The title of the proposed presentation refers to reminiscences (see Venttsel’ & Epstein, 2007) about the Leningrad University professor Leonid Leifert, who explained to his students that even in seemingly the most abstract mathematical disciplines, the struggle between the revolutionary and the White Guard elements continued, and therefore there were red integrals and white integrals. Leifert was one of the most prominent figures on the “left” side of the “mathematical front”, as was said at the time in order to underscore the relentless struggle that had to continue being waged (Na leningradskom…, 1931).


The Russian revolution of October 1917, which brought the Bolsheviks to power, also brought about significant changes in mathematics education (Karp, 2012): the influence of the sociopolitical, which mathematics education is always subject to in one way or another, in this case was completely undisguised; not only was the connection with politics not concealed, but on the contrary, it was underscored in every possible way. This in itself already makes the period interesting to the international mathematical educators’ audience, but the fact that the ideas which then triumphed or suffered defeat went on to become the objects of debates and discussions over and over again later on must be added to this.


Leifert came from an affluent merchant family, but after the revolution he became a member of the Communist Party and one of the most zealous implementers of what the party demanded. In this capacity, he had to fight with Leningrad’s (St. Petersburg’s) most prominent mathematicians and write about the methodology of mathematics instruction – one of the first Soviet textbooks on the subject was edited by him (Leifert, 1931). But although he himself did not waver in implementing the party’s decisions, the party line itself wavered, and already in 1932 he had to repent for pernicious ideas that he had deviously promoted just a year earlier. This did not help him, and in 1938 he was executed as a Trotskyist.


The presentation will include an investigation of Leifert’s biography and his works, never undertaken before and useful for a better understanding of what went on at the time. The study will rely on archival materials and published works from the time under investigation.



Karp, A. (2012). Soviet mathematics education between 1918 and 1931: a time of radical reforms. ZDM/International Mathematics Education, 44(4), pp. 551–561.

Leifert, L.A. (Ed.) (1931). Metodika matematiki dlya pedagogicheskikh tekhnikumov [The Methodology of Mathematics for Pedagogical Technical Vocational Schools]. Moscow–Leningrad: OGIZ.

Na leningradskom matematicheskom fronte [On the Leningrad Mathematics Front] (1931). Moscow–Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoe sotsial’no-ekonomicheskoe izdatel’stvo.

Venttsel’, R.P. & Epstein.G.L. (Eds.) (2007). Venttsel’ E.S. – I. Grekova. K stoletiiu so dnia rozhdeniya. Sbornik [On the Centenary of the Birth. Collection]. Мoscow: Izdatel’skii dom Iunost’.