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SCIENTIFIC CENTER IN THE NORTH-EAST OF EUROPE

Дата публикации: 16 сентября 2021
Автор(ы): Askhab ASKHABOV
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Рубрика: ВОПРОСЫ НАУКИ
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №1, 2011, C.75-82
Номер публикации: №1631778026


Askhab ASKHABOV, (c)

by Askhab ASKHABOV, RAS Corresponding Member, Chairman of Presidium of Komi Scientific Center, RAS Ural Branch (Syktyvkar), Alexei SAMARIN, Cand. Sc. (Hist.), research assistant of the Scientific Archives and Encyclopedia Department of the same center

 

By the early 20th century the territory occupied by the Republic of Komi exceeded in sizes most European countries and remained in a certain sense a blind spot on the map of the Russian Empire, as its resources were not explored. There was only one city, Syktyvkar, for several decades. But only in the 1940s, in many ways owing to the efforts of scientists, who made correct assessment of the regional economic potential, this territory changed rapidly from an agrarian to an advanced industrial region. Today the intellectual product created by specialists of the Komi Scientific Center is an important factor of progress.

 

"BLIND SPOT" ON THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE MAP

 

Over a long period the Imperial Academy's interest in the Komi territory had no systematic nature, and only several scientific expeditions were sent there for a century and a half since the time of its establishment (1724). The first expedition took place in 1768-1772, when the well-known Russian natural scientist Academician Ivan Lepekhin visited the Vychegda, Sysol, Letke and Luza rivers referred

 
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to the Northern Dvina river basin and neighboring villages. In 1837, the staff member of the Petersburg Botanical Gardens Alexander Shrenk made a tour of the unexplored areas in the north-eastern part of the European Russia. He visited Arkhangelsk and the town of Mezen, situated 200 km north-east, then proceeded to the Pechora river, crossed the Bolshezemelskaya Tundra*, studied the southern part of the Vaigach Island between the Kara and the Barents seas, and turned to south-east to explore the northern part of the Ural Mountains. On his return trip he visited the cities of Pustozersk (at that time in the lower stream of the Pechora river, today it does not exist), Mezen and Arkhangelsk, and came back to St. Petersburg.

 

In late 19th-early 20th centuries, exploration of the Ukhta oil region started by the efforts of the Russian Geographical Society. The exploration focused on stratigraphy and paleontology of the Pechora Ural and mineral resources of the region such as phosphorites, sulphur pyrites and iron ores. Botanical, ichthyological and zoological studies were conducted due to the funds of the Society of Enthusiasts of Natural Science, Anthropology and Ethnography. Early in the 20th century the state departments of agriculture, land management, forestry, etc. sent big complex expeditions to the Komi territory.

 

In 1905, the Pechora Natural-Historical Station set to work under the direction of the natural scientist Andrei Zhuravsky, whose research covered a wide range of problems from the description of the regional territory to experiments with agricultural plants and animals (his work Northern Frosts and Cultivated Plants is topical even today). Four years later Zhuravsky's station started to work under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences.

 

In 1914, there was established a standing Polar Commission of the Academy of Sciences. Its members participated in producing of 15 physico-geographical and administrative maps of northern territories. In the first quarter of the 20th century, including the Soviet period, expeditions of different organizations worked in the Komi territory, but the activity of the Polar Commission aimed at systematic studies of the northern lands was the most significant for the then newly created autonomous region and later on the Republic of Komi (Komi ASSR). For example, specialists of the Pechora team organized in 1933 explored the Pechora river basin for three months and evaluated regional natural resources and capabilities of their utilization. President of the USSR Academy of Sciences Academician Alexander Karpinsky headed the team and conducted dozens of business meetings in Syktyvkar, including those with the republican leaders. He met also common people and told them about the resource potential of the territory and necessity of scientific studies.

 

See: G.  Rusanova,   "Bolshezemelskaya Tundra (Cold  Desert): Flashback", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2007.–Ed.

 
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It was planned to set up a permanent body of the Academy of Sciences in the territory of the Komi ASSR. However, on December 15, 1933, the Bureau for Northern Region Studies was opened in Arkhangelsk, as at that time Syktyvkar had no scientific institutions with the developed material and technical base and professional personnel (the establishment of the first higher educational institution was under way in the republic), no railway service, which aggravated the aforesaid difficulties. In 1936, by resolution of the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences the said bureau was reorganized into the Northern Base, headed by the prominent zoologist Academician Nikolai Knipovich*.

 

FORMATION OF THE SCIENTIFIC CENTER

 

The Komi ASSR authorities closely followed the achievements of academic science and tried in every possible way to expand the studies and make them most topical for the region. To coordinate the subjects of expeditions, it was expedient to have a representative office of the Northern Base in Komi, and the Syktyvkar Group started work in August 1939.

 

At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, in the summer of 1941, the Northern and Kola Scientific Bases of the USSR Academy of Sciences were evacuated to Syktyvkar, and on September 30 by resolution of the USSR Council of People's Commissars these establishments were incorporated into the Base of the USSR Academy of Sciences for studies of the North headed by Academician Alexander Fersman**. As a result, the regional scientific potential increased many times, and the work plans were essentially revised and expanded. The research work was focused on prospecting of mineral and vegetable raw materials for the needs of the defense, finding of territories suitable for agricultural development, increase in productivity of agricultural plants and expansion of their diversity, implementation of elementary methods in procurement and processing of vegetable raw materials, studies of inland water bodies with the view of assessment of commercial fishing.

 

By the end of the war the Base for studies of the North had an impressive list of achievements. The biologists headed by Sophya Kasparova, Cand. Sc. (Agr.), proved perspec-tiveness of cultivating potato on a commercial scale and grew zoned varieties. Yevgeniya Ivanova, Dr. Sc. (Agr.), Olga Polyntseva, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), and their colleagues obtained new data on the vegetation and soil cover of the Komi ASSR, regularities of the change of bioclimatic zones. The geologists substantiated expediency of prospecting of mineral resources in the Komi territory. They prepared maps of areas fit for surveying, specified potentially oil-bearing zones, in particular, predicted oil-and-gas content on the right bank of the middle Pechora near the town of Vuktyla, situated 530 km of Syktyvkar.

 

In 1944, the Base for studies of the North together with its personnel, funds and library was included into the Komi Research Institute of Language and Literature, due to which its works acquired also a humanitarian character. As a whole, the extent of studies carried out in Komi in the 1940s greatly exceeded all studies of the former years, which is due to the high concentration of leading scientists there. The results were impressive: if by 1941, there was only one town in the region comparable in size with France, ten years later there appeared four more towns.

 

See: N. Vekhov, "Russian Lapland", in this issue of the magazine.–Ed.

 

** See: R. Balandin, "Poetry in Stone", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2003.–Ed.

 
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The Vorkuta coal field, Ukhta and Inta deposits became known to the whole country.

 

In 1944, the process of re-evacuation of academic institutions from the rear regions to the west of the country started everywhere in the USSR. In this connection, many regional leaders (in Ural and the left bank of the Volga) advocated keeping of these academic institutions in the entrusted territories. In particular, the Council of People's Commissars of the Komi ASSR applied with such request to the country government. The archives of the Russian Academy of Sciences include minutes of the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences, which considered similar applications. The request was declined as the Academy of Sciences had no financial, material-and-technical and also personnel potentialities to expand a network of its organizations. However, the policy-making bodies of our republic did not agree with the negative decision on such urgent problem, expressed their protest and sent once more relevant documents to Moscow. They argued: the long-term cooperation with academic science, which greatly promoted the economy of the formerly backward agrarian Komi Territory, will allow it to turn into a developed industrial region.

 

Eventually, by resolution of the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences and order of the Council of Scientific Branches and Bases of July 3, 1944, the Base for studies of the North was divided into two parts: the Kola Base named after Kirov, USSR Academy of Sciences was re-evacuated to the town of Apatity, and the Northern Base remained in Syktyvkar. Since then it became the Base of the USSR Academy of Sciences in the Komi ASSR. Its members, who at the beginning of the war remained in Arkhangelsk to complete studies and assist in research and applied work, together with the newly arrived personnel formed a staff of the local base, which existed till 1957. Later on, it was finally incorporated into the Komi Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

 

The first post-war years of reconstruction were an acid test for the country. But the network of the Academy of Sciences branches increased considerably. By 1945, their number reached seven, namely, Ural, Western Siberian, Tatar, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Turkmen and Tadjik, and also four bases: Komi, Kola, Far Eastern and Arkhangelsk. And everywhere a vexed problem came up to the forefront concerning reconstruction of the destroyed scientific infrastructure, while there was shortage of funds for equipping of new scientific bases and specialists too. In these circumstances the local authorities used to render assistance. In the Komi ASSR they built houses for the staff members and allocated funds for expeditions especially important for the territory. The personnel problem was solved partly due to the so-called "unreliable" scientists and prisoners of GULAG. For example, the biochemist Alexander Baev (Academician from 1970) was transferred to the Base of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Komi. Pyotr Rokitsky, future academician of the Belorussian Republic, was sent to Syktyvkar after the notorious session of the Lenin Аll-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VASKhNIL) in 1948, which inflicted colossal casualties to national genetics.

 

Specialists were attracted by a possibility to conduct unique experiments. For example, the organic chemist Dmitry Kursanov (RAS Corresponding Member from 1953) visited Syktyvkar to study heavy oil. Later on, when the academic institution of the Komi ASSR managed "to stand on its own feet", it trained its own personnel, which brought fame to national science. The heyday and maximum qualitative and quantitative growth of the branch fell on the years 1956-1965, when it was headed by Pyotr Vavilov, specialist in plant introduction, who became President of

 
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VASKhNIL in 1978 and Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences a year later. In 1966-1983 the Komi Base was headed by a well-known demographer economist Vladislav Podoplelov, Dr. Sc. (Econ.), and later on by the physiologist and Academician (from 1990) Mikhail Roshchevsky, who held the post till 2006.

 

FOR THE GOOD OF THE REPUBLIC

 

In the 1950s, the Trans-Ural academic institutions were incorporated into the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences*, while other branches were undergoing structural differentiation. Northern branches, i.e. Karelian, Kola and Komi had mainly a natural science profile, with extensive research in geology, biology, forestry and energy problems.

 

It is not accidental that in the second half of the 20th century it was our branch, which launched unique studies, and won country-wide recognition. First of all, let us mention work on the problem of a partial transfer of the flow of northern rivers to the Caspian Sea basin. This idea was initiated "above", and it had vivid political connotations. Specialists of different institutes and departments of the Komi Branch were involved in the development of this subject. They began from cautious approval of the suggested concept of rearrangement of nature (with account of the revealed imperfections) and ended in its complete denial.

 

Geologists surveyed a territory of possible flooding and determined mineral deposits, whose mining would be impossible in case of bends of rivers. Biologists estimated a scale of the expected effect on the local flora and fauna of the region, predicted ecological consequences (bogginess of reservoirs, loss of 90 percent of salmon spawning

 

See: N. Dobretsov. "First Regional Branch", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2007.–Ed.

 
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grounds), and analyzed inevitable losses of 70 percent of flood meadows and changes in local agriculture. Archeo-logists prepared expeditions to areas of possible floodings and found there the northernmost dwelling sites of man. Power engineers and economists studied possible methods of accelerated timber cutting, calculated losses for the region, considered in detail each variant of transfer, calculated economic and power efficiency, revealed and eliminated negligence of project developers.

 

As a whole, scientists of the Komi Branch were engaged in this problem for about 30 years. At first, they were alone, then they attracted competent supporters. Finally they managed to prove that implementation of the project of such level would inevitably lead to economic, ethnic and ecological collapse in the European North. President of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1975-1986) Academician Anatoly Alexandrov, initially an ardent supporter of the change of the course of rivers, subsequently agreed with reasoning of the researchers and applied a lot of efforts to stop the project.

 

The Branch scientists started studies of the effect of small doses of radiation on living organisms back in the mid-1950s. The presence of a unique natural zone of increased radioactivity in the territory promoted the studies, and topicality of the research was conditioned by nuclear weapon tests on Novaya Zemlya*. Radioactive fallout was registered and analyzed in the coastal regions of the Extreme North. The experience proved useful in 1986 after an explosion on the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, when radiobiologists from Syktyvkar were the first to start necessary search in the accident zone. Many of them were awarded medals "For Rescuing the Lost", Gennady Kozu-bov, Dr. Sc. (Biol.), and Anatoly Taskaev, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), were decorated with the Order of Courage.

 

Apart from the national projects, studies of great importance for regional development were carried out too. In the 1950s-1960s, the country government undertook a number of reforms with a view to solve the agrarian problem (the well-known "corn" and "virgin land" campaigns under the slogan "To Catch up with and Pass America"), which presupposed introduction of new lands into agriculture, cultivation of southern crops, and development of meat and dairy production. The biological subdivisions of the Komi Branch were also to render assistance to collective farmers.

 

Ismail Khantimer, Cand. Sc. (Agr.), set about to create a fodder base in tundra conditions and proved possible cultivation of perennial plants in the Extreme North. He worked out an optimal method of agricultural development of the so-called meadow formation by perennial grasses adapted to local conditions. It should be noted that the suggested method is not identical to ordinary grass cultivation used in practice in the southern regions of our country in accor-dance with rotation of crops and, as a rule, designed for short-term use. Thus, it was assumed to run a long-term economic management under extreme soil and climatic conditions. As a result, the transpolar meadows sowed by Khantimer exist up to now and have no analogs in the world. Konstantin Moiseev, Dr. Sc. (Agr.), was engaged in introduction of fodder plants for more than 40 years. He proved that vegetative mass of some plants was characterized by especially active growing due to long light hours and sufficient content of moisture and heat in the North. The scientist bred the varieties of mallow and hogweed**, which became substantial aid for agriculture in the 1950s. His achievements became known to the country leader Nikita Khrushchev (Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers in 1958-1964), who highly appreciated his work in his letter to Moiseev and asked him for hogweed seeds for sowing in collective farms near Moscow. However, after resignation of Khrushchev, corn and hogweed were withdrawn from agricultural practice everywhere. But studies of biological and biochemical features of fodder plants played a key role at the plant introduction laboratory of the Institute of Biology of the Komi Branch for many years.

 

RECOGNIZED SCIENTIFIC SCHOOLS

 

In the course of time, the Komi Branch was developing, and the advanced research trends turned into scientific schools. Their world recognition contributed to increased prestige of this academic institution.

 

Alexander Chernov, Dr. Sc. (Geol. & Min.), initiated geological explorations in the region. He made theoretical substantiation of the existence of the Pechora coal field and studied the structures of the Ukhta oil-bearing area. He also obtained a vast paleontological material, which served as a basis for stratigraphy of the Paleozoic of the western slope of Northern Urals and Pai-Khoi (mountain range in the northern part of the polar Ural). Besides, Chernov trained a galaxy of outstanding followers, who continued studies in the European North.

 

The scientific school founded by Academician Nikolai Yushkin is well known throughout the world. Its theoretical concept implied integration of the ideas of biology and geology, which allowed creation of a basis for identification of different minerals. The new direction, namely, genetic and information mineralogy, took shape in the course of a long-term research. Within its framework specialists work out problems of the structure and evolution of the mineral kingdom and study its role in the origin and maintenance of life on the Earth. Yushkin is the author of the discovery "Regularities of the Space-Time Change of the

 

*See: V. Bocharov, V. Parafonova, "Arctic Nuclear Test Range". Science in Russia, No. 1, 2010.–Ed.

 

** Mallow is a plant from the Malvaceae family, about 30 of its species grow in the moderate climate of Europe, Asia, North Africa and North America; hogweed is a plant from the Umbelliferae family, umbrellate numbering approximately 60-70 species spread in the temperate zone of the Eastern hemisphere.–Ed.

 
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Morphology of Mineral Individual in the Process of Natural Crystal Formation".

 

One of the major results of the above-discussed studies became mineralogical methods of search and evaluation of mineral deposits, applied by our specialists in a number of ore-bearing regions (subpolar and polar Ural, Pai-Khoi, Vaigach, the southern part of Novaya Zemlya, etc.). Major contribution was made to the studies of sulphur, tungsten, copper ore, polymetallic, fluorite, barite, amber and other deposits, understanding of their genetic nature, regularities of distribution and commercial value.

 

Another well-known scientific direction appeared in the Komi Branch (the Komi Scientific Center from 1988) owing to the works of Academician Mikhail Roshchevsky, whose school of evolutionary physiology is widely recognized in the world. Its base line–comparative studies of the myocard evolution from fish to man. The specialists revealed the then unknown type of ventricle myocard activation among the hoofed mammals, the so-called "outburst", and proved the existence of several types of cardiac muscle activation among vertebrates. Next they put forward the concept of "cardiac pacemaker system" and substantiated introduction of that new physiological term. The ultrastructure of a part of myocard cells enables them to generate bioelectrical excitation pulses and carry them to other cells, i.e. contractive cardiomyocytes. In fact, they form an independent control system of cardiac contractions, usually called a "conducting system", which is not entirely correct.

 

The search resulted in new methods of studies of the functional state of man and animals, based on multichannel synchronous measurements, computer analysis and mathematical modeling of cardioelectrical field parameters in intramural layers of myocard, on the surface of heart and body.

 

A GUARANTEE OF FUTURE PROGRESS

 

The 1990s passed under the sign of survival and preservation of the personnel and scientific potential. The republican authorities provided substantial aid to the Komi Scientific Center. When President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Academician Yuri Osipov applied to leaders of the regions, where RAS institutes were working with a request to finance some of them or to approve their liquidation, the head of the Republic of Komi rendered effectual assistance to two of our institutes, and a number of other institutes got assistance under target programs and in the form of grants. Unfortunately, the grants were insufficient for such organization as the Komi Scientific Center, but nevertheless the mere fact turned to be important, as the authorities showed interest in its activity.

 

Today the Komi Scientific Center is the biggest academic institution in the north-east of Europe. The research work carried out there is of paramount importance for the region! The development of coal, oil and gas industries initiated by geologists in the 1930s-1940s made the republic very influential. By the end of the 20th century, the specialists of the Institute of Geology substantiated the creation of a new large-scale branch of republican economy, i.e. the mining branch dealing with extraction and processing of bauxites, barites, manganese and other minerals.

 

Owing to the data on biodiversity of the region, the physicobiochemical foundations for an increase in productivity and quality of major agricultural plants cultivated in the republic, there were prepared and implemented recommendations on rational utilization of biological resources. Recently the specialists of the Institute of Biology started to pay more attention to monitoring and improvement of the ecological situation in the region.

 

For more than 20 years the Institute of Physiology has been dealing with specifics of adaptation of man to the conditions of the North and his life in this severe land. The obtained results are useful in the development of legal acts

 
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on preservation of the conventional living environment of native peoples.

 

The economists of the Institute of Socio-Economic and Power Problems of the North worked hard for rational development and location of production forces. The scientists suggested methods for optimization of privatization processes and revealed importance of the regional property in perfection of the economic mechanism of territorial socio-economic systems. Nowadays the specialists try to find the best solutions through the demographic problem of the Russian North. The regions with difficult climatic conditions are already divided into four groups according to the level of innovational development, and specific directions of state regulation of economics are laid down for them.

 

The work of many years of the scientists of the Institute of Language, Literature and Arts in cooperation with other establishments of the republic is aimed at preservation and promotion of Komi national culture, one of the most steadily developing cultures among the Finno-Ugric peoples of our country. In particular, the specialists make efforts to popularize their knowledge and skills. As a result, their work determines priorities of a further development of the republic.

 

And that's not all. For the last two decades new scientific schools were formed at the Komi Scientific Center, namely, the molecular biology school of Academician Yuri Ovodov, the organic chemistry school of the RAS corresponding member Alexander Kuchin and the nanominer-alogy and crystal growth school of one of the authors of this article, the RAS corresponding member Askhab Askhabov. Widely known are works by the RAS corresponding member Vitaly Lazhentsev, in the sphere of distribution of production forces and state regulation of northern territories, works on historical demography by Igor Zherebtsov, Dr. Sc. (Hist.), and on radiobiology and ecology of the North by Anatoly Taskaev, Cand. Sc. (Biol.).

 

The future of our institution is connected, of course, with young researchers, whose works are already in the focus of attention of scientific community. For example, Alexei Moskalyov, Dr. Sc. (Biol.), is engaged in search for key mechanisms of ageing and antiageing, in studies of genes responsible for lifetime. From 2002 he is a permanent participant of all international congresses and symposia devoted to problems of radiation effect on living organisms. In 2008, his monograph Ageing and Genes was published. A year later the young scientist took part in the 19th World Congress of Gerontologists and Geriatricians in Paris. In 2010, Moskalyov became a member of the editorial board of Biogerontology, a leading international scientific journal.

 

When he studied relationship between parameters of the lifetime of black-bellied fruit fly (Drosophila melano-gaster) and molecular-cellular effects of small doses of radiation, or apoptosis, the researcher found that an increase in radiation at the early stages of fruit fly development, conditioned slowing down of its ageing. He found out that by artificially affecting certain groups of genes, it was possible to prolong the life of the drosophila to 70 percent and proved that just these zones of DNA regulated "repair" of the latter, insect resistance to adverse environmental effects and an intercellular exchange of signals. Moskalyov and his colleagues determined the genes responsible for the influence of the light regime on the lifetime of the drosophila, and understood the mechanism of influence of small doses of radiation. As a matter of fact, people also have the studied genes, which opens up prospects for use of the obtained data in medicine.

 

So, the distance traveled by our institution is typical of provincial branches of the Academy of Sciences. However, the Komi Scientific Center stands out in a number of indicators from a general series, as it has its own "face" formed by unique studies, more than a dozen of major scientific schools and awareness of its role of a locomotive moving science in the north-east of Europe.

Опубликовано на Порталусе 16 сентября 2021 года

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