1022-7954/04/4004- © 2004
Russian Journal of Genetics, Vol. 40, No. 4, 2004, p. 461. Translated from Genetika, Vol. 40, No. 4, 2004, p. 572.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2004 by Zakharov-Gezekhus.
The genetic community of the Soviet Union in the
1960s through 1980s is difﬁcult to imagine without
Nikolai Viktorovich Luchnik, a participant of many
conferences, conventions, and symposia, an exteremely
witty and sociable man, an original researcher and a
renown radiobiologist and cytogeneticist.
Luchnik was born on January 3, 1922. He was one
of very few (if not the only one) geneticist born in the
early 1920s: his other contemporaries were either killed
in World War 2 or destroyed by Lysenko.
The fate of Nikolai Luchnik was tragic. During the
war he happened to be on the territory occupied by
Nazi, was captured by Soviet troops, and spent in
GULAG several years. Luchnik was liberated only due
to his wit, which was a striking case. Being allegedly
among the creators of the atomic bomb, he managed to
persuade the GULAG authorities to transfer him to a
(a special prison institution leading scientiﬁc
research) in the Urals, where a team of researchers
headed by Timoffeev-Ressovsky at that time conducted
radiobiological studies. Although working in his cho-
sen specialty, Luchnik was in fact a prisoner working in
a secret institution before 1955. He was rehabilitated
only in 1962.
The 1960s and 1970s were successful, and, one
might say, even happy years in his life (if a creative and
independent person could be really happy at that time).
He defended a candidate, and then doctoral disserta-
tions, moved to the town of Obninsk where headed a
laboratory and a department, participated in several
international scientiﬁc conventions and conferences
including the International Genetic Congresses of 1968
and 1973. His life seemed comfortable and settled but
his poems of that time testify to a different frame of
mind. Here is his small poem written in 1978:
I cannot understand
Why should we poor people
Again take part in a meeting of swindlers?
–They need a quorum.
Forty years after liberation from Stalin’s GULAG,
Luchnik was hit by
den for six years and able to live only due to the self-
sacriﬁcing care of his wife, he still preserved his clear
mind and creative spirit. Many of his literary works
were dictated by him during this period. Luchnik died
on August 5, 1993.
The reviewed book (N.V. Luchnik,
, Moscow: Sputnik+, 2002) compiled by Nikolai
Luchnik’s son, A.N. Luchnik (geneticist by education)
includes a biography of Luchnik written by his wife,
N.A. Poryadkova-Luchnik, overviews of his scientiﬁc
research by T.V. Kondrashova and N.V. Glotov, a list of
his publications, Luchnik’s prosaic and poetic works,
his letters from GULAG to his mother (1944–1947),
and materials showing his as a philatelist. Thus, the
book comprehensively covers different stages of Luch-
nik’s life and shows various facets of his creative per-
Knowing Nikolai Luchnik since the 1960s, I could
for the ﬁrst time truly appreciate his literary gifts. Some
of the prosaic works included in the book as well as
some of the verses are very impressive. The ironic
The Second Game
(giving its name to the book)
is worthy to be included in the anthology of Russian
Gothic prose. The autobiographic novel
From Hell to
is a striking documentary depicting a
young man who managed to get out of GULAG only by
powers of his clever mind and imagination. Finally,
is a wise essay on human predestination
ruled by almighty God.
The book depicts a stunning picture of an unusual
and tragic life of a Russian scientist in Soviet time and
shows Luchnik’s bright and original personality to
those who did not know him.
I. A. Zakharov-Gezekhus
On Life and Work of N.V. Luchnik