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Struggle with ideological perversion — from the grounds of Marxism and Leninism — presuppose that we should learn logical tools to the degree we might fight against enemy by his weapon.

Sophia Yanovskaya 1947

Sophia Yanovskaya
Sophia Yanovskaya

Sofia Alexandrovna YANOVSKAYA (31.01.1896, Odessa — 24.10.1966, Moscow), Soviet philosopher, logician, and organizer of science.

Yanovskaya studied mathematics at Novorossiisky University (Odessa). In 1924 Yanovskaya entered the Institute of Red Professors (established for persons from the lower classes) and two years after graduating (1931) she became a Full Professor without defending her doctorate (her degree was defended in 1935). Yanovskaya matured as a Party functionary working with academics, and she closely followed the purity of her colleagues' thoughts as well as their ideological devotion.

In the 1930's Yanovskaya strongly criticized idealism in mathematics, and unmasked 'the bourgeois philosophy of mathematics'. Frege, Russell, Couturat, and Cantor are, according to Yanovskaya, very close in their views to true idealism and mysticism ('the example of which is Platonism'). More generally speaking, asserts Yanovskaya, 'bourgeois science in the imperialist era does not evolve from Hegel to Marx, Engels, and Lenin, but regresses'.

Nevertheless, in the mid 1940's she inverted her worldview, and become the figure who launched and preserved the vigorous campaign for the restoration of mathematical logic. In 1947 she translated into Russian and published D. Hilbert's and W. Ackermann's 'Grundzuge der theoretischen Logik' (the first foreign mathematical logic book in the USSR). In the Preface to her translation Yanovskaya stressed that knowledge of mathematical logic is indispensable not only to mathematicians but to philosophers as well. She artfully noted: 'ideological struggle with idealistic perversions of bourgeois science presupposes a command of techniques that enables one to swing the enemy's weaponry against himself'. In 1948 she translated 'Introduction to logic and to the methodology of deductive sciences' by A. Tarski. And in her Comments Yanovskaya called logical positivism (to which school Yanovskaya insisted that A. Tarski belonged) 'the blatant type of philosophical conservatism'. Thus Yanovskaya killed two birds with one stone: she paid tribute to the ideological requirements along with making accessible books of primary importance to the Soviet academics.

From then on Yanovskaya promoted the publication of a large number of books dealing with mathematical logic in the USSR. She either edited or wrote the preface for many of these books. She zealously reinforced mathematical logic as a self-sufficient and respectable science having nothing to do with either idealism or fideism in mathematics or philosophy of mathematics. Since 1959 and until her death in 1966 Yanovskaya supported the newly opened Chair in Mathematical Logic at Moscow State University. She did much to establish this position and eventually her efforts succeeded due to her high authority (both as an Party veteran and a logician). Despite the tragic life and fate of her mentally ill son, Yanovskaya paid much attention to her numerous pupils and fostered logical investigations in the USSR — apparently absolutely forgetting what she had intensively written and proclaimed only 15 years before. Perhaps Yanovskaya was the first scholar who virtually pulled themselves out of the depths of Marxists dogmatism and, through vigorous self-education, dragged themselves up to the contemporary level of logico-philosophical research. Her name will remain in the memory of grateful pupils and descendants.


On Yanovskaya:

Anellis, I.H., 1987 a, 'The Heritage of S.A.Janovskaja', History and Philosophy of Logic, Vol. 8, p. 45–56.

Anellis, I.H., 1987 b, 'Sof'ja Aleksandrovna Janovskaja (1896–1966), in L.S.Grinstein and C.J.Campbell (eds.), Women of Mathematics: a Bibliographic Source book. N.Y., Westport, Conn., London, Greenwood Press, 1987, p. 80–85.

Anellis, I.H., 1996 a, 'Sof'ya Aleksandrovna Yanovskaja's Contribution to Logic and History of Logic', Modern Logic, Vol. 6, N 1, p. 7–36.

Anellis, I.H., 1996 b, 'Yanovskaya's 'ghost'', Modern Logic, Vol. 6, N 1, p. 77–80.

Bashmakova, I.G., Demidov, S.S., Uspensky, V.A. 1996 a, 'Sof'ya Aleksandrovna Yanovskaya', Modern Logic, Vol. 6, N 1, p. 357–372 (in Russian).

Bazhanov, V.A. Restoration: S.A. Yanovskaya's Path in Logic, History and Philosophy of Logic,2001, Vol. 22, N3, p. 129-133.

Bazhanov, V.A. Essays in the Social History of Logic in Russia. Simbirsk-Ulyanovsk, 2002 (in Russian). ISBN 5-7769-0027-1

Trakhtenbrot, B.A., 1997, 'In Memory of S.A. Yanovskaya (1896–1966) on the Centenary of her Birth', in Modern Logic, Vol. 7, N 2, p. 160–187.


© 2007 Valentin A. Bazhanov, Ph.D., Prof.



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