Ron Peerlings shares photos, docs from the 2nd IYPT (1989)

A collection of documents and color photographs from the 2nd IYPT has been preserved by Ron Peerlings, a Dutch team member in 1989.

Ron Peerlings is now an Associate Professor in the Materials Technology Institute, Eindhoven University of Technology.

R. P. Vincent told me about your effort. I’m sure I have photographs of the trip and tournament. I’m not so sure about documents etc.

I have fond memories of the trip to Moscow — it was a fantastic experience for an 18 year old!

Included are the program, problems, some pictures and two articles published in a regional newspaper (“De Limburger”) before and after the tournament respectively.

Should you have received any other photographs of the 1989 edition, I would be very interested — I couldn’t find any on the website?

I. M. If new materials appear, I will signal to you immediately. We would be equally indebted if you know other participants who might have preserved extra materials from that time period.

So far, I don’t have any other photos that were clearly made in 1989. There is a collection of photographs from co-organizer Evgeny Yunosov (who is seen as a chairperson at photo07.jpg.) You can find all his photos here. He has a section named “1989″, but there is solid evidence that those photos were actually taken in 1990. The Bulgarian participants shared the scans of badges and diplomas, and a Belarusian participant shared one single photo where little is seen.

R. P. I do not really recognise anyone in the photographs of Dr. Yusonov, which is consistent with your statement that they may be from another year.

I. M. Yes. At the same time, more than a half of those “1989″ pictures show the people recognized by participants of the 3rd IYPT. It looks like this series of pictures were all taken at one single IYPT, but the year was put incorrectly. (Dr. Yunosov himself could neither confirm nor deny this guess, as too much time passed by.)

Can I please ask you for the detailed references to the articles in “De Limburger”? The reason is that the publishers might have their internal index and know about the IYPT-related articles covering the following years (e.g. 1990, 1991.) I tried on several occasions to directly contact publishers of such “irrelevant” newspapers, and a few times it helped to reveal extra sources.

R. P. The two cuttings from “De Limburger” are more about our participation and trip and not so much about the tournament itself. There are no dates on them, but they must have been published in the weeks before (article01) and after (article02) the tournament. “De Limburger” is a regional newspaper and I would be very surprised if they would have written about the tournament on other occasions.

I. M. As for some materials in Russian language that you can find in the Archive, there are only one or two truly relevant papers. There is a single-page newsletter in the Soviet popular physics journal “Kvant”, and one more article giving the problems. Ironically, those problems were published in August 1988 and intended for the 2nd IYPT, but then were replaced (9 out of 17 problems.) An English copy that Hans Jordens has preserved, is matching the Kvant version and is incorrect. When we now have the authentic text, it will be possible to improve my previous “reconstruction” from Russian and Czech sources. Do you have any information when this replacement might have happened?

R. P. I wasn’t aware of the replacement of problems. In fact, as far as I can remember we only received the problems upon arrival in Moscow. I distinctly remember working on them long hours during the first days of the tournament.

[An update:] It seems that I was wrong when I said we received the problems only at the spot. My notes mention that we did some preparation at home, before leaving for Moscow. However, we received the invitation only on March 12th (12 days before leaving), so there wasn’t much time to prepare. And I don’t think it was clear to us which role these problems would play in the tournament — information on the format of the tournament was scarce at the time.

As to the program, it seems that some changes were made on the spot, particularly for the foreign teams. We took part in the first round on Monday, but apparently were pardoned for those on Tuesday and Thursday and were admitted directly to the finals (on Friday). We perceived this as a change of rules which was made partially because we had so little time to prepare, but this may have been a wrong impression…

I. M. Thank you for this detail. According to the Hungarian participants, the Dutch team received the problems “on the spot” also in 1990. When compared to the today’s practice, it is a very remarkable historical curiosity (most teams now start the work on the problems well ahead of the IYPT.) One more curious historical highlight with the Dutch teams was in 1992, when they brought a laptop with a transparent LCD panel and made full-scale multimedia presentations by putting the laptop onto the overhead projector.

R. P. I wrote some notes next to the photographs. I will read them again over the next days and let you know if anything useful comes up.

I. M. Is it true that eight teams took part in the finals on Friday? Did all of these eight teams make talks in a single room?

R. P. According to my notes, there were two parallel final sessions, with four teams each. The scores obtained in them were used to construct one final ranking. The other teams on our session were Bulgaria, School 710 and Hungary.

My notes state the final result of the tournament as follows:

1. Bulgaria (score: 31.6)
2. West Germany (31.5)
3. School 710 (USSR; 31.4)
4. Odessa (USSR; 31.3)
5. Netherlands (30.8)
6. Czechoslovakia (30.7)
7. Hungary (29.4)
8. Poland (29.1)

This does not seem to be in complete agreement with the factsheet on the archive webpage. However, I honestly can’t remember how I got hold of these scores, so your sources might well be more accurate.

I. M. There is qualitative agreement with the other sources (Bulgaria, West Germany and School 710 on the top; Finals held with all non-Soviet and two Soviet teams; eight teams in total at the “International Rounds”.) I easily imagine that there were many last-minute changes in the regulations, and that the entire IYPT was in its test phase.

As for the factsheet: that data is not from a single official document released by the organizers. It shows a reconstruction from various accounts and personal recollections. It is open for corrections, if necessary. (When I started the project, there was zero information available within the community about the first few years of the IYPT.)

Many thanks for keeping safe and sharing the ranking! Basically, we now have a direct record made by a first-hand participant at the actual stages of the IYPT. I believe such a record must be more reliable than anything else.

Many thanks for keeping safe and sharing the ranking! Basically, we now have a direct record made by a first-hand participant at the actual stages of the IYPT. I believe such a record must be more reliable than anything else. Can we please ask you to kindly scan your handwritten ranking? This will be a solid “primary source” on the results of the 2nd IYPT. We would be very glad to have it in the collection as an “artifact”, and to rely on it in the future.

R. P. I have attached a scan of my notes of the final ranking of the tournament.

I. M. Can I please also check one more detail with you : was Hans Jordens attending the event, or he just contributed to arranging your trip?

R. P. Hans Jordens did not join us to Moscow; in fact I think I have never met him. He invited our school to participate in the tournament because as a school we obtained the highest scores in the national physics olympiad. So the five (student) members of our team were from one school (Bisschoppelijk College Weert) and were the highest-ranked participants from that school. Two of our physics-teachers accompanied us and their spouses came along as well (at their own cost). You can see all Dutch persons present in photo08.jpg, from left to right: Patrick Veldhuis, Trees Raassens (partner of Willem Bouwman), Gertie Starmans (partner of Ad Molenaars), Wim van Geloven, Ad Molenaars (teacher), Jolanda van Deurzen, Vincent Verouden, Ron Peerlings, Willem Bouwman (teacher).

I. M. Many thanks for your efforts and this great input on the 2nd IYPT These are just incredible materials and recollections.

That IYPT 1989 was the first truly international and properly organized event, as in 1988 there were only two non-Soviet teams who came to Moscow (and it looks like the things were tested ad-hoc in 1988.) Quite surprisingly, the IYPT has evolved now into a very serious event (iypt.org.) Therefore, it is especially interesting and important for us to know the origins.

R. P. Good to hear that my scans are useful to you. I forgot to mention that the text written on the program is a loose translation of it. Hope this is of some use!

R. P. scanned and shared the documents between October 13 and October 30, 2011.

Interview with Grigory Kopelevich, Vasily Shabat, and Alexander Yablonskiy on 2nd IYPT; documents on 2nd, 5th IYPTs from Grigory Kopelevich

Grigory Kopelevich, Vasily Shabat, and Alexander Yablonskiy, members of the silver-winning Soviet team from Moscow School 710 at the 2nd IYPT, confirm several details of the event. Valuable original records of 2nd and 5th IYPTs are shared by Grigory Kopelevich.

Grigory Kopelevich is now the Moscow Office Head at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Vasily Shabat is now CEO of Tilbi, a Russian startup IT company. Alexander Yablonskiy is now a theoretical researcher in semiconductor nanosctructures at the General Physics Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow.

Download: official Decree, with attachments, On the results of the 2nd International and all-Soviet Young Physicists’ Tournament, 1989, No. 440, issued by USSR’s State Committee on Public Education on May 29, 1989, signed by First Deputy Head, USSR’s Minister V. D. Shadrikov (pdf, also as separate images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

Download: four-page English text of the problems for the 5th IYPT (1992), prepared by Russian organizing committee in 1992, and preserved by G. K. as a LOC activist (pdf, also as separate images: 1, 2, 3, 4.)

I. M. There are ongoing doubts about the problems for 1989. What published in Kvant in Summer 1988, differs seriously from the later problem sets, where 9 out of 17 problems are fully replaced. Can you possibly shed more light on the problems used at the final rounds in 1989?

G. K. I agree that in 1989, the Kvant problems were not the ultimate ones. What is published in Czech language looks correct – I reported personally problems on Clock and Rainbow, that are missing in Kvant.

V. Sh. I am affraid I did not preserve any of original records. What I remember are several problems that our team was solving (but I do not remember what was solved for the Finals, and what for the selective Moscow rounds.)

  1. Does the Noon match with the moment when the Sun is at a highest point above the Horizon, and if no, what is the time lag?
  2. What should be the properties of a board fence so that objects behind the fence are visible from a car driving nearby?
  3. How to measure the speed of a metro train in an arbitrary point between the stations Universitet and Prospekt Vernadskogo?
  4. How much information does a color map of the World contain?

A. Ya. I am still in contact with my teammates and competitors, e.g. with Alexander Dunaevsky, who now resides and works in Germany, so I should ask them if they have preserved anything. The only thing I can say for sure, is that I was solving this problem No. 313, Electron.

G. K. Possibly, some additional materials might have been kept at our School 710, but the team of physics teachers changed much since that time.

I. M. There is a source reporting that the second place, or silver, was awarded to an unidentified Soviet team. Do you possibly remember, if that was your team, or Odessa?

V. Sh. As far as I remember, it was us. Actually, we won the Soviet pre-selection (when competing to Moscow School 18 and MEPhI’s school 542) and then passed to the International Finals that were, by the way, far less tense and passionate than the Soviet finals.

G. K. As far as I remember, our Experimental Secondary School 710 of the USSR’s Academy of Pedagogical Sciences was awarded with some sort of a Cup, for the victory at the all-Soviet YPT. It is actually correct that our team was ranked second at the International part of the Tournament (while the 1st place was taken by Bulgaria, as I suspect.)

You possibly know that the most successful participants of YPT-1989 were allowed to join any science- or technology-oriented university in USSR (an institute or a university proper) without inscription examinations. There was a list of people who got this right.

I. M. If I am not mistaken, the International Finals in 1989 were hosted in Russian, but the West German team had special interpreters.

V. Sh. Everything was positively held in Russian only. I do not remember who, and in what way, provided interpretation.

I. M. Did you possibly preserve any original materials from the event?

G. K. The diploma was taken back by the head of YPT, Evgeny Nikolaevich Yunosov. It was necessary to issue an ID to be enrolled to Moscow State University without examinations, and I never saw it again.

I attach all YPT-related materials I found at my place. I just noticed in your blog that you have already seen the badge and the cover for the diplomas.

For an unknown reason, I have preserved the problems for the 5th International YPT – I remember that as a university student I was assisting Yunosov in arranging at least two YPTs, and possibly the 5th IYPT was among them.

I. M. Were these problems published in a booklet, or are just a separate handout?

G. K. Problems for the 5th IYPT, as they are in my copy, are printed from both sides on a single sheet of paper. I don’t have the book itself (I was participating then as an organizer or volunteer.) I recall also that I was promoting the problem on the Hopfield Model to be included into the set (but I am not the author of the problem as such.)

I will let you know if I find anything else. Thank you for an unexpected message and the interest in the YPT history.

I. M. Many thanks.

The interview and the exchange of materials were undergone on December 3-6, 2010.

Interview with Rumen Bachev and Stefan Piperov on 1st and 2nd IYPTs

Rumen Bachev and Stefan Piperov, early Bulgarian participants at 1st IYPT (1988) and 2nd IYPT (1989), unveil details and shed much light on the events. Remaining still unclear is the status of the 1st IYPT, and if a formal international ranking has been announced in early April 1988.

Rumen Bachev (b. 1971 in Sofia, Bulgaria) graduated in 1994 from Sofia University and earned his PhD from the Institute of Astronomy in Sofia in 2003. He works currently at the University of Alabama and at the Institute of Astronomy, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Stefan Piperov (b. ca. 1971) graduated in 1995 from Sofia University and got a PhD in High Energy Physics from Humboldt University, Germany. He now works between Fermilab, CERN, and the Institute for Nuclear Research and Nuclear Energy, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Download: Young Physicists’ Tournament: regulations and problems for 10th Moscow, the all-Soviet and the International Young Physicists’ Tournaments (Moscow, 1988), a 18-page booklet in Russian photocopied from sheets printed with mechanical typewriter, provided by Soviet organizing committee in 1988, and preserved by Rumen Bachev (pdf.)

I. M. A recently traced paper in Gift. Tal. Int’l gives your names as a Bulgarian participants in 1989, winning gold at the competition.

R. B. Indeed, I participated in the Young Physicists Tournament some 20 years ago! Actually I was a part of the Bulgarian team twice – in 1988 and 1989 (can’t be sure for the months). The second time we indeed won a gold medal, together with another foreign team (forgot which one). So, it will be a pleasure to answer your questions, as long as I can remember the details.

S. P.Yes, I was one of the participants in the Bulgarian team of IYPT both in 1988 and 1989 (and was probably even the captain of the team :)

I. M. It is fantastic that you were participants in 1988, because while some details are known for 1989, the 1988 still looks very obscure. Did you possibly preserve problems, notes, diplomas or photographs from the 1988 and 1989 events?

R. B. Yes, I believe I did. Let see when I return back home. Photographs I keep for sure.

S. P. Unfortunately I do not have any photos of the events, but my classmates and friends from the team surely keep some still. I’ll ask them.

I. M. Could you suggest if you remember on your diplomas or elsewhere the IYPT logo with horses and knights? I am checking when the logo was re-drawn into the version that it commonly used today.

R. B. I remember the logo and think it was present since the beginning (1988). But will double check.

I. M. Were you preparing any visual aids for your reports, like paper posters or transparencies, in 1988 and 1989?

R. B. I guess there were posters (not transparencies) but can’t be positive.

I. M. According to your impressions, most reports at the YPT were theoretical or there were many teams performing good experiments?

R. B.There were both but don’t remember many details.


S. P. In 1988 there was no formal competition in Bulgaria. It was only our team formed – for a very first time – in our “very special” high school, that participated straight into the finals in Moscow. There, we were not part of the “official” ranking, since we did not participate in the earlier – National – rounds. Nevertheless we played against the other team as equals. Just were rakned separately. If memory serves me right, we were the winners of the “international” part of the competition. There was an official winner of the “regular” competition, which was from a Moscow school, I believe, but I do not remember the name.

I. M. Can you suggest if you know people who represented Bulgaria in 1988, the year before you? (Unlike 1989, even winners for 1988 are uncertain.)

R. B. Ok, let see. Some of the people participating both years were:

  • Me – Rumen Bachev
  • Stefan Piperov
  • Nikolay Nikolov

Other people attending once or twice (can’t be sure):

  • Georgy Ognianov
  • Chavdar Chavdarov
  • Ivaylo …

.. perhaps somebody else. I can’t be sure, though, which year the other guys attended the Tournament. Two other people were with us – our physics teacher Liudmil Vasilev and another “Komsomol” guy – Jan Videnov, who later became a prime minister of Bulgaria for some time.

In 1988, I believe, we – perhaps as foreign guests – were not officially graded, so an USSR team must had been be the winner.

I. M. The experience of your team is extremely interesting. When you first heard of the IYPT, and how did your team organize preparation?

R. B. Can’t say for sure. In the school perhaps. We were studying in a high-level physics and math-oriented high school, so the first year they just picked up some people from our physics class. During the second year there was, however, a competition between several schools. We won and attended again.

I. M. Were you speaking Russian or English at the competition?

R. B. Russian. Some of the other foreign teams (Hungary, Austria, I believe) had interpreters.

I. M. What problem did your team report at the Finals, if you have participated at any?

R. B. I can’t be sure. When I check what I preserved I might have some more clear ideas about the problems.

I. M. There is a brochure published in 1996 which says (page 9) that in 1988 the gold winner was “USSR”, the silver winner was “USSR-Latvia”, while Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia won bronze.

R. B. This for sure is not correct, as long as our team is concerned. We did not participate in the final grading and won no medals.

I. M. This source also says that in 1988 there were 4 teams from 3 countries.

R. B. As I recall there indeed were only a few international teams (probably 2) and many other USSR teams.

I. M. I found and contacted two years ago with Yury Yufryakov, who represented a team from Moscow School 542 and (plausibly) was a winner among Soviet teams in 1988. By that time I was still unaware of the Czech paper and only had some late hearsay accounts. Yury is strongly convinsed that there was no international competition at all, and meetings with non-Soviet teams were like “friendly sessions”. Despite that, there were some accounts which claimed that Yury’s team was “a gold winner in 1988″, which Yury strongly disagrees with.

R. B. I fully agree with him.

I. M. I need to explain why I dig that much into details of 1988. There were many articles published in late 1990s where information on 1988-1992 appeared questionable and unreliable. For example, there are sources claiming that the winners in 1988 were Poland and Soviet Union.

R. B. Again, that is not correct. There might have been competition between the Soviet teams, but no international team participated in the grading.

I. M. Andrzej Nadolny (Polish teamleader in 1989) convinced me that there was no Polish team at all in 1988.

R. B. I would also say so, but can’t be positive.

I. M. Can you suggest if Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia were indeed the only teams outside USSR in 1988? (We really need to double check this information.)

R. B. Quite possible. I remember we were not the only foreign team at that time, but there were very few, perhaps two. Can’t be positive about Czechs though.

I. M. Can you confirm that the problems published in Kvant in August 1987 were in fact what you were discussing at the event?

S. P. Going through the excellent compilation of links that you’ve sent, I can say that I fully recognize the set of Problems for 1988. I remember very well our team building the “vechpriemnik” in two versions: one that used solar power and a tiny piezzo-speaker driven by an ingenuitive FM-radio, and another powered by a hand-crank generator. Also – the rest of the problems I recall pretty well. I myself worked extensively on the 4-color TV (problem #8), and Nikolay Nikolov made several excellent early-morning photos of the Sun for the Sunset Problem (#7).

I. M. Do you know if any articles on Bulgarian participation were published in Bulgarian journals?

R. B. Not that I know of.

I. M. Can you suggest that in 1988 and/or in 1989 your team played together with more-than-few Soviet teams throughout all selective stages? For 1989, the paper in Kvant suggests that possibly there was a pre-selection among Soviet teams before they could join “international” rounds and play with your team. For 1988, it is not very clear.

R. B. Can’t be positive, but we probably participated throughout the selective stages. However a pre-selection among the Soviet teams might have existed.

I. M. I contacted in September 2009 with Igor Nosov, who represented a team from Ashgabat. He recalls playing and discussing incandenscent bulbs with a Bulgarian team just at the selective fights.

R. B. This I remember for sure, we had to compete with someone on this problem.

I. M. Would it be possible to kindly ask you to have a look on the interview with Yury Yufryakov to detect mistakes or inaccuracies? Do you possibly remember opposing or reviewing his computer-aided report on the Ninth Wave?

R. B. He is very specific and shares many details that I can’t recall much about. No, I have no memories on the 9-th wave problem competition even if I believe was the one to work mostly on this problem.

S. P. Going through the photos on your page, I can certainly recognize this person. He was one of the organizers, wasn’t he? Unfortunately I cannot recall his name.

I. M. Yes, his name is Evgeny Yunosov and he was the key organizer of the event, often credited as also the author of the IYPT concept.


S. P. In 1989, there was a National round in Bulgaria, which our team – only slightly modified from the year before – won, and then went to the Finals in Moscow, where we won the gold.

I. M. Concerning the 1989, there is a detailed paper on 1989, confirming that you won gold together with the German team.

R. B. It is quite possible the second team was the german one.

I. M. The problems for 1989 were published in August 1988, and even translated into English for (at least) the Dutch team, as Hans Jordens informed me. However, there is now some evidence that the problems were changed in the very last moment, with 9 tasks fully replaced. Do you recollect the problems and could you comment on this point?

R. B. I must have at home the original problems that we had to prepare in advance. If I recall correctly at some point we were told that we shouldn’t prepare all the problems but only a part of them. In any case not all the problems from the journal look familiar to me, but all of those I remember are there. Except for one, perhaps, about the highest altitude a mosquito can fly.

S. P. The problems from 1989 also [as for 1988] seem very familiar – from beginning to end.
I remember working on the “Figuryj Hladni (#5), Soap bubble (#6), Flash (#13) and Triboluminscence (#14), and also on “Information” (#16). And, to answer you concern, I can say that the version in Kvnat is what
we prepared for. I do not see any discrepancies.

S. P. I will gladly answer your further questions, if you have any, since the Tournament still holds a special place in my heart, so many years later!

I. M. Many thanks for your very detailed and helpful answers! Your corrections and commentaries are among very few first-hand sources on 1988 that we have. The brochure scanned by Rumen is great (there are detailed regulations, description etc., all we have never saw before)!

S. P. I want to include [in the correspondence] our then teacher and later professor in the University, who organized our participation in the Tournament – Prof. Ljudmil Vassilev from Sofia University. I’m CC’ing him, so that you can have his email for further questions. By the way, when I saw him lately, he was preparing a young new team from Bulgaria for this year’s edition of the ITYP (T.Yu.F.), so perhaps he
can bring in some fresh news ;)

Artifacts from Rumen Bachev’s private archive

The interview with Rumen Bachev was primarily taken on March 19-20, 2010. The interview with Stefan Piperov was primarily taken on April 10-12, 2010. Updates, fact checking, and document scanning by Rumen Bachev, were completed between October 6 and October 25, 2010.

Interview with Eldar Sadykhov on YPTs of 1989-1991

1989, 1990, 1991, Historical IYPT interviews — ilyamartch @ 1:53 pm

>Details on YPT activities of one of the enthusiastic Soviet teams in 1989-1991, are shared by Eldar Sadykhov, team captain from Moscow School 18 in 1990.

E.S. I am very pleased to receive from you such a message from the past! Yes, I indeed was a participant at the all-Soviet, and then at the International Tournaments. Sergei Dmitrievich Varlamov was indeed the team leader. Our team in 1989-1990 included:

  • Sergei Dmitrievich Varlamov, leader
  • Myself, captain
  • Sergei Romanchuk (after graduating from university he worked, and possibly still works in Metallinvestbank, as one of the top executives there)
  • Anatoly Savchenkov (he studied at the Department of Physics, MSU, then worked in Braginsky’s group on resonators for a large Americal interferometer, left for America, works in science)
  • Pavel Mikheev (I lost the contact with him, I know he was from Stary Oskol, Belgorodskaya Oblast)

I remember a few details on the team from Physico-Mathematical School 18 of previous season, 1988-1989:

  • Andrei Vladimirovich Belov, leader
  • Nikolai Koblyakov (he later was an owner of a large company that was either record label, either CD producer)

The other year, the team of School 18 (possibly renamed into SUNC MGU then) included

  • Sergei Romanchuk, captain
  • Sergei Dmitrievich Varlamov as the team leader again

I don’t remember further details, as 20 years passed by. I suddenly found contacts of Sergei Romanchuk, who was the captain of the team that followed the mine in the next year (I think it was already called SUNC MGU.) He has seemingly even preserved some photographs from that time.

You certainly know that the Tournament was led by Evgeny Nikolaevich Yunosov. I am always pleased to recall my early years!

Eldar Sadykhov was born on September 14, 1973 in Fryazino. He entered the Physico-Mathematical School 18 in Moscow in 1988, developing a keen interest in astronomy. He works now at Art-Navigator, a web studio in Moscow.

Eldar summed up his YPT experience in an autobiography published in March 2006, “I got fascinated by an interesting game, Young Physicists’ Tournament. Something in between of Physics Olympiads and a team game in defending diploma on a given theme. My interest meant that I become the captain of the boarding school’s team. And we won at the all-Soviet competition. In both personal and team score. This helped me a lot, because as winners, we were awarded with papers that allowed going with no examinations to any physical or mathematical university in the country. Without that we would never be capable of writing essays at entry examinations – Oblomov, Goncharov, Pushkin – impossible… And like that I – immediately – appeared at the… Department of Physics, Moscow State University.”

The interview was primarily taken on October 16 and November 26, 2009.

Essay by Dmitry Runge, cover, interview with Evgeny Yunosov in Komsomolskaya Zhizn (December 1989)

Komsomolskaya Zhizn, the Soviet Komsomol’s bi-weekly magazine, featured in December 1989 a 5-page essay on the troubles of Soviet secondary educational system, the Young Physicists’ Tournament and the first all-Soviet School-Session for Young Talents in Ufa, where in August 1989 author Dmitry Runge approached and interviewed Evgeny Yunosov, devoting most of the essay to the interview and related discussion. The issue (No. 23, 1989) featured two of Yunosov’s photographs by Nikolai Kononov on its cover, and credited Yunosov not only as the YPT initiator, but also as the “Founder” of novel educational ideas in USSR.

Komsomolskaya Zhizn was founded in 1920. By December 1989, it circulated in 1 175 000 copies and cost 10 Soviet kopecks.

Download: original paper and cover, in Russian (pdf.)

Shh, Duma assembled

School today and tomorrow

Oh, oh! It was too late to repel a bee, and a reddish spot was swelling on the left hand. Here sounded a question that the host posed to the audience,

“What should you do, when a bee bit you?”

I did not wait until participants of a chemical victorine find the answer to this casual and very actual for me question.

“The alkaline medium is needed to neutralize the poison.” Team leader of young chemists, associate professor at Bashkir State University Natalya Anatolyevna Amineva chose among many others, one test-tube on which the formula NH4OH was derived, mysterious for me, outsider. (This is when you should regret that you forgot everything you learned in chemistry at school.) “Yes, this is common ammonia water. You can also treat the bite with a weak solution of washing soda. And the details of relevant properties of ammonia are in the section ‘Nitrogen’ of B. V. Nekrasov’s Bases of General Chemistry.”

The Chem-Show-89 then switched to the final stage. “A chemical tale with explosions and other effects” started and continued until “Dose 1” (20h00) and later until “Precipitation” (00h00), as supper and sleeping time were marked in schedule in the newspaper CHLOR (standing for Chemists are Curious and Wit Guys.)

A Chemists’ Day was coming to end at the pioneer’s camp Alye Parusa. There were others Days for physicists and mathematicians, geologists and ecologists, young space researchers, and certainly common to everybody, the Day of Bashkiria. Almost 250 children, representing different republics, regions and oblasts of the country, were attracted in August to the first all-Soviet School-Session for Young Talents, held near Ufa.

Digression on a topic

Do you know what the chairmen of the State Committee on National Education G. A. Yagodin was most afraid of, when he just became the minister (then, of the Ministry of Higher Education)? You will not believe it! He was afraid of… visitors.

“They do not know how to add unit fractions, but they very actively fight for their rights”, Gennady Alexeyevich shared his view with journalists soon after the February 1988 Plenum of Soviet Communist Party Central Committee where the questions of educational reform were discussed. “You ask a visiting girl (who came certainly with her mom) with a complaint about “not letting her” to a history department, when Lenin was born, and you hear “applicant’s” puzzled silence in response. This is not a private, but a social trouble. When trying to improve secondary education, we received a pseudo-secondary one.

Yes, the years of stagnation, did influence here as well. The prestige of intelligence, knowledge, teacher’s authority, especially in rural areas, fell (“My girlfriend can be anyone, but not that teacher”.) A half of educated teachers, people who got the pedagogy education, do not work in their specialization, spread across the country and can be found anywhere, but not in schools. An intelligence did not receive sufficient moral and material support in the society. Indeed, why to cultivate, starting from school, the ability and need to think independently, if the System itself not only left these qualities non-required, but sometimes cruelly suppressed dissidence, trying to “hold at a proper level” the ideological dogmas that came to crude contradiction with life.

Here they are cultivated, those numerous bighead and extremely self-satisfied “know-something” people, which are much more dangerous for the society than “know-nothing” people, according to G. A. Yagudin himself.

“A know-nothing-person will never take courage to solve what he doesn’t know. But the one who assumes that he knows something, will take such a courage.

There from come Chernobyl and others, not so global, catastrophes of the recent years; a “know-something” just assumed that he knew what to do. And is our catastrophic (I cannot call it otherwise) lag behind developed capitalist countries in terms of labor efficiency in industrial and agricultural segments, only a sequence of laxity and shortage of enthusiasm? No way, the point is in the smart, intelligent part of labor.

Should it be said in such conditions that the demand for talents is a social and even political demand from society. Hopefully, we start ourselves to gradually understand that large investments into education will improve the situation in the country.

On the history of the question

For E. N. Yunosov, the laboratory chief at the Physics of Oscillations division at the Department of Physics, Moscow State University, and also to all his associates, this year may be called anniversary.

Exactly a decade ago, in 1979, was held the first in the Union, Young Physicists’ Tournament, shortly YPT. Only 7 Moscow schools took then part in it, the perspectives looked dim, and no one thought of YPT to enter the international arena, even Evgeny Nikolaevich himself, who spearheaded the movement as the Founder (as he is now referred to.)

Today in Moscow alone, there are above 40 scientific groups of school students, enthusiasts of the Tournament. Several all-Soviet and two International YPTs have been held, and an Organizing Committee is created for preparing the Third one, to participation in which are invited the teams of Bulgaria, Hungary, Holland, Poland, FRG, and the Soviet Union.

“In comparison to the traditional Olympiads (individual contests of students), the Tournament is a collective and a long-lasting form of work, which quite accurately models all stages in a real scientific research: establishing the problem, choosing the solution method, obtaining a scientific result, and discussing it”, recounts E. N. Yunosov. “A further advantage of the Tournament is that it does not expose a child to a shock stressful impact, as it happens at Olympiads, when, in a few hours, one has to extract out of himself everything he has earlier learned.

How is the Tournament held? Everything starts with a Correspondence competition. In August, the physico-mathematical journal for children Kvant publishes the problems. I should note, very tricky problems, as none of them has a finite numerical solution. A school student, a teacher, a university undergraduate, a research institute can fight over such questions as, e.g. how much jam should Karlsson eat not to get thinner during the flight, or why draughts happen (if one thinks of what does the Hydrometeorological Service perform, they end up with measuring draughts of a global scale.) All of them will obtain a respectable result at each own level.

At the stage of Correspondence competition, creative teams of children are formed (and they can be created not only in schools, but also on the basis of out-of-curriculum entities, everywhere where enthusiasts exist.) When working, students use reference literature and the assistance of teachers.

The solutions for problems are discussed at Physics Fights in the form of scientific debates, in which a very active participation is taken by the seniors – university undergraduates, PhD students and university scientists. The Physics Fights are most commonly held with the scheme of “Reporter-Opponent-Reviewer”, and teams consequently present themselves in each of these roles.

The last stage is the Finals: the Final Physics Fight, the introduction of teams and jurors, the contests for Captains and Observers, the determination of winners. Everyone – and this is principal! – is invited to the Finals, which is most often turned into a bright, memorable physics festival.

Roughly the same scheme is used at the city-wide, the regional, the Republican and the all-Soviet tournaments: children send to respectful Organizing Committees the solutions for correspondence contests , and they choose the most original ones and invite participants.

I will not speak now in more details of the structure, features and regulations for holding a YPT, as any school can request them from the Organizing Committee (address: Moscow, GSP, Moscow State University, Department of Physics, YPT Organizing Committee.) Besides, the advices for participants and organizers are placed in Nos. 8 of Kvant in 1987 and 1988. I can tell only what is recognized officially (including the decision of the International Consultation Meeting): the Tournament is an effective form of searching and supporting the talented youth.”

“It can be developed not only with regards to physics, but practically to all areas of science and technology. To ‘flop’ Tournaments to other sectors of knowledge and entire spheres of human activity, e.g. the exploration of outer space, is one of the main tasks of our School-Session”, says Lyudmila Ermolaeva, an instructor from Komsomol’s Central Committee.

Democracy Camp

This is how children themselves called Alye Parusa.

We were having a discussion in the Pioneer’s lounge, where rooster Petrusha was walking with dignity.

“He lives here”, children shed light to my silent question. “Petrusha was to be awarded as a prize at the national Bashkir fest Sabantui, but it was felt sorry to prepare a Kulesh from it, so it was settled here. We normally hold all entertainment events in the afternoon. And after breakfast, there are lectures and seminars.”

Lecturers from Moscow and Bashkir State Universities, other leading universities, undergraduates and PhD students worked in the camp with school students who were winners at all-Soviet Young Physicists’ Tournaments, republican and regional specialized Olympiads. “Motion and design of rockets”, “Types of expendable launch systems”, practice with a movable map of night sky, work on computers, all that is the schedule for just one day and just for one group (young researchers of space), as copied in travel notebook.

“That’s a pity that you visit us for such a short time. On the 20th, there’s a Cosmonautics Day in the camp. We will feed everyone with genuine space food – from sealed packets and tubes. As early as in April, we came to an agreement with Biryulevo experimental plant in Moscow. They say, it is fantastically tasty, especially nuts with dried plums”, said deputy director of Ufa city pioneer’s palace Galina Streltsova.

I did not unfortunately try space delicatessen, but did manage to see how much have the organizers of the unusual School made for children.

In the “Duma Assembly” (the seminar building in the camp), there were modern computers, and the videocafe in Alye Parusa did not see shortage of visitors. Lyuda Ermolaeva asked me to name the main sponsors responsible for that, among them Ufa city centers for scientific and technical creativity of the youth Ritm and center for scientific and technical service Faktor, that I have the pleasure to do. I think however, that the main sponsor of the School became the enthusiasm of all its participants and organizers. The one about which we sometimes speak with a note of irony, for an unknown reason.

“We are treated with an abstract respect”, sadly confirmed the Vice-President of the Organizing Committee of International YPT E. N. Yunosov. “The seniors who came here are mainly non-mainstream individuals, addicts of enthusiastic work with students.”

(I can say in parenthesis that Evgeny Nikolaevich himself, and most instructors send to Alye Parusa on business trip from Komsomol’s Cenrtal Committee, were on personal holidays and received here no money.)

“Bosses at work gave up with many of us”, continued Yunosov. “Certainly, the enthusiasts are not convenient for local and regional bureaus of national education that still want instructions and order lists. Just imagine: a teacher abandoned his lessons and went with his team to a Tournament!”

I ask Evgeny Nikolaevich of what should be done to change the situation, rearrange the mechanism of work with talented teenagers, and I write down his

Founder’s monologue

In May, the USSR State Committee on National Education hosted a special collegium focused on the work with talented youth. It was decided to develop such a work, but it is so far not at all clear how exactly to do it. The obstacle is not the question of money itself. There was an example given at the collegium: out of 18 million rubles granted to schools in the previous academic year to develop out-of-curriculum work, only 2 million were spent. I am convinced, as a matter of fact, that a united governmental system for searching and supporting young talents is required. Until it is not existent, we cannot avoid the spontaneous and accidental character of many processes.

For example, we have ourselves learned to reveal talented youth through various forms: the same Tournaments, Olympiads, School-Sessions, and others. But how can we speak of a serious effect from a science conference for the students, if even the list of participants is not traceable a year later? That is why a coordination center should exist, a “bank manager” having all the necessary information available for the interested parties. Such a center can, let say, function within the country’s State Committee on Education. If we have gained an experience, the center could support the project immediately with people, money, and promotion. Each child should also understand that his achievements are not disappearing, but are somewhere recorded.

And certainly, the work with school students should become prestigious and highly-paid. For how long, indeed, we will recognize only on words, that investments into youth are the society’s investments into their own tomorrow?

See Americans who decided several years ago that they are doing badly with space programs, and that some new ideas were needed. They created an association for young astronauts, and just in a year hosted a summer school for 40 000 participants. They have found from somewhere both the abandoned venues, spacesuits for children, simulators, centrifuges, and gravitational models. What do we have? Several spacesuits are brought for several days here to Ufa, and boys could wear them. But is that an impetus for immediately becoming a cosmonaut? Are you becoming a general if you wear a general’s uniform?

Needless to say, we lag behind for I don’t know how many years, even in manufacturing simplest school equipment. Even here, in Alye Parusa (despite everyone has an accreditation badge, like at “adult” symposiums), children do not have laboratories, and opportunities for experiments in physics and chemistry are limited. However, things are moving. Together with Komsomol’s Central Committee, we are thinking of the Second all-Soviet…”

We put here the points of ellipsis. Let these points be optimistic. You remember the Grin’s Alye Parusa, scarlet sails, that Assol suddenly saw above a snow-white ship after waiting for many years. It is a symbol of hope.

Dmitry Runge,

Special Staff Reporter for Komsomolskaya Zhizn


Interview with Ilya Mashkov on 3rd IYPT, YPT trips to UK and Czechoslovakia

>Ilya Mashkov was the captain of the team from Moscow School 542 winning gold at the 3rd IYPT in June 1990. He took part in the IYPT-related visit to Czechoslovakia in summer 1989 and to Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge in July 1990. He now shares rare photographs and papers, and sheds much light on organizational details and results of YPT-related events in 1989-1990.

Ilya Mashkov graduated in 1996 from Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. He leads today Mezonproekt, an architectural engineering bureau in Moscow, founded in 2000.

Trip to Czechoslovakia

I.M. Konstantin Yufryakov recalled that in 1989 you went to Czechoslovakia, possibly with your team leader Vladimir Alminderov. Can you describe the journey?

I.Mash. Yunosov also went there with us. That was a Summer School. We had several Physics Fights with Czechs, but not in the framework of Young Physicists’ Tournament as such. A Czech team was there, but they did not take everything very seriously. There was one or two Physics Fights, and some Czech professors read us lectures in physics.

I.M. Where exactly was this School held?

I.Mash. I preserved some slides and photographs that I filmed there, possibly even on color reversal films. I certainly remember there was a mountain called Certovka, as I was intrigued by the name. It was held in a small mountain hotel.

I.M. After some searches, I can suggest that it this Certova hora was near Harrachov, in northern Czechoslovakia (http://certova-hora.ceskehory.cz/.) Was that Zdenek Kluiber who hosted your delegation in Czechoslovakia?

I.Mash. May be. Yunosov should remember that. All I remember, is that the Czech person who arranged our trip was of large constitution type.

Trip to United Kingdom

I.Mash. We went to England as well, still on the basis of activities with Young Physicists’ Tournament. It was introduced as a school exchange, but we went there, and they did not came to us, in turn. A local paper, Cambridge Evening News, published a paper about us, called Moscow Perspective on the Western Way, and I preserved a copy.

I.M. When exactly did you go to England?

I.M. It is not easy to recall. I only remember we had blue service passports, issued by the Ministry of Education. We went from Moscow to Berlin on train, then took a train to Ostend in Belgium where took a ferry to Dover, and there we went to London again by train. We were picked up and went to Cambridge by car.

I.M. Yunosov went there with you?

I.Mash. Yunosov, Aminderov and Nikolaev went there. Nikolaev later worked in Cambridge, if I am not mistaken.

3rd IYPT in 1990

I.M. When you were first acquainted with the Tournament?

I.Mash. I came to School 542 in autumn 1988 and graduated in 1990, studying there for two years. All that time we were playing in the YPT. We had a Physics Theoretical Seminar, held by Alminderov. It was organized around the Tournament, and we took part in all important competitions, making journeys with the team as well. Already by 1989 we were active participants.

I.M. Can you suggest if you have taken part in the Tournament held in April 1989 in Olympiets?

I.Mash. What I clearly remember is the Tournament held in Olympiets, where we played in the Finals with teams from Riga and from the Netherlands.

I.M. If I am not mistaken, that might have been in 1990, because in 1989 the winners were from Germany and Bulgaria.

I.Mash. At the Tournament that I remember, there was no Bulgarians at all. There were the teams from the Netherlands, from Moscow School 18, possibly from Fryazino. But possibly there was no Fryazino there, as I might confuse that event with the Summer School in Protvino. But I hope to have preserved the notes, and may possibly trace more details. I recall as well a team from Crimea, Simferopol as an active participant in those years.

During that event, we played in the Finals with the Dutch and the Riga teams, and ended up as winners. I remember a girl from the Netherlands, Ietje Penninga, and a boy from Riga. We all were seen on photographs made at the competition.

I.M. Konstantin says your team went to Tbilisi in February 1990.

I.Mash. We went there, and it was warm outside. In fact, we were in Tbilisi twice. The first time, there were Physics Fights at the Tbilisi State University, and all was organized quite seriously. Good scientists were team leaders, and the Georgian team was quite strong. The second time, there was a Summer School. By the way, in the end of 1990 or even 1991, I also accompanied the team of School 542 to Summer School in Protvino, where Physics Fights were held as well, but that time I was a team leader and helped the team.

I.M. Who were your team members at the 3rd IYPT?

I.Mash. Here is the team list:

  • Ilya Mashkov, captain
  • Alexei Pechenkin
  • Fedor Sigaev
  • Kostya Yufryakov
  • Sergei Volkov (who was a replacement member and did not solve any problems)
  • Sasha Fedotov (I am not perfectly sure, as he was a year younger and might possibly have not been in the main team, I will verify that.)

Sasha Fedotov was the team captain of Physico-Mathematical School 542 in 1991.

If you are interested,

I.M. There are recent accounts from Ashgabat participant Igor Nosov that a combined Soviet team played at the 3rd IYPT as well. Can you corroborate or deny that?

I.Mash. It is possible that a combined Soviet team was there. If so, it was a third team from the Soviet Union.

I.M. Konstantin Yufryakov suggests that the Tournament, where you won in the Finals with Riga and Dutch teams, was in June 1990. Can you confirm that?

I.Mash. June 1990 is very probable. We had graduation exams from school that time, and I remember that I could avoid writing essay in Russian language. If it was held in Summer, then 1990 is very probable. We were awarded with certificates allowing admission to any Soviet university without examinations. My certificate had number 3 or number 4.

I.M. Can you recall what problem did you report?

I.Mash. It would be difficult, because there were so many Physics Fights. By the way, do you know where might be now the wonderful historical rheostat?

I.M. You mean, the rheostat that was the prize at the Tournaments? I have no idea where it is now.

I.Mash. It served as the Challenge Cup of the Tournament. It was made in the beginning of the 20th Century and came from an old laboratory of Moscow State University. Bronze plaques of the winning teams were glued onto it. We made our own engraving and glued the plaque onto the rheostat. We even disassembled it, put our photograph inside, and then assembled it again. It was of size of a car rechargeable battery, not that large. The device was was there all the years, but where it might be now?

I.M. Was there an autograph of physicist Umov on it? There is a paper by Yunosov, where he describes a Challenge Prize of the Tournament, which was exactly the rheostat with physicist Nikolai Umov’s signature on it. I mean, the Umov who introduced the Umov-Poynting vector.

I.Mash. It is quite possible. But it was the only Challenge Cup of the event. I remember there were special regulations for storing this prize. Either it was stored at the Department of Physics, either by the winning team. I remember, we stored it it, but not for a long time. It must be at the Department of Physics, I think.

Are you familiar with the name Kuzyakin?

I.M. Not yet :-) .

I.Mash. I think he should be credited a lot. He was a representative from the Ministry of Education, who ensured patronage for the Young Physicists’ Tournaments and helped them a lot. His name was Alexander Pavlovich Kuzyakin, I have just verified that.

I.M. Did Yury Yufryakov support your team in 1989-1990?

I.Mash. Exactly, he and Denis Pospelov were our senior colleagues and helped us. Alexei Silvestrov, who was a student at that time, also helped and supported the team a lot.

I.M. Did all the rounds take place in Olympiets Center?

I.Mash. The Moscow rounds were mostly held at the Department of Physics, while those international competitions were held in Olympiets. By the way, a lot of video material was filmed there. There was a special camera men, seemingly from Kuzyakin, who filmed us and inquired into the competition. There should be plenty of video, as every single Physics Fight was filmed.There was even a special psychologist who interviewed us and made notes.

I.M. On Yunosov’s photographs, a girl looking like a radio journalist is visible. She had a microphone and a large tape recorder, but I don’t know if anything was ever on air.

I.Mash. When we went to Ufa for a Summer School, we visited Ufa radio station, where attended a special radio conference with Moscow, in a show called Rovesnik. Something was on radio in Moscow as well. I don’t remember anything to be on television.

I.M. Do you remember any publications related to the Tournament?

I.Mash. There was an article in MEPhI’s journal Inzhener-fizik, and later I wrote a paper to the same journal as well. I preserved the paper. You certainly also know the Kostya Yufryakov’s paper in Kvant on a droplet falling into water.

I.M. Do you remember interpreters at Physics Fights?

I.Mash. I remember them, as Russian was the key language and jurors were Russian.

I.M. How did teams prepare posters?

I.Mash. Colored ink, large wove Whatman paper, and technical drawing instruments.

Photos from Ilya Mashkov’s archives

I. Mash. Yunosov.

I.Mash. This photo was presented to us by boys from Riga when they were leaving and (well done!) wrote down their names:

  • Andris Eiduks
  • Viktor Kutuzov (captain)
  • Dmitry Terno
  • Anatoly Fridman (team leader)
  • Alexei Tutov
  • Maxim Enbaev

I.Mash. The team of the Netherlands, their leaders, and Yunosov.

I.M. I just contacted the leader of the Dutch delegation in 1990, Hans Jordens. He wrote me: “On the picture is the complete Dutch team together with Yunosov. The names on the photo are, from left to right: x, Ietje Penninga, Rixt Buwalda, x, S. Buwalda (leader), A. Holvast (leader), E. Yunosov, x. ‘x’ are the three boys in the team; there names are: Gerrit Venema, Mark Brouwer, Gert-Tom Draisma; but I don’t know whom is who. I can find out if you want.”

I.Mash. Captain of team from Netherlands, Ietje Penninga (city of Balk.)

I.M. I sent this picture to Jordens as well. He wrote, “Thank you very much for the photos. The girl on one picture is indeed Ietje Penninga.”

I.Mash. In the right is Yunosov. On the grass are having rest: me (from the right) and an English friend (from the left.) Are girls are English. The place is Cambridge.

I.Mash. Here on the photo is an English person from the host college (http://www.hrsfc.ac.uk/), in the center is Nikolaev (from the department of physics, MSU), in the right is Yunosov. I made this photo. The place is Cambridge.

I.Mash. An article in Cambridge newspaper.

I.Mash. During a Physics Fight: contest of captains. In the left am I, in the right, I don’t remember for sure, possibly Viktor Kutuzov. It was requested to name the maximum number of physical properties of a brick. The place is Department of Physics, MSU.

I.Mash. My apparatus for the problem “Franklin’s wheel”.

I.Mash. Department of physics, MSU, we are singing “Gaudeamus igitur”.

I.Mash. A very important photo. We are going either to Protvino, either to Ufa for a summer school (but possibly even to Tbilisi), I will verify that. The girl third from the left is Anastasia Zubova (captain of team from city of Fryazino). The third from the left in bottom row is your humble servant. The third from the right (with a backpack) is Alexei Silvestrov, he made a lot for the YPT in those times, he supported our team when he was a student at the department of physics of MSU, he is a good educator.

I.Mash. On the photo with a reference book in hands am I, to the right from me on photo is Denis Irz. I don’t remember the names of others.

I.Mash. Document from the Ministry of Education.

I.Mash. I completely forgot about that, but have recollected when found this document. We went for 2 or 3 days to Stavropol on the basis of the Tournament. We held a demonstration Physics Fight at the Stavropol Pioneer’s Palace. I don’t remember if I made any photos there.

I.Mash. Left to right are: Alexander Fedotov (who was a year younger and who was the team captain of School 542 the next year), Kostya Yufryakov, Alexei Pechenkin (behind Kostya), Ilya Mashkov, Dima Ukrainsky (who was not a team member), Fedor Sigaev, Sergei Volkov, Vladimir Alminderov. The photo is made in Olympiets.

I.Mash. The photo on the left shows Ilya Mashkov. The photo on the right shows Robert White, Andrei ? (his head is behind Robert, ? ?, ? ? (behind Fedor), Fedor Sigaev, Ilya Mashkov, Masha Goncharova, ? ? Nikolaev, Olya Bruns, Evgeny Yunosov, ? ?, ? ?.

I.M. Thank you very much for this extremely valuable information, photos and articles.

I.Mash. All my notes are in a paper box in my garage, and I can find further details. If I find any further materials, I will certainly be able to share them.

The interview was taken between April 6 and November 15, 2009 with most photos traced ans scanned by Ilya Mashkov in September 2009. Updated on November 22, 2009 with the scanned newspaper articles.

Interview with Igor Nosov on 1st IYPT, 2nd IYPT, 3rd IYPT

>Igor Nosov has taken part at regional, all-Soviet and International Young Physicists’ Tournaments in 1988, 1989, and 1990. He shares rare documents and clarifies many details of the competitions.

Download: Evgeny Velikhov’s address to the participants of 1st IYPT, 1988 (scanned leaflet.)

Download: Igor Nosov’s personal diploma from 3rd all-Soviet Young Physicists’ Tournament, 1990 (scanned document.)

Download: Igor Nosov’s certificate No. 11-8 allowing admission to any Soviet university without examinations, issued by USSR State Committee on National Education, signed by F. I. Peregudov on June 7, 1990 (scanned document.)

Download: Blank certificate allowing admission to any Soviet university without examinations, issued by USSR State Committee on National Education, 1990 (scanned document.)

Download: Order No. 92 issued on March 21, 1990 by the Ministry of National Education of Turkmen SSR “On the results of the 1st Republican and final round of 3rd all-Soviet Young Physicists’ Tournaments in school year 1989/90 and on holding the 2nd Republican and 4th all-Soviet Tournaments in school year 1990/91″, signed by Minister M. A. Alieva (scanned pages: first, second, third,fourth.)

Igor Nosov was born in 1973 in Ashgabat, Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic. He was an active science and technology amateur in his school years and took part in many Union-wide conferences, becoming a member of all-Soviet Society of Inventors and Rationalisators in 1988. He worked on aerospace engineering projects when a university student and kept his interests until today. Between 2004 and 2008 he led a small company selling machine tools. Igor Nosov is now representative of Kress Tools in the Volga region of Russia and boasts being an professional pneumatic drill user.

I.N. You certainly know that the Tournaments in those years were organized with initiative from the Soviet Ministry of National Education and the Lomonosov Moscow State University. I can name several initiators of those Tournaments, Velikhov, Zatsepin, Yunosov; there was certainly someone from the Ministry of National Education, but I don’t remember the names on that level. I have preserved the copies of orders and prescriptions from the Ministry of Education concerning the YPTs.

The top teams were from Physico-Mathematical School at Moscow Physics Engineering Institute and Physico-Mathematical School 18, Moscow, if I am not mistaken. I represented teams of regional scale and during these three years had to deal even with organization problems.

The Tournament for me was a springboard. It is a unique event, very actual even today. It allowed me to develop an algorithm for behavior and analysis, and to well adapt to various life situations. Until today, I do not quit physics and continue my fundamental theoretical projects, even though I work in a completely different area.

These years, I took part in many scientific and technical youth events and I may say that the organizational level of all Tournaments was very high. The Tournaments were held in a modern and comfortable youth sport center in the village Ivakino (I don’t remember the name of the center.)

As far as I remember, there were teams from different countries. I personally contacted boys from Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. These boys were making reports in Russian, but there were also presentations in English, I clearly remember that.

I can clearly recall all successes and failures of my teams, as I was the captain throughout these three years.

The third team I had, in 1990, was the strongest one.

I.M. What teams did you represent?

Throughout these three years, we were the only team from Central Asia, I don’t know why. The information came from the Ministry of National Education, and was transferred to the Small Academy of Sciences. I was then a very known and active person in science and technology amateur projects (sorry for self promotion) at the USSR level; my name was familiar to responsibles at the Ministry, and it may have led to the decision they took. Another possible explanation is that there was no specialized physics and mathematics school in Ashgabat, and my school was the only with a focus in mathematics and physics (even though the name was just a secondary school.)

I am sending you all the documents that survived from the Tournaments. The problem sets and all other papers were thrown out by my wife as early as in 1992. I have a quality to always keep the information, and often look for something in my archive which weights 5 tons. My wife often refreshes it and I feel bad afterwards.

I.M. The name of the center was Olympiets. Did all teams live there throughout the Tournament?

I.N. Yes, only participants from Moscow possibly did not live there. The nightlife was sparkling with discos, videos and girls.

I.M. Can you try to complete the list of international participants in 1988-1990?

I.N. Unfortunately, I spent all Tournaments working on the problems and did not have time to make acquaintances. I never took part in the social life of the Tournaments, because I am more a lone person.

I.M. Did you preserve the team diplomas as well?

I.N. Our team leader confiscated the team diplomas. I am affraid they have not survived.


I.M. How did you first learn of the YPT and how your team was selected?

I.N. It all began when my supervisor at the Small Academy of Sciences of Turkmen SSR V.I. Karabash (a PhD specializing in solid state physics) announced at a lesson that a tournament in physics was planned in Moscow in 1988. That is why the first team all consisted from members of the physics section at Small Academy of Sciences, in Ashgabat.

I received a small brochure with problems for the Tournament. Five participants and one team leader were required.

Our supervisor knew personal capabilities of every participant, so he distributed the problems. It was reported to us, as always, “well in advance”, namely in two weeks before the Tournament.

Our main problem was to get airplane tickets to everyone, it was more difficult than to solve all Tournament problems. I needed to run around offices of several officials in several governmental departments, and we succeeded to get the tickets in the end.

In general, the idea and principles of the Tournament were an absolute novelty and were not known to anyone in the wide science community. That is why the authorities (I mean, republican) paid no attention to the composition of the team, to participants and to the team leader. It was important only to take part in the event.

Most our solutions were on posters, like as solutions by other teams. There was someone who made reports with transparencies, I can recall overhead projectors.

I.M. How the Inernational rounds in 1988 were organized? Was there a selection for the combined national Soviet team?

I.N. There was no Soviet national team, I don’t remember that. There were just teams from many Soviet schools, and foreign teams.

I.M. Can you suggest that the 1st IYPT had differences in organization in comparison to the 2nd IYPT and 3rd IYPT?

I.N. The 1st IYPT and the 2nd IYPT were the most pompous. There was even a diner at Hotel Ukraina in the end, if I remember correctly.

But my first debut in 1988 was not successful for me as my performances in further years. Everything was new to me, not like as at Olympiads. When I reported my solution, a juror told me that it was not correct to show calculated results with the precision of 4 or 5 digits after the decimal point, and my score was decreased due to that. Since then, even now, I never show results with the precision of more than one digit after the decimal point.

I am attaching an address by Evgeny Pavlovich Velikhov. It was a separate sheet of paper, in a nice cover, and was distributed to all participants of the competition. I personally contacted a lot with Evgeny Pavlovich. He was then very young, but already a member of Academy of Sciences, and personally signed diplomas.

I.M. Can you suggest if international teams took part in all Selective Fights with Soviet participants?

I.N. Check the list of problems for 1988. There seemingly was a problem on “Incandescent lamp” in 1988. That means, boys from Bulgaria were there in 1988, because I remember us and them at a Physics Fight discussing this problem.

I.M. That clearly means that all teams, all Soviet and all international, played in all Selective rounds together.

I.N. Ideologically, we played on an equal basis, together.


I.M. There have been concerns about the problems discussed at all-Soviet and international rounds in 1989. If I am not mistaken, some problems at the correspondence rounds differed from the final problem set.

I.N. In Moscow, we discussed exactly the same problem set we received in Ashgabat. But it was primarily important of how you solve something, not what exactly you solve.

We were sometimes supplied with additional problems, “as a snack”, to see who and how can solve them without preparation.

I.M. Can you recall any of problems you discussed in 1989?

I.N. I remember the problem “Mosquito”. I refused to solve it as I considered this problem a bad joke.

There was a problem about Karlsson. I personally solved it but saw that jury was not happy. They said, “the solution is too technical.” I solved the problem similarly to the helicopter theory, but there was strawberry jam instead of fuel.


I.M. Am I right that in 1990, the IYPT was held as a separate event from the all-Soviet YPT?

I.N. It was not held as such, at all. It was expected to be held outside USSR in May-June 1990. It was first planned to be held in Czechoslovakia, but there were political events there in 1990. Then, there were thoughts of London, but seemingly there was shortage of money. So finally, it was held in Moscow, in the same Olympiets Center.

I.M. What problems did you discuss at Tournaments in 1990?

I.N. Once, I opposed the problem on the cylinder in a tube reported by the Physico-Mathematical School 18 from Moscow. They made a mistake because they made calculations for a tube opened from one end, but it ought to be closed, according to the task, so all dependences would be completely different. I got 5+ for that.

But that was not in the combined team, we were in a Turkmen republican team during that Physics Fight.

There was a problem on the Franlklin’s wheel, a reverse sprinkler, and it was very tricky.

There was a problem on cubic planet, you must know it. I recently argued with an astrophysicist about this problem.

I.M. You were a member of a combined Soviet team at 3rd IYPT?

I.N. Yes, I was. But I hardly can remember anyone from the team. We saw each other only several times.

I went to the competition in Summer 1990. Out of Soviet teams, there was a combined team, a team from School 542 and School 18, if I remember correctly.

I.M. I can suggest that there were students from Riga in this combined Soviet team. Can you confirm that?

I.N. I cannot remember anyone from Riga. And why do you ask about Riga? I heard a lot about Odessa there. There was a very strong and very sociable boy from Odessa, but I don’t remember his name.

I.M. So students from Odessa took part in the combined team?

I.N. Students from various teams were in the combined group, but I cannot remember them, because there was no Tournament as such, I just saw them several times.

I.M. How the combined team was selected? Did you take part in the combined team in Summer 1990?

I.N. The physics fight with School 18 was when I was in a team from Turkmen republic, it has nothing common to the Soviet combined team. I was selected into the Soviet combined team in result of earlier achievements. And, yes, I went to join the combined team in Summer 1990.

I.M. I am very impressed of the document allowing admission to any Soviet university without examinations.

I.N. You know, when we got these certificates, we could no longer think of the Tournament.

The diploma was returned to me from the archives of the University. The diplomas I got in 1989 were exactly as this one from 1990. And one from 1988 was more beautiful. I did not see the team diplomas much and do not remember them because they were immediately confiscated.

The documents from the Ministry mention these personal diplomas as having different degrees. That seems strange to me because I have never seen any degrees on personal diplomas throughout the three years.

I.M. Thank you for your help and for scanning these fantastically rare documents.

I.N. If you succeeded in finding me, you will succed in finding the lists of participating teams. I remember only those I contacted personally and cannot be certain for entire list.

The interview was primarily taken between August 26 and September 2, 2009

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