Libmonster ID: TR-433
Author(s) of the publication: Vladimir FORTOV, Levan MINDELI

by Academician Vladimir FORTOV, Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Sciences;

Levan MINDELI, Dr. Sc. (Econ.), Director of the Center for Science Analysis and Statistics

On May 9, 2000 the people of this country marked Victory Day-the 55th anniversary of the Soviet Victory in the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany. A significant contribution to that victory was provided by the Soviet scientific community, and in our view its role and place in the national economy of the Soviet Union in the prewar years, and especially during the war, and the attitude of the Soviet leadership to science in general is a subject worthy of a closer scrutiny.

The years of World War II was a time of a radical reappraisal by the world's leading nations of their views on the social role of science as a major productive force in its own right. Science, including basic research, began to be viewed, as an integral part of what we call the economic basis in its own right with its ideological function being pushed into the background. This paved the way for a scientific and technological revolution in the latter half of the 20th century The scientific and technological progress in the Soviet Union embraced all of these momentous historical changes with its general course being shaped by events of the war years and later by the needs of postwar economic reconstruction.

To begin from the beginning, it was World War I that demonstrated the basic difference of major military conflicts of the 20th century from those of the earlier times: its victorious progress could not be achieved only on the strength of the accumulated stockpiles of weapons, strategic supplies and foodstuffs. Military conflicts thus turned into "conflicts of economics"-a fact of life which was later recognized also in the Soviet Union where an all-out program of industrialization and technical reequipment of farming was launched in the 1930s. By that time, it should be pointed out, the historically formed territorial distribution pattern of our industrial, scientific and technical and, partly, agricultural potential was extremely uneven. And even despite considerable efforts taken in the 1930s to foster the development of an industrial base in the country's eastern regions, the practical results of this work were still as remote as ever. In 1940, for example, the industries in the central and south- western regions of the USSR accounted for 71 percent of the national iron and 58 percent of steel output, for 58 percent of rolled iron production and 50 percent of electricity production.

The prewar years in the Soviet Union went through the shaping of a national system of scientific research, including the establishment of the USSR Academy of Sciences, specialized industrial R&D institutes, college and university research centers, and industrial

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research centers attached to factories and plants. From 1929 to 1940 the scientific community in this country grew from 36.4 thousand to 98.3 thousand in step with the growing number of our research establishments. Also on the agenda was the difficult transition from setting up isolated centers of research to building an R&D network on a national scale.

By the start of the Great Patriotic War with Nazi Germany the Soviet Union had a developed system of state-supported R&D facilities, which was largely oriented at industrial needs, and a system of engineering training. This system with its educational establishments accounted for 62 percent of the country's research manpower with another 33 percent occupied in various research institutes and the Academy of Sciences accounting for yet another 5 percent.

During the war the efforts of the Soviet leadership in the field of science were aimed at saving its research potential on the one hand and at applying this potential to solving the pressing tasks of the day The most urgent of these two areas was the first one with Moscow, Leningrad, Ukraine and Byelorussia-the regions directly involved in military operations-counting some 30 percent of the country's best research institutes and 20 percent of colleges with about 20 percent of research scientists and engineers and also the prime of our teaching staffs. Saving this prime of the national R&D potential became a task of paramount importance.

Early in July 1941, the government took a decision on evacuating scientists and research centers from the country's danger regions. Charged with this task was Sergei Kaftanov, Chairman of the All-Union Committee for Higher Educational Establishments at the Government of the USSR (then called SNK-the Council of People's Commissars), who acted on behalf of a specially established SNK Evacuation Council. The responsibility for moving to the rear the USSR Academy rested on its Vice-President-Otto Schmidt- a famous polar explorer. The urgent evacuation campaign (the removal of research centers from Kiev, for example, was started as early as July 3,1941) was completed in the main by the end of 1941, and it was only from Leningrad, surrounded by German troops, that the evacuation continued up to the summer of 1942. When the worst came to the worst, it were scientists and teaching staffs, and not the research equipment, that had to be rescued in the first place.

All in all, it was possible to move into safety 147 teaching institutes and a number of specialized industrial R&D centers. Within the structure of the USSR Academy a total of 85 research centers with their 4 thousand staff were evacuated-mainly from Moscow and Leningrad. But things were not always as good, and from the 26 colleges in Byelorussia-which had a total of 60 research centers-only 6 could be evacuated. In the besieged Leningrad one third of the academic research staffs, who were unable to leave the starving city perished there and nearly all of the survivers of the siege suffered from dystrophic complications.

The heaviest losses during the war were sustained by specialized and industrial research establishments although all of the key institutes and R&D bureaus with defense applications happened to be in outside combat zones and those in danger areas were moved to the country's east. But all which remained where they were, mainly centers oriented at consumer and civilian needs located in this country's western, central and southern regions, were either destroyed or plundered by the Nazis. The general toll of the combat and German occupation included 334 colleges and institutes and 605 research centers in this country's western and, partially, central and southern European regions of the Soviet Union. These research and educational centers and institutes were evacuated to the major cities of Povolzhye, the Urals, Western Siberia, Central Asia and Kazakhstan and less often-to the republics of Transcaucasia. The new locations were chosen next to the local centers of this kind, identical institutes evacuated from the country's western regions or close to areas which were regarded to be in need of scientific backing. Some of such "displaced" centers were temporarily amalgamated or even placed under a single roof, so to say In these "safe" regions, overburdened with refugees, all of these resettlement processes became especially complicated, mainly as regarded the provision of accommodations for research staffs and their families. Sharing these efforts were local government and Communist Party authorities

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at all levels with refugee food rations being as good as those of factory workers. From 1942 salaries were raised for research scientists with learned degrees.

And even despite all of these problems, often bordering on emergencies, research and educational establishments, including those moved to the east, lived up to the expectations with some of them setting some truly heroic examples-such as the Library of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Leningrad which never closed in the face of the tragic shortages of food and heat.

As different from the relocated factories and plants, most of which later remained on their new locations, research and educational establishments with their staffs, and the equipment they managed to preserve, later on moved back to the central and western regions of the country with the cessation of hostilities there. After the Battle of Stalingrad (July 17, 1942-February 2, 1943) this re-evacuation acquired a systematic nature. It had to be accompanied by a restoration of what we call their material and technical base of the regions damaged by fighting and enemy occupation. The latter half of 1943 saw the return to Moscow of the USSR Academy management and 40 academic research institutes. The return of research centers to Leningrad began in the autumn of 1944. After a period of war-time disruption Soviet science entered a new stage of its development.

The long and cruel war inflicted unavoidable damage to this country's scientific community with its maximum falling on the first phase of the war-till about the summer of 1942. The biggest losses of research manpower were linked with the formation of volunteer detachments for the defense of Moscow, Leningrad and other major cities. Swept by the common tide of patriotic feelings, large numbers of scientists joined these volunteer detachments regardless of their age, position or academic degrees. Many of these volunteers perished without a trace. What is more, many members of research staffs were enlisted, like other citizens, on the construction of all sorts of fortifications and defenses which exposed them to enemy air raids and shelling. Under-and postgraduate students and junior researchers with no scholarly degrees were called up into the army like everybody else and this category of budding specialists and researchers suffered the heaviest losses on the battlefront. Many of them, however, went through a period of military training and served as junior officers in the air force, engineering units, military intelligence and communications.

As of June 22, 1941 colleges training specialists with quasi-military skills, such as hydrometeorologists, for example, were given a military status and began to train army officers. Their lecturers and professors were given military ranks depending on their positions and learned degrees. All were demobed after the war and their institutes regained their civil status although some of them provided the basis for new military schools in the respective fields. Senior researchers with scientific degrees were entitled to deferment from the call-up, with staffs of the Academy institutions being entitled to special privileges. Even in the critical year of 1941 the CPC USSR Commission on Exemptions from Military Service granted more than 1,000 of such deferments to this category and this number was 1.5 times greater in 1942 with special exemptions being granted to specialists in physics, chemistry and geology. As a result the Academic research staffs suffered but minimal losses, being deprived of some 20 percent of their young researchers at the start of the war (in comparison: in 1942 alone the number of college professors and lecturers was reduced by half-to 27,670 and the number of colleges shrunk to 450 as compared with about 800 at the start of the war).

In general, the attitude of the Soviet authorities to the budding scientific community of this country was sparing, to say the least, even during the most critical first years of the Great Patriotic War. Our leading metallurgical expert, Academician Alexander Baikov, for example, was flown to safety from the besieged Leningrad on board a specially provided military aircraft with a convoy of fighters. Special care was also taken of specialists attached to army units for various reasons and they were

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sent back into the rear at the earliest opportunity.

After the turning point in the war, marked by the victorious battles of Stalingrad and Kursk (July 5-August 23,1943), tangible conditions were created for a resumption of the traditional Soviet policy of boosting the manpower potential of our science and education. In 1943 there began on the initiative of the All-Union Committee for Higher Education the demobilization from the army on a massive scale of college teachers, and many of them were also recalled from various temporary stations at factories and plants. During that year the number of college staffs increased by 25 percent, reaching nearly 35 thousand. By 1945 the numbers of lecturers and professors-this foundation of the scientific and technological potential of the nation- approached the prewar level.

Massive call-up of young researchers into the army and defense industries at the start of the war struck a serious blow at the ranks of the postgraduates and, consequently, at the training of skilled researchers. But from the end of 1942 the All-Union Committee for Higher Education took steps to remedy the situation such as offering to postgraduates food rations on a par with factory workers. The management of higher educational establishments were authorized to provide all the necessary conditions for postgraduates for their studies and work on their theses. Postgraduate studies by correspondence were reactivated and students thereof were granted call-up postponements. Increased attention was paid to raising the level of research staffs in the Soviet republics. As a result, by 1945 the number of postgraduates and doctors of sciences within the USSR Academy of Sciences exceeded the prewar level, although the manpower level of our colleges and specialized research centers was still far below that mark (as a result of profound upsets in the normal conditions of these networks which lost, as compared with the academic institutions, a relatively greater share of young brains during the initial years of the war).

Student enrollment also gradually increased (from 108 thousand in 1942 to 176 thousand in 1943). The number and size of student stipends were increased and a large proportion of college students were exempted from military service. By 1944- 1945 it was possible to reopen more than 200 colleges destroyed during the war and open 60 new ones-mostly in the eastern and south-eastern regions. Even before Victory Day the decision was taken on the reconstruction of the Moscow, Leningrad and Kazan universities-the oldest and most powerful centers of Russian education and scholarly research.

And one more interesting fact. In 1943 the Soviet armed forces matched the German army, and surpassed it on a number of points, and not only by the quantities, but also by the quality of armaments. Soviet armour and other advanced military equipment embraced a whole range of advanced technologies and designs based on the results of fundamental research. By that time the scientific and technical potential of the Soviet Union surpassed on the whole the combined potential of Germany and its European allies. And the end of 1943, incidentally, was marked by yet another development in the chain of breakthroughs which altered the face of the postwar world.

The original ideas of scientists and specialists concerning the production and uses of atomic energy, which emerged back in the last decade of the 1930s, began to take concrete shape as a result of fundamental studies in nuclear physics most of which were conducted in Western Europe and in the Soviet Union (in the United States studies of this kind were commenced in 1939 on the initiative of a number of refugee scientists who had escaped there from European countries).

Leningrad researchers who were engaged in nuclear physics studies in the years even before the war made persistent attempts to attract to their work the attention of, first, the Presidium of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and then of the top leadership of this country. By the end of 1942 the problem caught the eye of government leaders and was submitted to expert assessment. This included the People's Commissar of the Chemical Industry Mikhail Pervukhin, Chairman of the All-Union Committee for Higher Education, Sergei Kaftanov, Georgi Flyorov, specially recalled from the army (back in 1940 he and Professor Konstantin Petrzhak discovered the phenomenon of spontaneous fission of heavy nuclei) and also academicians Abram Joffe and Vitaly Khiopin. After a positive expert assessment of these studies Academician Igor Kurchatov, known at that time for his experiments in physics, was appointed head of the "Uranium Project". In January 1943 he was summoned to Moscow from Kazan- then one of the centers of academic research-and placed on his new assignment. With the establishment of what was codenamed "Laboratory Number 2" this country began its ascent to the status of, first, a nuclear and then a thermonuclear power. The first nuclear reactor, F-l, was put into operation in this country on December 25,1946.(*)

The brilliant success of these atomic energy studies and of the atom bomb project can be regarded as a fitting demonstration of the really high scientific and technical potential achieved by the Soviet Union, and, consequently, as proof of success of the scientific and technological policies pursued by the leadership of this country during the 1920s-1930s.

In a historical perspective, it should be noted that the start of our nuclear research served to alter the views of the

* For details, see: N. Knyazkaya, "The Atom Project in the USSR: First Stage", Science in Russia, No. 5, 1997. - Ed.

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Soviet leadership, and above all of Josef Stalin, on the social role of science in general. It was demonstrated that not only applied, but also seemingly abstract fundamental science, was an indispensable part and parcel of our progress. This is proved by some of the specific changes and shifts of emphasis in the scientific and technological policies of the Soviet Union during 1943-1945. The period saw an accelerated development of formerly retarded advanced research with the unflagging emphasis on higher education and specialized industrial research. This concerned, above all, research in physics and mathematics and chemistry At the same time increased attention was given to the development of scientific research instruments and the whole range of laboratory equipment for scientific experiments.

This turn of events, needless to say, was not accidental. And the academic system of scientific research lost none of its high standards during the war. They were even raised thanks to the establishment of 5 Academies of Sciences in various Soviet republics and 8 peripheral branches. These changes, on the one hand, must have possessed a political color and had to confirm the increased status and authority on the national level of the eastern Soviet republics which had such a major role to play in the rear as focal points for the evacuated industrial and research institutions and for the development of this country's new raw material and energy producing centers. On the other hand, the foremost scientific and educational establishments, moved there for a time, gave a powerful momentum to the development of science and education on the local scale. For example, due to the evacuation of higher educational establishments to Western Siberia its own network of some 20 such centers was also broadened by the addition of 17 new ones. Seven colleges appeared in the Altai Territory, and the capitals of the Central Asian Soviet republics sheltered for a time some of this country's best scientific brains. In this way the Great Patriotic War promoted a significant "levelling out" of what used to be an uneven territorial distribution of the scientific and technological potential of the Soviet Union.

The increased attention of the government circles towards the USSR Academy of Sciences in particular as the focal point of advanced research, both basic and applied, became especially apparent from 1943. That year saw the first, since the start of the war, elections of new members of the Academy, including 36 full and 58 corresponding members. And, naturally enough, most of the new vacancies were intended for scientists with a record of defense research (including such names in mechanical engineering as Alexei Ilyushin and Alexander Yakovlev, "motors wizard" Alexei Mikulin, a leading name in mathematics and mechanics Mstislav Keldysh and the physicist Igor Kurchatov, to name but a few).

In the critical year of 1942 budget allocations for the USSR Academy of Sciences were reduced only by 1.6 times (from 135.4 bin to 83 bin rubles) as compared with cuts of 2.3 to 3 times for other agencies. And in 1943 these allocations were again increased to 130.5 bin and in 1944 to 134.7 bin rubles.

By the outbreak of the war the USSR Academy employed a staff of 5,710, including 2,754 research scientists, which shrunk by about 18 percent by 1941-1942 (mainly at the expense of administrative staff). In 1943, however, the number of research scientists rose to 2,966 and in 1944 there were 2,980 of them-an increase of about 7 percent over the level before June 1941. Over that period the number of academic research centers grew from 169 to 192. What is more, even during the Battle of Stalingrad there was no break in subscriptions to foreign science journals which continued to be delivered to the besieged Leningrad, including journals from Germany and Italy The war years also saw growth in the number of domestic scientific publications. In 1942, for example, USSR Academy of Sciences published 350 books of 2.3 thousand printer's sheets, in 1944 the respective figures were 496 and 3.75 thousand and in 1946-570 and 5.6 thousand. As for science journals, their publication continued on the pre-war level, so to speak.

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The war years are remembered not only for the efforts of the Soviet leadership to maintain, restore and develop the country's scientific and technological potential. Also worthy of attention is the very high efficiency of its utilization, of getting high returns on scientific research of which one can cite many examples.

Rapid reclamation of the resources of the country's eastern regions, for example, called for an all-round scientific support. It was necessary to quench the "thirst" for energy by way of maximal development of their fuel base, boosting electricity production and tapping new raw materials resources. A specially established commission headed by Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Veniamin Veits, was able to identify considerable resources and suggest the appropriate development measures, such as concentrating the generating potential of power stations around the sources of fuel and switching to a closed electric balance for regions of the Urals, etc. Power experts led by Academician Alexander Vinter were actively involved in the construction of new power stations and in the restoration of the blasted Dneproges Station in Ukraine. Scientific studies helped promote the establishment of a rational balance between the biggest (such as the Sredneuralsky Station) and small hydropower units. Several research institutes pooled their efforts in preparation for the development of the Pechorsky coal basin.

And no less vigorous efforts were focused on methods of boosting oil production. Taking part were geological, seismological, mining, geophysical and other institutes, which were headed by academicians Sergei Nametkin, Nikolai Semyonov, Corresponding Member Boris Kazansky and several others. Their task was to improve methods of oil extraction, including contour flooding of deposits, and oil processing with the view to boosting the yields of valuable petroleum products, such as aircraft benzines.

The war put tremendous problems before metallurgists. It was necessary to boost at an unprecedented rate the output of metals, launch the production of new alloys and solve the problem of shortage of alloying components. New metal ores deposits were brought into production including those with natural alloys. Experts (led by Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy Mikhail Kamaukhov) solved the problem of manganese shortage caused by a temporary interruption of its supplies from Nikopol, occupied by the nazis. A technology of processing of lean manganese ores was developed and the necessary components found for the production of armor steel. The possibility was discovered of replacing chrome-molybdenum steel in aircraft production (Corresponding Member of the Academy Georgi Akimov and Professor Ilya Gusman). Studies were accomplished on the promising methods of replacing expensive steel with forgeable iron in a range of manufacturing processes. These and other development programs emphasized the talents and organizational skills of academicians Ivan Bardin, Alexander Baikov and Mikhail Pavlov

A worthy contribution to the efforts of this nation was also provided by our chemical experts. The loss of factories which produced toluene was fraught with the threat of bringing to a halt the production of explosives. Within record time experts led by Academician Nikolai Zeiinsky developed a method of toluene production from benzine, also discovering a new technique of catalytic processing of crude oil. A major contribution to the production of a range of chemical substances for military uses was provided by scientists of the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Earth, the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry and the Institute of Combustible Raws, to name but a few.

Deserving of special mention is the major contribution to the Soviet war effort provided by Academician Yevgeny Paton. The Institute of Electrical Welding, of which he was the head and which was evacuated from Kiev to the Urals, became immediately involved in work on military projects. Its experts developed an automatic flux welding technique which boosted labour productivity many times over (8 to 10 times). For the first time in the world the production of tanks was put on a conveyor thanks to the introduction of automatic welding methods.

In the years before and during the war our scientists and designers developed and perfected advanced types of military hardware which were rapidly switched into mass production. Their advent provided a tangible contribution to the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War. At this point one should mention our medium and heavy tanks like T-34, KV and JS, fighter planes like LA-5, MIG-3 and YAK-3, the IL-2 attack plane, the 76 mm ZIS-3 cannon, the famous Katyusha rocket launchers and other weapons many of which were superior to their best foreign equivalents.

The war also placed new problems before our medical science. Our medical researchers developed and introduced effective methods of primary treatment of wounds, found new methods of anti-shock therapy and pioneered unified methods of bum treatment. A large number of wounded were saved from gas phlegmon complications. A special vaccine was developed and introduced which helped reduce by several times the incidence of typhoid fever. Provided for general use were sulfamide preparations (sulfacetamide, sulfazole). In 1942 medical experts working under the direction of Doctor Zinaida Ermolieva (later Member of the USSR Medical Academy) developed antibiotics (penicillin) produced in this country.

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And now let us try and assess the very fact of the aforesaid efficiency of our scientific and technological sphere.

Postwar Soviet science was a highly dispersed system from the administrative point of view. There were special councils in charge of various branches of research attached to bodies of state administration. Their task was to promote the orientation of various research centers to the needs of various agencies. The USSR Academy itself prepared research programs and financed research establishments within its jurisdiction; it was only the government which could amend these provisional plans. In the field of higher education research, although deemed necessary, was formerly regarded as being of secondary importance as compared with the main activities. Thus, a country with a seemingly fully centralized system of national economic administration practically had no central administrative body in the scientific and technological sphere.

After the establishment of the State Committee for Defense on June 30, 1941, Sergei Kaftanov, Chairman of the All-Union Committee for Higher Education, was appointed its plenipotentiary representative on problems of science. In 1943 he was replaced by Academician Sergei Vavilov They also headed the Scientific and Technical Council with broad powers of coordination and expert assessment. On its recommendation, for example, the Soviet government took its decision on launching the aforesaid "Uranium Project". The central planning agency-GOSPLAN-had its own Council for scientific and technical expert assessments. It assessed plans for the introduction of new machinery and equipment and R&D projects in industry: in 1943 Academician Alexander Baibakov was appointed its head. Scientific and technical councils and internal information, expert assessment and coordinating bodies functioned at all of the ministries (called People's Commissariats). The Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party had a Department of Science of its own. In general, the system of administration of the national scientific and technological potential remained the same as in the years before the war. Its basic features included multi-stage administrative links of research establishments with the top leadership of the country, absolutization of economic planning targets as the instruments of administration and accountability, weakness of some of the fine mechanisms of administration and control apart from those specific ones, of course, which belonged to party organizations.

The general tasks put by the Soviet government before this country's scientific and technological system after the start of the war stemmed from what can be described as the three main positions. First was the development of problems for defense applications, the development and perfection of military hardware. This was followed by the problem of support for the industry in the development and introduction of new technologies and equipment. And, finally, there was the problem of utilization of the country's raw material resources, search for the possibilities of replacement of scarce materials with locally available raws. Academic research centers and higher educational establishments were advised to curtail as soon as possible research in all of the less important areas, and the same applied to specialized and industrial centers of research.

In a complicated area of human endeavor like science, general appeals, even backed by plans with the pinpoint specifications and always inadequately specified targets, may not always provide effective instruments of administration. But it was during the Great Patriotic War and it was in the Soviet Union that this mechanism of implementation of the state policy on science and technology did work without a snag. The main reason for this brilliant success were the common patriotic feelings of the entire nation, including our scientific and technical community. The call "Everything for the battlefront, everything for the victory!" was no mere propaganda rhetoric. The whole of this nation was ready to do its utmost and accept all necessary sacrifices for an early victory, and the leadership of this country had every reason to proclaim what was hailed as the moral and political unity of this nation.

From the perspective of present-day experience in science one can admit that in the years of the Great Patriotic War there took place in the Soviet Union what can be called a unique situation in world history in relations between basic and applied research and the industry Psychological and career considerations as well as the administrative economic and other barriers which originally divided, and still do so to this day, all spheres of human endeavor simply ceased to exist for a time under the pressure of the common supertask of achieving a speedy victory in that hardest of wars. Our scientists and designers lived up to the expectations of their nation providing it with really advanced weapons. They helped to save our people from cold and hunger, protect them from epidemics and restore the health of the wounded officers and men. And last but not least, this dedication paved this country's way to new scientific and technical achievements in the latter half of the 20th century.


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