The Möbius Contest is already twelve years old. It was born in the second half of the nineties, when Russian mathematicians, as well as almost everyone else in our country, felt lost and disoriented. Mathematical life was seeping away, like water into sand, most friends and colleagues had left. The Russian mathematical school appeared to be ending its existence, or, at least, was becoming something completely different. Somehow, one had to live through it all. Doing mathematics is never easy, things just don't seem to work out, being always disappointed and unhappy with oneself is the common lot.
The way to survive is well known: you teach. Teaching I understand in the wide sense. For me it means helping young people to become mathematicians. But there were serious problems with that in the 1990ies. Not only I, but many of us, had the feeling that mathematics, the most important part of our existence, was no longer needed for the new generation. Besides, it was not clear how we could help. We did what we could: taught interested students, helped them leave the country if they very strongly wanted to. In the early nineties, the IUM (Independent University of Moscow) was organized on sheer enthusiasm, then miraculously moved into a new well-equipped building under the wing of another independent organization, the MCCME (Moscow Center of Continuous Mathematical Education). Contests for the support of young researchers appeared, first the Möbius contest, much later the Deligne-Dynasty Contest and that of the Dobrushin Foundation. It became progressively clear that things were not as bad as we thought. Life, in particular mathematical life, continues. This would not have been possible without the efforts of many people.
The Möbius Contest was founded in 1997 by two businessmen, alumni of the Applied Mathematics Chair of the Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics, Valery Balikoev and Alexander Kokin. In 2002, Alexander Kokin chartered (with the participation of the IUM) the non-profit organization “The Möbius Contest Foundation for the Support of Young Scientists” and became the Chairman of its Board of Trustees. Thus a privately endowed structure supporting young scientists, the first of its kind in Russia, exists and ensures the functioning of the Möbius Contest. A fairly large group of young people are laureates of the contest. All of them are good mathematicians, some are very good. This issue of MMJ contains six papers by prizewinners of the Möbius Contest:
In September of every year since 1997, the participants, undergraduates and graduate students, each present a mathematical paper to the contest. In some years the number of submitted papers was fairly large, up to fifty, some other years it was considerably less, I am sorry to say. The papers are reviewed as it is usually done in high level international journals: they are sent to the leading experts in the corresponding fields. On the basis of the obtained reviews, the Jury chooses several participants who are invited to give an exposition of their work in the oral round of the contest at the IUM. Having in mind the reviews and the quality of the exposition, the Jury chooses the prizewinners. For more details about the Möbius Contest, visit the website www.moebiuscontest.ru.