I heard that Professor Suren Arakelov got mental disorder and ceased research. However, a brief search on the Russian wikipedia page showed he was placed in a psychiatric hospital because of political dissent.

Since in Soviet Union days a healthy person can get into psychiatric hospital because of "sluggish schizophrenia", it is unclear to me whether he was really sick. Perhaps he was tortured and that is why he stopped research? Is he still alive? Does he still give lectures in Moscow?

The whole Arakelov theory obviously owe its foundation to Arakelov's ground-breaking work in 1970s. The invention of Faltings height is stemed from Arakelov theory. I am wondering what is the current situation of Prof. Arakelov (no email, no physical address, only some dubious reports on wikipedia). The whole situation sounds like John Nash, except Arakelov have not recovered.

I ask at here because I honestly do not know who else to ask (I do not know anyone else graduated from Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas in my university).


I received an email forwarded from Prof. Beilinson, written by Prof. Bogomolov, which clarified the matter completely. The alleged event did not happen, even though Prof. Arakelov was warned by the government for his actions. Instead Prof. Arakelov was sick due to private personal reasons. As a result I am voting the post to close.

Thanks for everyone's help in this matter.

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    $\begingroup$ The page kvm.gubkin.ru/istoria_kaf.html that describes the history of the department of "higher mathematics" at Gubkin State Univ. of Oil and Gas doesn't mention Arakelov at all. $\endgroup$ – KConrad Nov 5 '18 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ @KConrad: This is a good point. I was about to ask Ed Frenkel on this. But I assume Arakelov quit much earlier. $\endgroup$ – Bombyx mori Nov 5 '18 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ That's true. Givental was an undergraduate there in the early 1980s (not sure of exact years, just extrapolated from the year of his PhD), and I suspect he probably missed overlapping with Arakelov there as well. $\endgroup$ – KConrad Nov 6 '18 at 1:21
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    $\begingroup$ I received private email from Belinson clarifying the matter. $\endgroup$ – Bombyx mori Nov 15 '18 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Bombyxmori, sorry, I don't understand. Which event did not happen? The Red Square protest or the imprisonment? If the former, then what was Arakelov warned for? $\endgroup$ – Kostya_I Mar 29 at 8:20

There are memoirs by Mikhail Zelikin in Russian. He knew Arakelov personally and quite explicitly describes what happened to him.

Через несколько дней произошло следующее. Был арестован Солженицын. Сурен Аракелов, верный ученик и последователь своего великого учителя, решил вступить в борьбу с режимом. Он изготовил два плаката — на грудь и на спину — с надписью: “Свободу Александру Солженицыну” и отправился на Красную площадь. Там его и арестовали и отправили прямехонько в институт Сербского. Выписали его через пару лет. Игорь Ростиславович приехал его навестить и поразился произошедшей перемене. Внутренний огонь его души был наглухо затоптан и погашен. Его не интересовали ни математика, ни политика, ни даже внимание его некогда обожаемого учителя. Через некоторое время он женился, нашел какую-то рутинную работу и превратился в добросовестного обывателя. Специалисты из института Сербского на этот раз блестяще продемонстрировали свою профессиональную состоятельность. Они превратили гениального мальчишку в “нормальную” посредственность.

In English:

A few days later the following happened. Solzhenitsyn was arrested. Suren Arakelov, a loyal disciple and follower of his great teacher [Shafarevich], decided to fight the regime. He made two posters - on his chest and on his back - with the inscription: “Freedom for Alexander Solzhenitsyn” and went to Red Square. There he was arrested and sent straight to the Serbsky Psychiatry Institute. He was discharged a couple of years later. Igor Rostislavovich [Shafarevich] came to visit him and was amazed at the change that had occurred. The inner fire of his soul was trampled and extinguished. He was not interested in mathematics, or politics, or even the attention of his once beloved teacher. After a while he got married, found some routine job and turned into an average man. On this occasion the specialists from the Serbsky Institute have brilliantly demonstrated their professional competence. They turned a genius into a “normal” mediocrity.

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    $\begingroup$ R.W.: Can you add a little context to the above passage? For instance, when did these events take place? It appears from Wikipedia that Solzhenitsyn's arrest was in 1974, so I assume sometime around then? $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Nov 5 '18 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Nate Eldredge The author of the memoirs (himself a mathematician) shared a communal appartment with an algebraic geometer Lapin who was often visited by the leading Moscow algebraic geometers of that time (Manin, Tyurin, Iskovskikh, Moishezon, Parshin). He depicts a hiking outing near Moscow with his neighbour Lapin, Shafarevich and Arakelov just before Solzhenitsyn's arrest which is followed by the quoted paragraph. Solzhenitsyn was indeed arrested (and expelled from the Soviet Union the day after) in February 1974 - this is the year when the last Arakelov's paper appeared. $\endgroup$ – R W Nov 5 '18 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for the interesting life story. In modern Russia, punitive psychiatry also works. True, the methods are now thinner, so rude do not take. But this is also observed. True, mostly - not for political reasons, but because of intractability (naivety and an attempt to swim against the current). A geek is not so hard to bring to paranoia. And to diagnose F21.0 after 4-12 months of being "on a bed" under antipsychotics is a pure formality. Sorry for the clumsy English. The story is very interesting and close to me. $\endgroup$ – pacify Nov 5 '18 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ @pacify Any references supporting that? $\endgroup$ – TT_ Nov 7 '18 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ @TT_, It is impossible to have a voice recorder/videocam in psychiatric clinics, therefore, with documentary evidence it is difficult. And the testimony of those who were there, will not be seriously considered - they do not have the capacity of Scotland Yard to investigate such cases. Completeness of the picture will always be insufficient. I now have a friend in the hospital, but I will not mention his name, so as not to harm him. If he comes out and can recover, then it will be possible to publish his story. Now he is reading Hegel in the hospital, and is trying to write programs on paper. $\endgroup$ – pacify Nov 7 '18 at 18:30

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