The following text is a partial translation of the original Russian article, performed by ChatGPT (gpt-3.5-turbo) and this Jekyll plugin:

“I can't speak”

For several years now, we have been organizing a scientific conference in Russia, inviting scientists from all over the world to its program committee. In the last two years, due to understandable reasons, there have been many refusals, especially from Western European scientists. However, here’s an interesting thing: if before the refusals contained subjective negativity like “I don’t want to participate in a Russian conference,” lately they all sound something like this: “I can’t speak at your event.” Despite all the respect for the drama of the situation, I am still curious whether esteemed scientists understand that the freedoms that European civilization is so proud of are incompatible with the expression “I can’t speak,” especially from the mouths of scientific professionals?

I received the last letter yesterday.

And there are many letters like this, all in a similar style: I would be happy, but they don’t let me, they interfere, restrict, and even prohibit. Here’s another one:

And this is not written by used car dealers who are not allowed to bring old Toyotas across the border. This is written by scientists, many of whom remember the Berlin Wall and the Prague Spring. They understand what freedom of speech is. They cannot not understand.

Many of them probably remember the censorship of the Cold War era when every article had to be approved by the relevant authorities before being published at the ideological adversary’s conference. However, even during Andropov’s time, it was unthinkable that all scientists would be prohibited from publishing their articles and speaking at all conferences in the “enemy” country.

Scientists have always, even during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Afghan conflict, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War, been above politics. For example, in 1977, a conference on “Building High-Quality Software” was held in Novosibirsk, where David Parnas, Barbara Liskov, Tony Hoare, Edsger Dijkstra, and Peter Neumann spoke in person. And all of this against the backdrop of a much more intense ideological confrontation than today.

Apparently, in those times, people in power understood that science and technology are our common movement forward for all of humanity, while bullets and bombs are a step back. Apparently, they understood that isolating scientists harms both the ones being isolated and the ones doing the isolating, automatically putting themselves in isolation. It is very unfortunate that people in power in modern Europe do not understand this.

What is most alarming is the silent submission of scientists who “can’t speak” and who surely understand where this will lead them and all of us.

Translated by ChatGPT gpt-3.5-turbo/39 on 2024-01-04 at 10:16

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