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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nanotech Offers Little Science

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First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov has compared the country's nanotechnology program with the Soviet atomic project. Like the atomic project, according to Ivanov, the nanotechnology program will alter the times.

It should be noted that there is one big difference between the Nanotech corporation, spared the requirement to pay taxes and with access to all the state money it needs, and the Soviet atomic project.

The atomic program was headed by the great nuclear physicist Igor Kurchatov.

The nanotechnology project will be headed by Mikhail Kovalchuk, who was unable to gain membership in the Russian Academy of Sciences, and one of two brothers who former State Duma Speaker Ivan Rybkin christened "Putin's wallet."

The atomic project involved great scientists like Yuly Khariton, Yakov Zeldovich, Vitaly Khlopin, Andrei Sakharov, Zoya Yershova and Georgy Flyorov, who already serving at the front in World War II, wrote Josef Stalin a desperate letter calling for work on a prototype for an atomic bomb.

The members of the commission for nanotechnology include Evraz co-owner Alexander Abramov, Severstal general director Alexei Mordashov, Rosneft head Sergei Bogdanchikov and Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin.

Little is known of the scientific capabilities of Yakunin, Mordashov and Bogdanchikov. The reader can go look up the index of academic citations for Kovalchuk on his or her own.

Soviet science was founded by idealists -- Abram Ioffe, Dmitry Rozhdestvensky and Leonid Mandelshtam -- great minds who studied in the West and returned to the Soviet Union to found scientific schools.

The Soviet Union deceived the scientists the first time, cutting them off from active scientific intercourse outside the country, after which the physicists began to run away.

It betrayed them a second time when the shootings began. At the Ukrainian Physical Technical Institute, one of the country's greatest scientific schools, three department heads were shot: Lev Shubnikov, Lev Rosenkevich and Vadim Gorsky. Both heads of the institute, Alexander Leipunsky and then Ivan Obreimov, were arrested. Two communists, the Austrian Alexander Viseberg and the German Friedrich Hautersman, were graciously handed to Adolf Hitler after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Stalin remembered the scientists when he learned of the atomic bomb. As one scientist joked darkly, the chief consequence of the atomic project was the salvation of Russian scientists.

Even when Soviet scientists put forward pioneering ideas -- in the field of radar, rockets or jet engines -- Stalin only became interested when spies informed him of similar projects in the West. Questions of technical progress were decided by the secret services and not by scientists.

The scientists were not to be trusted under any circumstances. The memoirs of scientist Anatoly Alexandrov recount a comical incident. In 1949, he was sitting up at night coating a semi-sphere of plutonium with nickel. Suddenly, a group from the secret police entered. "What are you doing," they asked. "I'm coating this semi-sphere of plutonium with nickel," he answered. "How do you know it's plutonium?" they asked.

When the Soviet Union fell, scientists fled West, while the secret police -- the ones who asked how Alexandrov knew it was plutonium -- stayed behind to rule the country.

And now they are starting up a new atomic project, improved and without the scientist. And, of course, without a bomb at the end.

What I'm afraid will be at the end are Swiss bank accounts. The scientists were unable to decide where funding would come from and where it would go. Those in charge of the nanotechnology don't suffer from this handicap. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.