Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Confessions of Child Prodigies




Angela Knyazeva is a big fan of the philosopher Descartes and his more modern followers Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel. Her younger sister Diana is more inclined to Heidegger, while they are both keen on the Existentialists.


Angela, who turned 13 last Sunday, and 11-year-old Diana are very definitely not your average adolescent girls. Since graduating from high school last summer and starting at the Russian government's Finance Academy, the pair have held the distinction of being the youngest students in Russia.


The fact that the two are child prodigies becomes apparent as soon as one of them opens their mouth.


"Our future profession is international economics." Angela said in perfect English, before storming through the next paragraph without taking a breath. "I wanted to choose the international sphere as my future specialty mostly because Russia is going through a transitional period of restructuring of a system in general and a financial system in particular. That's why I believe specialists in the area of international economics and especially in financial education will be required for a long time."


Parents Yulia Knyazeva, a computer consultant, and Yevgeny Bykov, a scientist, noticed from a very early age how their two daughters picked up things quickly and how they soon began to study with children much older than themselves.


And yet Angela and Diana are not the dull bookworms one might expect. "Usually such clever children wear glasses and just study, study, study," Yulia Knyazeva said.


A bright, cheerful woman with an infectious giggle, Yulia Knyazeva proudly shows off her brainy brood. "But they're normal and fun-loving as you can see, they've had a harmonious, jolly childhood," she continued. "Our aim was not to have the youngest, or the cleverest children. ... it came about quite naturally."


Likewise, the two sisters seem to have no regrets about being gifted beyond their years. "We're acquiring all the rights of the adult ... and advantages of childhood," Angela said in a typically elongated if rather stilted sentence.


There are, however, problems connected with studying in a class where all your classmates are 18 years old. "It's not difficult for us," Angela said. "But it's difficult for them when such a little girl answers questions and receives such good marks."


Their classmates can be mean at times but "mainly our communications and interrelations are benevolent," she said. "Our friendship is on a professional basis," added Diana.


The girls, however, do not socialize out of class with their fellow students who, they say, drink too much and sleep too little.


"Sometimes they invite us to go with them to some party, to visit some boyfriend of theirs, but we of course decline their proposal because we don't want to lead the same kind of life as they do at the age of 11 or 12 or 13," Angela said.


Instead of carousing with their classmates the two spend their free time playing lots of sports, listening to music and watching television. No childrens' shows though -- their favorites are heavyweight current affairs programs like Itogi, Delovaya Moskva and Dengi, or Money.


"Usually before going to sleep or before I go to the academy I listen to Tchaikovsky, Mozart or some ballet music. ... I find it more valuable than all the popular music we've got now," Angela said.


As gifted girls, Diana and Angela suffer some prejudice from other adults, according to their mother. They often hear other parents saying, "Och, if only they were boys."


Yulia Knyazeva has an answer to that. "Everyone says, 'what's the point of clever girls, girls will get married,'" their mother said. "'What do we need clever girls for, let them be housewives.' But if that was so then there'll never be a Margaret Thatcher in Russia."


And what about the opposite sex? Will potential mates not be scared off by the girls' superior intellect?


"I think we would be able to make our husbands believe that we are not as clever as them," Angela said before neatly adding, "I will let him feel that way, but not for too long."