Oral History Transcript — Dr. Gleb B. Udintsev
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Interview with Dr. Gleb B. Udintsev
Gleb Udintsev; August 6, 1997
ABSTRACT: Family background and early education; military service (1941-1945); Moscow University (1940-1941, 1946-1949); Moscow University graduate school (1949-1952); Institute of Oceanology (1946-1976); International Geophysical Year (IGY); Institute of the Physics of the Earth (1976-1986); Geological Institute (1986-1992); V. 1. Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry (1992- ); life in Soviet Russia and after perestroika; funding sources for his research; problems with development of technology in Russia; political and ideological influences on research and publication; problems with his visa and travel restrictions; interaction with foreign colleagues, including W. Maurice Ewing, Roger Revelle, John Ewing, Bruce Heezen, Marie Tharp, Russell Raitt.
Interviews conducted in Russian and translated by Dr. Lynn Visson. All text is translated from the Russian unless otherwise indicated.
Visson:(in English) Continuation of interview with Gleb Udintsev, August 6, 1997, by Lynn Visson. (Continues in Russian). When we broke off our last talk, we’d been speaking a bit about the organization of Soviet science and how that affected your institutes. For example, for your marine research, which ministries were interested in those studies? Which were neutral to them, and which — if there were such — hampered your work?
Udintsev:Fundamental research was always the dominant factor in the Academy of Sciences. In that way we were in a very favorable position, because in fact we had full freedom in choosing our subjects. We were give funds based on the assessment of subjects by the institute, of the general subject. After that, we were free. That was a wonderful aspect of our situation. If I said that x was an interesting area for work, it was easy for me to persuade the administration of the institute that this should be done, and I could work on what was of interest to me. There was even an ironic expression, I think it was thought up by Academician Artsimovich, who once said at some meeting of the Presidium or the Scientific Council, and it was then repeated all over, “Well, what is fundamental (basic: LV) science? It is the possibility to satisfy my curiosity at the government’s expense.” That sounds a bit cynical, but that was indeed the case. After all, curiosity is the major impetus for scientists in their exploration of the world. Of course, some ministries had to be interested. There was an interesting paradox here. (Laughs). They had to be interested, but they didn’t want to depend on basic science. Therefore they set up their own studies. Here was a question of pride. They didn’t want to ask the Academy of Sciences for help. They wanted to show they weren’t born yesterday. And it was we who often tried to convince the ministries that one or another study would be of interest to them. Which ministries — well, traditionally, the Fisheries Ministry had ties to our science of oceanography, because the scientific basis for fishing is that on which oceanography also started in the west - well known Norwegian researchers were working for the fishing industry, for fishermen, when studying the ocean. And in pre-revolutionary Russia oceanographic studies were to a large extent linked to the establishment of a scientific basis for the study of fishing. Therefore, the Ministry of Fishing Industries should have been interested in us. But they wanted to keep all that for themselves, and to be less dependent on the Academy of Sciences. "We weren’t born yesterday," And weld say to them, "Weill do an interesting study for you."
Visson:Were you asking them for funds?
Udintsev:Yes, of course we were. We were saying that we were ready to do such and such a study for them, and in return — help us. Or it was important for us to obtain acknowledgment from them that these studies were successful. But they often simply ignored them. They didn't want to acknowledge that a piece of work had been done by the Academy of Sciences for them. For example, our fishing industry was very interested in the topography of the ocean floor of the seas of the Far East. We did such studies. And using our materials, with the tiniest of changes, they published those maps and said, "Those are ours. We did them ourselves. “ That was very upsetting to us, because 99% of it was the result of our work. And the military industries — of the Navy, of rather the Hydrographic Survey, which publishes navigation maps. We thought it extremely important that these maps use the results of our studies, because weld done a lot of work on measuring the depths. We thought it very important to have a depiction of the topography on those maps, and not only the figures for the depths, but the topography. But it was very difficult for us to overcome resistance of the Hydrographic Survey, because we wanted the results of our studies to be reflected on the navigation maps. They resisted because they didn't believe that our work was sufficiently precise. We were even forced — and that was on my initiative — to invite a hydrographer to participate in our expeditions — to see for himself that we were providing accurate measurements of the depths.
Visson:Why did they think your work wasn't accurate?
Udintsev:(Laughs). First of all, a traditional distrust in acoustic methods. They didn't believe that it was possibly acoustically to accurately measure depth — with an echo sounder. They thought it should be measured by the length of a wire. We did a special two-year study to demonstrate that wire measurements of large depths in the ocean are less precise than acoustic ones.
Visson:That was in what years?
Udintsev:That was in 1949-51. Then — it was very hard for me to convince the hydrographers that the method they were using to show the topography they were using — of linear interpolation — was worse than methods based on knowledge of the geomorphology of the ocean floor. Only a fortunate coincidence — when our work at sea coincided with work of a hydrographic expedition, and when at the end of the work I was able to invite the chief of that hydrographic expedition to sail with us from Petropavlovsk on Kamchatka to Vladivostok, for about three weeks of work, only then could I explain to him our ideas, and that helped; that man then began actively implementing our ideas in the work of the Hydrographic Survey.
Visson:Were such organizations as the Ministry or the Committee on Science and Technology ready to give you — aside from funds — equipment, or to give you a ship?
Udintsev:No, they weren't. Unfortunately, in many of our scientific organizations, including the State. Committee on Science and Technology, there was a deep-rooted feeling that study of the topography of the ocean floor wasn’t so important, that there were more important things. So, often they gave money for work in hydro physics, in hydro acoustics. It was difficult to prove that it was important to give money for study of the topography of the ocean floor. In part, that was the influence of tradition. In the prewar years, in Russia, German oceanography was highly respected, and English and American oceanography was less influential. And at that time everything the Germans were doing was aimed at providing for submarines. Therefore the main thing they were interested in was the study of water mass. Therefore in the navy and its scientific organization, and in the SENT (State Committee on Science and Technology: LV) that was emphasized. That tradition came from German science. The influence of ideas of American and British science, which paid a great deal of attention to geology and geophysics of the ocean floor, and came to our country, was often seen as not very serious.
Visson:What, then was your most important source of financing?
Udintsev:It continued to come from the budget (Udintsev means the government budget: LV), from the Academy of Sciences. But our work, on the study of the topography of the ocean floor — they didn't finance that very well. I often said to my friends that we were working not “thanks to” but in spite of.” Working on enthusiasm. It was considered that this was very simple, obvious work, and that it was simply an adjunct to other more serious areas of science.
Visson:What was the relationship between the Institute of Oceanology and the Institute of Physics of the Earth with the military agencies, such as the Ministry of Defense or the General Staff?
Udintsev:Of course, — I'll start with the latter — the Hydrographic Survey — which at one point had changed its name to the Main Administration of Navigation and Oceanography. In other words, the Navy had understood that they needed to work on oceanography. That was official recognition of that. While we were working, often we invited the Navy to participate — not only in our work on the topography of the ocean floor, because we wanted that to be reflected on the navigation maps — that was the simplest way to publish the results.
Visson:You said that you invited them. But were there instances when they were imposed on you? No, I don't think that ever happened. But sometimes on its own initiative the Hydrographic Service sent its people — officially, they were in uniform with epaulets — to participate in work on hydrology in the ocean. They were always more interested in that. I saw in that the traditional influence of the Germans. But maybe I'm wrong.
Visson:Within the institute, did the influence make itself felt of people who were working in the KGB or in military intelligence?
Udintsev:I, in any case, didn't feel that.
Visson:During the expeditions were there such people who were doing such things?
Udintsev:I admit the possibility that there were, but it wasn't strikingly obvious, and even I, as the Chief of the expedition, didn't know that officially. Maybe someone did unofficially, but I was never officially informed.
Visson:Did that ever interfere with the work of the expedition?
Udintsev:No. That didn't interfere with my work. But Party interference did, as I said before - that people I didn't need where imposed on me. On an expedition there is never enough room for everyone. A boat, as we say, is not elastic. You can't get everyone on it. So in preparing for the expedition each slot was worth its weight in gold. There was a battle for each slot. And when someone from the Politburo is dumped on you, or someone else just because he's a Party member, and you don't need him, that's very insulting, and interferes with the work.
Visson:Were they worse as scientists?
Udintsev:Yes, or they had fields of specialization I didn't need. Not always, sometimes there were useful people.
Visson:At Party meetings, was there discussion of personal lives of staff members?
Udintsev:— No, not at Party meetings. That usually took place at discussions in the Politburo. One of the rare cases of such discussion — not of personal lives, but just generally — was when the director wanted to get back at me at a Party meeting — though I wasn't a Party member.
Visson:You said that sometimes the director — and you had a case of that — could drive people to extremes. Did —
Udintsev:(interrupts) Yes, unfortunately, that did happen. It was a characteristic of our director, that held gotten used to having a lot of power when he worked in the Central Committee. Monin loved power. He sometimes amazed those around him. Our ship could sometimes be late on going off to sea because the representative of the ship registry agency — which does technical inspections — for some reasons held up the vessel's departure. The director would become furious and say “He should be fired, that man.” Weld say, “Andrei Sergeevich, that doesn't depend on us.” He seemed to have lost the ability to realistically assess his own power. Regarding the staff, there were such cases. One of my friends was planning to finish and defend his doctoral dissertation. The director said to him, "Drop that dissertation. You’re going to prepare an exhibition.” The man got terribly upset, because that meant the collapse of everything for him. He went home and died of an aneurism in the aorta. That was really a murder. And there was a case when he (the director — LV) all of a sudden took away the best part of his laboratory from one of our leading scientists. That man went home and died of a heart attack.
Visson:You'd been talking about another ...
Udintsev:Yes. There was a case when one of my assistants, a very good person, was driven to such a state that he went off and threw himself under a subway train. There were such things. My wife always said to me when such things occurred, “For God's sake don't take these things personally, or you'll have a heart attack.” I would laugh and say that lid been adequately hardened during the war — the Germans had been trying to kill me and didn't manage to, and I probably had a callus on my heart. (Laughter).
Visson:You were talking about the director1s role with a dissertation. How were thesis advisers appointed in the institute, and did the director himself have any graduate students?
Udintsev:Here the situation changed. Until the 70s the director was appointed by the Division. There was the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences, then the Vice-Presidents for the Division, then the sectors. There was the Division for Oceanography, Physics of the Atmosphere and Geography. That included several institutes. Or the Division of Geology, Geophysics, Geochemistry and Mining Sciences, which included several institutes. There was a time when the Division appointed the director. And then, the institute itself chose the director from candidates who had been nominated. That showed a certain democratization of science.
Visson:And how were thesis advisers appointed?
Udintsev:They weren’t. Everyone could choose his own adviser.
Visson:Did the institute director have his own graduate students?
Udintsev:Yes, of course. It was considered very important for any scholar of importance to have a couple of graduate students preparing dissertations.
Visson:How did it affect the graduate student if his adviser was the director?
Udintsev:(laughs) Well, it gave him something of a privileged position. It was a matter of prestige for each scientist to train young specialists, candidates and doctors of science. An adviser, however, was mandatory for a candidate degree, but it was possible to prepare the doctoral degree without an adviser. But it was possible to ask someone to be an adviser, if that was wanted.
Visson:And what were the relations between the staff associates of the institute and the Scientific Council?
Udintsev:Well ... The Scientific Council had to evaluate the scientists' work. So every scientist periodically submitted papers to the Council. It was important to get their approval. Even if it was for a thesis defense. And for the dissertations there was a vote on the defense ... it was a rather complicated procedure.
Visson:Do you think that they really assessed the dissertations and papers for scientific quality, or were other factors involved?
Udintsev:There were different kinds of cases. In most cases it was done rather objectively. In a number of cases it wasn't. At one point I was working in VAK (Vsesoiznaia Attestatsionnaya Kommissiia: The Higher Certification Council, which had to give its approval to all graduate dissertations in all fields: LV) There was a case — as very important for his prestige to produce as many doctorates as possible. As a result there were so many weak doctoral dissertations that a decision was taken at a VAK meeting, that, as a rule, all those future doctors of science would be called in to give a paper to VAK. In the past that had been done only in exceptional cases, when there were doubts. That was often done for doctoral candidates "of Caucasian nationality" (Udintsev means from the Caucasus — i.e. Georgians, Armenians, Dagestanis, etc: LV). There was a lot of abuse. Therefore those future doctors of science from the Caucasus, from Central Asia — they were very often called in, because the level of their work was low. But those were usually exceptions... Usually all that took place normally. But sometimes there were funny incidents. There was one incident when a doctoral dissertation hadn't been approved, and a long period of time passed; that dissertation was lying around somewhere. Why hadn't it been approved? More than a year passed, and it turned out that the typist had been using the folder with that dissertation inside it to sit on while she worked, to raise her seat.
Visson:How did the collapse of the Soviet Union and liberalization affect the training of graduate students, dissertations and this whole process?
Udintsev:That's a complicated question, on how it affected that and science ... First of all, with the collapse of the USSR there was a sharp decline in interest in defending dissertations, because the significance of holding a graduate decree declined drastically. For many people, the position of science became so difficult that they just left, and so they didn’t need degrees. The number of dissertations defended dropped drastically. And the general situation of science became worse, I think. I was surprised by an article two or three years ago in Scientific American by an American scientist who wrote that how good it is that there's been democratization in Russia; now there'll be a golden age of Russian science. I would say rather than we now have a Stone Age; A Stone Age, not a golden one. Because basic science in Russia was totally dependent on (government: LV) budget financing. It IS being explained to us now that this is not the way things are done all over the world. You want too much; you want to live at the state's expense; you should be out getting the funds yourself. Maybe that’s normal elsewhere. I saw how in America — I told you how Maurice Ewing once invited me on a trip around America where he gave lectures to a small group of rich people, publicizing the importance of oceanography to raise funds. Industries give money. That’s probably normal. Russia isn’t ready for that, because now in Russia there really isn’t any private industry. That new capital goes entirely into trade, or flows out into the West, but not into science. So who’s going to give money for science now? No one. It will take a lot of time before such patrons and foundations appear which will finance science. And for now science has been radically deprived of state financing. One of our politicians, Gaidar, announced that Russia is not rich enough to have its own basic science. That’s stupid, because in any country whatever without basic science there can be no prospects for development.
Visson:How did that liberalization and perestroika affect the personal relations between people at the institute?
Udintsev:Of course, it had a positive effect. The pressure from the Party Organization disappeared — that was very important. And there was also less pressure from the directors. More freedom, of course. But unfortunately freedom isn't enough for the development of science. That also takes money. It’s very difficult in our country to get those funds and to create a stratum of people who can provide them.
Visson:In the institute, to what extent before and after perestroika did people discuss non-professional subjects?
Udintsev:That depended on the intellectual atmosphere of the institute. I was lucky — I spent 30 years in the institute of Oceanology, which had an unusually intellectual atmosphere. That was because its founders, and its first Scientific Council, were highly cultured people, very intellectual, from families which had been intellectuals for many generations. Therefore they knew how to inculcate that kind of spirit, a yearning for broad erudition, discussion of a wide range of questions. Particularly during the expeditions, we had a chance to talk with highly educated people, to talk about everything, from science to music, literature, and art — all of that was broadly discussed. They chose similar kinds of people (to work in the institute: LV). Of course, all the young people who came in were very talented and had many interests, too. The institute had a highly intellectual atmosphere. In other institutes I encountered a different level. The Institute of Physics of the Earth was also on a high intellectual level. The Director of the Institute, Academician Gamburtsev at the time I came there was also extremely intellectual. And his wife, and the people around him, too. He was from an old Russian family of intellectuals, and I had a lot of contacts with him. His wife was also extremely cultured. Lusia Samoilova Weizman. She was the sister of the Weizman who was the first president of Israel. Her son was recently invited as an honored guest to Israel. Contacts with such people of course were very rewarding, and a very broad range of issues were discussed — not just scientific. It was quite different in the Geological Institute. Those were field geologists. There were a lot of people on a low cultural level, with whom there was nothing to talk about except science. A completely different style to the institute... partially determined by the fact that for a long time the institute’s director was Academician Peive, a very good organizer, but a geologist on the order of the head of a mining pit. A professional, but not so cultured. And he selected similar people to work around him.
Visson:How would you compare the levels of knowledge — not scientific. but general — of Russian and American specialists? Say in Lamont, or Scripps.
Udintsev:That’s hard to give a direct answer, because I don't want to offend anyone. In America I met people of an extraordinarily high cultural level, but in general among researchers professionalism tends to dominate. Well, for contacts on broader subjects - there are people like Roger Revell, who was extraordinarily cultured, or Maurice Ewing. But in dealing with many people I felt that aside from their very high level of professional knowledge there was nothing for me to talk about with them. That also exists in Russia, now. There are a lot of people of whom Solzhenitsyn said that they are "school products", not intellectuals people who are the first generation to really get an education. I couldn’t say that the Russian intelligentsia today as a whole is more educated or wide-ranging in its interests than the Americans. Unfortunately we’re becoming Americanized.
Visson:I remember how you told me how during the expeditions you all organized concerts ...
Udintsev:Yes. It was typical... we all wanted to listen to good music. Many of the people on the expedition played the piano.
Visson:You had a piano on the ship?
Udintsev:Yes — well, not a grand piano, an upright. Some people played very well, even one sailor... Often people sang, or there were concerts listening to records. They liked to sing. We had “amateur evenings.”
Visson:Did romances start up during the expeditions?
Udintsev:Unfortunately, yes. (Laughs). But one characteristic of the Russian expeditions, as distinguished from American or British, was that we were at sea for a long time. That is because it was very difficult for us to get permission to dock in foreign ports. First, it's expensive. Second, our ships weren't allowed to dock everywhere. Therefore the idea was that since the ship was big, it could sail for three or four months without docking, and of course there was no question of often changing the participants. On the American expeditions, say the Vema, the ship went around the world and every month the people changed — flew in, worked for a month, flew out, in come others. For us that was impossible, because they didn't like allowing for that kind of freedom of travel, and second, there simply wasn't any money. We could fly on Aeroflot. On one expedition we changed participants in Singapore, because Aeroflot flew there. But in other places we didn't have the possibility to do that. Therefore the cruises were long, for three or four months. And when in a closed-off space there are men and women — particularly young ones — and we have a lot of women in our science, more than in America — at least when I was on the expeditions. Maybe now it’s different. But then there were a lot of women. So as they saw, “The Devil is strong ...” Temptation comes ... (laughter). Once we were working with an American ship, I think with the Vema, in the Atlantic. And during the work, one of the American girls hurt her finger and it had to be amputated. They didn’t have a doctor, and we did. She was moved to our ship, and the finger was amputated; everything was fine. And there was also an American scientist on our ship. How did that all end? They got married. (Laughter)
Visson:Were there cases of romances between Russians and Americans or with other foreigners on the ship?
Udintsev:I — uh — don't know, I heard that on one of the expeditions in which I didn't participate there was an American girl, and she had a romance with a Russian — he even jumped ship and stayed there, in America, and they got married... but I didn't see that. We had American men and women on our ship, but there were no romances, just very friendly relations. I know there were cases of marriages, but the expeditions weren't directly involved.
Visson:You were talking about the ministries and the Academy. What was the relationship between the institutes and the Presidium?
Udintsev:The Presidium plays an important role in determining the area of work in science. A great deal depends on the President. I think that outstanding Presidents, whom I recall, were Vavilov, the brother of the biologist who died — he was an outstanding physicist, a wise leader of the Academy. Then there was Nesmeyanov, also an outstanding scholar. Then Keldysh, whom I knew during the flowering of Russian science in the postwar years. His assistant for earth sciences was Academician Vinogradov. Everything worked well then. Now the leadership has changed and the Presidium has considerably less influence. We don't now particularly feel a tie to it... The Presidium allocates some money, some things... The Presidium's role particularly made itself felt when Academician Keldysh was president. It all depends on the person.
Visson:We recently were talking about the role of exchanges for Americans and Russians. In what do you see the importance of these scientific contacts during the Soviet era?
Udintsev:The most important thing was scientific contacts, the exchange of ideas, information and experience. I think that was important for our foreign colleagues as well as for us. I can't cite specific regarding our foreign colleagues' satisfaction, but I know that often during our expeditions, — when I was invited by the Americans, and I tried to invite them as much as possible — during those expeditions we had American, and British, and Australian, and Japanese scientists, and Germans, and French — we tried to have a broad exchange. The second element of that exchange was getting an idea about the character and life of our people. For me it was very important to understand that American scientists were working in the same area we were, and vice versa, without having agreed to do so, with no collusion. Ideas simply appear at the same time; that's very characteristic of modern science. At the same time, of course, it was very nice to understand that people are the same, too, that though· we were behind the iron curtain we were very close to each other. Then, with the expeditions, and invitations to us, I think it was important that we had "people's diplomacy." Though people knew about our political differences, the governments, they could understand that people share the same concerns and interests... A good example; I invited to our expedition by good and longstanding friend, whom I very much valued, an industrial inventor, Harold Edgerton.
Visson:In what year?
Udintsev:On the boat they knew that he was a millionaire, and they thought that was something most usual, because there were no capitalists then in Russia. Maybe in the gray spheres of the economy there were, but we didn't know about them. So we thought, many of us thought, capitalists were like in the satirical works, the posters, with a big belly, a top hat, a cigar in his mouth. And a thin, agile, energetic man showed up, with very simple, direct manners, glad to talk to everyone, to joke, participated in the amateur evening, played the guitar very well, sang songs... He was the life of the party. Everyone was amazed and asked me "ls he really a millionaire?" Yes, he’s got eight factories in America ... So — capitalists can also be normal people! That was very important. And also Harold's assistants came with him. They were very cautious — their first time on a Soviet ship — they thought they would be surrounded by KGB agents. So this happened. One of his assistants had brought along his own equipment, in compact blocks, in the form of a cylinder. They probably contained some semi-classified parts, which he didn't particularly want to give out. They didn't give us those parts; they just worked with them. And we were leaving the pier at Southampton, and we knew a storm was coming. I said to him, "Mike," (his name was Mike Hobart, "your instruments should be well packed, as the ship will be rolling; I’ll give you lab space, and you can fasten everything down in there." He did that. We locked the lab and there was a strong storm, a lot of rolling and pitching. Several days passed, everything calmed down and Mike went off to the lab. And there he couldn’t find one of the instruments. He was in a feverish state. (continues from Tape IV): And he is feverishly screaming, “The KGB's stolen my instrument! One of my instruments!" I said, "Mike, listen, who's going to steal your instrument here? That's impossible,” He said, "Let's go.” We went to the lab. It's true that on the table he had four or five of those instruments, and one of them wasn't there. I heard something rolling around the floor, and said to him, "Mike, it's fallen onto the deck! You tied it down badly." He looked and saw that round thing rolling around on the deck under the table. (Laughs). I said, "Who needs to steal your instruments? It would be such a scandal, that even if someone had wanted to, would he possibly have done that? Openly?” Mike calmed down and then came and apologized to me, saying that held gotten very upset. I said, to him, "We didn't invite you here to steal your instruments!" (Laughter). Harold Edgerton also worked very well and literally won the hearts of the entire expedition. They were really in love with him, because he was such an interesting person, and so sociable — I think that played a very important role for our sailors, in understanding whom the Americans were, who, they were dealing with. It was the same thing when the Japanese worked with us in the Pacific ocean. The Japanese are in many ways puzzling for Europeans. They have a unique kind of character, they're very closed, they always smile, but it's often hard to understand them. When we worked together for two or three months, we found that they're just the same kind of people, only with a different national character. I have the feeling that from generation to generation the Japanese have acquired a kind of strong internal discipline, the ability not to show their feelings. They seem either to have no feelings, or are excessively polite, smiling... It’s hard to see how they are reacting to what you say. I worked for a long time with the Japanese, for a while we did a lot of work with them.
Visson:With whom, for example?
Udintsev:Well, Mura Uchi, Asana, Atobe, Hoshina, Aoki and others.
Udintsev:Well, Uyeda —- it's hard to say if he’s more Japanese or American, since he — worked for most of his life in America. But at the same time he’s absolutely Japanese, in character, though he’s acquired a lot of American traits. To some extent he’s a cosmopolitan. Uyeda was in America when we worked with the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese we worked with were very nice and responsive, but to some extent they tried not to display that. I also worked with them somewhat on preparing the Atlas of the Pacific Ocean. They were very careful in their work and worked well. As for the Americans, for a Russian it’s much easier to work with and exchange views with Americans than with many other foreigners.
Udintsev:You know, they’re more open. It’s easy to deal with them. They show their reactions to your behavior. They aren’t closed. The British are more reserved, I think the French are too. Not as open. But with the Americans it’s easy. It was always easier for me to work with them. It’s also easy to work with the Germans. I don’t mean it’s difficult to work with the French — we did, on expeditions, and other things... and with the British, I’m on excellent terms with Tony Laughton, who did a great deal for the development of British science. I was practically in love with his professor, Morris Hill, who died tragically — he committed suicide. Held left a note saying that he felt that as a scientist he was finished, and that he couldn’t imagine life without that. He was highly educated and cultured — an intellectual in the real sense of the word. He deeply impressed me. But there was that sad end. It is easy to work with the Germans — I have a lot of German friends. They’re also very open people. I really worked well with scientists from all over the world.
Visson:And you’ve been all over the world.
Udintsev:On expeditions — here live been very fortunate – I’ve been to so many places ifs even hard to imagine. On lost little islands in the ocean, and on all continents... I’ve really been on all continents.
Visson:During our previous talks you’d implied that the Americans and Russians had different styles of working. What did you mean?
Udintsev:That’s a very subjective view — just my view. When I worked with Americans in institutes, and on the ship, I thought that in their behavior a strong element of individualism made itself felt — perhaps that’s a characteristic of . Protestantism. Each of them was a separate individual. While the Russians and that’s also an age-old tradition — have that sense of community. The desire to work in some kind of group. And to be in very close contact with each other, not being ashamed of — or rather, not fearing to exchange views. Sometimes that's even risky, because you voice some new idea and think no one will use it, and then they do and don’t credit you for it. (Laughs). But that's the way it is, we always have lively discussions of whatever comes into our heads. Moreover, there are discussions of the most varied questions, not just scientific ones. That desire to constantly be in a group is very characteristic. At work we very often spend our vacations together, — we spend it not only with our individual families, but together with other families. We very often go to visit each other.
Visson:When you go visiting, is it to discuss scientific subjects, or just to visit?
Udintsev:No, of course, the excuse isn't discussion of scientific topics, but — and that's very characteristic of Russians — first there's talk of politics, and then the affairs of the institute, or discussion of literary works, art exhibits. We talk a lot! (Laughs).
Visson:Are you talking now about your generation?
Udintsev:No, younger people do that, too. Although their style of conversation is a bit different — in a group of young people I sometimes feel a bit out of place. That happens. Which saddens me. Because on expeditions now I’m working with people 20-30 years younger than I, and sometimes more. Sometimes I feel that in their group — I’m not needed. That's a bit upsetting. They don't show it, but I feel that I’m not needed.
Visson:And how do you feel with young American scientists?
Udintsev:The same way. I tried several times, in Lamont and elsewhere, to get to know young people, and talk .... but it didn't work. Although those who're a bit older - who were the assistants and graduate students of my contemporaries - they're glad to talk to me - maybe because I was a friend of their advisers. That helps.
Visson:And what did you notice about the American style of contacts and socializing?
Udintsev:I think that they are very isolated from each other. At work, and their manners mask that individualism. They all make a show of familiarity. I was surprised by how once Harold Edgerton invited me to his factory — he had a factory that produced electronic equipment, including oceanographic equipment. We got there and there's a military guard. That was in the 60s. He asked him, "Who's that with you, 'Doc'?" Edgerton said, "That's my friend.” "Where's he from?" "From the Soviet Union." The guard said, "That’s good, Doc. OK.” (Laughs). And then we’re walking around the factory, where the engineers are. We go into a room and he sees that they’re joking around. And he literally gave it to the man in the neck: "Where do you think you are? At work, or where?" They said, "Oh, we just took a few minutes off, Doc... " But Harold said to me, "No, at work there has to be discipline. They shouldn’t let themselves go like that.” But it was all kind of joking. A different style. live been to Japanese factories, at the Nippon Electric Company, a huge company. I was shown how a shop works there — an enormous room, with air conditioning, more than 100 workers sitting at tables assembling an electronic circuit. And the shop foreman is sitting up at a table in front, just looking at how they work, not doing anything. And not a single sound, all of them painstakingly working away. No one stirred. Then at a command they all get up and do exercises. Every fifty minutes for ten minutes. Then they sit down and work again. After three or four hours they all went out for a fifteen—minute run, then sat down, silence, back to work.
Visson:And what is it like at a similar Russian factory?
Udintsev:Well, at a Russian factory everybody’s out for a smoke, chatting away... (laughs). In any case in the past. Now that things have changed - I had a telling conversation with an acquaintance, a worker. He kept complaining that he was earning very little, and said held go look for something better. I ran into him a while later and asked how things were. He said, It’s really rough working now. You can smoke, you can chat. Everybody is looking around, not to go overtime. “And the pay?” Oh, it’s well paid. But you have to work hard. “And later I ran into him, and he said, “You know, I left. I can’t work like that.” Those kinds of differences.
Visson:We’re resuming after our short break for technical reasons. During our talks over the years you often spoke of independence of thinking, and it’s interesting that throughout the years of the Soviet regime Americans always thought that all Soviets thought alike, that there was a Party line and that aside from the dissidents few would dare to express their points of view if they disagreed.
Udintsev:In my view, the situation was totally different. The Americans — and not just the Americans, but also other Western scientists — thought that way about the Russians primarily because our scientists publish little abroad in foreign languages. That's a constant problem for us, the poor instruction in foreign languages; in schools, it wasn’t emphasized. So while the majority of our scientists can easily read literature in foreign languages, and things are translated into Russian, translation from Russian into English — above all, for us, oceanographers — is the stumbling block. That's hard. So the western reader has a poor idea of our scientific work, and mostly knows those who have been translated by western publishers. And those publishers choose that which, in their point of view, corresponds to views generally accepted in the west. For example, a book of mine on the topography of the ocean floor — I think it was rather original — was published, and at the same time a book with the same title by one of my former students at the institute of Oceanology — in my view, a rather dull and mediocre book. But it was written following the canons of Western literature. There was nothing new in it. That former student is now working in Kaliningrad University, his name is Volodya Litvin. But I know that when both of these books - and they have the same general tenor — were given to a Western publisher to choose which to publish, the experts said that the student's book is very contemporary, and that Udintsev holds to completely different views, so it isn't worth translating. But I think it in fact would be interesting to translate works that hold to a different point of view, because one of the most dangerous phenomena is a "generally accepted" opinion, what's called "public opinion." And I think there are more differences in opinions in Russia.
Visson:That contradicts the generally held notion —
Udintsev:Yes, it absolutely contradicts it. Unequivocally. Because our literature is not well known. When the concept of the tectonics of lithospheric plates was not yet generally accepted in the west, I and several other scientists were com ing out in support of it. But we ran into violent opposition from other circles, in Russia. Then things changed and the majority started supporting it. But my point of view had already changed. We continued to speak out against the majority. But they didn't know that in the west, because by no means all our works were translated. They were often wrongly understood. I understood that accepted public opinion plays a very important role in the West.
Visson:You seem to be combining two questions here: one of public opinion, and of not knowing other works because of that, and then you spoke to the problem of not knowing works because of the language problem.
Udintsev:Yes, but that's why they had the wrong impression of what was going on in Russia. They thought that there was one generally held point of view in Russia. But there are more strongly marked differences of opinion in Russia. After the concept of the tectonics of lithospheric plates became very popular, a lot of Russian scientists continued to put forward other alternative concepts. But that wasn't known in the West. They think that we all have the same concepts, and that before the adoption of the concept of tectonics of lithospheric plates that we had one generally held concept. In fact, a lot of our scientists speak out against a generally held point of view. They think that's highly pernicious. I very much liked how Belousov once quoted from Goethe, from the young years of the wanderings of Wilhelm Meister: "What is public opinion? It is the point of view of a group of very strong people, surrounded by sycophants and flatterers, and a crowd which doesn1 know what it wants." Now, in the Soviet Union there were a lot of points of view. Those points of view were expressed and were a constant subject of discussion. Of course, there were not many open dissidents, but there were a lot in terms of conversation. And in literature, using “Aesopian language,” a great deal was said, a great many points of view were expressed.
Visson:In scientific literature?
Udintsev:Particularly in scientific literature. To speak out on social-political subjects was dangerous. Therefore people tried to mask their views because it was lethally dangerous. People sometimes asked me, — well, you have anti-Soviet views. Why don’t you speak out? I said that that was tantamount to suicide. thought that my major task — whatever talents God gave me — was to do something in science. I have to make my contribution in that. I don’t feel that I’m a political fighter. No point my getting involved in that. I felt I had to be ready for that moment when some changes would take place in the country, so as to see my way correctly and support that group of people who were on the right side. And the same in science. But in science it was possible to speak out without any danger. Although there was a certain risk. When I started having doubts regarding the correctness of the concept of the tectonics of lithospheric plates, and I started putting forward other concepts in the institute and elsewhere, the sycophants complained about me to the director. At the Scientific Council the director said, I’ve heard that some of us are speaking out against plate tectonics. I’ll be blunt. I’ll kick out anyone from the institute who does not share that concept.”
Visson:You're contradicting yourself a bit now, first saying that there were different points of view among scientists and that they expressed those points of view, and —
Udintsev:Yes, but when I was in that conflict with the director there were people in other institutes who supported me, because they did not agree with such a despotic approach.· People had different views. Another example. In the Institute of Physics of the Earth, when discussion on this subject was just starting up, one person came who had been working in the Ministry of Geology and wanted to transfer to the Academy of Sciences. He came to Professor Belousov, the department head, who was known for his opposition to the plate tectonics theory. The department head said to him, "For me and my associates to get to know you and your views, give a talk. II The man did that, and did it spoke against the concept, even though he supported it.. After the paper he went to Belousov and said, "Will you take me?" Belousov said, "No, I know that you held different views. I wanted to take you to have in you an opponent for discussion. And it turns out that you've immediately changed your view. I don't need someone like that.” And he didn't take him. Here was an example of someone who wanted to have an active discussion going. I talked to Belousov a lot, I met him when I was still a supporter of the plate tectonics theory. He said, "Let's discuss that, to see whether to adopt it or some alternatives to it.” Then I changed my ideas, but not to adapt to someone else. I simply had acquired a lot of my own data which simply didn't fit that concept.
Udintsev:Well, the structure of the topography of the ocean floor and of the basement, beyond the borders of the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Or the irregularities in the development of the Mid-Atlantic ridge itself and of the rift zone, which didn't fit the concept of the results of the movement of lithospheric plates; the link with the great heterogeneity of the mantle contents and in its upwelling, all of that led me to the conclusion that the concept of the tectonics of lithospheric plates, which had played a very revolutionary role in the development of science — an enormous role — had exhausted its potential and that it was necessary to find an alternative solution. Or a compromise one which would take into account that element of tectonics, but not remain locked in that narrow area.
Visson:What you said now was very interesting, because it again reaffirms the idea that people who were really independent in their thinking somehow wanted to get away from hot political issues, and to find some areas where they could be free.
Udintsev:That's absolutely so. Of course, pressure from the Party and the government strongly affected the possibility to speak freely, and therefore people who were inclined to speak freely often went off into fields in which it was hard to carry out such politicization and ideologization. For example, in the humanities they went into the studies of the classical world, or the history of culture of the 18th or 19th centuries, so as not to touch on contemporary political questions. That was very typical. Or in literature they went into 17th and 18th century studies, ancient literature. And there were great successes in these fields; there it was possible to express differing points of view, it wasn’t subjected to such politicization. And it's typical that many people went into the natural sciences, where there was also more freedom. Particularly in geology, geography, geophysics ... No politics at all interfered there.
Visson:Although there was some sensitivity for the military sector.
Udintsev:The military sector was of course to a certain degree interested in making use of the results in the fields of physics, chemistry, geophysics and oceanography. But that didn't particularly shock us, because every country has its army, its defense interests. We didn't see anything criminal in that. In Russia there had never been any popular push towards aggression, among the people. There hadn't been. There had never been any real colonial policy in the history of Russia. Many people don't know that... As Herzen said — he was against the government, but he always emphasized that the colonization of Siberia had nothing in common with British colonization, or German or French. It was totally peaceful. In such sciences which were difficult to politicize we had of course a wide range of opinions. There was no unanimity.
Visson:If you’re ,talking about oceanography — from what you say it included everyone from people who were against the Soviet system to people who were Party members and supported it.
Udintsev:Yes, in science and in the intelligentsia I knew there were very different people, those who were pro-Soviet, neutral, anti-Soviet but refrained from drastic statements. One could always find someone who thought the same way, and there were others with whom one had to be careful in conversation. For example, with people at work who were very much pro the Soviet regime. There were some who were very active in the Party; it was better to be careful with them.
Visson:Why did one have to be "careful" with them? What were the consequences of carelessness?
Udintsev:In the 40s-50s, until the unmasking of Stalin, one had to be afraid of denunciations. That happened. In my close circles there were no such incidents, but later I learned from some of my coworkers how their friends or schoolmates had suffered from that. Particularly in the humanities. I had a good friend, a woman, who by chance had been present at the reading of a manuscript of an anti-Soviet novel. Well, someone denounced her and she was sent to jail. In the natural sciences there were less such grounds for denunciations. So things were simpler. And rather there was sympathy for those who might suffer. For example, there was the session of VASKHNIL (The All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences: LV). That Lysenko session. A lot of people were immediately threatened. And our institute took a university professor, Professor, Sabinin, in, just to save him. He was a biologist -
Visson:What did that have to do with oceanography?
Udintsev:Nothing, they just took him to save him from trouble in the university, because held have been smeared there. It ended badly, however. He worked in our institute but all that criticism continued, and in the end he shot himself. But he was taken specifically in order to save him.
Visson:You mentioned earlier that in Russia there was a problem with the development of technology in Russia ...
Udintsev:In Russia, Soviet Russia, there was always a problem with ready-made manufactured instruments, because our industry produced very few instruments which could be used for research purposes.
Visson:Because everything was going for applied purposes?
Udintsev:The major emphasis was on industrialization, the creation of aviation and space technology. Everything that was done there did not end up in the open market. There were some instruments for measuring which could be bought, oscillographs and things like that. The Ministry of Geology did some things, but in very limited quantities, and it was always lagging behind what was done in the West. Therefore we had to make the instruments ourselves. The problem when we had a model was how to reproduce it.
Udintsev:When instruments are made by hand, the written technical specifications documentation are not drawn up for them. First of all you need that technical documentation, and that's expensive. And then you need someone who would do it, and the question is how much he'll charge for that. So that required a lot of money.
Visson:Why not just copy that instrument from the West?
Udintsev:Who'll let you copy it? They didn’t give them to us.
Visson:Well, someone abroad could bring one, or draw it —
Udintsev:When I was abroad I saw foreign instruments, and how people worked with them, and foreigners came to us with their instruments, but they never gave them to us. It's impossible to copy a complex instrument. That's very difficult. it might be done with parts we didn't have... And then how to take it apart... We could borrow an idea. We didn't hide our instruments.
Visson:When you were engaged in what you called your "amateur" activity making these instruments, to what extent did that correspond to what was going on in the West?
Udintsev:In quite a number of cases our devices were clever. We tried to create something new, original. Sometimes they were simpler, less sophisticated. It's easier to do something simpler. Sometimes they were more clumsy, but more stable. Of course the devices were quite different in terms of level...
Visson:What is the situation today regarding equipment?
Udintsev:Today, of course, it's worse. It might be simpler now to buy something, but we don't have those funds.
Visson:Do you think that what you have in your lab today is up to world standards?
Udintsev:We carry out most of our studies according to world standards. But sometimes they still turn out lower. We try ... but it's harder for us now because we don~ have the funds for the scale of work weld like, and for equipment. For example, a modern multi beam echosounder is one of the most important devices. But it's very expensive to build them. We can't buy them now. So we’re working with one which is modern, but it was the very first model, 8-10 years old. Now there are newer ones, but we don't have the funds. Our great advantage was that we always had very good research vessels, the Vitiaz, the Akademik Kurchatov. Now, too, we have more modern ones, the Akademik Nikolai Strakhov and the Akademik Boris Petrov. But we were always lagging behind in equipping those ships with instruments. Either we didn't have the money — there's an expensive ship and no more funds — or we couldn't buy the instruments because they were on the list of proscribed goods which couldn't be sold to the USSR.
Visson:To get a ship for an expedition — who gives permission, and who gives the funds for that?
Udintsev:In the past, when the work of research vessels was generously financed by the Academy of Sciences, permission had to be obtained from the Institute director.
Visson:Was that his responsibility?
Udintsev:Yes, that was his responsibility — to whom the ship was given. In my experience, a great role was played by the support I had from Academician Vinogradov. He would subtly indicate to the director that he supported my proposals. Or the Scientific Council had to consider these proposals and take a decision. Now it's different. Now it IS a question of money — you need money to organize an expedition. So now it's rather complicated. On the one hand we try to get funds from the Academy of Sciences and the State Committee on Science and Technology, and for particularly relevant topics they give money. Right now one of the very pressing problems is the pollution by radioactive wastes of the seas of the Russian Arctic. This year we were given funds for that by the Academy of Sciences, which got the money from the government. There were several proposals, but the money was given for this expedition, because the problem is so relevant. Money wasn't given for more fundamental problems. We’re trying to find foreign partners who have funds, because not everyone has the possibility to use his ship. That also takes money. Our ships are cheaper; use of our ships is cheaper. Two or three times cheaper.
Udintsev:The sailors' salary is lower, and all the expenditures for use of the ship are less. We buy fuel at cheaper prices in Russia. It's a big problem how to keep a ship in use during a whole year. This year we’ve got money for a month in the Arctic. Fine. And what are we to do for the rest of the year? You can't leave a ship there. Even when it's in port it needs fuel, electricity and water; that all costs money. And the berth at the pier also costs money. The crew has to be paid. We need to find ways out, and the best way out is to find foreign partners. This year we’ll go on an Antarctic expedition with the Germans, who are making a major financial contribution. That's the best variant, because it means scientific work. But there's another solution, to find a tourist firm willing to carry tourists. The ships are quite comfortable. Or sometimes it's possible to lease the ship for scientific purposes; that's also good. This year our ship for a month was leased to the Ministry of the Fishing Industry, for a fisheries study.
Visson:That’s all understandable, these financial problems and certainly people in the West understand commercial problems, but this is a bit far from our conversations twenty years ago, when you talked about what you and your colleagues were experiencing during the expeditions, what they meant for Soviet scientists, the possibility of participating in them, and not just to acquire scientific knowledge.
Udintsev:Here there was a whole "bouquet" of satisfactions. First, to get away from that reality which existed in our country. All those unpleasantness’, the persecutions with Lysenko, we felt for that; it didn’t affect us directly, but it upset us, it outraged us. Or those things Khrushchev did, imposing the sowing of com all over... We were indignant. And the possibility of going on an expedition, of getting away from all that, was very important. It was an outlet, an outlet also from the unpleasantness’ at the Academy, at the Institute. Sometimes the director or the Politburo was excessively pressuring us... And here you go off to sea — and you work on your own. Just the aesthetic pleasure from the feeling of freedom. I always felt extraordinarily happy as soon as we left the pier. A sense of total freedom, the whole world was open... ln antiquity, it was said, that perhaps the most important thing a person needs is to travel, to see the world. A higher education.
Visson:And for you it was the highest privilege.
Udintsev:For us of course it was the highest privilege that we traveled around the whole world at a time when people from the Soviet Union traveled very little. Therefore I always felt a bit awkward with my peers who didnlt go anywhere, and I had traveled — I was fortunate — l’d been everywhere. Of course, that was real happiness. I don’t remember which of the ancient Greek sages said that a man must do several things, first of all get an education, then bring up children, And travel. See the world... And I had a lot of interesting acquaintances, and the Work —
Visson:When the tape ended you were saying you had met a lot of interesting people — and —
Udintsev:Yes, and since we got a lot of extremely interesting materials, there were a lot of possibilities for work, as a result of the analysis of these materials and then of generalizations from them. So the expeditions yielded a lot.
Visson:— Yes, and we’ll have to continue later, since unfortunately we have to end up now. (in English): Continuation of interview with Gleb Udintsev, 8/6/97, New York, with Lynn Visson.
Udintsev:(In Russian). The search for that kind of outlet, relief, where you could speak freely, as you always could on the expeditions, was linked to the fact the Russian intelligentsia very much took to heart everything that took place in the country, in science, and in culture. We were concerned about the poor state of agriculture, about the persecutions of writers — we took it as persecution of us, ourselves... We very much took to heart the harassment of the biologists, even though it didn't affect us directly, but we felt for them, for the situations in which they found themselves. Therefore the desire to somehow get out of that situation and atmosphere was very strong, and so we were very happy with the opportunity to go on expeditions and there to act totally independently of everything. That was important. And from that point of view we were very happy with the changes, now in the political situation, at the very beginning of perestroika, when it just began, when we couldn't foresee the economic problems which would descend on us, when we saw perestroika only as freedom, glasnost. I remember that then when I was abroad I said that we were happy, and then I extolled Gorbachev, when I talked to people... Then everything turned out to be much more complicated.
Visson:(in English): Continuation of interview with Gleb Udintsev, August 6, 1997. (Resumes in Russian). You said yesterday when we were talking after our interview, that in some ways the organization of science in Russia was similar to that of other institutions and to the organization of the country as a whole. What did you mean by that?
Udintsev:I meant the organization of science during the Soviet period, because there was a definite hierarchical system at the time, which covered all types of institutions. Not only science, but the Ministries, and others. There was always a leader at the top with department heads under him, in each department there were more subdivisions... a kind of hierarchical ladder. There was the same thing in science. In a totalitarian system, that system worked very precisely. In science it ensured a focusing of efforts in needed areas, for example, outer space, or nuclear projects.
Visson:One gets the impression, listening to you now, that despite the easing up in the general atmosphere, that in some ways you — and your colleagues — somewhat miss the old times.
Udintsev:We don’t exactly miss them, but we do regret the loss of the specific ways our society and science were organized.I’ll say frankly, that when Gorbachev began perestroika we were happy. I always said to my friends abroad that Gorbachev deserved the greatest admiration. We were happy that there was such a liberation of the individual, freedom of speech, of views. But later — that mass — what we called — shock therapy proposed by Gaidar and Chubais, with mass privatization, and the deterioration of the system of financing of science — of course that was most dramatic for us. I’m very familiar with the organization of science abroad, and when I came back in the past from my trips to America, and from my conversations with Maurice Ewing, who told me a great deal about the organization of science, or after talks with Pembroke Hart, who worked in the National Science Foundation, I was very impressed with the way that was organized. I wrote special reports for the Academy of Sciences, memoranda, explaining how effective such a system was. But implementation of such a system in Russia requires democratization with a retention of the planning system, or can be done after a normal market system is set up and normal industrial firms appear, which can finance science. But that did not happen in Russia. In Russia there was what was called "shock therapy," Gaidarls term. All national property was privatized, or as they say in Russia "grabatized" (prikhvatizirovana: Udintsev is punning on the Russian words to privatize (privatizirovat. and to grab or seize, Drikhvatit: LV). Solzhenitsyn called that "dirtgrabbing.” Science was virtually deprived of financing.
Visson:How is that making itself felt now in particular in your field, in your institute?
Udintsev:In my field it’s primarily felt in that we don’t have funds to organize expeditions. The foundations of our work is the accumulation of experimental material on the oceans. How can we continue without that? Just with written materials? But that affects not only science. It affected us very painfully, but it also affected medicine and education, everything is now on a different course. And the overwhelming mass of the population has been hurt by this. There has been a kind of polarization: the formation of a small stratum of extraordinarily rich people, whose wealth surpasses that of many western capitalists, and an enormous stratum of people who are practically beggars. That’s very painful for us. Not because it hit us — I can’t say that I’m impoverished, I’m earning money, and earn fairly well, but that is in the blood of the Russian intelligentsia — we feel for the pain of other people. We can’t stand by indifferently. And that is why there is a certain kind of nostalgia for the social services which were provided. We can’t fail to see that. If I see old men and women rummaging in the garbage for food — which had never existed in Russia — that’s painful for me. You know, as the poet Nekrasov said, "He who lives without sadness and rage/Does not love his fatherland.” That’s all affected us. I either said or wanted to tell you that I was amazed by the naive ideas of some Western scientists who think that now, in a market economy, there will be a golden age of Russian science. The golden age took place when science was financed by the state, and well financed. That is when it flourished. I don’t want to say that this is the only possible system, and in a market economy there should be a system of financing like the American one. In the past I had reported on that as a very desirable variant to the Academy of Sciences. People agreed with me, but said, "We’re not ready for that in the USSR.” If there hadn’t been that mass privatization of industry, perhaps it would have been possible. Here I think Lukashenko, the Belorussian President, is quite right, as he only allowed for a ten percent privatization of industry. But despite these complicated conditions, we’re continuing to work. And I’m not an exception here. We’re trying to find ways out.
Visson:What are you working on now, and what are your plans for the future, especially as regards contacts with foreign scientists or with Lamont?
Udintsev:I’m continuing to work on those international projects which were begun in past years. These are first of all the project on completing and further developing the bathymetric maps of the oceans. That project is continuing and I’m working on it.
Visson:With whom are you working:
Udintsev:There are scientists from very many countries working on that. Americans are very active, British, French, German, Japanese, it's a big project. In addition I’m continuing to work on the series of international geological-geophysical atlases of the oceans. And live also become involved in the project on digitizing our archives to expand our exchanges, with the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) in Boulder. Then I’m now in the working group established by SCOR on the development of methods to improve bathymetric maps. All of that is very important work. In addition, thanks to the contacts I established earlier, I’m seeking partners for work in the ocean. Now we’ll have a second Russian-German Antarctic expedition to the western Antarctic, on a very interesting problem; the Germans are working on geokinematic monitoring, and we are working on that expedition on the geology and geophysics of the ocean floor, which will provide a possibility to provide a geodynamic interpretation of the results of that monitoring. Then I’m having talks with representatives from Lamont, Denny Hayes, who works on the Antarctic, on how to cooperate here. So far I don’t have any results here, but Denny Hayes is interested, and I’m going to ask Enrico Bonatti to talk to him — I won’t be able to see him now. Then I’m also continually in contact with Enrico Bonatti on possibilities for joint work. Here to a great extent I’m using existing international projects and existing contacts. I must say — I don’t want to exaggerate its significance — but lid say that to a great extent a got a “Late Start in Life” thanks to Lamont and to the Scripps Institute. (Udintsev uses the expression "Putevka v Zhizn, " meaning something — e.g. an institution or organization that helps a person function independently and successfully, get a "start in life." LV). Of course, all that was prepared for by all my previous ,work in the Institute of Oceanology, but access to the international scene, to opportunities for international contacts with a broad range of foreign scientists was very helpful to me. That helped me get a great many more opportunities for marine expeditions in Russia. So I’m grateful to my colleagues who helped me here, who were to some extent mentors for me, like Roger Revell, Maurice Ewing, Morris Hill, Russell Raitt, and my closest colleagues such as Bruce Heezen, Tony Laughton, Bob Fisher, Bill Menard — those are all people who helped me get to a higher level of work, and helped me in some way get a “start in life.” In thinking of these people with gratitude, I consider that one of my tasks now is to write my memoirs about that work, my expeditions, and contacts with these people, because good things should be said about them; these were very striking, eminent figures, and so I see these talks with as preparation for one part of my memoirs. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to publish that, but I’ll try to. I’d love to write my memoirs about the life of my family, life in Russia in different periods, the war; but one of the most important parts is of course the story of my work on the path to knowledge of the invisible face of the earth, I’ll work in the ocean, in international projects, meetings with very memorable people... Those are my plans. It is very hard to combine that with my regular work in the Institute. It’s hard to find the time. I’m responsible for the implementation of the work in the international projects; so I’m continually short of time.
Visson:You’re doing so much and you’ve done so much that I’m sure you’ll find the time for that, too.
Udintsev:I think I’ve just been very fortunate. I’ve been very lucky in life and I met a lot of good people who helped me... I’ve really been very lucky.
Visson:Thank you very much for your time, for all the hours of our talks.
Udintsev:I must thank the people in charge of this (in English) “Oral History” (resumes in Russian) at Columbia University, because I was given a very interesting opportunity to talk about all of this. And in particular I’m grateful to you, Lynn, because it was very easy for me to tell you all this, because we’ve known each other for a long time, and you are very — In thinking of these people with gratitude, I consider that one of my tasks now is to write my memoirs about that work, my expeditions, and contacts with these people, because good things should be said about them; these were very striking, eminent figures, and so I see these talks with as preparation for one part of my memoirs. I don't know whether I'll be able to publish that, but I'll try to. I'd love to write my memoirs about the life of my family, life in Russia in different periods, the war; but one of the most important parts is of course the story of my work on the path to knowledge of the "invisible face of the earth," work in the ocean, in international projects, meetings with very memorable people ... Those are my plans. It's very hard to combine that with my regular work in the Institute. It's hard to find the time. I'm responsible for the implementation of the work in the international projects; so I'm continually short of time.
Visson:You're doing so much and you've done so much that I'm sure you'll find the time for that, too.
Udintsev:I think I've just been very fortunate. I've been very lucky in life and I met a lot of good people who helped me ...I've really been very lucky.
Visson:Thank you very much for your time, for all the hours of our talks.
Udintsev:I must thank the people in charge of this (in English) “Oral History” (resumes in Russian) at Columbia University, because I was given a very interesting opportunity to talk about all of this. And in particular I’m grateful to you, Lynn, because it was very easy for me to tell you all this, because we’ve been known each other for so long, and you are very familiar with the story of my work. So, it was easy to talk to you.
It was extremely interesting for me. Thank you.