Written: April 10, 2013
I just found out that Andrei Zelevinsky, a great mathematician, and an ever greater human being, passed away today, exactly two weeks before the conference that was going to celebrate his 60th birthday, and that now will turn into a memorial conference.
Of course I am crushed. I have a (possibly erroneous) theory about Russian mathematicians (that may extend to other Russians). I call it the "Russian dichotomy". Most Russians that I met (and necessarily I almost only meet mathematicians) are either very kind and nice, or very obnoxious and unkind. So while the average niceness of Russian mathematicians is close to the average niceness of all mathematicians, the standard deviation is very high.
Of course I will not mention any names of the unkind kind, but my canonical and iconic example of a Russian mathematician who was so kind and generous, was Andrei Zelevinsky.
Why Andrei had to die so young is an open, intractable, question.