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Emigrant Mathematicians Fault Soviet Anti-Semitism

By Jay E. Berinstein

Citing "double standards and discriminatory practices," Harvard graduate students yesterday confirmed recent statements that anti-semitism has caused many Soviet mathematicians to emigrate to the West.


Especially severe discrimination has caused over 40 distinguished mathematicians to leave the Soviet Union for Israel, France and the United States since 1970, Melvyn B. Nathanson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University in Newark, said last week.

Soviet research institutes and universities will not offer positions to Jews, the graduate students said. "I couldn't get into any graduate school," Boris Datskovsky, a graduate student in mathematics who recently left the Soviet Union, said yesterday.

Animal Farm

Having seen what life in the Soviet Union is like, Datskovsky said his views have turned anti-Soviet. "I hope that their science will go down now."

"The Soviet Union has always been strong in mathematics-more so probably than any other country," Nathanson said. Yet unless government diminishes, Nathanson added, further technological growth will be hindered by a shortage of competent mathematicians.


The students offered several different theories on why anti-semitism against mathematicians has increased over the last decade but agreed with Victor Kac, a professor of Mathematics at MIT and Soviet emmigre, that a "heightened climate of political repression" exists. The Soviet Union became more suppressive after 1968 when Russia invaded Czechoslovakia, Kac said yesterday.

Igor Reider, graduate student of Mathematics, yesterday said "anti-semitism was felt more acutely" after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war when "Jewrs realized their identities more than before."

Kac, who left Russia five years ago said the Communist Party played a major role in preventing talented people from advancing to positions of influence. "It's not only a question of anti-semitism but of bureaucrats more interested in politics than progress," Kac said.

Soviet mathematicians who have emigrated to the United States include David Kazhdan, professor of Mathematics at Harvard; Kac, of MIT; Boris Moischezon and Gregory Chudnovsky of Columbia University; Boris Weisfeiler and L.N. Vaserstein of Pennsylvania State University; Mikhael Gromov of the State University of New York at Stony Brook; and IIya Piaketakii-Shapiro of Yale University.

Kazhdan has taken a sabbatical in Israel and was unavailable for comment. The Russian-born professor came to Harvard in 1975.

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