[Declined] Call to cancel Russian Language sessions of JuliaCon 2022

I call on the organizers of JuliaCon 2022 and beyond to cancel all russian sessions until the status quo ante 2014 is restored in Ukraine.

Today, it is reported that the russian federation carpet bombed civilians (indiscriminately) in two European cities, a war crime. Now is not the time for the Julia community to welcome the russian world.

To be sure, there are “good russians” and “bad russians.” But until there is any legitimate form of alternative russian government (in protest or in exile or otherwise), its citizens are complicit or are being compelled into complicity. In either case, the moral hazard is too high for Julia and the implied violations of the community guidelines.

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Given the contentious matter here, I will be locking this pending an official response (which is being worked on).

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The JuliaCon committee has held a long discussion on this topic, and have
struggled to form a consensus reply that avoids inflaming the situation or
creating the possibility of being misconstrued.

We believe all war is wrong, and we understand and empathize with what you are
attempting to do.

However, as described in our code of conduct,
JuliaCon is an open-source conference focused on bringing people together with a
focus on non-discrimination, and that includes national and ethnic origin.

Therefore, we will not exclude any community members from presenting talks.

On behalf of the JuliaCon committee.

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Thank you for raising this Mikael.

I’ll open this thread back up for now, but as always, all participants must read and respect the Julia Community Standards.

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Isn’t Russian spoken by other nations rather than Russia alone?

https://wikiless.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_territories_where_Russian_is_an_official_language?lang=en

I mean if Spain invaded Portugal, a ban to Spanish would involve other Spanish-speaking countries.

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I strongly oppose this suggestion and thank the JuliaCon committee for taking the decision to not go forward with this (if I understood correctly) and the Julia Stewards for quickly catching this and taking it to discussion of the JuliaCon committee.
Russian speaking people of the world that have no relation to the current war must not be punished. Even russian nationals that have opposed their government would be affected. This would be discriminating people for nationality, ethnic and cultural background.

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Thank you for the reply and for taking the call seriously. As you can imagine, I’m disappointed with parts of the outcome.

Let me just clarify that I’m not asking for anyone to do anything; rather, it’s a call to not do something.

By standing aside, can you confirm that JuliaCon is not in the company of:

and the list goes on? These companies all have no military or technical value in the conflict, hence the moral analogue with the world of free and open-source software.

I recognize that changing an official position is usually nearly impossible. However, there is always time to reconsider.

By giving the russian language a platform at JuliaCon, russian state actors (academics and others) may benefit in their careers from their penetration into a construction of the free world. It may give air to the ideas, values, and thoughts of an aggressive state.

Yes, russian is not only spoken in russia :roll_eyes:. But it is the official national language of russia, and as far as I can tell, JuliaCon isn’t supporting every spoken language.

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This is a very misleading statement. None of these examples involve blocking access to speakers of the Russian language, they target the Russian nation and government. I would support JuliaCon blocking access from any Russian government affiliated participants / sponsors, but banning the language itself is an absurd and unproductive proposal.

Keep in mind that in doing this, you are delegitimizing Russian voices that oppose the Russian government, and associating all speakers of the language with the regime.

I think you have good intentions here, but I really just don’t think the specifics of your proposal are tenable or just.

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Russians voices under strict ban to demonstrate and being arrested. The tomorrows that sing, are only in jail.

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And yet many Russians are still bravely protesting right now at great risk to themselves, and posting anti-war messages on social media in whatever capacity they can.

Again though, I’m not against sanctioning the Russian nation, even with sanctions that are devastating to the Russian people. I just think that a measure which directly targets the Russian language itself is inappropriate, ineffective, and against the core principals of our community.

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As @Mason has emphasized, native language is not the same as nationality is not the same as ethnicity is not the same as patriotic affiliation. As a very concrete example, Russian is spoken in Ukraine and current Ukranian President Zelinsky is against discriminating against the Russian language (TASS: World - Presidential hopeful speaks in support of Russian language in Ukraine).

More concretely, the conflation of language, ethnicity and nationality is arguably part of the motivation for the current conflict, so I think it’s particularly problematic to target a language as protest against a nation.

Note also that there is a big difference between JuliaCon and the corporate examples you gave: profit (or lack thereof). Similarly, JuliaCon is not being held/hosted in Russia, so the logic of the ICM boycott is different than a proposal to ban sessions in the Russian language.

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Has the option of canceling the JuliaCon altogether been considered?
That would a fair decision. I wonder what the up to come big EGU (European Geophysical Union) conference in Viena next May will do.

Why?

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I won’t pretend that I can imagine what Ukrainians are going through right now, but this sets a precedent where OrgComm would reject Mexican students poster proposals because of the Spanish governments policies against marginalized populations, such the crackdowns on Catalunian Independence or their treatment of migrants in concentration camps (also carried out by the Mexican government) because we share the same official language.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions can be effective tools of civil disobedience when pinpointed against those who can materially change the ongoing injustice, and usually requires years of planning. This is not the case at hand. There is a long and rich tradition of these tactics being used - I urge people to read on their history and unintended consequences.


I will also say that Russians being cancelled from all public fora on nationality alone is a worrying development, and that blanket sanctions cause real harm to bystanders, consequences be what they may. I only wish such actions were a lot more considerate across the board to all those who espouse war and killing, and not only those who are no longer in good standing.

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Barring the meteor from Don't Look Up sneaking up on us, nope.

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You can clearly do what you want. So can I, so I will surely not participate in JuliaCon this year.

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Just curious: What would be the purpose of Russian language session? Or a session in any other language but English? Is there is a substantial number of persons having something of general interest to present, but unable to deliver in in understandable English? - Is it a real issue?

An now two considerations on the topic. I could imagine boycotting Russian nationals who are Russian residents too (though I wouldn’t advocate it). Boycotting Russian speakers in general would be most unfair. Don’t forget Russian language ist spoken as first language by many of those who are fighting in the Ukraine against the Russian army right now.

Equally unfair would be excluding participants on the basis of their Russian citizenship. A lot of IT specialists from Russia work abroad, for many of them one of the reasons to leave was disliking the politics of the Russian state. Getting another citizenship is not easy and may take years or even decades. Are you going to punish them for having been born in Russia? - it was not their choice.

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Putting aside the issue of targeting a lingua franca, and assuming that someone did find a way of excluding Russian (and Belarusian?) citizens for their home nation’s role in the invasion without leaving out Russian-speaking non-Russian citizens, I don’t really understand how it would help the situation.

Actions with a significant military, economic, and cultural impact make sense because they can directly or indirectly hamper the invasion. Even something like the absence of a movie studio can sway public opinion, prompt people to question their government’s position that nothing is wrong.

Juliacon won’t have that kind of impact. Julia has yet to become culturally significant in any nation (as opposed to say, social media, Google, GitHub), and lone participants of an open-source software conference aren’t militarily or economically important. The only possible exceptions I can think if is someone is using Julia for Russian cyberterrorism or if someone decides to misuse their platforms to support the Russian invasion. But it seems more appropriate to ban those users from all forums than any action for Juliacon specifically.

As an aside, maybe there could be other ways to have a concrete impact, does the Julia community or Julia Computing have any Russian organizations or businesses to cut ties with? A more focused and prolonged action would be bigger than stopping people showing off code for free once a year.

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