Thank you for all your comments, even though I never intended to start a discussion -- I wrote the statement merely to relieve my colleagues in the support team from the burden of explaining.
Below I'm forwarding a reply from Andrius (which got stuck somewhere underway in the mailman). I do agree with him that one of our mistakes is applying Western democratic political principles to Putin -- that simply doesn't work. I'm naturally a cooperative person (which is sometimes a problem in business where you should frequently be able to say "no" to maintain focus) so when I read about "efforts to keep communication and work with the other side", that triggers my soft spot immediately. But then nothing simply ever changes and this is exactly what Putin was hoping for: we condemn and move on (or even worse, get stuck in some fake news and start speculating whether the Ukrainians were smiling too provocatively over to Putin or not). And next time again. And as much as we may diverge in opinions, that there would not be a next time after Ukraine (be it Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland or Moldova) is simply extremely unlikely, sorry to say that.
Everyone saying my position is safe and easy to take from a warm desk in Brno is completely right of course. No bombs over our heads and no threats whatsoever for taking the position. But also some 20k refugees already in a city of 400k after three weeks of war, so you do meet them daily in shops and public transportation and immediately recognize them by the frightened faces of the kids (of course, anyone in Poland beats these numbers 10x or so), so there is plenty of opportunity for us to help here (not just money; one of my colleagues with a 5-headed family got 4 extra heads just a few days ago etc.).
Finally, it seems some people were reading my statement about the role of politics in science so that I'm promoting science to be political. That is of course not the case. There are (many) things in this world we wish to change but can't, wanting science to stay completely away from politics is one of them. Where democracy works well, science and politics only meet occasionally and try to carefully operate in well-defined relationships. In Russia these days, it looks like this:
(just translate using your favourite MT -- both DeepL and Google did a rather good job when I tried, though the content is quite more shocking than the translation quality)
All the best Milos
---------- Forwarded message --------- From: Andrius Utka <andrius.utka at vdu.lt> Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2022 at 09:03 Subject: RE: [Corpora-List] Fw: SketchEngine CEO: No “business as usual” with Russia anymore To: Miloš Jakubíček <milos.jakubicek at sketchengine.eu> Cc: Marek Medveď <marek.medved at sketchengine.eu>, Vít Suchomel < vit.suchomel at sketchengine.eu>
I just want to express my full support for your earlier public statement. Unfortunately, my letter of support (below) did not go through to corpora at uib.no (apparently, it wasn’t confirmed by a moderator), maybe considered as too emotional 😊.
Anyway, I just wanted to react to some doubtful posts that have been published in this list.
I would like to express the full support to the public statement by Miloš. And I also want to express a few thoughts following the recent posts.
I don‘t think Miloš’s statement “No business as usual with Russia anymore“ is in any way hysterical, or russophobic, it is just a firm NO to this unjust war, where bombs fall on blocks of flats, nurseries, maternity centres, hospitals, and humanitarian corridors.
The information war is also taking place. Any doubt that you express will be recorded and multiplied by a million times by a Russian propagandist and this very doubt will be used in this information war against Europe and democracy. Russian propaganda lives on such doubts. Russian propaganda exactly works in this way and has worked like that for 22 years already (since the Second Chechen War). That has been their strategy during Georgian war, during annexation of Crimea, in American elections, in Brexit and in this war (entangled in their doubts and disputes Americans and Britons suddenly found that they were forced into voting against their own will). Since one single doubt will produce one more doubt. The doubt will be spread by our own media, and multiplied by Russian troll factories and robots. They will make these two doubts into 2 million voices. Ask yourself: who is this “student from Leeds” anyway? Why his pro-Kremlin anonymous thoughts are sent to hundreds of scientists in the first place?
Don‘t be naive and don’t reationalize by using Western democratic values, as Russia will use them against you. This is the main difference: westerners think they are taking part in democratic or academic discussions, and Russian propaganda uses it in the information war. I think it is time to unite without doubts against this terrorist state (by the way the term “terrorist state” was used by Lithuanian president Grybauskaitė already in 2014). I don’t care that Russian users via proxy can use SketchEngine. I’m sure that Russian programmers have already stolen all logins and they have been using SketchEngine illegally for years. But let them behave like thieves. As they are such. I know for a fact that Russian IT companies are stealing all the materials on a regular basis from Netflix and circulate them within Russian networks. Why SketchEngine would be an exception?
Russia is already The North Korea, if you could see the Russian TV you would be amazed on how full of lies and biased it is. Of course, there are clear fakes, but their strongest claims are those that are made “on doubts that we produce ourselves“ (by Merkel, Rute and so on). Being themselves fascist, they call all opposition fascist, being themselves hysteric, they call each opposition as hysteric. All western media has been banned, as producers of fake news in Russia.
So, full support! No doubts!
Vytautas Magnus University
A public statement <https://www.sketchengine.eu/news/no-business-as-usual-with-russia-anymore/>
by Miloš Jakubíček, CEO of Lexical Computing, on Sketch Engine unavailability in Russia and Belarus.
https://www.sketchengine.eu/wp-content/uploads/ukraine-gebe587dbc_640-300x169.png 300w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px">
One week ago, I decided to cut off the Russian and Belarusian internet address space from Sketch Engine (and related services) following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That decision was not easy to take but after one week I am perhaps even more confident it was the right decision than I was back then. While the overall feedback was supportive, we have also been getting all sorts of complaints. This text attempts to respond to the main critical voices: *“this is ethically wrong”*
I do not think so. On the contrary: for me, this is the only ethically plausible solution. By operating on a market you legitimate that market and those who are in control of the market. But the Russian market lost its legitimacy one week ago when it became a war machine. Moreover, since most Sketch Engine users are academics, it is state money we would continue taking (directly, or indirectly through users’ salaries). I do not see how we could continue providing services in Russia, take money for it and pretend as if nothing happened. The next day after the invasion we have contributed 250,000 CZK (approx. 10,000 €) to the account of People in Need <https://www.peopleinneed.net/what-we-do/humanitarian-aid-and-development/ukraine> for humanitarian aid in Ukraine.
I should perhaps also mention that by cutting Russia off, the amount of hacking attempts targeted at our infrastructure dropped by 90%. *“science should not be political”*
This, I admit, I find completely ridiculous. Anyone having a job in science, sport or culture and thinking they are apolitical, please have a look at your payroll and where the money is coming from. Have a look at your government’s website how proud the country is of its scientists, athletes or artists? In these areas, you represent your country more than in others, willingly or not. *“but I’m against Putin”*
Me too. You are unfortunate in that you live in an economic area that Putin (absolutely) controls and used its gains to initiate an invasion of your neighbouring country, Ukraine, committing atrocities and killing many people equally innocent as you claim to be. All the sanctions punish the guilty ones, the innocent ones as well as those initiating the sanctions, otherwise they would not be effective. We all need to make sacrifices now. If you live in Russia, now is the time when you need to act and do what you can to prevent the otherwise inevitable: Russia becoming the second North Korea, completely isolated from the outside world, completely cut off from any type of collaboration in business, science, culture or sport. *“and you think Putin will stop because of Sketch Engine?”*
Surely not. Sketch Engine is not the bread and butter people need for everyday living. But it is the bread and butter for corpus linguistics. It is a high-tech premium product that enables people to take part in state-of-the-art research and science in some fields. Not making it available in Russia constitutes a very, very tiny bit of pressure against ongoing aggression in Ukraine. But I believe that every bit counts.
Many people much more competent to do this than me have been analyzing the current situation, an excellent summary was provided e.g. by Garry Kasparov <https://twitter.com/Kasparov63/status/1499439820363468802?s=20&t=3X-hfb9U88sKfUgfctXNJg>. I am afraid that, for all kind of reasons (massive propaganda from Putin in the first place of course), many people in Russia are still far from realizing the damage Putin is making to Russia as well as Ukraine. It is now not the time to make business in Russia, collaborate in research and science or compete in sports. It is now not the time to do corpus linguistics in Russia. There is only one task for anyone in Russia: help get rid of Putin by any means you can. This is the task for Russia. The task for the rest of the world is to repent how come we did not see this coming and let it go that far. Equally, when Putin is gone and there is peace again in Europe, it will be our task to help rebuild Ukraine as well as Russia, and I will be happy to think about what Sketch Engine can then do to help the researchers in Ukraine as well as Russia to catch up. But until then, there is “no business as usual” with Russia anymore.
Practically speaking: whether and when Sketch Engine becomes available in Russia no longer depends just on me. Since payments to Russia (both online and offline) are getting unavailable, there is no way to get paid. The EU sanctions list suggests that we may not even be allowed to provide our services in Russia. Afterword
For me as a Czech, I do fear that the reminiscences of 1938 in Czechoslovakia are way too real. They are actually incredibly real. It is once again useful for everyone to recall the circumstances of the Munich agreement <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munich_Agreement>. In 1938 Hitler started iteratively escalating his demands on Czechoslovakia making sure they would not be acceptable by the Czechoslovak government (like Putin did with Ukraine). He finally demanded all border parts of Czechoslovakia, constituting about 30% of the country, with predominantly German speaking citizens, arguing they are oppressed by the Czechoslovak government and need to be protected (like Putin did with Luhansk and Donetsk). He claimed Czechoslovakia is an artificial country and part of historical Germany (like Putin claims about Ukraine). Finally, both France and the UK forced the Czechoslovak government to accept his demands in September 1938 on a conference in Munich.
The UK prime minister Chamberlain then returned home claiming: *a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. *He was responded by Winston Churchill: *You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war.* Chamberlain’s naivety only made him an everlasting symbol of appeasement. In March 1939 Hitler invaded the rest of the defenseless Czechoslovakia. In September 1939 he attacked Poland. You know the rest.
Since then, the Czech society has been split about whether we should have defended ourselves even without the help of the UK and France (who we had alliances with). Looking at Ukraine these days, it is hard not to think we should have and that it likely would have had significant influence on the course of WWII. Similarly, the people in Ukraine are now literally fighting for all of us and we should do all what we can to help them. I ask everyone to focus on this in the first place now, regardless of where you are. Slava Ukraini!
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