ANECDOTAL TALES OF THE SOVIET ERA
In this chapter anecdotes are gathered which relate to the Soviet period but, unlike the oral jokes in Chapters 1 through 8, meet the traditional definition of an anecdote rather than the one applied to the oral jokes during the Soviet period. These are short stories describing real events and real people, and in that the items of this chapter are more of the type of the old anecdotes of chapter 10.
9.1 During the seventy year long period of the communist rule, the Party bureaucracy prescribed every small detail of the people's behavior. In particular, the Party hacks have been overseeing all the scientific activities at research institutions and universities. The official ideology supposedly attached a very high value to scientific progress. Theoretical science had been held in high esteem. On the other hand, the Party always expected the scientists to find ways to put their discoveries to a practical use. It was the Party that decided which science was useful and which had to be condemned as a bourgeois diversion from the patriotic work.
The interference of the Party apparatchiks cost the science in the USSR very dearly. One example of this is as follows. There was a very prestigious research institute in Leningrad, the so called Physico-Technical Institute of the Academy of Sciences whose director was academician Abram Ioffe, a prominent physicist, former favorite collaborator of the X-rays discoverer Roentgen. In this institute, a group of young talented scientists worked in the area of physics of solids. At that time (in the middle of the thirties) important progress in atomic physics was taking shape in the West. Several of those young physicists, including Igor Kurchatov, came to Ioffe with a suggestion to establish a research lab in the area of atomic physics.
Ioffe, who recognized the scientific value of such research, was fully supportive. He knew, though, that it would be very difficult to convince the ignorant Party bosses of Leningrad that such a research lab would serve the cause of building socialism as atomic physics seemed at that time to be a purely scientific exploration without prospects of a practical use in the near future. Ioffe decided to organize the atomic research lab for which several rooms were to be assigned. However, this lab would not exist officially. The doors of that lab would be locked at all times, and the sign on the door would read "Stockroom."
And so it went. Several enthusiasts of the atomic research worked behind the locked doors, and when an inspection commission of Party officials arrived in the institute, they were led past the doors bearing the deceptive sign, to some other areas where the necessary pokazukha was properly maintained.
In 1945, the American scientists exploded an atomic bomb. The Party bosses panicked. They summoned Ioffe and asked him what can be done to catch up with the USA. And at this time, Ioffe had an answer, due to the several years of clandestine research work conducted under the very nose of the stupid Party apparatchiks.
9.2 The famous physicist Petr Kapitsa worked in the twenties in Cambridge, Great Britain, where he became a favorite collaborator of Rutherford. With Rutherford's cooperation and assistance, a special lab of low temperature Physics was built for Kapitsa in Cambridge. Kapitsa married an English woman. Every summer he used to go for a visit to his native Russia.
In 1934, the dictator of the USSR Stalin ordered to hold Kapitsa in Russia. Suddenly, having come for a vacation, Kapitsa found himself trapped in Russia.
The Soviet authorities offered him the directorship of a specially established research institute to be named Institute of Physical Problems. Kapitsa refused to accept this position, as he still hoped the authorities would change their mind and let him go back to his lab in Cambridge. But Stalin was not known for yielding to a mere physicist.
In the meantime, the Soviet authorities managed to convince Rutherford that Kapitsa decided to stay in Russia on his own will. The gullible Nobel prize winner could not imagine that a deception on such a scale could be undertaken. He ordered to dissemble and send to Russia many pieces of unique scientific equipment from the Kapitsa's lab.
In Moscow, extensive edifices for the Institute of Physical Problems were in the process of construction. For a while Kapitsa refused even to look at them. Finally, the authorities managed to persuade him to look at the construction under the pretext he could help avoid errors in the institute's design. Kapitsa went to survey the construction site and found a host of things to be changed. That's how the famous experimentalist finally acquiesced in his fate.
The Institute of Physical Problems grew to become one of the largest and most prestigious scientific establishment on the globe. Kapitsa's famous weekly scientific seminar, being on a par with Landau's seminar at the Lebedev's institute of Physics, always attracted scores of attendees.
In 1945, the USA physicists exploded the first atomic bomb. Stalin ordered to make a Soviet atomic bomb in the shortest time possible, at any cost. Of course, the treason committed by Klaus Fuchs and the efforts by other Soviet spies in the West had much facilitated the forthcoming development of atomic weapon in the USSR. Still, such development required a major effort by skilled experts in atomic physics.
Stalin's security chief, dreaded Beria was put in charge of the atomic bomb creation. The first man whom Beria summoned was Petr Kapitsa.
The history has not preserved any record of what occurred when the world renown scientist met the mass murderer Beria. What is known, is that Kapitsa refused to work on the atomic bomb. Were he a regular citizen, a bullet of a KGB executioner would put end to his life's endeavors. But Kapitsa was too well known all over the world. He was only dismissed from his position and exiled to a country house which he was forbidden to leave.
At the gate of his modest country house Kapitsa posted a sign that read "Hut of Physical Problems." For over ten years, the best Russian experimentalist was held in near isolation, actually under house arrest.
In 1953, Stalin died. Winds of change blew over the country. One of the first signs of the thaw was Kapitsa's release from exile and his reinstatement as the director of the Institute of Physical Problems. The first week upon his return to the institute, a meeting of Kapitsa's seminar was announced. Scores of physicists flooded the Institute. The famous physicist Landau gave the floor to Kapitsa who was met by a standing ovation.
9.3 After Kapitsa refused to participate in the atomic bomb project, Beria summoned Ioffe. The patriarch of Soviet physics who at that time was well over seventy reportedly said that he personally was not cognizant enough of atomic physics to head up the atomic bomb project. He could recommend though some younger scientists well qualified to do the job. He named Israil Kikoin of Sverdlovsk and Moscow and Igor Kurchatov of Leningrad. Since Kikoin, who was the discoverer of the so called photo-galvanomagnetic effect, was a Jew, Kurchatov, who was ethnic Russian, was the obvious choice. Kurchatov was appointed Head of the entire atomic research. He was given free hand in choosing men and women to work on different parts of the project. Neither a Party membership nor the ethnic origin were to play any role in choosing the creators of Russia's atomic power, but only talents and scientific expertise.
After Kurchatov had completed gathering specialists for the project, there was such a high percentage of Jews among them, that in the atomic project's slang the secret city, officially named Arzamas 16, where the atomic bomb was to be constructed, was jokingly referred to as Jerusalem 2. (Another nickname for the secret city was Problema).
In particular, Kurchatov chose as the head of the unit charged with the actual construction of the bomb, a Jew by the name of Yuly Khariton.
Everybody on Khariton's team knew that in case of failure Beria would not hesitate to shoot anybody who allegedly was to blame for the failure. Fortunately for Khariton and his cohorts, they succeeded. In 1949, the Soviet atomic bomb was ready.
When Beria and Stalin received the reports about the success, a shower of awards followed. Khariton, who was forty five at that time, was summoned to the Kremlin where he was awarded the golden star of the Hero of the Socialist Labor, the highest decoration in the country. He left the Kremlin and returned to Jerusalem 2 aka Problema only to be at once summoned back to the Kremlin. There he was handed a Stalin prize which amounted to a huge sum by the Soviet standards. He went back to Arzamas 16 aka Jerusalem 2, only to be summoned back to the Kremlin where he was given one more gift, a big car usually reserved only for the highest Party bosses. Altogether, Khariton was summoned to the Kremlin seven times, and each time one more award was given to him.
Unlike Sakharov, who after participating in the work on the hydrogen bomb, gradually converted into a dedicated fighter against atomic weapons and for human rights, Khariton remained a silent and largely unknown to the Soviet citizens creator of a multitude of dreadful nuclear bombs.
9.4 The famous theoretical physicist, Nobel prize winner Lev Landau, was known for his sharp tongue and condescending attitude to people who were below his intellectual level. Many physicists strived for presenting their work at Landau's seminar. If Landau, to whom his numerous pupils usually referred as Dau, liked the work, he would allow the applicant to give a talk at his seminar. Otherwise he would destroy the hapless applicant's hopes with a derisive comment. Once, upon leafing through a submitted paper, he wrote, 'This work contains many things which are new and interesting. Unfortunately, everything that is new is not interesting, and everything which is interesting, is not new.'
There was in the USSR a physicist by the name of Pines. He was an expert in X-rays applications. Once Professor Pines submitted a paper to Landau in which he offered a proof that certain bodies, if stretched, would, contrary to expectations, also expand (rather than shrink) sideways. Even though such a phenomenon was never observed, it would not contradict any known laws of Physics. When Landau took a look at the topic of Pines' paper, he, without bothering to read Pines' arguments thoroughly. dismissed them out of hand and wrote on the Pines' manuscript. "Pines, if you swap e and i in your name, that will be the only physical body that expands sideways when stretched." (The famous theoretician was wrong, as several years later bodies that expand sideways when stretched were discovered experimentally).
9.5 The famous theoretical physicist Yacov Frenkel was known for his quick mind and cornucopia of ideas. If a new experimental fact was discovered, nobody in the Physico-Technical Institute in Leningrad would offer a theoretical interpretation of the new discovery sooner than Frenkel.
Once Frenkel was walking vary fast, as it was his habit, down the stairs, while a colleague of him, who was an experimentalist, was climbing the stairs toward him. Frenkel stopped and asked the experimentalist about the results of the latter's experiment. The man answered, "You know, A turned out to be larger than B."
"Of course!" Frenkel said. 'It could've been expected. It can be easily explained." And right on the spot, Frenkel delivered a quite sophisticated theoretical explanation of the colleague's result. When Frenkel finished, the colleague said, "Wait a moment! What did I say? Was it that A was larger than B? Sorry, what I meant was that A turned out to be less than B."
"Ah!" Frenkel said. "Of course! It is even easier to explain." And right on the spot he delivered a theoretical explanation as to why A must be less than B.
9.6 It is commonly believed that even a very prolific scientist can publish in the course of 30 to 40 years of scientific research, not more than 300 to 400 papers, or about 10 publications per year on the average. Of course, most of the scientists have published much less than that maximum number. In this respect, it is interesting to note that, while rank and file scientists in the USSR only rarely have to their credit even ten publications per year, one (or often less than one) per year being much more common, there were some personalities who managed to put their names into bylines of enormous number of papers. What is most striking about it, is that all those super-prolific authors happened to be directors of research institutes, who supposedly had to devote most of their time to administrative activities rather than to research. Of course, in none of these papers and books the director was the sole author. He always had a few co-authors from among his subordinates.
For example, director of the Institute of Chemistry of natural compounds, one Yu. P. Ovchinnikov, in the course of 15 years he was a director, accumulated to his credit over 300 papers, among them a few books!
The most striking example was perhaps president of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR A. N. Nesmeyanov. His name appeared in the bylines of over 1200 publications, including a number of books. It means that for forty years in a row Nesmeyanov managed to publish a paper or a book every 12 days, without interruption even for a vacation.
That was what it meant to be a director, or, even better, a president of the Academy!
On the other side of the issue, the names of scientists who fell from the Party's favor, as a rule, disappeared from the title pages of the books they had written. One example is the classic book 'Theory of Oscillations" written by A.Andronov, A. Vitt, and S.Khaikin. Its first edition appeared in the thirties under all three names. Then A. Vitt was arrested and disappeared in the Gulag. The second and several consequent editions were printed with only two authors' names. Many years later, in the fifties, Vitt was rehabilitated post-mortem. The edition of 1956 again appeared with the names of all three authors.
9.7 In 1954, the Academy of Sciences of the USSR elected a forty-four year old geophysicists Mikhail Budyko as a new member of the Academy. Soon afterwards he was appointed director of the Central Geophysics lab in Leningrad. The career of the relatively young but highly qualified scientist seemed to be on its rise. Suddenly, president of the Academy of Sciences Mstislav Keldysh received a letter from the First secretary of the Leningrad Region Party committee Romanov in which that Party hack angrily accused Budyko of not cooperating with the Party organs, the most incriminating accusation for a Soviet official of any status. Of course, this spelled end to Budyko's career. Very soon, Budyko was dismissed from his director's position and replaced by the Party secretary of the Geophysical lab who was not known for any scientific achievements.
Some curious people managed to find out that Romanov's letter to Keldysh was prompted by an accusatory information supplied by the same lab's Party secretary who replaced Budyko. What was actually Budyko's misbehavior? It was awful indeed. The impudent lab's director dared to hire several Jews! It was done against the secret order issued by Romanov that completely prohibited hiring Jews except for extraordinary circumstances which would require in each case Romanov's personal decision.
9.8 Poet Konstantin Simonov (his real name was Kirill Simonov) became very popular shortly before the World War 2, when his poem about evanescent love titled "Five Pages" was printed. During the war, poems by Simonov had brought him even a larger fame. It would be not an exaggeration to state that in 1945 Simonov was by far the most popular and famous Russian poet. Not a wonder that when, in January of 1945, the Moscow university invited Simonov to read his poems and the poet accepted the invitation, it was considered an extraordinary event.
The big hall in the Moscow University building in Mokhovaya street was overfilled with people, mostly students. People sat in the aisles, in many places two people managed to squeeze themselves into one seat, and, generally, as the Russian proverb goes, there was no place for an apple to fall. Simonov was met with a standing ovation. To let him read as many poems as possible, after each piece the people synchronously clapped three times and then at once fell into silence.
After Simonov read many of his poems, some of them immensely popular, and some other, newer, not yet known, he answered questions. One of the questions was, "Do you think your poetry will remain in the annals of Russian literature?"
Simonov shrugged and answered with a quote from Pushkin, "We are destined to nurture good impulses...."
The next question was, "Who, you think, among the contemporary poets will remain in the annals of the Russian poetry?"
Simonov hesitated for a while, as if afraid to utter some thought, and, apparently having overcome his fear, said, "It is hard to predict the future. But there is one name which beyond doubt will remain forever, as long as there is our Russian language...." He stopped, as the audience held breath, waiting for the judgement of the popular poet. After a short silence Simonov exhaled and almost in whisper said, "Pasternak."
The audience gasped. The name of Pasternak was dangerous to mention other than in accusatory terms. Pasternak, the virtuoso of the Russian poetry, a philosophical poet of great sophistication, highly valued by a few connoisseurs of poetry, was little known to an average Russian, and, moreover, was many times denounced in the official press for his alleged indifference to the problems of the socialist society. The common derogatory term for Pasternak was "internal emigrant." To hear from Simonov, whom many in the audience on that day considered the best contemporary Russian poet, such an accolade for Pasternak, was enough to boggle the minds of the listeners.
Time has shown that Simonov's statement was prophetic. Today, over forty years later, only a few in Russia remember Simonov's poetry, while the star of Pasternak is ever higher with time.
9.9 One of the most important Russian poets of the first half of the 20th century was Osip Mandelshtam whom many critics place next to Pasternak. Like those of Pasternak, Mandelshtam's poems offer an extraordinary challenge to a translator into other languages. In most of his masterpieces, of which many had a multilayered and sometimes semi-mystical meaning, Mandelshtam did not touch on any political issues of his time.
In the early thirties a short poem was attributed to Mandelshtam which was disseminated orally and contained an explicit accusation of Stalin in murdering the Russian peasantry. Mandelshtam was arrested and died in exile in December of 1937.
For many years, no works of Mandelshtam were published and even mentioning his name in print was prohibited. After Stalin's death (in 1953) some writers and literary personalities tried to get a permission to publish a collection of Mandelshtam's works. Year after year, they failed. In 1966, writer Ilya Erenburg who for many years enjoyed the status of an officially recognized and privileged writer, but who secretly harbored anti-Soviet feelings, was asked why, despite the thaw, the collection of Mandelshtam's works could not be printed, even though these poems did not contain anything explicitly anti-Soviet. Erenburg smiled and said, "Because they do not know what to kick out. You see, all these poems contain nothing that would be clearly a material to be kicked out. If they had found what to kick out, then the rest would be printed."
A short collection of Mandelshtam's poems was printed only in the seventies.
9.10 The Chief Designer of the Soviet spacecrafts and rockets, Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, was a collaborator of the pioneer of the Russian rocket technology A. Zander. In 1937, Korolev was jailed together with many other prominent scientists and engineers. His prosecutor told him, "For our country, your fireworks and all this pyrotechnical stuff not only are not needed but are rather dangerous. Why didn't you busy yourself with a proper work like designing airplanes? Your rockets, were they not for an assassination of our leaders?"
For a while, Korolev was kept in the dreadful Gulag camps in the Kolyma region. Then the German engineers (the best known among them was Wernher von-Braun) developed the rocket weapon they used against England. The 'wise leaders' of the Party panicked and ordered to organize at once an effort to develop and build Soviet rockets. Korolev was located in a Kolyma camp, brought to Moscow and appointed Chief Designer of a secret rocket institute, while continuing to be a prisoner.
His favorite adage was "They're going to snuff us out without obituary."
When Korolev's rocket was successfully tested, he was finally released from prison and subjected to a shower of awards and decorations. Korolev, with all his new status of a highly honored member of the most privileged elite, never forgot his old prison friends. He still used to say often the same sentence, "They'll snuff us out without obituary."
Despite all his awards, his name was never mentioned in press, and he was simply referred to as Chief Designer. Even when Korolev died, an obituary was printed (contrary to his favorite saying) but in that obituary it was not mentioned that the late Sergei Korolev was actually the mysterious Chief Designer.
9.11 The creator of many models of Soviet aircrafts, Andrei Tupolev, was known for his extraordinary technical intuition. One of the stories about his uncanny ability to make an instant judgment in complicated matters of aircraft design went as follows. Tupolev was walking in the airfield. From a hangar several hundred yards away, an aircraft was rolled out. It was a new experimental model developed by one of the leading aircraft designers. Without turning his head to the machine, Tupolev said, "It'll not fly." Of course, the engineers from the institute that designed the aircraft ignored Tupolev's remark as a bad joke. But the machine did not fly! When Tupolev was asked how he knew it, he shrugged and said, "I just felt it."
On another occasion, in his own aircraft design bureau, Tupolev was shown drawings of a fuselage for a new plane. Glancing at the drawing, Tupolev pointed at a spot in the figure and said, "It'll break down here." The model was built and broke down during its first test exactly where Tupolev indicated.
In 1938, the brilliant creator of aircrafts was arrested and, as many other prominent experts in aviation and other fields of military-related technology, forced to work on the development of military airplanes within the walls of a special prison (usually called in Russian slang "sharaga," or "sharashka.") Of course, the arrest of all those members of the technical and scientific elite was never officially admitted, but nevertheless the NKVD (as the predecessor of the KGB was known) disseminated rumors that Tupolev was the real designer of the German fighter plane Messerschmidt ME 110 whose drawings he sold to Hitler! This malicious lie seemed to be substantiated by the accidental similarity between the shapes of the twinned wingtips of the Tupolev's plane Tu2 and of Messerschmidt ME 110.
Shortly before Hitler started the war with the USSR, several German-made aircrafts were brought to Chkalovskaya testing airfield and the jailed designers, including Tupolev, were shown the German machines. After viewing the German aircrafts, the designers discussed the machines' features with a few generals of the Soviet Air force. At some moment, Tupolev said, "Finally, I was honored to see ME 110. I saw my machine." Everybody in the room fell into silence, as everybody knew that the renown designer, the pride of Russian aviation engineering, was falsely and maliciously accused of treason by the scoundrels who ruled the hapless country.
Later in his life, Tupolev was given all possible awards and decorations, and was honored as the Grandmaster of Russian aviation designs.
9.12 Kazakhstan is a country of immense size but scarcely populated. Its indigenous people, the Kazakhs, constitute only about 30% of the country's population. For centuries, all eight tribes of the Kazakh people had been nomads, horsemen and sheep shepherds. While they had their own nomadic culture and traditions that were transferred orally and by example from generation to generation, but, unlike their neighbors, Uzbeks and Tadjiks, who can boast a thousand year long history, literature, and highly developed agricultural tradition, Kazakhs had no cities, no own alphabet and no written history. Perhaps, this was the reason that the Kazakhs had become the most russified people of all the Turkic ethnic groups in the former USSR. Many young Kazakhs don't speak their native language but speak Russian without accent. Those Kazakhs who moved to cities have largely abandoned the ways of life of their nomadic ancestors.
This apparent russification has not though eliminated the national pride of Kazakhs and their desire to be masters of their land. One of the by-products of that natural and respectable desire was the effort by the newly created educated class of Kazakhs to invent a history for themselves. With all due respect to the national feelings of Kazakhs who certainly have every right to their land and to their national pride, some features of that effort can evoke smiles.
One such event took place in the early seventies.
Somewhere in the vast Kazakhstan's steppes, local tribesmen came across a huge rock covered with inscriptions. They reported their find to the authorities. The local linguists tried unsuccessfully to decipher the transcriptions. The fifteen thousand pounds of the rock were carried to the capital city of Kazakhstan, the beautiful Almaty (in the Russian rendering, Alma-Ata).
In the Institute of linguistics of the Kazakhstan Academy of Sciences the inscriptions were read by the director of that institute S. Kesenbaev, and two of his assistants, Professors R. Musabaev and A. Kaydarov. These three experts announced that the inscriptions dated between 4th and 6th centuries BC and that they described hunting feats of a Prince named Bekar-Tegin. Hence, the commission of the institute concluded, as early as 2500 years ago, the Kazakhs had written language, had their princes, and therefore their own state. A lavishly illustrated volume with the commission's finding was prepared under the Academy of Sciences' auspices.
Before the volume left the typographic plant, an unexpected correction had to be made. The decipherers of the inscriptions decided that their findings deserved a special program to be filmed for wide dissemination of news about their important historical discovery. Cinematographers from the Almaty movie studio were invited. When the movie men saw the rock, they at once recognized it as their creation. A few years before, in 1969, they were shooting a movie named Kyz-Zhibek. For that movie, they carved an inscription on the rock. They invented odd characters for the carved fake text, characters which had no meaning as they belonged to no known language. No Prince Bekar-Tegin or any other prince was mentioned in the text, which was just a chain of meaningless signs.
9.13 Colonel of the KGB O. Baroyan for many years conducted his KGB work in several countries such as Ethiopia and Iran, under the disguise of a medical expert. After he was expelled from the World Health Organization, he switched to a medical research in the USSR. In this endeavor he was supported and promoted by a prominent scientist Lev Zilber. Zilber, who had reached high position in the Soviet science despite being a Jew, was a real scientist of a high caliber. Some of his colleagues wondered why such a prominent scientist promoted a KGB man who seemed to have no talents for medical research. Indeed, Zilber assisted Baroyan in getting the Doctor of Sciences degree, then in being elected a corresponding member of the Academy of Medical Sciences.
The secret of that odd cooperation was really very simple. Zilber, a Jew, who was three times jailed for imaginary crimes, knew too well that his position remained extremely vulnerable despite his scientific achievements. By making himself useful for Baroyan, Zilber had in the latter a kind of a bodyguard protecting the scientist from the whims of the security organs. When asked, why did he promote such scum as Baroyan, Zilber used to smile and say, "Even scum may have its use."
After Zilber died in 1966, Baroyan had already placed himself firmly in the world of science as a powerful bureaucrat. His behavior can be exemplified by the following story. In 1974, one of the researchers in the institute whose director was Baroyan, doctor T. Kryukova, was unfortunate to once contradict Baroyan in some matter of a secondary importance. Baroyan immediately kicked her out of her job. Then the arrogant bureaucrat with the KGB connections said publicly, "I'll let her back to her job if she submits today a written request for reinstatement and will hand it to me while standing on her knees in my office. If she will do it tomorrow, she will have to crawl on her knees, with her written request in hand, from the entrance hall, to my office."
9.14 In the late forties, the communist Party leadership started an unprecedented campaign of "Patriotic struggle for revealing the Russian priority" in all areas of science. Endless showers of books, movies, plays, and newspaper articles hammered into the minds of the benighted population that every invention and discovery was made by Russians. Steam engine, for example, was invented not by James Watt but by Ivan Polzunov. The first aircraft was built not by Wright brothers but by Mozhaysky. Radio was invented not by Marconi but by Popov, etc, etc, etc.
Of course, to 'reveal' the Russian priority in the past would be not good enough unless new discoveries and inventions continued to appear day in and day out. Many crooks and unscrupulous career pursuers realized that the time was propitious for advancement of their careers. All that was required was to claim some great scientific achievement and the Party would do the rest (unless the inventor's name was Jewish).
One of the most ludicrous "discoveries" was made by a veterinary doctor by the name of G. Boshian. This obscure vet worked in a provincial institute of veterinary research when he claimed to have revolutionized the science of viruses. According to Boshian's ideas, microbes could convert into viruses and vice versa. Everything the microbiologists knew from the times of Pasteur was claimed to be completely wrong. Viruses, claimed Boshian, can also become crystals and then reconvert into microbes.
Were it not for the campaign for the Priority, Boshian's nonsensical drivel would only invoke ironic smiles. What happened was quite different. Director of the Institute of Veterinary Research, one Leonov, figured out that Boshian's opuses can be used as a tool for his own career. Leonov went to the Minister of Agriculture Benedictov and told that Party honcho that in his institute one Boshian made a historic biological discovery. This was a godsend to the Politburo.
Soon a book authored by Boshian appeared in bookstores under the title 'On the nature of viruses and microbes.' Boshian was given scientific ranks, titles, and numerous awards. Leonov also got his awards, including the highest scientific degree. The book by Boshian, while describing the results of experiments which allegedly led to his monumental discovery, did not provide any details of those experiments.
In the course of several years, a commission created by the Academy of Medical Sciences to verify Boshian' experiments was denied access to the latter's laboratory under the pretext that his research was highly classified (as were 70% of all scientific research in the USSR).
In the fifties, Boshian's name disappeared from bookstores and newspapers' articles as unexpectedly as it appeared, without any explanation as to what happened to the revolutionary discovery. This inglorious demise of a great scientific achievement was brought about by an accidental lapse in the Party's vigilance. Some Party hack permitted a team headed up by academician Timakov to access Boshian's lab, under conditions of strict secrecy.
When Timakov's team looked at Boshian's samples under a microscope, they saw nothing but dirt! Timakov's team submitted a conclusion that all Boshian's theories amounted to a collection of absolutely meaningless statements by an illiterate maniac.
Boshian's discovery was by no means the only one of that sort. About the same time, another Great discovery in biology, highly acclaimed by the sycophant media, was made by biologist O. Lepeshinskaya, who claimed that she found the so called "living matter' which constituted the core of every living organism. In the same years illiterate charlatan Lysenko who enjoyed a limitless Party's support, decimated the biological science in the USSR by sending hundreds of biologists who dared to disagree with his preposterous theories, to prisons, from which many of them never returned.
There is in Moscow a prominent mathematician Professor Nalimov, the author of an excellent book "The science about science." The following maxim has been attributed to him, "Under our conditions, the secrecy is the unique tool to conceal the illiteracy of scientists."
9.15 The stories about charlatans who exploited the situation created by the communist Party's whims which determined what should be considered a useful, Marxism-compatible science, may serve as a background to a few stories with opposite denouements.
In the sixties, many Physics departments at universities all over the country received strange mailings. Some obscure man from the city of Saratov claimed in a cover letter that he developed a new theory of the well known physical phenomenon, the so called Total Internal Reflection of light. This effect is described in every textbook on Physics and is nowadays widely used in the fiber optics (the so called light guides). Its essence is that when a light beam falls from within a transparent body onto its surface at a certain angle, it is fully reflected within the body.
Actually, the full theory of this effect, based on Maxwell's theory of electromagnetic waves, shows that certain fraction of light does escape the body, but does not propagate away from it.
The man from Saratov (let us call him Krasin; his real name was slightly different, but will not be revealed here for the sake of his family) explained that he had offered his article to several scientific magazines, but all of them rejected his submission despite the great significance of his discovery. Therefore, Krasin explained, he was compelled to resort to mailing his article directly to many scientists with a hope that some of them would appreciate his work and assist in its recognition.
In the mailed envelope the addressees found a sheaf of pages typed on flimsy paper (usually called in Russian 'cigarette paper'). On this pages, Krasin started the explanation of his theory. The text ended in the middle of a sentence, just before the essence of the theory was to be revealed. Krasin offered to mail the rest of the paper for a price of several rubles.
This unheard of method of disseminating scientific information evoked many smiles. The man seemed to be an ignorant with a mania of greatness. Since the theory he supposedly had developed remained unknown, the physicists assumed that at the worst the theory was just a hogwash, or, at best, a version of Maxwell's analysis of the effect, apparently not familiar to the self-deluded man.
Even though it is unknown whether or not Krasin ever received any response to his mailing, it is probably safe to assume that there was none.
About two years later, newspapers printed a story about a murder. The murdered man was a renown physicist, director of the Institute of Optics of the Academy of Sciences in Moscow. The murderer was Krasin.
Being desperate, after futile efforts to convince scientists in the validity of his theory, and confident that his was an important discovery and he a victim of a plot to keep his theory suppressed, the disgruntled discoverer decided to attract attention to his work by an unconventional method. He appeared in the Institute of Optics, holding a cardboard tube of the type usually used to carry rolled-up drawings. He requested to see the Institute's director. After several unsuccessful attempts, he was finally received by the unsuspecting director.
The details of what happened in the director's office are unknown. The essence of what occurred there was that Krasin pulled from his tube a rifle with a sawed-off barrel and shot the director.
Finally he got the fame he dreamed of.
9.16 As the Soviet economy was supposedly based on a scientifically developed plan, the collection of statistical data in the USSR had acquired a special importance. The Central Statistical Authority in Moscow reigned over an army of regional, district, city, and local offices where thousands of men and women holding such titles as Economy Engineers or Statistical Accountants, had been busy with collecting statistical information, tabulating it, summarizing it, and forwarding it to the higher levels of the system for further summarizing and analysis. Then the results of their diligence would be fed into the Planning System to establish the manufacturing goals and quotas. This system by the virtue of its supposed scientific character was considered inherently superior to whatever could be employed by the capitalist world with its chaotic relationship between manufacturers and consumers. How this monumental system of statistical activities worked in reality, may illustrate the following example.
In the early sixties, a new employee joined the staff of the statistical bureau of Kazakhstan located in the city of Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan.
Her first assignment was to collect data on the number of horses in every region of Kazakhstan. She had a few weeks to complete this job.
As the deadline for submitting the collected information to Moscow was approaching, the bureau's director asked the new worker when her report would be completed. The woman said that she was almost finished, and was waiting for only three more regions to supply the required information.
"Only three?" the director said. "We don't want to wait for them. Just see what number of horses should be added to those reported by the rest of the regions, in order to meet the goals of the plan for the entire republic. Then don't forget that to please Moscow the plan always has to be fulfilled by at least hundred-ten, hundred-fifteen percent. Just add those ten percent to the figure you calculate, and whatever number you get, include in the report one third of that number for each of the three regions that are late in reporting."
"But what if they will later report different figures?"
"Don't worry. First of all, the regions' reports are being prepared using the same technique. The regions collect data from districts, and some districts always will be late in submitting their response. So, what is the actual number of horses is anyone's guess anyway. Second, who cares as long as Moscow is pleased?"
9.17 A group of writers from Moscow went to visit Azerbaijan. Before they started their tour in the republic, the First secretary of the communist Party of Azerbaijan, Bagirov, summoned the writers to his office.
A well known poet from Moscow, Pavel Antokolsky, happened to walk into Bagirov's office when the Party satrap had already started speaking. Bagirov looked at Antokolsky and said, "Who is that?"
"Poet Antokolsky," the late comer mumbled.
"Sit down!" Bagirov barked.
Antokolsky hurriedly took a seat.
"Stand up!" Bagirov roared.
Antokolsky rapidly jumped up.
Antokolsky sat down.
And then Bagirov resumed his pep talk.
Later, Antokolsky explained why he so docilely obeyed the capricious orders by Bagirov, "How could I not to obey? I'm just a rank-and-file Party member, and he a First secretary of a republican Central Committee!"