Fort Russ E-book: Kurchatov – The Father of the Soviet Nuclear Bomb. Part 8. Petrograd


September 6, 2015

Peter Astashenkov: “Kurchatov”

Published by “Molodaya Gvardiya”, 1968

Translated by Kristina Rus for Fort Russ

To read Parts 1-7, please click on the tag “Kurchatov” above. This book comes out in short installments, check back soon for more!



In search of self… 

Shipbuilding School

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The train departed Simferopol train station. The youth years were over. Before Igor Kurchatov was a wide road into the future.

Igor stood at the window for a while. The heart was filled with sadness, he remembered the sad look of his usually cheerful father, his especial kindness of the recent days, mother’s care, tears in her eyes as she leaned to him for the last time.

Igor’s companion Boris Lyakhnitsky also silently gazed at the steppe disappearing outside the window. Everything dear and familiar was left at home. What is waiting for them ahead?..

 Actually, the future was to some extent planned. Both have already thought out the first steps. In the pockets were the certificates, papers, the recommendation of the local branch of the “All-Russian Union of Education Workers” to the Metallurgical Department at the Polytechnic Institute. 

It may be surprising that he chose the metallurgical department, when he repeatedly told friends that he dreams of becoming a naval architect. Apparently, Simferopol did not receive any other vacancies. 

 In Petrograd [St. Petersburg’s name between 1914 and 1924 – ed.] Igor rented a place at the Staro-Pargolovsky Prospect, at the house #17, apartment 2. From here he went to Lesnoe, where at the end of Sosnovka was the Polytechnic Institute. Igor handed over the papers and, apparently, asked to be enrolled at the shipbuilding department.

The document with the decision of the admission committee which tested the preparedness of  Kurchatov has been preserved. It shows only “Civics” with a rating: “Satisfactory”. The commission’s decision was: “Accepted”. On the questionnaire – a sweeping clarifying inscription: “Admitted to the 3rd course of shipbuilding”.

 Igor was pleasantly surprised by the well-equipped for that time laboratories and lecture halls and a well-functioning mechanism of the educational process. But there was nothing to live on. An attempt to find a job closer to the institute failed: unemployment was prevalent. Boris Lyakhnitsky was more fortunate: he was accepted to a temporary job at the Institute of Irrigation.

One of the professors of the Polytechnic recommend Igor to go to Pavlovsk to the Magnetic-Meteorological Observatory. Igor figured: to commute back and forth would take nearly a day! But there was no choice, had to find some job. Especially since he was promised to be allowed to conduct independent observations… 

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