­tic­i­pate at the lev­el of state organizations.

The first thing that is notice­able is the depar­ture of sci­en­tists, espe­cial­ly young peo­ple (although many col­leagues of my age left because of draft-age chil­dren). I had two tal­ent­ed young peo­ple leave (a strong grad­u­ate stu­dent and a senior female stu­dent who had the poten­tial to be a great grad­u­ate stu­dent). Actually, in our small group, almost all the young peo­ple and a few of the old­er staff left. Mostly to Germany.

The sec­ond — par­tic­i­pa­tion in the inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ences and orga­ni­za­tion of the inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ences in Russia. We had just begun to rejoice about the end of the pan­dem­ic, when we encoun­tered a more seri­ous con­ta­gion. Practically all our con­tacts are now online only.

The third thing is the pur­chase of equip­ment, soft­ware, etc. There are sanc­tions and pay­ment prob­lems. For astronomers-observers who must con­stant­ly upgrade their instru­ments, it is very painful.

Finally, the rela­tion­ships between so many peo­ple have changed. The polar­iza­tion of opin­ions has increased, which in some cas­es has either made com­mu­ni­ca­tion impos­si­ble, or com­mu­ni­ca­tion has been reduced to the bare min­i­mum, and this, as far as sci­ence is con­cerned, cer­tain­ly pre­cludes close forms of pro­duc­tive coop­er­a­tion. It is extreme­ly unpleas­ant to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple who, like Sorokin’s char­ac­ters, eat their dai­ly «norm».

3. Personally, even before the out­break of the mil­i­tary con­flict, some­where in late 2021 or ear­ly 2022, I had a very grave feel­ing of what was hap­pen­ing in the coun­try. With the start of a full-scale war, a sig­nif­i­cant reassess­ment of pri­or­i­ties, plans, etc., took place quite quick­ly. Until the fall, though, I had no plans to leave the coun­try, appar­ent­ly hop­ing for some kind of mir­a­cle. But around October it became clear that for both per­son­al and exter­nal rea­sons I did not want to stay in Russia. I sin­cere­ly admire those peo­ple who stay in Russia and try to some­how resist the night­mare that is hap­pen­ing, at least to demon­strate their posi­tion at the risk of being fired upon by repres­sion (and many, many of them actu­al­ly are). Unfortunately, I did not find such strength in me. Right now I have a one-year con­tract at the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste. What will hap­pen next — we’ll see. The prospects are not very bright. Quitting every­thing and look­ing for a new job after 50 is quite difficult.

T-invari­ant plans to con­tin­ue pub­lish­ing answers to these questions.