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‘The situation could well lead to a catastrophe’ More than 100 scientists and scholars, including Nobel laureates, sign open letter demanding that Russia stop persecuting activists and turn instead to international cooperation

On January 31, following thousands of arrests at opposition protests in support of the jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny, dozens of scientists and scholars from institutes and universities across Russia and the West endorsed an open letter condemning the treatment of Navalny and his supporters and warning that the authorities risk a “catastrophe” if they cannot reconnect with society. Echoing Andrei Sakharov’s plea for unity of “peace, progress, and human rights,” the signatories say the Russian government is running out of time. Meduza republishes the text below.

Stop the Growing Confrontation and Turn to Cooperation and Dialogue

The world already faces many global challenges, which the coronavirus pandemic has only intensified. Meanwhile, an increasingly alarming and dangerous situation is unfolding in Russia. The recent poisoning and arrest of the opposition politician Alexey Navalny, the political persecution of his followers, and the brutal treatment of peaceful protesters, combined with trends like Russia’s self-isolation and confrontation with the rest of the world, are a cause for dire concern. We, a diverse group of international scientists and scholars, believe that now is the time to speak up!

We oppose the use of chemical weapons and demand an investigation into the poisoning of Alexey Navalny, as well as an end to the political persecution of Alexey and his supporters.

We are shocked and profoundly disturbed by the use of a chemical weapon against Mr. Navalny on Russian soil in August 2020, and we deeply resent the possibility that discoveries in chemistry meant to benefit humanity were instead used to put someone in harm’s way. The storage, distribution, and use of chemical weapons violates the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on April 29, 1997, and was ratified by 65 countries, including Russia.

We are also extremely distressed and concerned by the indications that members of Russia’s security services could be implicated in this and similarly heinous crimes against other Russian citizens. The lack of an official investigation into Navalny’s poisoning, as well as his arrest and imprisonment following his return to Russia after medical treatment in Germany, fuel civil unrest and destabilize the situation in the country. We demand an end to the persecution of Navalny and his supporters and the start of an open and honest investigation of his alleged poisoning that brings the perpetrators to justice.

The Russian authorities must respect citizens’ right to protest peacefully and establish a dialogue with society.

We are outraged by the recent acts of police brutality against peaceful demonstrators in Russia. Assertions by the presidential administration in Moscow that similar policing occurs in developed democracies are simply untrue! We have first-hand knowledge that these claims contradict the facts. The protests in Moscow during the summer of 2019, like the nationwide demonstrations in January 2021, were peaceful, and the police response was disproportionately violent and brutal.

We are seeing an escalation of political repression against the opposition and peaceful protesters. Court rulings against activists are more and more divorced from Russia’s actual laws. In this approach, the authorities are clearly trying to intimidate the public by suppressing peaceful protests in order to force civil society under the state’s control.

This strategy is doomed.

Article 31 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation proclaims every citizen’s right to assemble peacefully and to stage rallies, demonstrations, and pickets. The democratic process is inconceivable without the implementation of this fundamental right. Scholarly studies show that citizens are happier in countries that rank higher in indices scoring press and speech freedoms.

Instead, the brutal suppression of protests and the authorities’ lack of dialogue with the public only intensify tensions in Russia. The situation could well lead to a catastrophe — a scenario all too familiar in Russia’s past. Therefore, we call upon the Russian authorities to begin an open dialogue with society as a whole. This requires ending the ban on peaceful assemblies and halting the arrest and criminal prosecution of peaceful demonstrators. The use of force against such protesters must cease.


5,000 and counting Photographs from the January 31 protests, where Russian law enforcement broke records for nationwide arrests


5,000 and counting Photographs from the January 31 protests, where Russian law enforcement broke records for nationwide arrests

International cooperation in the fields of science and public health is an essential tool for achieving prosperity and stability.

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated how unprepared governments everywhere were for a truly global crisis. In many instances, humanity itself proved simply unwilling to meet the challenge. At the same time, science has played an increasingly decisive role in leading the world’s fight against COVID-19: from understanding the nature of the viral infection and preventing its spread to creating effective vaccines in an unprecedentedly short span of time.

Scientists and physicians demonstrated to the whole world the need for international cooperation in their fields, as well as the importance of rapidly exchanging information and educating the general public. We believe that Russia, so far, has missed the opportunity to unite scientists and scholars with the rest of society in the fight against the pandemic. Consequently, the country has not tapped a powerful resource for reducing international tensions through cooperation against the coronavirus.

Instead, we witness attempts to lead Russia down a path of isolation by actively mobilizing its citizens against a common external enemy. We are deeply concerned about attempts to limit international scientific and scholarly cooperation, including the criminal prosecution of some scientists and scholars for pursuing professional contact with foreign colleagues. Modern science and scholarly work cannot develop in isolation! We welcome Russia’s general orientation in favor of developing science and technology but stress that the nation’s scientific and scholarly progress will fade without international cooperation.

Russia has no future without science. We call for a full mobilization of international cooperation to confront humanity’s threats jointly. This is necessary to reduce global tensions and enhance our mutual understanding.

In his Nobel lecture almost 50 years ago, Andrei Sakharov — one of history’s greatest humanists — said, “Peace, progress, human rights — these three goals are insolubly linked to one another: It is impossible to achieve one of these goals if the other two are ignored.” We call on the government of Russia to follow these words.


*(in alphabetical order, all persons listed below signed in their personal capacity and do not represent their affiliated organizations)

  • Valery Adzhiev, Principal Academic, The National Centre for Computer Animation, Bournemouth University (UK)
  • Alexander Badyaev, Professor, University of Arizona (USA)
  • Yuri Bakhtin, Professor of Mathematics, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University (USA)
  • Georgii Bazykin, PhD, Dr. Sci. (Russia)
  • Mikhail Belkin, professor, University of California, San Diego (USA)
  • Natalia Berloff, Professor of applied mathematics, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge (UK)
  • Konstantin Bliokh, Senior Research Scientist, RIKEN (Japan)
  • Andrey Bogdanov, PhD, Assistant Professor in physics, ITMO University (Russia)
  • Alexey Bobrovsky, Prof. RAS, DrSci, Laureate of the Prize of the President of the Russian Federation for Young Scientists, Principal Researcher of the Faculty of Chemistry of Moscow State University
  • Prof. Dr. Sergey I. Bozhevolnyi, Head of Centre for Nano Optics, University of Southern Denmark, Chair of Technical Sciences at Danish IAS (Denmark)
  • Tatiana Bronich, Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center (USA)
  • Maria Chekhova, Prof. Dr., Max-Planck Institute for the Science of Light (Germany)
  • Dr. Alexey Chernikov, research group leader, Department of Physics, University of Regensburg (Germany)
  • Vladimir Dyakonov, Professor, Chair of Experimental Physics, Julius-Maximilian University of Würzburg (Germany)
  • Michel Dyakonov, Laboratoire Charles Coulomb, Université Montpellier (France)
  • Igor Efimov, PhD, NAI, Alisann & Terry Collins Professor, The George Washington University Washington DC (USA)
  • Sergei Erofeev, Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University, New Jersey (USA)
  • Kirill Eskov, senior scientist, Institute for Paleontology RAS (Russia)
  • Alexander Etkind, Professor of History, European University Institute in Florence (Italy)
  • Arkady Fedorov, Associate Professor, Node Manage for ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQuS), University of Queensland, (Australia).
  • Dmitry Fedyanin, Senior Research Fellow, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (Russia)
  • Mikhail Fllippov, PhD Associate Professor of Political Science, Binghamton University (SUNY) (USA)
  • Valery Fokin, Professor of Chemistry, University of Southern California (USA)
  • Andre Geim, Regius Professor and Royal Society Research Professor, University of Manchester (UK)
  • Yan Galimov, Research Scientist, Institute for Developmental Biology, RAS (Russia)
  • Mikhail Gelfand, PhD (math.), DSc. (biol.), Professor, member of Academia Europaea, (Russia)
  • Vadim N. Gladyshev, Professor, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School (USA)
  • Mikhail Glazov, Dr. Sci. in physics, corresponding member of the RAS, Ioffe Institute, St. Petersburg (Russia)
  • Sergey Glebov, PhD, Associate Professor of History at Smith College and Amherst College (USA)
  • Sergei Guriev, Professor of Economics, Sciences Po, Paris (France)
  • Misha (Mikhail) Ivanov, professor of physics, Max Born Institute Berlin and Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany, Professor of Physics, Imperial College London (UK)
  • Askold Ivantchik, Dr.habil. in Ancient History, corresponding member of the RAS and the Institut de France (AIBL) (Russia/France)
  • Oleg Itskhoki, Professor, Venu and Ana Kotamraju Endowed Chair in Economics, UCLA (USA)
  • Alexander Kabanov, MAE, NAI, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Mescal S. Ferguson Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA/Russia)
  • Andrey Kalinichev, Directeur de Recherche, Institut Mines-Télécom Atlantique, Nantes (France)
  • Georgy Kantor, Associate Professor of Ancient History, University of Oxford (UK)
  • Mikhail A. Kats, Jack St. Clair Kilby Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA)
  • Daria Khitrova, Associate Professor of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University (USA)
  • Nina Khrushcheva, Professor of international affairs, New School University, New York (USA)
  • Jacob Khurgin, Johns Hopkins University, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Fellow of the American Physical Society (USA)
  • Vladimir P. Kochereshko Dr. Sci. (physics), Leading Researcher, Ioffe PhysicalTechnical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia)
  • Alexey Kondrashov, University of Michigan (USA/Russia)
  • Fyodor Kondrashov, PhD, Professor at the Institute of Science and Technology (Austria)
  • Alexei Kornyshev, Imperial College London (UK)
  • Alex Krasnok, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, physics (USA)
  • Sergey Kruk, Humboldt Fellow (Physics), Paderborn University (Germany)
  • Alexey G. Krushelnitsky, Dr. Sci. (physics), researcher, Martin-Luther University HalleWittenberg (Germany)
  • Eugene V Koonin, PhD, Evolutionary Genomics Group Leader, NIH Distinguished Investigator, National Institutes of Health, Member of the National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (USA)
  • Natalia Litchinitser, Professor of ECE and Physics, Fellow of APS and OSA (USA)
  • Maria Logacheva, PhD, biologist (Russia)
  • Alexander Lvovsky, Research group leader, Russian Quantum Center, Professor, Department of Physics, University of Oxford (UK)
  • Daniil Markov, dr. rer. nat, biologist, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Germany)
  • Ruslan Medzhitov, Professor, Yale University (USA)
  • Sergei M. Mirkin, Professor and White Family Chair in Biology, Tufts University, (USA)
  • Marina Mogilner, Edward and Marianna Thaden Chair in Russian and East European Intellectual History Associate Professor of History, Department of History, University of Illinois at Chicago (USA)
  • Andrey Moskalenko, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, KAIST (Republic of Korea)
  • Maya Muratov, PhD, associate professor of History of Art, Adelphi University (USA)
  • Nikolai Mugue, biologist, VNIRO, Moscow (Russia)
  • Aleksandr Naymark, Professor of Fine Arts, Design and Art History, Hofstra University, New York (USA)
  • Sergey Nazarenko, Director of Research at CNRS, Université de la Côte d’Azur, Nice (France)
  • Mikhail Nikiforov, Professor of Cancer Biology, Wake Forest School of Medicine (USA)
  • Kostya S. Novoselov, Fellow of the Royal Society, University of Manchester (UK)
  • Dr. Daria Onichtchouk, developmental biologist, Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg (Germany)
  • Gleb Oshanin, Research Director (DR1) CNRS, Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics, Sorbonne University, Paris (France)
  • Elena Ostrovskaya, Professor, Research School of Physics, The Australian National University, Canberra (Australia)
  • Alexej Pashkin, physicist, Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (Germany)
  • Dmitri A. Petrov, Michelle & Kevin Douglas Professor of Biology, Stanford University (USA)
  • Evgeny Pidko, professor, chemical engineering, Delft University of Technology (Netherlands)
  • Alexander Poddubny, Dr. Sci. in physics, Professor of the RAS, Ioffe Institute, St. Petersburg (Russia)
  • Ekaterina Pravilova, Professor of History, Princeton University (Russia/USA)
  • Andrey Revyakin, BSc, MSc, FHEA, PHD, DGAF, SNAFU Molecular and Cell Biology Leicester Institute for Structural and Chemical Biology University of Leicester (UK)
  • Igor B. Roninson, PhD, Director, Center for Targeted Therapeutics, SmartState Endowed Chair in Translational Cancer Therapeutics, Professor, Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy (USA)
  • Nikolay Rosanov, Dr. Sci. in physics, corresponding member of the RAS, Ioffe Institute, St. Petersburg (Russia)
  • Michael Rubinstein, Aleksander S. Vesic Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, and Physics, Duke University (USA)
  • Roald Sagdeev, NAS, full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland (USA)
  • Denis Seletskiy, Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor of Engineering Physics, Polytechnique Montreal (Canada)
  • Galina Selivanova, PhD, Professor, Karolinska Institutet (Sweden)
  • Alexander “Sasha” Sidorkin, Dean, College of Education, California State University Sacramento (USA)
  • Olga Smirnova, Professor of Physics, Max Born Institute Berlin and Technical University Berlin (Germany)
  • Alexei Sokolov, Professor of Physics, Texas A&M University (USA)
  • Konstantin Sonin, John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor, Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago (USA)
  • Shamil Sunyaev, Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School, Professor of Medicine, Distinguished Chair of Computational Genomics, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School (USA)
  • Dr. Tatiana V. Tatarinova, Fletcher Jones Endowed Chair in Computational Biology, University of La Verne (USA)
  • Nikita Toropov, Ph.D., physics, research fellow, Living Systems Institute, University of Exeter (UK)
  • Alex Tropsha, K.H. Lee Distinguished Professor, Division of Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry (USA)
  • Sergei K. Turitsyn, Professor, Aston University (UK)
  • Dmitry Turchinovich, Professor, Bielefeld University (Germany)
  • Elena Ostrovskaya, Professor, Research School of Physics, The Australian National University, Canberra (Australia)
  • Ivan Savenko, Associate Professor, Institute for Basic Science, Korea University of Science and Technology (South Korea)
  • Ilya Shadrivov, Professor, Australian National University (Australia)
  • Gulnaz Sharafutdinova, Reader in Russian Politics, King’s College London (UK)
  • Eugene Shakhnovich, Professor of Chemistry, Chemical Biology and Biophysics, Harvard University (USA)
  • Alexandre Shen, researcher (DR2) LIRMM, CNRS, University of Montepellier (France)
  • Petr Shibaev, Professor, Fordham University, Physics, New Your (USA)
  • Alexander M. Spokoyny, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles (USA)
  • Boris Stern, Dr. Sci. (physics), Leading Researcher, RAS Institute for Nuclear Research (Russia)
  • Oleg Tchernyshyov, Professor of Physics, Johns Hopkins University (USA)
  • Vasily Temnov, CNRS researcher IMMM CNRS 6283 and professor, Ecole Polytechnique (France)
  • Michael A. Tsfasman, director of research at the CNRS, principal research fellow of the IITP RAS (Russia/France)
  • Alexandr Urzhumtsev, Professor, Université de Lorraine, Nancy, France IGBMC, Illkirch (France)
  • Anatoly Vershik, D.Sc., Senior Scientist, member of Academia Europaea, St. Petersburg Department of Steklov Mathematical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia)
  • Andrei K. Yudin, Ph.D., C.M., Professor, University of Toronto, Department of Chemistry, Canada Research Chair (Canada)
  • Lev Yampolsky, Professor, East Tennessee State University (USA)
  • Egor Zadereev, leading research scientist, biology (Russia)
  • Nikolay Zheludev, Fellow of the Royal Society and Member of the US National Academy of Engineering (UK)
  • Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, Professor, Paris School of Economics (France)
  • Vladimir Zakharov, full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Regent’s professor at University of Arizona (USA)
  • Andrei Zorin, Chair of Russian, University of Oxford (UK)

Additional signatures of academics joining the petition can be found here.

Cover photo: Pixabay

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