Staunton, Mar. 16 – Among scholars at the Russian Academy of Sciences, those who oppose Putin’s war in Ukraine and are prepared to go on public record about that outnumber those who support it by an order of magnitude, an impressive relationship given Kremlin pressure on all not to do so, physicist Boris Shtern says.
When the Kremlin leader began his massive invasion of Ukraine on February 24, scholars at the Academy of Science were initially shocked but then quickly decided to prepare and circulate a petition against the war, Shtern says (theins.ru/opinions/stern/249307. It has now garnered more than 8,000 signatures (t-invariant.org/2022/02/we-are-against-war/).
Below is an informal translation of the text of this petition:
We, Russian scholars and scientific journalists, decisively protest against the military actions begun by the armed forces of our country on the territory of Ukraine. This fatal step will lead to enormous human losses and undermine the foundations of the existing system of international security. Responsibility for unleashing a new war lies entirely on Russia.
For this war, there are no rational justifications. Attempts to use the situation in the Donbass as the occasion for beginning military operations do not justify any trust. It is completely obvious that Ukraine does not present a threat to the security of our country. War against it is unjust and completely senseless.
Ukraine was and remains close to our country. Many of us have relatives, friends and colleagues in Ukraine. Out fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers together fought against Nazism. The unleashing of war for the geopolitical ambitions of the leadership of the Russian Federation which is moved by doubtful historiosophical fantasies is a cynical betrayal of their memory.
We respect Ukrainian statehood which is deeply attached to democratic institutions which really work. We view with understanding the European choice of our neighbors. We are convinced that all problems in the relations between out two countries can be resolved peacefully.
Having unleashed the war, Russia has condemned itself to international isolation and to the status of an outcast country. This means that we scholars now will not be able to work normally for the conduct of scientific research is unthinkable without full-scale cooperation with colleagues from other countries. The isolation of Russia from the world means the further cultural and technological degradation of our country with a complete lack of any positive prospects. War with Ukraine is a step into oblivion.
It is bitter for us to recognize that our country, which together with other republics of the former USSR made a decisive contribution to victory over Nazism, has now begun the instigator of a new war on the European continent. We demand respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state. We demand peace for out countries.
Almost everyone at the Academy those circulating the petition approached signed, although “approximately every thirtieth or fortieth” refused and wrote down that those who did were traitors or members of a fifth column, Shtern says. Among those who have signed so far are 32 academicians and 53 corresponding members of the Academy.
None of the bureaucratic elite of the Academy has signed, but among its intellectual elite, signatories have been almost unanimous. Physicists dominate the list, Shtern says. To try to limit the number, Academy bureaucrats first threatened people with difficulties and then with legal action, but only five to seven withdrew their names.
The Kremlin loyalists tried to restrict the dissemination of the letter but were unsuccessful, and their circulation of their own letters supporting Putin’s war was pathetic. Fewer than 800 people signed them, less than a tenth of the number who signed the letter of opposition.