INRIA - Akademgorodok, A history of the Soviet-French cooperation in the field of computer science
Thanks to the archives at the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et Automatique (INRIA), I was able to lay the groundwork for the work of my research, the fruits of which were developed in a Master's Thesis defended at the Sorbonne in July 2005: "L'INRIA - Akademgorodok, une histoire de cooperation franco-soviétique dans le domaine d'informatique". The object of my research belongs to multiple institutional intersections and seeks to provide a social and intellectual history of computer science, a field in perpetual evolution. My work seeks to account for the political and institutional stakes that accompanied the development of science as a discipline and activity.
In 1958, as an alternative to the "closed cities" working for the military, N. Khrushchev supported the construction of Akademgorodok, a sort of scientific community based upon Francis Bacon's "New Atlantis". The Computing Center of Akademgorodok, although displaced in the middle of the Sibirian forests, nevertherless attemted to unite the best Soviet specialists, (such as Lyapunov, Ershov, Yanenko and many others) and to earn an international reputation as quickly as possible. The community, composed of both scientifically motivated connections and personal friendships, brought together two eminent mathematicians: G. I. Marchuk, director of the Computing Center, and J-L Lions, director of LABORIA at the heart of the INRIA. The reciprocal interest in encouraging their teams to work together in digital technologies and applied mathematics encountered favorable circumstances.
In March 1966, France left the leadership of the United Nations and, three months later, General de Gaulle undertook a triumphant official visit to the Soviet Union. The bilateral agreements that followed the arrival of General de Gaulle provided the administrative and financial framework for scientific cooperation in the domain of computer science, which developed according to the structures of these agreements throughout the following decades up until 1993.
This history of cooperation in the domaine of computing occuring at the intersection of personal ambitions, academic institutions and political pressures provides the context of rethinking the place of science in the History of the Cold War.