Because the best mathematicians have decided that it’s a necessary adjunct to mathematical study, and what’s more important to the modern world than mathematics?

When Perelman was fourteen, Rukshin spent the summer tutoring him in English; he accomplished in a few months what generally took four years of study. Perelman had to fulfill the English requirement to get into Leningrad’s Specialized Mathematics School Number 239. As Gessen writes, these mathematical high schools owe much to Andrei Kolmogorov, arguably the most important Soviet mathematician of the twentieth century and a figure who straddled the divide in Soviet mathematics mentioned above.

Kolmogorov, who did seminal work in probability, complexity theory, and other subjects, was something of an anomaly. A prolific mathematician, he was also passionately interested in education and devised an imaginative secondary school curriculum featuring mathematics first of all, but also classical music, sports, hiking, literature, poetry, and activities intended to foster male bonding. In the schools that he inspired, his disciples promoted Greek and Renaissance values and tried to protect their students from Marxist indoctrination. Eventually Kolmogorov was denounced as an agent of Western influence in the Soviet Union, but his ideas still permeated School 239 when Perelman studied there.