The recent intensification of Soviet interest in participating in international scientific activities is not merely a result of new policies introduced under Mikhail Gorbachev. Soviet scholars have sought out contacts with Western scholars since the first years of the Russian Revolution, although under Joseph Stalin and during times of heightened political tensions with the West these contacts have been reduced. On the eve of the revolution, the Russian empire had no more than a hundred physicists—including professors, docents and laboratory assistants with the equivalent of graduate degrees, but not including primary‐ or secondary‐school teachers—and very few well‐equipped laboratories. While creating conditions propitious to the long‐term growth of physics as a dispcipline, the revolution led to short‐term disruptions of research. Making matters worse, World War I cut physicists off from their customary contacts with Western scholars and laboratories, and the 1918–20 civil war between the Reds (the Bolsheviks and their allies) and the Whites (the monarchists and their sympathizers) atomized the domestic physics community.

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