ISSN 00623604, Russian Journal of Developmental Biology, 2010, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 55–58. © Pleiades Publishing, Inc., 2010.
Original Russian Text © A.T. Mikhailov, 2010, published in Ontogenez, 2010, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 66–69.
Nikolai Grigoryevich Khrushchov, Academician of the
Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor, and Doctor of
Biological Sciences passed away on April 2, 2009. This is a
sad reason indeed to recall this outstanding gentleman and
scientist whose life since 1963 was bound inextricably with
the N.K. Kol’tsov Institute of Developmental Biology
(IDB RAS), where he rose from senior researcher to direc
tor. It is more than sad for the author of these lines, as we
were friends for many years, despite our 13year difference
in age and our respective positions of rank. Our friendship
was not a matter of science (though science played an
important role) but of purely human and mutual liking.
Both we and our families were the best of friends, often
gathering at the Khrushchovs’ home or at ours to talk
about life, to joke, to listen to records of old Russian love
songs and classical jazz (though we scorned neither
BoneyM nor the songs of Alla Pugacheva), and of course
drank vodka and laughed a bit at our academic bonzes. We
always had a good time at the Khrushchovs’. It was, how
ever, only after we had emigrated that we understood what
friendship with Nikolai Grigoryevich and his charming
wife Viola Mikhailovna meant to us: we found ourselves
with nothing to fill the spiritual vacuum that formed, and
I believe Nikolai Grigoryevich and Viola Mikhailovna
experienced similar feelings. I shall allow myself to quote
an excerpt from a letter Nikolai Grigoryevich wrote to us in
Spain in 1994, since it reflects, though perhaps incom
pletely, his emotional state at that time:
ve been mean
ing for some time now to write you a long, detailed letter.
I finally sat down in front of a typewriter and realized that
even in my old age I still don
t know how to write a proper let
ter. I ask you not to judge me too harshly. In the first place, it
very dreary here without you. I think there are a lot of things
you also miss, living so far from your native “bedlam.
you have to live with hope. My hope is that we
ll sit together
once more to talk about “problems.
To reminisce. ...We
going to be electing a new director soon, and then the admin
istrative council and deputy directors. I have reasons for
wanting to leave, but Sokolov (a member of the Academy and
secretary of the Section of General Biology RAS–ATM)
t even want to hear about it. I
m also inclined to think
that my departure could damage a situation that has only just
settled down, after a fashion. Obviously, I’ll agree to “rule
for a few more years if everything isn
t settled naturally...”
I shall attempt to tell a little about Nikolai Grigo
ryevich, refracting the past through the prism of my subjec
tive memories of the man. A formal list of his works and the
stages of his scientific and pedagogical efforts, along with a
list of the posts he held, the ranks conferred on him, and
the prizes he was awarded can be found in the article dedi
cated to the 70th anniversary of his birth (
, 2002, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 236–238),
and in his obituary (
Russian Journal of Developmental Biol
, 2009, vol. 40, no. 5).
Following family traditions.
It seems to me that the his
tory of our nation, particularly since 1917, proves the well
known folk saying “oranges don’t grow on aspen” (though
the biology of Lysenko and Michurin tried to prove other
wise). In this sense, Nikolai Grigoryevich was lucky:
though he was born in 1932 (i.e., during the period when
the creatures, such as Bulgakov’s Shwonder and Sharikov,
were increasingly penetrating into all spheres of the
nation’s cultural life), he was also born into a family of
Russian intellectuals. His father, Grigorii Konstantinovich
Khrushchov, a cytologist and histologist (and subsequently
a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sci
ences), enjoyed painting and playing the violin in addition
to his scientific work. His mother, Zoya Dmitriyevna
Shostakovich (a sister of the composer Dmitrii Dmi
HISTORY OF SCIENCE
In Memory of Nikolai Grigoryevich Khrushchov:
A View from the Past
A. T. Mikhailov
Institute of Health Sciences, University of La Coruna, Spain
We are all condemned to one and the same thing: to death.
I, the writer of these lines, shall die, and you, their reader, shall die.
Our deeds shall remain, but they shall ultimately be destroyed.
Let us therefore not interfere with one another as we go about our business.
(From a letter written by Josef Brodsky to General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev.
Cited by S. Volkov in
A History of the Culture of St. Petersburg