An opening ceremony of the installation ‘Pythagorean theorem’ as part of the event ‘A Year to the Congress – Countdown’ has taken part at St Petersburg University. It was the first in the series of events leading up to the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) that will start in St Petersburg in 2022.

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‘Holding the International Congress of Mathematicians will give a fresh impetus to the development of St Petersburg science. It will also strengthen the positions of the city as a leading centre of research and education’, said Alexander Beglov, Governor of St Petersburg.

Sergei Lyulin is Deputy President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor, and Doctor of Physics and Mathematics. He underlined that the ceremony and unveiling of the art object represent more than starting the countdown to the start of the Congress of Mathematicians. It is also the embodiment of creativity that plays an important role in science. Sergei Lyulin expressed hope that the 21st century will go down in history as a century of scientific competition of creative people.

Today, it is particularly important to tell public about the results and achievements of science. We need to make science more open.

Sergei Lyulin, Deputy President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics

‘In this context, the importance of major international events like the Congress of Mathematicians cannot be overestimated. Symbolically, all the key events take place on the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island. It was here that over 300 years ago the Russian Academy of Sciences and St Petersburg University were set up. Together with our colleagues from St Petersburg University, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, we discuss the possibility to make the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island a research centre of St Petersburg and Russia’, said Sergei Lyulin.

During the opening ceremony Vladimir Kniaginin, Vice-Governor of St Petersburg, pointed out that it is a great honour for the city to host such an important event for the world science. ‘Next year we are expecting over 4,000 leading mathematicians from all over the world. We also hope to have discussions that will shape the development of mathematics and other sciences for the next few years, maybe even decades. For the city, it is a great opportunity to attract attention to our cultural, historical and scientific potentials.’

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On the photograph: Aleksei Demidov, Chairman of the Council of Rectors of St Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, Doctor of Engineering, underlined that St Petersburg has been rightly chosen as a venue for the Congress.  

As a graduate of Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty of St Petersburg University I can say that the St Petersburg mathematical school is one of the strongest in the world. It is particularly symbolic that the ceremony takes place on the grounds of St Petersburg University which gave the world a large number of outstanding mathematicians.

Aleksei Demidov, Chairman of the Council of Rectors of St Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, Doctor of Engineering

Aleksei Demidov mentioned Grigori Perelman, an eminent modern mathematician who proved the Poincaré conjecture and who was his fellow student at Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty. ‘When we look at St Petersburg mathematicians we understand that our scientific training is exceptionally profound. I have no doubts that St Petersburg will easily cope with holding this high-profile event, and also will set the bar of the world mathematical capital very high’, he added.

During the ceremony, Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University and Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, spoke about how Russia had applied for holding the Congress in St Petersburg. In 2015, Academician Ludvig Faddeev and Professor of the University, Fields medallist Stanislav Smirnov suggested bringing this idea to Vladimir Putin. The President supported the proposal of the Rector. The University together with the Ministry of Science and Higher Education prepared an application on his behalf and beat their main rival in a serious fight – an application from France (Paris).

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According to Nikolay Kropachev, the reason why the congress will be held in St Petersburg is, of course, because the mathematical school of St Petersburg, the Russian Academy of Sciences and St Petersburg University has a special place in mathematics, not only in Russia, but all over the world. It is associated with eminent scientists such as: Leonhard Euler; Pafnuty Chebyshev; Aleksandr Lyapunov; Vladimir Steklov; Vladimir Smirnov; Sergei Sobolev; Olga Ladyzhenskaya; Ludvig Faddeev; Vladimir Rokhlin; Leonid Kantorovich; Dmitry Faddeev; and Stanislav Smirnov.

Today, more than 3,000 mathematicians study at St Petersburg University. Since 2015, we have had the highest number of winners of national and international mathematics olympiads among our students each year.

Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University

‘It's not just where the best people study, but also where they work. Among them are: Nikita Morozov; Stanislav Smirnov; Sergei Kislyakov; Roman Mikhailov; Anton Baranov; and Aleksandr Logunov. One of the five distinguished Russian scientists who make the list of the world's most cited scientists is Professor Nikolay Kuznetsov, Head of the Department of Applied Cybernetics, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics.  Another our colleague on this list is former Dean of the Mathematics and Mechanics Faculty, Professor Gennadii Leonov. He passed away three years ago, but his works continue to be on the list of the best, most-cited ones in the world’, added Nikolay Kropachev.

As part of the ceremony, guests unveiled the installation ‘Pythagorean theorem’ on the grounds of St Petersburg University in front of the Twelve Collegia building. The art object aims to draw attention to the role of mathematical science in the development of national and international scientific thought as well as to become an attraction for citizens and visitors to the city. It is a three-dimensional construction designed in the colours of the International Congress of Mathematicians and it illustrates the geometric image of the Pythagorean theorem.

The International Congress of Mathematicians will be held between 6 – 14 July 2022 in St Petersburg. In addition to the main part of the congress, from April, satellite conferences will be held in 15 Russian cities, as well as in Poland, Belarus, Finland, and India. It is the most important meeting in the area of basic and applied mathematics worldwide and one of the oldest scientific congresses. The first International Congress of Mathematicians took place in 1897 in Zurich (Switzerland).

The aim of the Congress is to present as wide a spectrum of advanced mathematics as possible, including all scientific fields and mathematical schools from different geographical regions, and thus determine the future direction of the development of mathematics. The guest speakers are mathematicians of the highest calibre, capable of presenting current research trends to a wide audience.

The programme includes a very wide range of events, including plenary and invited lectures, panel discussions, public lectures, educational events for the general public, short presentations, poster sessions and much more.

To celebrate the remarkable day, the ICM organising committee has also launched a special Internet project dedicated to mathematics and its manifestations in various areas of life.

On the website, you will be able to: find out what modern mathematics is all about; watch a selection of films about mathematics and mathematicians; listen to music written by scientists; listen to podcasts about mathematics; take a quiz ‘Which mathematician are you?’; and much more.

In addition, a meeting of the organising committee for the ICM was held at St Petersburg University as part of the ‘A Year to the Congress – Countdown’ event. Participants discussed the implementation of the action plan for one of the most important events for mathematicians worldwide, which takes place every four years under the auspices of the International Mathematical Union (IMU). The opening ceremony of the congress announces the names of the winners of the IMC awards, including the Fields Medal, which is comparable in importance to the Nobel Prize.

This is the second time in the history of the International Congress of Mathematicians that Russia will host it. It first happened in 1966 in Moscow. The Moscow Congress set a new record at the time with 4,280 participants. The decision to hold the ICM in St Petersburg was taken in 2018 at a congress in Brazil. Russia (St Petersburg) and France (Paris) applied. With a margin of 83 to 63 votes, St Petersburg won.