There might be just enough time to pick another location, but I am curious what mathematicians think. Will Ukrainian mathematicians be able to attend a conference in Russia if Russia no longer recognizes their passports?

To be clear: I love Russia, and I am not trying to hurt the feelings of Russian mathematicians or people.

The International Mathematical Union (IMU) have made a decision on moving the ICM to a virtual event, but there is still the (less exciting) decision to make concerning the location of IMU General Assembly.

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    $\begingroup$ I posted something on meta about this: meta.mathoverflow.net/a/5261/25028. To me this is a very borderline quesiton for the MO front page: it is inherently subjective and political; on the other hand, certainly it is of interest to research mathematicians. I'm conflicted as to whether it should be closed. $\endgroup$ Feb 24 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ I’m not sure this question can really be answered on MO, but my vote is “[expletive deleted] no.” $\endgroup$
    – Gabe K
    Feb 24 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ SMF (french) statement. Last sentence: "The SMF urges the International Mathematical Union not to hold the ICM in Russia in 2022." $\endgroup$
    – abx
    Feb 24 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ @abx There is a similar AMS statement. $\endgroup$ Feb 24 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ @godelian The dividing has already been done. Allowing the divider the prestige of hosting the ICM seems to me (and others) highly immoral, even without getting into security concerns. $\endgroup$ Feb 25 at 20:19

3 Answers 3


To answer the question in the title: "No."

And I would imagine that Ukrainian mathematicians would boycott any ICM held in Russia, in these times. So the question of whether Russia would honor their passports will probably not arise.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't even think this is about Ukranian mathematicians at this point. Holding ICM in Russia is no longer tenable. If It's not moved many invited speakers will not go. At least I hope so. There are things more important than math honors. $\endgroup$ Feb 25 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ I'd even go that far to say that such global event as an ICM should ideally take place in a location where nobody -- regardless from where in the world -- has the feeling to be in enemy's country, as far as this can realistically be achieved. But an ICM in St Petersburg this year would feel to me like an ICM in Munich in 1938. $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl
    Feb 25 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl, you express something I think we all wish for. But do you have an actual location to suggest? I would add that I think to achieve such a goal, each ICM should be funded jointly by all IMU members (at appropriate percentages) instead of just the host country. $\endgroup$
    – Deane Yang
    Feb 25 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ @DeaneYang While there is no perfect location, certainly a good approximation are small neutral countries (such as e.g. Switzerland or Austria) which were not involved in war in the past decades and which do not threaten other countries by military means. And yes, I also think funding should be by all IMU members -- already to avoid that only big or rich countries can host an ICM, or that commercial / PR considerations play a too big role. $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl
    Feb 25 at 21:46
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    $\begingroup$ Small neutral countries that will allow visa-free travel or expedited visas without a humiliating and expensive process for citizens of every country (and yes, third-world countries are countries). Something tells me that not every small neutral country in Europe fits the bill. $\endgroup$ Feb 26 at 10:41

The real question is not about the Congress. There will be no ICM in Petersburg. Maximum what they can stage is a Russian-Chinese conference. Which decent Russians and Chinese will not attend anyway.

The real question is about moral character of the IMU leadership. It is they who made a decision to have this congress in the country which is controlled by a maniac mass murderer sitting on 5000+ nukes. Everyone knew what kind of country is this since 2014.

And even in these last two days, when bombs and missiles are falling on all major Ukrainian cities, the IMU committee is still "discussing" something!

Edit. Meanwhile, sports federations cancel all events in Russia and even tourist tour operators cancel their tours. Only IMU is still "deliberating".

Update: It seems that they finally decided.

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    $\begingroup$ In fairness, they may be discussing whether it is feasible to move ICM to another location in either 2022 or 2023, versus canceling it altogether. The logistical and financial issues in organizing a huge conference such as the ICM in 5 months, or even 17 months, are daunting. I have no inside knowledge, but I do feel it's okay to give them the weekend to decide what to do. Of course, they should issue an initial statement saying "no ICM in Russia", or the stronger statement "no ICM with any host participation by Russia," with additional details to follow. I guess we both would have liked that. $\endgroup$ Feb 25 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeSilverman "no ICM with any host participation by Russia," I'm not sure what exactly that statement means, but still want to attract everybody's attention that there is a difference between V. Putin and Stas Smirnov, so I wouldn't mind moving ICM to another country with retaining most of the organizing committee, if they are willing to serve. As to the initial IMU decision, it was, probably, based not on the number of nukes or the character of the country's leader, but on the reputation of the Russian mathematical school, so I see no moral issue there. But let them speak for themselves. $\endgroup$
    – fedja
    Feb 26 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ @fedja: Of course, there is a lot of difference between Putin and Smirnov. I suppose Putin is not a good mathematician. And Putin is a mass murderer, while Smirnov is only a collaborationist. Smirnov lives and works in a free European country. Did he ever publicly dissociate himself from Putin's crimes? $\endgroup$ Feb 26 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeSilverman Excluding mathematicians from one country just because that country's leader is insane would be totally unacceptable. $\endgroup$ Feb 26 at 23:10
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinHairer I was not suggesting that invited Russian ICM speakers be excluded from speaking about their mathematical work. They should be welcomed. I was suggesting that Russia should not serve as the host country. Hosting might include (for example) having host dignitaries welcoming the participants. I have the greatest respect for our Russian colleagues and the achievements of Russian mathematicans. But the (to quote your words) insane leadership of the country should preclude that country from having the honor of hosting the ICM. My impression is that IMU has reached the same decision. $\endgroup$ Feb 27 at 2:06

The IMU reached their decision, the ICM will take place entirely virtually except for the IMU general assembly and awards ceremony which will take place in-person outside of Russia. No word on whether Russian government involvement in organizing will continue. Further details to come.

Terry Tao, who is the chair of the ICM Structure Committee, is inviting discussion of how to best use the virtual format on his blog.

The IMU executive committee has released some further clarifications, including announcing that there will be no Russian government involvement in the ICM.

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    $\begingroup$ Feel free to edit, this was an attempt at a neutral summary of the announcement. $\endgroup$ Feb 26 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ I added a link to Terry Tao's blog, a better place for wide-ranging discussions than MO (though note that he specifically requests the discussion be restricted to the format of the ICM, and not the underlying politics). $\endgroup$ Feb 26 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ @მამუკაჯიბლაძე: Huh, works fine for me. The front page of his blog is also terrytao.wordpress.com which you can type in directly. $\endgroup$ Feb 26 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ They should consider holding the in-person meeting in Helsinki since (1) it is easily accessible to the St. Petersburg organizers by train and (2) it is the location of the signing of the Helsinki accords. $\endgroup$
    – KConrad
    Feb 26 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ That's nice. Anyone who goes there for the ICM should be sure to visit Keskuskatu, a central street in Helsinki that was paved with a Penrose tiling in 2014. $\endgroup$
    – KConrad
    Mar 12 at 3:10

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