|Igor Kurchatov, a student of prep grade in Simbirsk gymnasium|
August 30, 2015
Translated by Kristina Rus
Peter Astashenkov: “Kurchatov”
Published by “Molodaya Gvardiya”, 1968
From the translator: You can read Russian news every day and not understand Russia, or you can read a book spanning a lifetime from the Russian Empire to 1960 and get a glimpse into the formula behind one of the greatest Soviet, Russian and personal achievements.
This book has not been translated into English before, and FR will publish it as a series of daily installments. This book is provided to you free of charge, but if you enjoy it and wish to thank FR, your donation will be greatly appreciated!
“…there is no great talent without great will… If talent is developed natural inclination, then strong will – is every minute of victory over instincts, over temptations, which the will harnesses and suppresses, over the whims and obstacles that it overpowers, over all sorts of difficulties, which it heroically overcomes.” – Balzac
|The town of Sim|
The story goes that the ancestors of Kurchatov – serfs were moved from Moscow region by the owner of Sim Ironworks in the South Urals, Balashov.
Sim factory was part of a huge mining operation. The woods approached the village from all sides. On the horizon were the mountains, dark with thick vegetation.
In this village on December 30 (the old calendar) of 1902 in the family of assistant forester Vasily Alekseevich Kurchatov the son Igor was born. The birth record was made nine days later, on January 8, 1903.
Igor’s grandfather Alexey Konstantinovich by that time was promoted to a treasurer from a simple factory worker. At the cost of many hardships he gave his son Vasily and his six brothers and two sisters a secondary education.
Vasily first graduated from two year Annunciation College, then – Ufa Surveying and attained the rank of private land surveyor. We know now that his son was destined to become a distinguished physicist. But the father, judging by the grades and memories of friends of Vasily Alekseevich, had little inclination towards physics. In the certificate issued to him by Ufa Surveying school, he got 2.96 in physics, i.e. “satisfactory.”
But what Igor inherited from his father and grandfather – was of course good work ethic. Love of work goes through the life of this entire working class family. In the document issued to Vasily Alekseyevich by Sim forestry, it stated that he “...during the whole time of his service displayed complete knowledge of the business, and always accomplished it in good faith and diligently, constantly showed great interest in his work with impeccable behaviour”.
And at home Vasily was flexible, balanced, business-savvy. Igor’s mother, Maria Vasiliyevna Kurchatova was distinguished by firmness and determination of character, and extraordinary mind. Husband treated her with great respect and always listened to her advice. She graduated from college with the title of a home teacher, before her marriage worked briefly as an assistant teacher.
Igor was the second child in the family. Sister Antonina was five years older. In 1905 a third child was born, named Boris.
The first lessons of the Russian language and arithmetic Antonina, for that matter, and Igor and Boris, received from their mother. In 1908 Vasily drove his daughter to Simbirsk [Ylyanovsk, the birthplace of Lenin], where she entered gymnasium. Soon the whole family moved to the city on the Volga. Vasily decided to serve in Simbirsk land use commission.
In 1911, Igor began the prep class at the state boys gymnasium. But in Simbirsk he studied for only one year – his sister got tuberculosis, and the family quickly moved to Crimea. Antonina could not be saved. She died at fifteen years of age.