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Oral History Transcript — Dr. A. B. Numerova

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Interview with Dr. A. B. Numerova
By Robert McCutcheon
In Leningrad, Russia
February 4, 1988

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A. B. Numerova; February 4, 1988

ABSTRACT: This interview with A. B. Numerova covers the life and career of her father, the Soviet celestial mechanician B. V. Numerov (1891-1941). It concentrates on Numerov's later years, in particular on his arrest in 1936, his subsequent imprisonment, and his apparent execution in 1941. Also discussed at length are other astronomers who were arrested during the Great Purges.

Transcript

McCutcheon:

But there are such rumors?

Numerova:

There are rumors that they want to liquidate the Astronomical Institute.

McCutcheon:

Liquidate?

Numerova:

Join it to Pulkovo, but is that possible? They are different things.

McCutcheon:

I didn't know that all.

Numerova:

Because until recently the director was Lavrov…

McCutcheon:

At the Astronomical Institute?

Numerova:

Yes. He had absolutely nothing to do with astronomy. He is in information science. He is a mathematician. He was concerned with [computing] machines and kept astronomy down. Well, there was something of a scandal there. There were letters to the newspaper, and they removed this Lavrov. But they gave him the possibility of organizing LIPA (laughs). [Translator's note: Lipa is slang for "forgery" in Russian.]

McCutcheon:

Lipa?

Numerova:

LIPA — that's the Leningrad Institute of Applied Astronomy. But lipa means nonsense in that sense.

McCutcheon:

Understood — understood; that's funny. I didn't know that.

Numerova:

They had to remove him and get rid of him because he messed up the work. So they got rid of him. They gave him a part — they allotted a certain part to him and later they chopped off from there some of the people from the theoretical department. Now the Astronomical Institute has become larger. But there are such rumors. I don't know if they are true or not true.

McCutcheon:

He [Viktor Abalakin] didn't say anything to me, but perhaps he wouldn't have said [anything] to me.

Numerova:

No, he wouldn't have said anything to you. They say this is his big dream.

McCutcheon:

Abalakin's dream?

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes so as not to lose both one and the other.

McCutcheon:

Because previously he was exclusively at the Astronomical Institute…

Numerova:

Because he doesn't have any scientific theme at Pulkovo Observatory. They even criticize him for this.

McCutcheon:

He worked in celestial mechanics at the observatory.

Numerova:

He worked on the yearbook. Here at the observatory he doesn't do anything — in the sense of science.

McCutcheon:

[He is an] administrator.

Numerova:

An administrator. You understand? And of course it would be in his interests… to join the Astronomical Institute [to Pulkovo]. And if they close down the yearbook, then he will still have the institute for his scientific work. But in my opinion this cannot be done. Such things... Because this...

McCutcheon:

They have always been separate institutions throughout their existence.

Numerova:

Yes, they always were… And, moreover, it is the creation of my father, and why should it be done? It's a different situation there.

McCutcheon:

Do you know what I found in the archives? I didn't know anything about this. That in 1930, when Ivanov retired as director…

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes.

McCutcheon:

Your father was nominated to become director [of Pulkovo].

Numerova:

The Scientific Council.

McCutcheon:

Was that the Scientific Council or the Council of Astronomers at that time?

Numerova:

That was the Scientific Council, and my father was a member of this Scientific Council: The Scientific Council unanimously.

McCutcheon:

Adopted a resolution to name [Numerov the new Pulkovo director].

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes, yes. And they sent some kind of Drozd [instead].

McCutcheon:

Who was this Drozd? Until this time I still don't have any understanding of him.

Numerova:

He was a nobody... a nobody both by his scientific credentials and by his human credentials. This was an ephemeral person. And then Gerasimovich came several years later. Now he, of course, was an astrophysicist. He and my father were on good terms. But you eat. Perhaps we should turn off the tape recorder for a bit. Otherwise it will be recording all the time.

McCutcheon:

It is better to have all than nothing.

Numerova:

Well, please eat. Take some bread.

McCutcheon:

Alright. Thank you.

Numerova:

Only I want to say that you must... I have a cold... This is already the sixth day that I am sick. So you should be careful. I have given you separate utensils and towels.

McCutcheon:

I am very healthy.

Numerova:

But when you get home be sure to take some [sort of medication]. I don't have any here or something. You understand because now we have…

McCutcheon:

We've already been to the polyclinic today for my wife.

Numerova:

Yes? Is she ill?

McCutcheon:

Well, it's not that she's ill. [Break] Perhaps I really will turn off [the tape recorder].

Numerova:

I've had to concern myself with publishing my father's selected works. I began by writing to all academicians. I wrote to Kharadze. I wrote to Potiadi [?]. Then in any case I wrote to Zverev and Abalakin. At that time Abalakin was not yet a corresponding member, but together they [Zverev and Abalakin] could [influence publication]. But of them the only one who did anything was Kharadze. Kharadze loved my father very much. He was my father's graduate student. Kharadze is a very noble person, and he did what needed to be done — he wrote a letter to the publishing house.

McCutcheon:

To the "Nauka" publishing house?

Numerova:

To "Physics-Mathematics Literature" in Moscow. Then he sent me a copy of what he had written. And they sent this to the chief editor for astronomical literature, and he sent it on to Pulkovo. I went to Abalakin with a copy of this letter. And I began calling Abalakin. But he told me he didn't remember whether or not this letter had arrived at Pulkovo or not. You understand? He doesn't remember… he doesn't know. Well, o.k., again I say, how can that be? Yes, I told Zverev that he should find out in Moscow. I told him over the telephone… some sort of person that he should find out there what is going on. But Zverev… he either didn't understand or… he treated this somewhat thoughtlessly. He decided that there is still a lot of time. But the jubilee is in January 1991. And Zverev decided that there is still a lot of time, and he told me: "Yes, I was in Moscow, and there they gave us some time — a year — to think about it." And I said: "There isn't anything to think about here. We must have everything to the publisher by 1988 because it will take two more years to print it.” More red tape... My book took five years. I put in my request [for publication] in 1979, but (the book) came out only in 1984. So five years went by. It could take less time now, but we must present everything [to the publisher] already in 1988. We must give this book to the publisher in December 1988.

McCutcheon:

It sounds as though this work is not going fast enough for [everything] to be ready.

Numerova:

No, it can be done. It can be done. I will do it. It's o.k. if they don't include anything of mine — it's not important to me —and its o.k. if they don't pay me. But I as my father's daughter will do this. Well, at last, at the end of December (1987) they wrote a letter to Moscow. Then I went to Batrakov. Batrakov also… I told him that I needed his support… because just Pulkovo Observatory is not enough — the Astronomical Institute's support is needed too, that is to say, [the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy] ITA. [Note: The Astronomical Institute was renamed ITA after World War II.] All the more so since he [Batrakov] is the acting director [of ITA]… Batrakov is a celestial mechanic. He is a doctor of science, but… And now they have given him the title of Honored Scientist. Batrakov. He could even become the director. But I don't know whether or not he will become director. Batrakov also wrote a letter, and that was what was needed. Then I… in January [1988] — I went to a rest home. Before leaving I went to Zverev and gave him list of [my father’s] papers on astrometry. I gave him all the lists… and cards. Those cards that… I even have some reprints with which to begin the work but the leadership — no. We have to make microfilm or Xerox copies. We must do something. He [Zverev] said that he would give it all to the library. Then he will try to get that "Eroi1' machine to work and make Xerox copies. And I thought when I returned that everything would be moving forward. But when I returned [from the rest home], Zverev hadn't done anything.

McCutcheon:

Everything had simply sat there.

Numerova:

Yes. Everything simply sat there. Then I said to him [Zverev]: "I will come to see you." He said: "Don't come. I will turn everything over [to the library]." We agreed that I would come some other day. Then he called me: "Don't come. I've spoken with Abalakin — Abalakin will find out in what form we need to present all this material. He doubts that Xerox copies are needed." Well, in general, that he will find out. And until now he is finding out. And I became ill. But I must go to Pulkovo. If I don't do it, then no one will do anything. You understand?

McCutcheon:

That's a shame.

Numerova:

Yes. That's how it is. But why? After all, they also —

McCutcheon:

But I don't understand. This is a very important anniversary. Especially now that there is glasnost' in the Soviet Union and the people who suffered in the past are being written about.

Numerova:

They have written about Vavilov in the newspapers. Several books have come out… about Nikolai Ivanovich [Vavilov]. And there could be [books and articles] about my father. Well, now you can turn off… [Break] But my mother — she left very interesting reminiscences. She spent a long time writing them. And all the time she was writing new things would come out. So her reminiscences are very interesting and very… Indeed, she worked with my father in the Astronomical Institute. She wasn't always on the staff, but she always knew about all the work and what was going on. And I consider her reminiscences to be most important because she speaks about complex things using simple words. And others [other people] have written something. Zverev, for example, doesn't know how to do popular writing. That is his shortcoming.

McCutcheon:

But excerpts from your mother's reminiscences were published in your book. Several pages…

Numerova:

Yes, yes, they were in the book but not much. And she wrote lots and lots. Here are her reminiscences. They should be published. They must be published without fail. Separately even. I think they are of very great value because in them she writes of the man and at the same time about his work. And about what he did. All of this is in a very accessible and simple form.

McCutcheon:

Forgive me if I ask you directly. I have a very delicate question for you. I have read your book. I have read everything I can. But to this day I have no understanding at all of what happened in 1936.

Numerova:

What... happened?

McCutcheon:

Well, it's evident that your father was arrested, but for what? Why? What happened? I know that at that time it was possible...

Numerova:

That's what it was like then. That is simply what it was like. And then, for example, at the Shternberg Institute in Moscow no one suffered. There not even one astronomer was arrested. It all depended on the people involved. Do you understand? Our Leningrad suffered more than Moscow because Stalin was afraid of and did not love Leningrad.

McCutcheon:

Many people have told me that Stalin did not like Leningrad.

Numerova:

Yes… he didn't love it… he was afraid… he thought that… And then there was Kirov… They say that Kirov's murder did not take place without Stalin's participation.

McCutcheon:

Yes, yes, there are such rumors in the West also.

Numerova:

Yes, yes, not without his participation. And here there was also… But people… were afraid, and no one did anything. Shain says that he appealed to Moscow, to Vyshinskii. But there they said they didn't even want to listen. And indeed my father at one moment was even sentenced to be shot. Then they commuted it [his sentence]. There was such a moment.

McCutcheon:

Replaced it with a prison term?

Numerova:

Yes, 10 years.

McCutcheon:

It seems that Shain played… Well, I have become acquainted here in Leningrad with Kozyrev's brother — Aleksei Aleksandrovich. Kozyrev — who told me that his brother [Nikolai Kozyrev] was released only thanks to Shain. In 1947 they added an additional ten years to his [Nikolai's] camp sentence, but Shain appealed in Moscow. It was precisely thanks to this that Kozyrev was finally released in 1948. I have also read about him [Shain] in correspondence in the United States. Of course, in the U.S. at that time people were very concerned about the fate of the Soviet astronomers. In particular, for many years Shapley, who was a good friend of Gerasimovich, continued to search to find out what had happened, what had happened? Only after the war did he find out that by that time Gerasimovich's wife was working for Shain in the Crimea.

Numerova:

Yes, she worked in the Crimea. She worked in the library. But she never talked about her husband. There was a remarkable woman… never… nothing. Why? I don't know. And I don't even know what became of him [Gerasimovich]. Our father at first he was held on Voinov Street that's where the "big house," the preliminary investigation center is located. Mama brought him books there. He worked there. He had good work conditions. Well, he and many people say he is guilty for having done this — he signed immediately. Well, not immediately, but after a short time. He signed [a confession admitting] what they had charged him with. He said, when we had a meeting with him… he said that it would have been useless [to resist]. Even if he had resisted it would have been the same. So he simply gained himself some time to do at least something.

McCutcheon:

What did they accuse him of?

Numerova:

What did they accuse him of? Oh, some sort of nonsense. Of espionage, Fascism, which means… But it was simply a coincidence that when he was in Germany, that is to say not when he was in Germany but that…

McCutcheon:

He was in the United States. He was in Germany also… in the 1920s.

Numerova:

He was there in the 1920s. He was in Germany three times in 1924, 1925, and in 1927. But the main thing is that he had developed his method of extrapolation. He proposed this method to the Berlin computing Institute. This method was adopted immediately by the Berlin Computing Institute. They began using this method and began using this method to reduce (orbits), that is, to compute everything. And we began to do these computations for Kleine Planetten, and in the end the minor planets were transferred to us. Well, in honor of this method the Germans named a minor planet for him — Numerowiia — and they [the NKVD] said he was guilty because of this.

McCutcheon:

When was this minor planet named [for him]?

Numerova:

In 1933.

McCutcheon:

In 1933.

Numerova:

And that coincided [with the rise of] Fascism. Do you understand? But that was just a coincidence, as they say. He had no relations with the Fascists whatsoever. It was the astronomers who…

McCutcheon:

I understand.

Numerova:

…at the Berlin Computing Institute. And they [the NKVD] said he was guilty because of this.

McCutcheon:

Was that the main charge? That he cooperated somehow with the Fascists?

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes, with the Fascists. But he — Oh Lord, what sort of… And later when they [the German astronomers] came here he showed them something, but that was completely within the framework of their cooperative undertaking, their agreement. When the foreign astronomers came we worked with them and prepared some joint papers. Well, just like today. And then, suddenly [?], in 1936, when the solar eclipse took place, they had their expedition. All the other astronomers, the foreigners, were in a different expedition… there together with Gerasimovich. And later they all returned and went to Abastumani. And Menzel was there. And I want to say that I remember Menzel very well and… There were many various astronomers there and they... They had a camera — a movie camera — and they took movies. Perhaps these have been preserved?

McCutcheon:

I will try to find out.

Numerova:

Menzel and those that were with him — someone among them had a movie camera, and they... But couldn't it be that when he [Numerov] was in America — in 1929 and 1930 — couldn't it be that someone there... At that time, after all, didn't they already have movie cameras? Perhaps not everyone [had one], but didn't they probably exist?

McCutcheon:

I don't know what kind of amateur movie cameras there were at that time. I know that your father traveled in the United States at that time. I found his photograph in the Yerkes [Observatory] archive. But it seems to me that his journey at that time was more connected with geophysics.

Numerova:

Yes, yes, with geophysics. He was there on assignment. And he wrote: "What I pity there is no geologist with me." And I want to say that he did so much for the development of the oil industry, for oil prospecting. Indeed, I remember the newspapers from 1935 and 1936: "Emba, Emba, oil, Numerov, Emba, Numerov, Emba." Indeed, he had so many strong points. He was a man with a practical mind. He didn't accept theory for the sake of theory. If the country needed something, then he went out and did it.

McCutcheon:

You know, when I talked with Kozyrev's brother he told me that, unfortunately, your father was the first one [astronomer] to be arrested in 1936.

Numerova:

Yes, he was the first.

McCutcheon:

And that when he was arrested, all the other astronomers thought the arrest was connected with his work in Embaneft and that they [the NKVD] had somehow decided that not enough oil had been found or something.

Numerova:

No, no, no. [His arrest] was connected… On the contrary, even now they are getting oil there. So that…

McCutcheon:

In those places.

Numerova:

Yes, in those places they are still producing it. It continues from Baku and the Caspian Sea and further on to… on to Siberia.

McCutcheon:

In the U.S., when I wanted to try to understand what happened in 1936-37, I developed my own theory, although I now think it was nonsense. But I know that in 1935-36 there was one young fellow working at Pulkovo Observatory—Voronov — and that he wrote about the theory of motion of Vesta and that he gave a paper at the Astronomical Institute.

Numerova:

And he turned out to be a swindler. He turned out to be a swindler.

McCutcheon:

Yes, yes. And then in the summer of 1936 Leningradskaia Pravda began publishing articles about Voronov, about how this pseudo-scientist had been working at Pulkovo Observatory. [It asked] if it was possible that he could have been working without the support of the observatory director. [It said] that the director, Gerasimovich, was giving sanctuary to Mensheviks and other… [These were] threatening articles over a period of 3-4 months.

Numerova:

No, I didn't… Did you read these articles over there [in the U.S.], or did you read them here?

McCutcheon:

In the U.S. at the Library of congress in Washington.

Numerova:

I would like to have them [those articles] also. There must be good material there. Perhaps you would find [in those newspapers] material about my father connected with Emba. I was little, but I [remember] well…

McCutcheon:

How old were you at the time?

Numerova:

Thirteen when my father was taken away. But I well... That was in 1935 — perhaps I was twelve. I saw large newspapers and there (were headlines]: Numerov, Emba. They praised him all the time… such laudatory articles.

McCutcheon:

But they didn't write about your father in the articles [I was referring to]. They wrote about Gerasimovich, that he was bad, all summer. There were three articles: the first — "Ladder of Fame" about Voronov, the second — "Knights of Servility," and the third article — "Once More Concerning Pulkovo Customs." I remember how this article ends, that it is time to introduce real Bolshevik order at Pulkovo Observatory. That was at the end of August 1936, and it seems that… When was your father arrested — at the end of November, right?

Numerova:

In October; on October 20. But the physicist Lukirskii had warned him. He was arrested also.

McCutcheon:

Which physicist?

Numerova:

Lukirskii.

McCutcheon:

Lukirskii?

Numerova:

Lukirskii. Have you heard of him?

McCutcheon:

No, I don't know about him.

Numerova:

No? He was in the Physical-Technical Institute. But he... but his wife was able… Now, if my Mama… if they hadn't taken Mama… But that was the type of year it was — they arrested the wives too. Both before this and later they didn't take the wives, didn't arrest them — left them in peace. Mama would have gotten him out. Lukirskii's wife somehow was not arrested, and she got her husband out. They let him out during the war because he was needed because he was needed to work on some sort of problems that were important…

McCutcheon:

Important to the country?

Numerova:

Yes, which were important to the country. And so they returned Lukirskii. And later he became an academician. That's all. He was a friend of my father. They were both from Novgorod. They were Novgorodians. And there… there are the reminiscences of Morin, which...

McCutcheon:

Yes, I read them there in the archive. Good reminiscences.

Numerova:

Yes. He wrote beautifully about my father. He wrote very well; remarkable. I make partial use of the reminiscences of all the Pulkovo astronomers. I need to… it is necessary… how I would like... and in my opinion Abalakin also supported this... He wanted to publish. So what if there were repetitions? I want to say that for some reason the Leningrad publishing house takes out all repetitions. If, let us say, in my reminiscences there was something, they would take that [same thing] out of my brother's reminiscences. Or, on the other hand, they would take it out of my reminiscences. In the end they took out my reminiscences entirely and left my brother's. And I had lots about music also, and there were… But they said that there was too much about music. That's how it was. And I also wrote about the people in the Astronomical Institute. There were many music lovers there. Well, Sharonov sang there. Radynskii played on the organ. Vera Fedorovna Gaze read verse. Well, every… [The Astronomical Institute] had its talents, as they say.

McCutcheon:

And also at Pulkovo Observatory. I think that astronomers have always been connected with music.

Numerova:

Yes. They have always been connected with music but my father… I want to say that he… He was invited some many times to stay in America, but he refused and even laughed about it.

McCutcheon:

He was invited to stay in America? I didn't understand something.

Numerova:

No, I want to say that American astronomers invited my father several times. And when he was there in 1929 and 1930 and for the last time in 1936 they invited him to move completely to America. He always refused. He was a patriot. He thought that he must do for his people what he could from within his own country.

McCutcheon:

On the other hand, I know more about Gerasimovich. I must admit that because I found out more about him in our libraries.

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes, but they arrested Gerasimovich too. They…

McCutcheon:

Yes. And he almost went [to America] — three times. Of course, he worked in the United States for two or three years in the 1920s. And before his departure back to the Soviet Union he received a letter from Evdokimov, from Kharkov, in which Evdokimov describes the conditions there. This was the time of the [Ukrainian] famine, and Gerasimovich very quickly began to apply for a year's extension of his stay in the United States. But it didn't work out, and so he returned. And then in 1931 he wrote a letter to Shapley. He pretended to write about some sort of astronomical phenomena, but Shapley understood and translated [Gerasimovich's thoughts]. It [Shapley's translation] is written there on the same page together with the letter that he [Gerasimovich] wants to come to the U.S. in the next year if a position could be found for him somewhere. [He also said] that it would be difficult for his wife to come immediately but that perhaps she could [come] after six months. And later, in 1936, Gerasimovich asked Menzel if he could return to the United States, and Menzel together with Shapley arranged an invitation and invited him. They sent him the invitation at the beginning of 1937. And I remember well Gerasimovich's last telegram, in English, to Shapley: "Regretting, thanking, cannot come.” (Note: This quotation is in English in the interview.] "Regretting, thanking, cannot come." It is evident that at that time he already knew what would happen.

Numerova:

But they took him later than my father.

McCutcheon:

Yes, it seems in mid-1937.

Numerova:

But what happened to him, I don't know.

McCutcheon:

I know only that in several articles I have read about him it is written that he died in October 1937 in Moscow. And so, if that is true, he died very quickly.

Numerova:

Before there was even a sentence or what?

McCutcheon:

Of course, I don't know, but I know that there is a book.

Numerova:

But perhaps… did they shoot him? I don't know about that.

McCutcheon:

Perhaps they did shoot him. I think so.

Numerova:

I also... I don't know anything, but it seems to me that that was the case. But those are only my suppositions.

McCutcheon:

That is what I suppose.

Numerova:

And I also think so, but I have absolutely no data. And his wife never said anything.

McCutcheon:

It seems, didn't they have a daughter also?

Numerova:

There was a daughter and the daughter… all the more so. The daughter is probably still alive… She is probably still alive.

McCutcheon:

But you don't know where she is and what she is doing?

Numerova:

I don't know. His wife never said… By the way, they somehow…

McCutcheon:

Didn't they probably also arrest his wife?

Numerova:

I don't know. I know nothing about her fate, but her fate was easier than my Mama's.

McCutcheon:

What happened to your mother?

Numerova:

To my Mama? They arrested her in 1937. Imagine, three children. Father somehow was able to write to us. We corresponded with him after he was sentenced to ten years and later when he was for a long time in prison in Vladimir. And then when he was in Orel — To 1940, to the start of 1941 — no, probably to 1940. The children. But Mama — no [correspondence]. Do you understand?

McCutcheon:

So you didn't even know where she was?

Numerova:

And she didn't know anything about us. It was so cruel. After all, they only accused her… that she knew her husband was an enemy of the people and didn't report, didn't denounce him. She didn't denounce him, and she said that her husband wasn't an enemy of the people. But there were wives who did denounce [their husbands].

McCutcheon:

I have also become acquainted here with the brothers of Eropkin. Perhaps you remember that Eropkin was an astronomer at Pulkovo Observatory at that time; young, very young. But his brothers denounced him when he was arrested.

Numerova:

We didn't denounce him. I want to say… They didn't even want to accept me into the university. The fact that I was able to enter graduate school — that was also a miracle because I… Sergei Ivanovich Vavilov helped me. In general there were many difficulties. And my mother was in some sort of special camp that was only for the wives. They held them together with female criminals, and the criminals scoffed at them that they [the criminals] were real people but that they [the wives] were not.

McCutcheon:

I have heard that about the conditions in the camps.

Numerova:

Yes. That's the way it was. Then there was the war and famine, and Mama became ill… something with her heart. And they let her out in 1944. She was there five years; that is until 1942, but they held her longer because of the war. And we met her in Saratov in 1945. We had lived through the blockade, the most difficult time…

McCutcheon:

In Leningrad?

Numerova:

Yes.

McCutcheon:

All the children or?

Numerova:

All the children, all of them.

McCutcheon:

With relatives or with friends?

Numerova:

We, with our grandmother and my brother were taken by our aunt in Liuban’. We have a house there — my father's sisters and his mother (lived there]. My father's mother had already died and Aunt Olia took... She became our guardian because grandmother… had a very small pension and [therefore] did not have the right to be our guardian. And so Aunt Olia became our guardian. But we lived here in Leningrad with grandmother in a small room, the very smallest [from our apartment], that had been left to us. My sister and I went to school, whereas our brother went to school in Liuban. He — He was only ten years old when this happened. When they took Mama away he ran after the car and cried. And thus, I want to say, we little ones were left behind. And then there was the blockade, the war, and nevertheless we were not lost, we did not disappear. We all grew up. Especially, I want to say, especially my brother. He is so talented, and when he returned in 1949... He had fought. He was perishing here during the blockade, and he by some miracle, so to speak, survived. He was a craftsman. He helped rebuild the Donbass. Then he fought [in the war], went clear across Europe, and returned. But they sent him to serve [longer] in Austria because...

McCutcheon:

After the war?

Numerova:

Yes, after the war. And he only returned to Leningrad in 1949. And imagine, at the time he returned he had only been through the seventh grade.

McCutcheon:

What's that?

Numerova:

I want to say that his education [at that time] only went through the seventh grade.

McCutcheon:

At that time. I understand. He had gone through only the seventh grade.

Numerova:

Yes, the seventh grade, and he was over twenty years old. But he wanted to study music. When he served in Austria and Hungary he took up the piano, accompanied [other people?], and learned musical notes. He had played in childhood. We sent him sheet music, and he taught himself serious pieces. For example, he already played Rachmaninoff's prelude. He had already begun to do something there. And our father's piano had survived and was at my aunt's house. Well, Andrei returned [from the war]. But everyone said that yes, he is capable, but it is too late. Nothing will come of him. There is no need for him to get a musical education, it's not necessary. "Well, for yourself, if you want, but music will never become your profession — it's too late." He was already over twenty years old. But he nevertheless… He met with good people. He returned in either February or March, and in the autumn he entered a music school at the conservatory. He later taught in this music school. He graduated from this music school… Afterwards there was a big problem... Well, he entered the directing choral [department], studied a year, and then transferred to the piano division. Then, when he graduated from the music school, also… He tried to enter the conservatory once and was not accepted. He tried a second time and was not accepted. And then there was a decree that those who had fought [in the war] would have some sort of privilege [for entering the conservatory]. Well, I don't know how, whether in first place or whatever. But in the end he entered the conservatory. And there he met a very good teacher. Just before he entered the conservatory he met with a certain Komarov. There is a musical school in Leningrad — the Golubovskaia School. Nil'sen was a student of this school. And Komarov was Nil'sen's [student]. And Andrei was Komarov's student. This school is very particular in the sense of music, rhythm… of everything. And when Andrei began studying with this Komarov he had to begin studying all over again. Komarov said his fingers were not right and everything was not right. And he began from the beginning. He studied with him…

McCutcheon:

Was this already in the 1950s? Is that right?

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes. This was in 1950. He began over again. But Komarov gave him many things. With Komarov's help he entered the conservatory and studied there. But I want to say that not everything went smoothly. And then when he was in his last year in the conservatory he was picked to be a teacher in the music school. That is very rare because not everyone finds a position after graduating from the conservatory. And this is our best school. It is at the conservatory and is, so to speak, connected with the conservatory. Well, he worked there as a teacher for many years. He taught the piano. But at first he didn't play [in public] because he had a large family — three children. He had to earn a living. But he turned out to be an outstanding teacher. He had talent in this area, all… Well, he played, of course, but... And then in the 1970s, when he was older and had, perhaps, gained experience and acquired some human wisdom… He then began to give concerts. And, also, he had a heart attack, after which he worked less and had more time.

McCutcheon:

There was time to devote to playing music.

Numerova:

Yes, yes, music… music. And so he prepared himself and played Mozart [in concert] for the first time, and everyone gasped. No one ever thought. Everyone had thought of him as a good teacher, but to think that he could give concerts — no one had suspected this and then he... He would have played more and more, but then he died. He died suddenly; also, probably, from his heart. He died a short time ago, in September.

McCutcheon:

In September of last year?

Numerova:

Yes, yes.

McCutcheon:

Not long ago at all.

Numerova:

Died not long ago at all.

McCutcheon:

I would like to have been here two or three years ago so as to hear him.

Numerova:

I have his recordings. I have a tape recorder also, but perhaps it would be better to listen to them on yours.

McCutcheon:

What's that?

Numerova:

Let's listen to Andrei a little bit.

McCutcheon:

Good, good, let's do that. I'd be happy to listen.

Numerova:

Oh, but why aren't you eating? [Break]

McCutcheon:

An appeal to the Academy of Sciences. Was that when he was in prison?

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes.

McCutcheon:

What sort of appeal?

Numerova:

No, well, it was a letter in which he tells the Academy of Sciences about his unjust arrest and asks for help.

McCutcheon:

And what happened? Did they not help him at all, or was something undertaken so as to free him? For example, I know that at that time the physicist Landau was arrested. A year later he was let out because Kapitza managed to have a meeting with Molotov.

Numerova:

The only person who intervened for our father was Shain, and he wasn't able to do anything. That's how it was… But this letter… He had sewn it into his underwear. We got his letter from there. We sent it to the Academy of Sciences, but it apparently didn't even get there. We've preserved a copy. It is, simply, interesting.

McCutcheon:

That was when he was still in preliminary confinement?

Numerova:

Yes, yes, but he had already been sentenced.

McCutcheon:

How much longer was he here in Leningrad? They took him at the end of October…

Numerova:

He was here in Leningrad… in May 1937... for a meeting with him in the summer of 1937.

McCutcheon:

He was still in preliminary confinement?

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes, he still was.

McCutcheon:

Where did you say that [prison] is located? On ul Voinov?

Numerova:

No, no, he was already in the Kresty. Kresty — that's a prison there on the embankment.

McCutcheon:

I know that it (the Kresty) is to Leningrad what the Lubianka is to Moscow. But I had no idea where it is located.

Numerova:

It's on the embankment. I'll tell you. It's not on the Large Neva, not the Small Neva, but on the Large Nevskii, on the embankment. It's in the Vyborg District.

McCutcheon:

I understand. But I'm not planning to knock on the door there and ask for an interview.

Numerova:

On the embankment. That prison is still called the Kresty to this day.

McCutcheon:

Until now?

Numerova:

Yes, it is called the Kresty until now. It is still a prison.

McCutcheon:

And so, he was there until May 1937?

Numerova:

Yes, and perhaps even until summer.

McCutcheon:

And then he was sent to Vladimir?

Numerova:

Yes.

McCutcheon:

And from there to Orel when?

Numerova:

Well, after several years he was sent to Orel. And Kozyrev told me that in 1941, it seems, he saw him somewhere near Moscow; in some camps near Moscow. There is one man, the physicist Naidenov, he… Is the soup cold?

McCutcheon:

No, no.

Numerova:

It's alright?

McCutcheon:

It's alright.

Numerova:

I should have heated it up.

McCutcheon:

You don't have to do that for me, perhaps for yourself. I am giving you too much work today and all I am doing is sitting here and listening!

Numerova:

Turn that [the tape recorder] off for now.

McCutcheon:

O.k. [Break] Yes, I know that they [N. A. Kozyrev and v. A. Ambartsumian] were good friends.

Numerova:

They were good friends, and they were together at Pulkovo. They were both twenty-six years old. They had the same scientific interests and all that. And then they arrested one [Kozyrev], whereas the other went to the summit [of fame].

McCutcheon:

Until now I don't know, but I do know that at that time there was the Commission for Study of the Sun. Of all the members of this commission, Ambartsumian was the only one who wasn't arrested. They took all the others.

Numerova:

What about that? They arrested them all, absolutely all of them. Not one survived. How he [Ambartsumian] survived, I don't know.

McCutcheon:

In 1946 a group of Soviet astronomers came to the United States and this group was led by Shain. He came to buy new instruments and he visited the astrophysicist Chandrasekhar.

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes, yes, Chandrasekhar. And he [Shain] probably told him what happened.

McCutcheon:

Yes, he told him, "You know, Ambartsumian was not involved in what happened in 1936-37. They would have taken him also and the only reason they didn't take him was that he was in the Crimea at the time." That's what Shain said.

Numerova:

But how was it that he was in the Crimea? Was he working in the Crimea?

McCutcheon:

I don't know precisely. I do know that he is married to the daughter… no, not to Shain's daughter…

Numerova:

To his niece.

McCutcheon:

Yes, to his niece.

Numerova:

That's right, to his niece. I actually have a photograph. I still must show you so many photographs.

McCutcheon:

But Kozyrev's brother told me that toward the end of his life, Kozyrev received an invitation from Ambartsumian to visit the Byurakan Observatory. He went there, and Ambartsumian arranged everything for him so that [the visit] was very pleasant, etc. But near the end of his stay Ambartsumian came to Kozyrev and asked him, "Don't you believe that I was somehow connected with what happened to you?" Kozyrev answered him, "I know that you gave some sort of evidence. I don't know what kind. Let that be on your conscience." And that was their last meeting.

Numerova:

Yes, I think that in the end Ambartsumian is guilty. At the very least he is guilty in that he survived. He is guilty in that he survived.

McCutcheon:

Such were those times.

Numerova:

But Ambartsumian… even now… Everyone is trying somehow to remember my father. Ambartsumian knew my father very well, but he never mentions him, never, never.

McCutcheon:

On the way here. I was in Erevan. I visited Viktor Amazaspovich and recorded him. Of course, I couldn't ask him such delicate questions. But even in Moscow… there is one historian there, maybe you know her — Alina Iosifovna Eremeeva — she is writing about Gerasimovich.

Numerova:

Yes, I know. She was one of my editors, I think. She was... There was my article in that... "Pages." She is an editor there.

McCutcheon:

But she warned me. She said that I shouldn't ask Ambartsumian about Gerasimovich. To this day [She said] that would be the end of the interview.

Numerova:

And so you didn't ask?

McCutcheon:

And so I didn't ask.

Numerova:

And even more so about Numerov? He doesn't mention Numerov at all. He should mention Gerasimovich because [they are both] astrophysicists, but he could easily go around Numerov because he… [was in celestial mechanics].

Numerova:

I know that Ambartsumian wrote some sort of short article after your father's arrest in which he criticizes one of your father's scientific works. Something about the Trojan asteroids, it seems. I don't recall.

McCutcheon:

Really?

Numerova:

I don't remember precisely, but I do recall that there was a short article in the Astronomicheskii zhurnal. There were astronomers of Russian extraction working in the United States at that time — astronomers such as Otto Struve, Nikolai Bobrovnikov and Aleksandr Vysotskii at that time. The American astronomers asked them if they didn't understand [what was happening in the Soviet Union]. I remember that Bobrovnikov said, wrote in one letter, that he had read this note by Ambartsumian. He said that everyone was saying that perhaps Ambartsumian was connected to this affair [the arrests] but that to him [Bobrovnikov] it seemed that Ambartsumian had written this article only because Numerov was already gone and because he had to somehow sing in unison with everyone else. I don't know. He didn't have to sing in unison. For example, Shain wouldn't have done that.

McCutcheon:

It seems to me... I didn't know that...

Numerova:

He [Shain] was an honorable man. But that…

McCutcheon:

He was a hero in this; perhaps the only hero-astronomer.

Numerova:

The others were afraid. Well, I want to say that it's paradoxical, but my father wrote many works in prison, while in confinement.

McCutcheon:

I didn't even know that.

Numerova:

He was able to send them all here. That is to say, he addressed them to Molotov, to… and to someone else there in the Supreme Soviet — many, many works.

McCutcheon:

And weren't virtually all of them published?

Numerova:

No, no, no.

McCutcheon:

But weren't they published without his knowledge?

Numerova:

That's what the matter was. One of the articles was only just published now. And it wasn't done the way it should have been. Only, only now was it published; that one article. And you see, Zverev wrote an introduction, an improper [introduction]. You see, even now that article came out without any commentary, although the commentaries existed... He had things mainly about astrometry there…

McCutcheon:

He wrote this in prison?

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes. There should have been a proper introduction that should have been printed. And nevertheless, although we now have perestroika and glasnost, the Leningrad division of the Nauka publishing house is not touched by this. They have remained the same cowards [at Nauka that they always have been]. Retinskii, the scientific secretary, says the people at Nauka are pathological cowards. They are afraid. And so, these works from prison came here, but they could go no further. And that was insulting…

McCutcheon:

That at the Astronomical Institute or at the publishing house of the Academy of Sciences they didn't want?

Numerova:

No, his first works that [he wrote] in 1937, were all published without his name [in the Bulletin of the Astronomical Institute].

McCutcheon:

Yes, yes, so I've seen.

Numerova:

Yes and those very "trojans" were published without Numerov's name. Why he [Ambartsumian] rose in arms against Numerov I don't know, because these articles were published without Numerov's name. Some of the articles were published, whereas the other articles that he wrote in Vladimir and so one... He sent [the articles] even though conditions were very difficult. But here there were cowards. He sent them to Subbotin and Subbotin kept them. And then in some year… in the 1950s he [Subbotin] gave them to Gorshkov. And Gorshkov gave them to my Mama. Mama had them and then she gave them to the archive. Others of his works are somewhere else, but where are they? They say that Fesenkov or Fesenkov's graduate students had them. Perhaps Subbotin had more of them. Do you understand? They [the articles] arrived, but people were afraid to publish them. If only they could have published them using the institute's name, even... in astrometry for the determination of these points, for the determination of systematic errors in star positions, for the determination of the equinox point on the equator. In what year was it proposed — in 1935? And in what year was [this work] completed?

McCutcheon:

In the 1950s?

Numerova:

No, in 1979.

McCutcheon:

Do you know, I also found in the Yale University archives… Of course, at that time your father and [Frank] Schlesinger along with [Dirk] Brouwer discussed the question of the international organization of observations.

Numerova:

He was at the meeting of the International Astronomical Union in 1935. He was the first vice-president [?], by the way, of the International Astronomical Union.

McCutcheon:

But he wasn't at the meeting, it seems. He wasn't in Paris. But he was elected vice-president.

Numerova:

But they elected him. And then they didn't let him go, for some reason didn't let him go to the meeting.

McCutcheon:

Do you know why? They simply didn't let him go?

Numerova:

They didn't let him go. They didn't let him go.

McCutcheon:

I know that at that time. At Yale University at first they were simply upset — “Why isn't Numerov answering anymore? Could it be that he isn't interested in this problem anymore?" Only later, when it became obvious... I even remember that in one of Schlesinger's letters — Schlesinger had found several astronomers at various observatories to observe Numerov's program (of minor planets) — Schlesinger told [these astronomers] that there was no sense in continuing because Numerov was no more [i.e., had been arrested].

Numerova:

But I want to say that that work stopped both here and throughout the world. And in essence his program was only carried out by Arelskaia at the Astronomical Institute at the end of the 1970s. There you see, fifty years later!

McCutcheon:

Was it perhaps because they were afraid to work on this problem or was it simply because no one had sufficient brains so as to continue this work?

Numerova:

Maybe no one had sufficient brains and energy. Because my father was... I'm simply astounded, there was so much he... When I saw his works, what he had written, what he had done in all fields — he was a fountain of ideas. He boiled over with energy, and in addition he loved music, loved life, children, and women. And in general he...

McCutcheon:

One can feel that from your book, from all.

Numerova:

I want to say that he was a very active man who loved life. And also he didn't do anything... he somehow... Was… I want to say that in the morning we children would run to father, and he would already be writing something while still lying in bed.

McCutcheon:

He would already be writing in bed?

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes, he always had his notebook. Always. He would think up things while traveling in the train. Always. He didn't waste a single minute.

McCutcheon:

Yes, it is evident that if he had lived, he would have had such possibilities.

Numerova:

I don't know. He was an amazing man — amazing in the sense that [he had] so many interests. He was both a theoretician and a practical man. We don't have people like that [anymore]. We don't have anyone else equal to him. I don't know how it is abroad.

McCutcheon:

It seems to me that Gerasimovich and your father had completely opposite characters. Everyone loved your father, and almost everyone hated Gerasimovich. That's how I understand it because Gerasimovich was a very strict, rigid person. He [Gerasimovich] was a good astronomer, an outstanding astrophysicist. But your father was a many sided man...

Numerova:

And he was a very simple man. Ogorodnikov writes that people picked up his ideas. He [Numerov] gave them to people. He had contacts with... He also organized astronomical instrument making in the USSR.

McCutcheon:

Yes, yes, that did not exist before him.

Numerova:

At first he was in GOI [State Optical Institute]... No, at first he worked in his own workshops and later somehow got in touch with GOI. Later he organized — at that time it was an association, but now it has become LOMO: the Leningrad Optical-Mechanical Association. It was GOMZ, the State Optical-Mechanical Factory, before the war, and later it became an association. Well, now the second... This is one of my father's letters. We have only a few of his letters. There were many letters, but they were lost during the blockade [during World War II]. This letter remained. It is there [in the archives?] also. He was always writing that he was working on this machine — on a project to build a computing machine. And he wrote, "It will be a pity if they build such a machine in America before we do." You see, he was thinking... Under such conditions and unjustly accused, he continued to think about what he could do for his country.

McCutcheon:

It is amazing to me that the conditions in prison were such that he could even think of working.

Numerova:

I don't know how he did it. I don't know how. He was a resourceful person. Everyone loved him. Perhaps he... I don't know. For some time he had. But when he was in the DPZ, he was able to work there. DPZ — that's the preliminary investigation prison. But when he was moved to the Kresty, there he didn't have. There he was the seventh person in a cell, and there the conditions were horrible. But that was already after he had been sentenced and so forth. His time in the Kresty was very difficult for him because at one point he was under threat of execution.

McCutcheon:

Yes, yes, as you mentioned. Was he in a solitary cell?

Numerova:

No, there were seven people there. He wrote that he couldn't work there, that they had taken away his paper and pencil and, in general, everything. But while he was still on ul. Voinov he could work. He didn't work there officially — that was not allowed — but Mama says that he used paper from sugar [packages], from cigarette packages, from cigarette butts. That's how. They [the prison officials] saw he was working but pretended not to notice.

McCutcheon:

Because he was a person who loved his work.

Numerova:

Yes, he was such a person. But they didn't let him work in the Kresty. In the beginning they didn't let him work there, but in the end he was somehow able to all the same. Well, you understand, he was a creative person. He couldn't, you understand... If he couldn't have worked, that would have been the same for him as death. That was the single manifestation of his human talents. Well, he did what he could.

McCutcheon:

I read that [Nikolai] Vavilov also continued to work in prison almost until his very death. It seems that he died from starvation while in prison.

Numerova:

Oh, how horrible that was. And how [they could have done that] to Vavilov... I can't imagine... How is it they gave that [Trofim] Lysenko such power? In general that was obscurantism. I don't know, it is all beyond comprehension. And his brother [Sergei Vavilov] couldn't do anything for him. His brother was president of the Academy of Sciences. I don't understand that. Can it be that he couldn't do anything?

McCutcheon:

Thank God there was no Lysenko in astronomy!

Numerova:

Yes, there were no Lysenkos in astronomy. But there were cowards.

McCutcheon:

What?

Numerova:

There were cowards, cowards.

McCutcheon:

But it seems that there was one rather shady character in astronomy at that time. There was Ter-Oganezov.

Numerova:

Yes, yes, there was only Ter-Oganezov.

McCutcheon:

And, at least, I read Mirovedenie from that time...

Numerova:

Yes, yes, he wrote some sort of nonsense there.

McCutcheon:

I remember that there was an article [called] "For the Eradication of All Wrecking on the Astronomical Front." He wrote that article in 1937.

Numerova:

Did he mention anyone there?

McCutcheon:

No one. But it is obvious that he was writing about Gerasimovich. But he also writes that the Astronomical Institute was continuing to publish articles by an unmasked enemy of the people without using his name.

Numerova:

There was a scoundrel, eh? A scoundrel. And it would be interesting to know what became of him later.

McCutcheon:

I myself don't know precisely, but it seems that he lost almost all his power, if you want to put it that way, in 1938 because they closed the journal Mirovedenie. At that time he was also the chairman of the Moscow Society of Amateur Astronomers. They didn't reelect him in 1938. There is an amateur astronomer in Moscow, more an amateur than a [professional] astronomer... what's his name? Bronshten. Perhaps you know him?

Numerova:

But... yes. He phoned me. He even wrote. He wanted. He needed some information about my father.

McCutcheon:

He has a manuscript. He writes about that. He wrote a manuscript about Ter-Oganezov. They were personally acquainted from the end of the 1930s through the 1950s. He writes about how in MOVAGO [the Moscow Division of the All-Union Astronomical-Geodesical Society] at that time a group of "anti-Ter-Oganezovites" was formed. This group was opposed to Ter-Oganezov. Bronshten participated in this group so as to push Ter-Oganezov out of the society. And in the end they succeeded in this. And so he was no longer the chairman of MOVAGO, and there wasn't any Mirovedenie any longer. Perhaps all of his power was due to the fact that he had been a member of the Central Executive Committee at that time.

Numerova:

Really?

McCutcheon:

Yes, he was a Bolshevik, a member of the party. He didn't hold major posts, but rather some sort of middle posts. There was the Committee on Scientific Institutions — there in the Central Executive Committee — and he worked in this group. When the Central Executive Committee was closed and elections were held for the Supreme Soviet, he no longer had any work. Somehow he almost immediately lost all his power in 1938-39. The only (position) left to him was that he continued to be the (vice) chairman of VAGO. He failed to be reelected in 1954, but [overall] nothing was heard from him after 1938.

Numerova:

There, I want to say that my father... They gave him as an assistant a certain Morford. She also… She might be guilty of my father's arrest, but she herself suffered in 1940. She and a whole group were arrested. And afterward, after the war she was released and worked at Pulkovo; also as assistant Director... And then I met her, and she gave me an idea. It was as though she (had good feelings toward me)... And that she [was involved in?] my father's arrest... Perhaps here repentance tormented her; perhaps she herself experienced something on a prison floor... Well, in general, afterward she even helped me.

McCutcheon:

That reminds me. I have read Ginzburg's memoirs. I don't think these memoirs were published here in the Soviet Union. They were published in the West. There she writes about the camps.

Numerova:

Is that the physicist?

McCutcheon:

No, not the physicist — the writer.

Numerova:

A writer? What kind?

McCutcheon:

Her son is Vasilii Aksenov. Perhaps you have heard of him. He lives now in Washington, but he also published here before he left during the 1970s. But she was in the camps for fifteen years. She writes how once in a camp where she had somehow come to work in the kitchen — she had been lucky: she could work in the kitchen — and one day a man came to her and asked if she could give him some food for a friend who was dying. It seems that this friend was even from her city, and she learned that this man who was dying had been her interrogator in prison and had subjected her to all sorts of tortures. But she thought about it and gave him the food. And so, such were the conditions.

Numerova:

Yes. That's the way it was... Shklovskii [told] me. I was on good terms with him because I [knew] his sister very [well]... He was in the Crimea when I was there, and we later met again, on a higher level so to speak, in the 1970s. We had friendly relations and he told me — I don't know from whom he had learned this — that they had severely tortured and beaten my father. It seems to me that it is very difficult to find out such things, but he said that was the way it was.

McCutcheon:

Unfortunately, as far as I know, that was normal in the prisons here at that time. But Morford was she an astronomer?

Numerova:

No, no, she was a lawyer. And there to my father... he didn't want [her]... But they somehow imposed her as his assistant. And they say that it was her fault also... Perhaps not everything, but...

McCutcheon:

Besides your father there were others in the Astronomical Institute who suffered at that time.

Numerova:

There was a certain Komendantov...

McCutcheon:

Yes, I know.

Numerova:

Who studied minor planets?

McCutcheon:

What happened to him? I know that he disappeared in 1942.

Numerova:

He disappeared. He died. Kozyrev said that he died in prison from an illness. And there were many there, such as Dneprovskii, Iashnov... and in Pulkovo... they were connected. And those who [worked] in both Pulkovo and the Astronomical Institute — they were all taken. But Pulkovo suffered horribly.

McCutcheon:

It seems that Pulkovo suffered even more than the Astronomical Institute?

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes. Pulkovo suffered more. At Pulkovo somewhere around twenty people were taken. I don't know precisely — someone should make a count. Someone must have made a count. They [later] released a few people from the Astronomical Institute — for example, Moshkova, Markov and Gaze.

McCutcheon:

They were arrested too?

Numerova:

Yes, they were also taken. Later they returned. And Boeva was also taken. Somehow they returned. Boeva returned and Gaze returned and Moshkova returned and Markov returned. But Komendantov perished. He didn't return at all. Kozlovskii, Radynskii — they didn't return.

McCutcheon:

Idelson also.

Numerova:

Idelson was also [arrested] but he was a lawyer and was somehow able to free himself. He was a lawyer.

McCutcheon:

He was a lawyer?

Numerova:

Yes, he went through two faculties at the university. That's right.

McCutcheon:

And did you know that there was a third observatory that suffered in a major way?

Numerova:

Really? Which one?

McCutcheon:

The Tashkent Observatory.

Numerova:

I didn't know that. What about Shcheglov there?

McCutcheon:

Well, he was arrested also. There were about ten people working there at that time. It is a small observatory. Of these [ten], seven were arrested including the director, who at that time was Postoev. Perhaps you know about him, because he was a graduate student in the Astronomical Institute at the end of the 1920s.

Numerova:

Ah... yes, yes, yes. That's why they arrested him. He [worked] with my father...That's why...

McCutcheon:

Do you know when they arrested him; In March 1936? Or at least he was removed as director [of the Tashkent Observatory] in March 1936. That's why I think that Voronov was connected with this affair because Voronov worked at the Tashkent Observatory. In February 1936 it was discovered that Voronov's works were not worth anything. At Pulkovo Observatory in February 1936 they announced that his [Voronov's] work on the minor planet Vesta was not correct. And the director of the Tashkent Observatory was removed immediately. His fate is interesting.

Numerova:

Voronov's?

McCutcheon:

I don't know what happened to Voronov.

Numerova:

Postoevs?

McCutcheon:

Postoevs. I know what happened to him. He was in a camp somewhere in the north. I even know which camp, but I don't remember it [now].

Numerova:

He... His fate is of interest to me because everyone who worked in the Astronomical Institute. All of them... I have a card file. I have written them all down. I have written down all of their works. And I would like to have their photographs. I am collecting all of this quietly. Because it's not only my father [that I am interested in]... You need to look at my [photo] albums. I am trying to collect [photographs] of everyone who was with him [Numerov], who came in contact with him.

McCutcheon:

Well, they set him free either in 1940 or at the start of 1941. I have forgotten precisely when. He wrote a letter to the Tashkent Observatory in which he asked that he be allowed back to work. I have the reply. The director there was Teplov, who, I think, was like Morford — A similar person. And he [Teplov] replied, "Taking into account your work in our observatory, we would be very happy to have you return as soon as you have registered yourself as a resident of Tashkent." And, as far as I understand, that [registering as a resident of Tashkent] was almost impossible at that time. And so he returned to Poltava — because he was from Poltava. He worked there as a school teacher and during the war he, along with his wife and son, left with the Germans. He turned up in West Germany after the war in a camp for — in English, "displaced persons" — for those who were not in their own land. And from there — this is how I know about him — he wrote a letter to Shapley with a request for help so that he would not be sent back to the Soviet Union. He knew that if he were to return there he would probably end up in a camp or perhaps even be executed.

Numerova:

Of course, of course. Well that... I want to say that our prisoners of war... In general it was awful...I... I can't endure this. Of course, during the war [our soldiers] were taken prisoner. That wasn't their fault. The reason was that we were not ready for war. The military leadership there... That is, it was the fault of anyone you care to name... but not of those who were taken prisoner. they fought honorably, and it wasn't their... fault. And they were let out of the [prisoner of war) camps, returned to their homeland, and again ended up in camps. That was so unjust. It was so horrible. The Germans were in a better position. [We] held these very Fascists in the best camps and fed them better. They could work better and everything... but these [our] soldiers were (held) at some mines and everything... It was so unjust.

McCutcheon:

For several years Shapley tried to help Postoev.

Numerova:

Really? Well, what happened?

McCutcheon:

In the end Shapley created a position for him at Harvard University. That was at the end of the 1940s. And then... What was happening in the United States at that time? That was a shameful time for us. That was the time of Senator McCarthy — McCarthyism. Americans were all afraid of the communists. And so, when Postoev tried to get a visa to come to the United States, he was turned down. They suspected that he was a communist. And so the correspondence between Postoev and Shapley ended in 1950. I didn't know what happened [afterward], because the last letter from Postoev... It was apparent that he (Postoev) was very depressed. It took me almost a year to find out what happened. I found out that not far from New York there is the Tolstoy Foundation, which helps Russian émigrés. Through them [the Tolstoy Foundation] I found out that he went to Brazil.

Numerova:

To Brazil? Really?

McCutcheon:

To Brazil. He worked as a geophysicist at the University of Sao Paulo up until he died in the 1970s in an automobile accident.

Numerova:

Interesting.

McCutcheon:

It's funny... I have one good friend with whom I work. He worked at the university observatory in Sao Paulo at the start of the 1970s, and he knew that I was searching for this Russian astronomer. When I found out that Postoev had ended up there in Brazil, I asked my friend if he didn't recall anyone with a Russian name, and he told me that indeed there was someone like that there. It had never even entered his head that this was precisely the person I was searching for. Later I got in touch with his [Postoev's] son, who is still living there in Brazil. Unfortunately, it seems that the relations between father and son were not very good. The son didn't know very much, but he sent me what he had: Various Xerox copies and documents, for example, and that letter from Teplov of the Tashkent Observatory to his [Postoev's] father, and several photographs. And since we will be going home via Brazil, I hope somehow to get in touch with him again and perhaps learn if there isn't some sort of archive.

Numerova:

And I need Postoev's photograph because he worked. Well, during this period... Well, what happened later I don't know. As they say, I won't turn it over [?]. But I should like to reflect the period during which he was at the Astronomical Institute.

McCutcheon:

I will try to send you copies of what I have.

Numerova:

I would at least like to have one of his early photographs.

McCutcheon:

I think there is a photograph from Tashkent dating from the start of the 1930s, only 2-3 years later [than his time at the Astronomical Institute].

Numerova:

One would need to contact Tashkent, right? Oh, you're not eating!

McCutcheon:

It is so interesting to talk. That's why.

Numerova:

Indeed, I write poetry, and this book should open with my verse about my father. I have various poems, perhaps some, but now I think that they are no longer seditious. They could be published now. At that time there was one poem that could have been [published]. Abalakin let it pass, but the editors from the Nauka publishing house didn't allow it. I don't know... They did it out of censorship considerations... Later, of course, she said that her problem had been to shorten it [the manuscript]. They gave me ten pages, but she reduced it to seven. She shortened it.

McCutcheon:

I noticed your signature in several places there in the archive. You also worked with the materials that I worked with.

Numerova:

Yes, I worked there, yes. By the way, you can't copy things there, but I copied everything.

McCutcheon:

In that regard it is easier working in the archives in the U.S. than here. In the U.S. for example, by this time I have virtually acquired a personal archive. I have worked in the archives at Harvard University, the University of Virginia, Yale University, and also Yerkes Observatory. And, for example, when I worked in the Yerkes Observatory archives I called the librarian and explained what I wanted to do. She said, "Fine, come to see us," and so I arrived there one day in the morning. She showed me where the materials were located and said that she needed to leave early that day but that I could stay all night if I wanted to. [She told me] just to turn out the light when I left. "There's the Xerox machine. Make as many copies as you want, but please leave $0.10 for each page."

Numerova:

Good. You see how it is here. But in the U.S. Yes, even if you have donated materials to the archive... my Mama donated materials... we created... Our family. And now even I can't read certain materials. They consider that even those things that we donated are secret. My father's letter [that I showed you] is considered secret. And then this letter from that man who saw father in a Moscow prison in 1941 is also considered [secret]. He wrote his reminiscences of my father, but several things [in them] are not precise because he remembered all this ten years later and after ten years brought them and gave them to my sister. We also have a sister who is not a full sister. There are three of us [children], but by 1918 our father already had a daughter. Well, he brought this letter to her — she was already grown. And we [the other children] only learned about this letter in the 1970s. But this letter is also of interest to me. This man who saw him in prison. They asked us to donate this to the archive, and so we donated it. But they evidently didn't show it to you.

McCutcheon:

All that I saw from your father's papers was a very small folder. All [that was in it] was an account of your father's travels in the United States, which you already told me about.

Numerova:

Yes. Was it the whole [account] or only a piece?

McCutcheon:

A page, perhaps two pages.

Numerova:

Oh, it would be interesting to learn where it all is, where is the whole report?

McCutcheon:

That's all that they gave me.

Numerova:

No, I also saw this account, but...

McCutcheon:

I recall that you cite from this account in your book.

Numerova:

Yes, I quote from this account. I wanted to (show) you… of my father, and father loved him [Postoev].

McCutcheon:

It seems that he [Postoev] was a very intelligent man. At the very least, when he wrote to Shapley he wrote in English with almost no mistakes. Over the preceding ten years he had been in the camps and had been a prisoner, and nevertheless he wrote very well in English. He evidently was a very talented person. If all of this hadn't happened to him, he would have become a leading scientist.

Numerova:

Yes, would you like me to read some of my verse about my father?

McCutcheon:

I would like that.

Numerova:

I cannot forget you; it was not in my power to help you. I don't even know where your grave is located. They destroyed the mind of all Russia and suppressed the memory of you, but your mark has remained on the earth, still sparkling in the mist. Although you have disappeared from our minds, [You are in our] memories from our childhood years. There have remained memories of unwarranted suffering, [But] your trace cannot be wiped out.

McCutcheon:

Very good. Good verse.

Numerova:

And here is more. This one could have been published. I feel your suffering with my very skin, and I want to know what you achieved in life. Even though I am so unlike you, but all the same from the earth you have not perished. Death has not taken you away from the world forever. You loved the lakes and the Russian rivers, and your soul stretched to the sun and stars. Death has not taken you away from the world forever. Someone is fated to continue your path. For some reason I just changed it somewhat.

McCutcheon:

I am surprised at how well you remember it.

Numerova:

Well, they are my poems. I have many of them. But in truth here... are four copies.

McCutcheon:

Kozyrev's brother is now publishing his poems. They were published in the journal Neva several months ago. He showed [them] to me.

Numerova:

Really; so then I can [publish my poems also]. I have been published, but that was only one time in the journal Zemlia i vselennaia.

McCutcheon:

Really?

Numerova:

Yes, there is a selection [from my poetry] there. But those are astronomical poems. You have [the tape recorder] there turned on for nothing... I feel your suffering with my very skin, and I want to know what you achieved in life. Even though I am so unlike you, but all the same from the earth you have not perished. You loved the lakes and the Russian rivers, and you stretched out to the sun and stars long ago. Someone is fated to continue your path. And your mark and your name are in the minor planets. And there is a crater on the far side of the moon. And the truth about your life and legacy must go on to your distant offspring. There is a Numerov museum in Tosno. Did you know that?

McCutcheon:

No, no, I didn't know; in Tosno?

Numerova:

In Tosno... because Liuban is the place where the family house was located. His [Numerov's] mother and his sister lived there and then after the war. That is, during the war the house burned down. Then Aunt Olia resurrected a little hut, and then in the 1960s we all built a new house on that spot. Well, a teacher from the Liuban School came by. She asked, "Was that your father…?" And my brother was still teaching at the music school in Liuban, and one physics teacher asked him, “What relationship was Numerov to you?” He answered, "He was my father." She had great respect [for Numerov], and she began to lobby for the erection of a Numerov monument in Liuban. Liuban belongs to the city of Tosno, the principal city in the region. Tosno. That meant that they couldn't [build a monument in] Liuban, but she did something herself in the school — some sort of small exhibit. And in Tosno they... of course, not yet in a museum. It will be located for now in an apartment. They assigned a whole apartment near the museum. One room is devoted to military matters — well, to the veterans and the war — and the other room is devoted to my father. It seems that we donated all the materials, but they took and popularized it. True, she has broken her foot now — that woman [the school teacher]. But several days a week the school children come, and the opening was so grand. Zverev was there. Abalakin was there. I will show you the photographs.

McCutcheon:

Is that far from here?

Numerova:

Not far. Tosno is sixty kilometers from here.

McCutcheon:

Sixty kilometers to the south?

Numerova:

Yes, to the south.

McCutcheon:

In the direction of Novgorod? Between Novgorod and? ...

Numerova:

Between Leningrad and Moscow. That is to Liuban. Liuban is eighty-three kilometers [from here], whereas Tosno is approximately fifty kilometers; fifty and something. But it [the museum] is closed for now because... she has broken her leg. But perhaps. True, she broke it in November, so that by now perhaps, already February...

McCutcheon:

So it might be open now?

Numerova:

Well, perhaps, if you were to go and talk to her [the school teacher]. Would you go to see?

McCutcheon:

I would like to, but the problem is that that would be difficult. My visa allows me to travel only fifty kilometers from the center of Leningrad. I would have to obtain special permission.

Numerova:

Well, fifty or fifty-three — does it make any difference?

McCutcheon:

Perhaps not. Let's say that if I were very quiet and orderly, then probably no one would pay attention.

Numerova:

Because you understand. Of course, I have more [Numerov memorabilia] than anyone else, but nevertheless there is an entire room devoted to him. My brother and I… But we gave only a portion—in general I gave everything. I had collected all of my father's works, reprints, everything... Overall, if anyone were interested, I have the largest collection that could [possibly] exist. You must eat...

McCutcheon:

That's enough [food] already. Perhaps afterward with tea.

Numerova:

Well, ok. With tea. Well, eat an orange.

McCutcheon:

Ok. An orange. I love oranges. I noticed that oranges appeared here [in Leningrad] not long ago.

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes. Did you drink your coffee? No?

McCutcheon:

There is still a little.

Numerova:

Well, ok.

McCutcheon:

You said that in the end your father ended up in a prison in Orel, but what happened when the Germans came [at the start of World War II]? Was the city shelled or?

Numerova:

Well, you understand, we suppose that, evidently, they (the prisoners) were shot.

McCutcheon:

Who shot them? The Germans, when they came?

Numerova:

No, not the Germans, but our own (people) before they left. Because well, the Germans were ready to enter the city, and evidently the person who was charged with guarding the prison didn't see any other solution other than to destroy the prisoners.

McCutcheon:

All of them?

Numerova:

Well, so it seems to us.

McCutcheon:

But no one knows for sure?

Numerova:

No one knows precisely. But his date of death... For a very long time we didn't know when our father died. There was one version... When I tried to find out immediately after the war, everyone told me that he died in a special camp in 1943.

McCutcheon:

I recall that the first articles about your father said that he died sometime in 1943-44.

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes, that is what I communicated [to the people writing those articles] because when I was trying to find out, I went to Moscow to the Lubianka and to other such places I no longer recall. They told me that he died in 1943. But later, long after his rehabilitation... Father's rehabilitation was in 1957, and they said that he was rehabilitated posthumously. Two sentences were rescinded due to the lack of anything constituting a crime. One sentence was from 1937, and the other sentence was from October 1941.

McCutcheon:

October?

Numerova:

Yes.

McCutcheon:

A sentence to death by firing squad?

Numerova:

I don't know, don't know. Here, I'll give you this document. In the rehabilitation document it is written that there were two sentences: one in 1937 and the other in 1941.

McCutcheon:

This second sentence was completely unknown to you previously?

Numerova:

Yes, it was completely unknown to us. We didn't know anything. But everything points to the conclusion that they [the prison officials] didn't find any other method or solution other than to destroy these political prisoners. That's how it was. If only they would have let them fight in the front lines and he so hoped, because there was a review of his case... He somehow... If it hadn't been for the war, he would have survived.

McCutcheon:

I think that is evident. He would have survived.

Numerova:

Yes, he would have survived if it wasn't for the war, because he was such a very energetic person who could find a way out in any situation.

McCutcheon:

Just the fact that he continued to work to the very end is completely amazing. I know that others, it seems, did not [continue] to work. I think that your father and Vavilov are the only ones that I know of who continued to work.

Numerova:

Yes. Moreover, he continued to think about his country. And he wrote, "It's a pity that they will do that in America before us."

McCutcheon:

Yes. It's funny.

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes. "It's a pity that they will do that in America before us." He always said that we Russians are fools.

McCutcheon:

Russians are fools?

Numerova:

No. That Russians are not fools.

McCutcheon:

And that should be proved?

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes. He was, to be precise, a patriot.

McCutcheon:

But that is evident from the very beginning even the idea of the Astronomical Institute. During the [Russian] Civil War, during the [Entente] blockade, he took upon himself such thankless work.

Numerova:

Yes, yes, yes and because to organize the Astronomical Ephemeris and all that he took up everything, everything. As Mama used to say, they worked without receiving any money. They worked only for a bread [ration] card, for some insignificant ration, for some piece of paper. But people were such enthusiasts in the institute at that time from 1919 until 1937. The staff was less than a hundred people, less than fifty. But what output, so many [research] directions! And now they have cut it all off from this institute, taken away gravimetry... They have so many various computers, but it used to be that they did their computations on arithmometers and were still able [to obtain results], to do something, to think up something. They took up everything. I want to say that those people who computed during the winter and worked on celestial mechanics and minor planets — these very same people went out on gravimetric expeditions in the summer.

McCutcheon:

Could I ask you for some sort of napkin, if you could...

Numerova:

Now, now. But why are you taking so little? Take more. You're my guest.

McCutcheon:

I didn't expect such a luxurious dinner. Thank you.

Numerova:

Lord, in what ages.

McCutcheon:

Usually we eat in the cafeteria at Pulkovo Observatory.

Numerova:

It's not so good there, is it?

McCutcheon:

Not that bad, but still it is always better at home.

Numerova:

0f course. I will read some more verse dedicated to my father. I must recall. There you see, I also don't remember everything. Turn that off for now, or else you are [recording] for nothing... that was from Embaneft, on the one hand. Krylov, Aleksei Ivanovich, presented all of [my father's] works on celestial mechanics and astrometry, and he wrote. Here is the characterization of my father that was written in 1929, or in some year, [in support of his candidature] to become a member of the Academy [of Sciences]. He was nominated as a candidate in 1935 — perhaps even earlier. I don't know. [Note: Numerov became a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences in 1929. He was proposed for full membership in 1935.]

McCutcheon:

His nomination to become an academician?

Numerova:

To become an academician. But they elected Fesenkov [instead], because they needed an astrophysicist. Well, perhaps they would have taken him during the next elections. But I want to say that his characterization is in the archive of the Academy of Sciences. It is very well written. It is written as it should have been written, the way real scientists write. He writes about complex things simply.

McCutcheon:

It seems that Gerasimovich was also proposed for membership in the Academy in 1935. But...

Numerova:

And they didn't elect him either. As far as I know, Gerasimovich was never even elected a corresponding member.

McCutcheon:

Yes, he wasn't even a corresponding member.

Numerova:

Yes. He wasn't a corresponding member. But my father (was a corresponding member) in 1929. In general, that was an unheard of event. He was only... I mean to say that he was a young man, thirty-six or thirty-seven, when he became a corresponding member. And now they are supposedly conducting a rejuvenation of the Academy, but it is not a quality [rejuvenation]. Although I have good relations with Viktor Kuzmich [Abalakin], nonetheless by his works, by his merits, and by everything he is not worthy of being a corresponding member. He is not like my father, not like Shain, not even like Subbotin. He is not that type... Not like Zverev. In comparison to them he is a completely insignificant quantity: Even compared to Zverev. Zverev is from the pantheon of scientists from my father's time.

McCutcheon:

One could say that Zverev was the person who saved the idea of the Catalog of Faint Stars after the arrest of your father, Gerasimovich, Iashnov, and Dneprovskii.

Numerova:

Incidentally, he [Zverev] has mentioned them. He [mentioned] my father. Incidentally, there hasn't been even one meeting or session devoted specially to my father. For example, during the jubilee for the Astronomical Institute in 1949 [at the institute's anniversary celebration] he wasn't mentioned at all, in 1959 [he wasn't mentioned] at all — as though he had never existed. In 1969 Chebotarev [mentioned him] for the first time. Chebotarev gave a paper, and Abalakin gave a paper about the yearbook. Chebotarev gave a long paper and talked a lot about Numerov and everything. Kharadze was there. And Kharadze said for the first time that Boris Vasilevich Numerov was a great scientist and a talented, good man. My Mama was there, but she wasn't invited to the banquet.

McCutcheon:

When was your mother freed: after the war? In 1943 you said?

Numerova:

In 1944 or 1945. But she lived in Novgorod and was registered there. She couldn't live in Leningrad, and she worked in Novgorod. She slept nights in the school, and then only in 1949 was she registered as a resident of Liuban. And she lived without a permit here in Leningrad... My father was rehabilitated only in 1957, but Mama [was rehabilitated] later. But she lobbied [for his rehabilitation). She was always writing, writing, writing. That is to say that that was the time of rehabilitations, but it was not done so easily. Do you understand? They didn't just rehabilitate anybody. One still had to write by itself. If the relatives or somebody didn't care about a person’s rehabilitation, then it was forgotten.

McCutcheon:

For example, Aleksei Kozyrev told me that he himself was never rehabilitated. He also spent fifteen years in the camps. But he was arrested later, in 1941. The reason why they arrested him was that he had taken part in some sort of geological expedition, and for this expedition he had a gun for some time. When they returned he knew that he had to turn in the gun, but he somehow forgot about this for a time. And that is why they arrested him because he had a gun in his home. And he told [me] that that is why he was never rehabilitated, because he was [in a sense] really guilty. That was...

Numerova:

Some sort of carelessness.

McCutcheon:

Yes, yes; but fifteen years?

Numerova:

He's rather short, isn't he?

McCutcheon:

Yes, yes. He's short.

Numerova:

I know him.

McCutcheon:

He is ten years younger than his brother.

Numerova:

I saw Nikolai Aleksandrovich [Kozyrev] often when he was in the Crimea, and therefore we were well acquainted. But he told me about [my] father only once. Then it was even though I hadn't asked him. And later I asked him, but for some reason he didn't say anything. He said — I remember it well — he said. Perhaps it was difficult for him [to talk] at that moment. He has one son. Do you know about his sons?

McCutcheon:

I don't know everything.