Interview with Akos Csilling and Andras Czirok on the 3rd IYPT (1990)

Akos Csilling and Andras Czirok, the Hungarian participants at the IYPT 1990, clarify further details of the event.

Akos Csilling earned a PhD in Particle Physics from Eotvos University in 2000. After working at University College London and at CERN, he is now Senior Systems Engineer at Creative Electronic Systems, Switzerland.

Andras Czirok earned a PhD in Biological Physics from Eotvos University in 2000. He is now Assistant Professor at University of Kansas Medical Center.

Download: Lajos Skrapits. Palyazati felhivas nemzetkozi fizikaversenyre. KoMaL, 12, 478-480 (1989).

I. M. There are some recently traced photographs from IYPT organizer Evgeny Yunosov. Can you suggest if anyone can be identified on the picture with the Hungarian team, taken presumably in 1990?

A. Cz. The gentleman in the left is Dr Skrapits, the young guy in the center is Akos Csilling, who worked in the CERN for a while but after that I lost contact with him. I do not recognize the guy at the right (that’s why I belive this was not my team :-)

I. M. There is a list of Hungarian participants, preserved by Peter Fedorcsak. Can you suggest if everything is correct, as for 1990?

A. Cz. Your list of participants is interesting… indeed it can be correct! Well that guy on the photo is certainly Akos, and I completely forgot Akos Domotor and Istvan Nemeth, so one of them could be the guy on the right. I am surprised that Peter Falus was not in our team, but that is after all, possible.

A. Cs. I found back my diploma of the event. It lists the participants of our team. Here’s the scanned document with the best possible resolution (pdf and tif.)

I. M. This diploma provides full evidence that the logo we now widely use as a scanned image, first appeared exactly in 1990. (The horses and knights looked differently in 1989 and earlier, while all the sources after 1990 had the drawing exactly as preserved on your diploma.) At a certain moment in mid-1990s someone scanned the image. What is now used at almost any IYPT-related event is a low-res scanned picture. We also now know who was the Jury Chair (a special LOC position) in 1990.

A little question: what does the huge letter “F” means? I saw similar letters, like “JU” on the other diplomas. Can it be a mark for the degree of the diploma? (gold, silver, bronze?)

A. Cs. I can also confirm that the F on the front of the diploma refers to the results. I’m sure the first team had T, the second JU, and I think the third also JU, and 4-6 got F, so that all together T-JU-F was covered.

I. M. There are quite conflicting accounts on the number of Soviet and International teams in 1990. Do you possibly recollect what teams were there, in 1990?

A. Cz. I remember very little about the participating teams. I certainly remember the Dutch team (I guess they won?), but very little else — I am sorry.

A. Cs. I am pretty sure there were six teams in total, two of them from the Soviet Union.

They were pretty well prepared, probably gone through a selection process of several levels of similar competitions.

Foreign teams had much less preparation, I was told the team from Holland received the problems on the spot.

I. M. A very important issue that I would prefer to double-check, is the number of the Soviet-based teams at the 3rd IYPT. There may be, I now suspect, serious chances that several participants, who believed they have been at the 3rd IYPT in June 1990, simply misinterpreted the event with similar Tournaments, such as with the 3rd all-Soviet YPT where a UK team was reportedly present.

A. Cs. I’m positively sure there were 2 Soviet teams.

I can imagine quite easily that people confuse events,  which may be quite similar. So this is a logical explanation. I also participated at many events around the same time, but for me, the ITYP was quite different from the others, so I do remember some details clearly.

I. M. Were there any articles or reports about the 3rd IYPT in Hungarian journals?

A. Cz. The problems were advertised in the hungarian monthly “KOMAL” of which I must have an archive somewhere in Hungary. I just checked that its electronic web archive is not (yet?) functional. So, within a year (huhh) I believe I may be able to dig up the problems and some photos.

A. Cs. The problems were published in Komal – a Hungarian magazine for students on maths and physics. I think they have the old issues available online – I’ll check. Students were asked to submit solutions, and these were used to select the team.

I also found a link to the scanned pages of Komal with the problems (No. 12, 1989, pages: 478, 479, 480.)

The introduction states that the competition was to be held in Kladno, Czechoslovakia, that the first team from Hungary participated in 1989, and that the problems were translated from Kvant 1989/8.

I. M. Were there any restrictions on the number of problems left for challenge at particular Physics Fights? Were there any unexpected problems, intended to be solved immediately?

A. Cs. All the problems discussed were published in advance. I do not remember any tie-breaker.

On the other hand, I think there were some introductory questions, at a visit to the (Lomonosov?) University, which were used to establish the initial role of the teams.

A set of 4 problems was allocated to each session, and I think the presenting team could choose which of the four to present. There were three teams in each parallel session, so one of the problems was not discussed, and there were a total of six teams.

I. M. Do you have any information on when the 3rd IYPT was re-scheduled and diverted from Kladno, Czechoslovakia?

A. Cs. I only had some very vague information that the competition was foreseen for Czechoslovakia, but already then I did not have any details.

I. M. What were your overall impressions of the event?

A. Cs. I still remember the event quite clearly. Besides the obvious interesting Physics, it was my only visit to the Soviet Union, my first management experience, and a great opportunity to practice languages. The problems were very different from what we usually did in Hungary: less claculations, more practical, and more open-ended. I only regret that we did not mix with the other teams.

I. M. Thank you for all the information.

A. Cz. It is very nice to think back to these times, and indeed that event was a lot of fun!

The interview with Andras Czirok was taken on November 19, 2009. The interview with Akos Csilling was taken between October 29 and November 9, 2010, with updates on March 17, 2011 and May 11, 2011.

UPD (July 12, 2012): A. Cz. I found your draft detailed report on the early iypt tournaments.

A minor correction: You give most names for the 1990 Hungarian team. You mention Mihaly Fazekas – this is not a competitor, but the name of a school, named after a writer who lived 200 years ago :)

I can tell you that there was one translator who spoke English and Russian, and each participant could choose to present in English or Russian, with simultaneous translation to the other language.

When we were against the two Russian-speaking teams, we bypassed the translator, and I was translating for our team. There was also a case when our team member could not speak well enough any of the two
official languages, so I had to translate.

I remember a case when I was presenting in one language, and switched to the other without noticing. It was quite confusing for everyone…

Interview with Sergey Romanchuk and Dmitri Salov on 3rd IYPT, 4th IYPT, 4th all-Soviet YPT

Sergey Romanchuk and Dmitri Salov speak on results, highlights, and organization of 3rd IYPT, 4th IYPT, 4th all-Soviet YPT in Odessa, and on their experience in 1990-1991.

Sergey Romanchuk graduated ca. 1997 from Moscow State University. He is now deputy head of Treasury and head of FX&MM at Metallinvestbank, Moscow, and the President of ACI Russia, a financial markets association.

Dmitri Salov graduated in 1997 from Moscow State University. He is now deputy head of Investment and Brokerage at Metallinvestbank, Moscow.

Download: five-page Russian text of the problems for IYPT 1991, from a printed booklet prepared by the Soviet organizing committee in 1991, preserved by Sergey Romanchuk (pdf, also as separate images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

S. R. There are indeed many photographs and diplomas remaining from these Tournaments, including all-Soviet and International ones.

In 1990, our team with Eldar Sadykhov (Physico-Mathematical School 18, Eldar Sadykhov as team captain) participated in both all-Soviet Tournament (I guess, in Protvino) and in the International Tournament.

At the all-Soviet stages, PMS 18 ranked 2nd, while PMS 542 ranked 1st, and both could join the International competition because according to the regulations of those days, the USSR was represented with two teams. It was held in the Youth Center Olympiets near Moscow.

In 1991, there were also two teams from USSR, the ours (PMS 18-SUNC MGU), which ended 1st at the all-Soviet Tournament in Odessa, and the Combined team of USSR which included the strongest students from other teams.

I can give you contacts of two more participants of International YPT of 1991, Alexei Echkalo from Zaporozhye and Combined Soviet team and Dmitri Salov (PMS 18-SUNC MGU), who both work now at our bank. They can possibly offer you some additional materials.

I. M. Do you have information on any other Soviet participants at the IYPT 1990? There have been reliable information on a team from Riga, and also reports of a Soviet Combined team. Do you possibly remember what were the results of your team, and what team ended as a winner?

S. R. I do not remember anything about Riga.

The winner at the International Tournament of 1990 was Physico-Mathematical School 542, while we ended 3rd or 4th, I do not remember exactly. But I will have a look at the diplomas.

D. S. I can add that Sergey himself was the team captain of PMS 18 (SUNC MGU) at all Tournaments of 1991 (he did not mention that.) The International Tournament was also held in Olympiets. That year, besides our team and the Combined team, I certainly remember Poles (because we drank Porto together), Czechs (we had a Fight where I opposed them.)

All the rest is obscure, including our final results in the ranking table.

I positively have some photographs, and possibly lomography pictures from that Tournament and possibly more, as I need to look for it.

Yes, Sergei Dmitrievich Varlamov was our teamleader. Those years, the entire Tournament was maintained by the efforts of Evgeny Nikolaevich Yunosov and Varlamov. In fact, they were initiators of the game and, I think, they must have kept materials from that time, and they are, above all, the first-hand factual sources of information. From my point of view, Yunosov (and probably Varlamov) are the authors of the idea behind the Tournament. If you dig into the history of the Tournament, I advise to contact them directly. Sergei Nikolaevich Sergeev should also be able to help you, as he was also much involved into the Tournament (starting from maybe 1991.)

I. M. Participant Boris Baryshnikov, from the Soviet combined team in 1991,  commented “I have also an arbitrary amount of information in my head about the YPT problems, with no structured memories of when they have been discussed. These include estimation of brightnesses for illuminated and non-illuminated sides of the Moon, edges of clouds,  estimates for a best possible record in 100-meter-sprint, something on television scan technology, and “bonfire theories.”

D. S. These are all problems from 1991.

The “bonfire theory” is however already an anecdote. During the Finals of the Union-wide tournament, held in Odessa, we were provided with access to the library of Odessa University, a very beautiful building, by the way. In our team (Physico-Mathematical School 18) there was a Physics Figher, Ilya Romanov.

We achieved Finals and were provided with new problems and a couple of days to work on them, kind of impromptu work. Ilya got a problem, if I remember that correctly, about the dependence of flame height on width and height of firewoods placed into a bonfire.

So we, altogether as a team of PMS 18 (also very proud of ourselves), come to the library of Odessa University, a University that was deeply provincial for our taste. We were keeping in mind that only 150 years ago there were special people in Odessa who made money on carrying pedestrians between two sides of a street through otherwise impassable mud.

So we come at a Reading Room. Serega Sharakin orders a book on Navier-Stokes equations (he got a problem about a suspended plate with water, to estimate damping of oscillations etc.) I take a textbook on surface tension of water (I got a problem on evaporation of a condensate spot “breathed” on a cold glass.) I am not sure what Serega took, but in fact were all are so smart, as smart as Harry Pottter, and then Ilya in all his seriousness (because he had to work on the bonfire problem) asks the librarian: “Do you have anything on the “bonfire theory?” :-) ) It was just the time to hire a special person and carry us to the other side.

S. R. It was my problem about a plate! I reported it in the Finals as well. This can be seen on the photos from Odessa. Laughing out loud about the “bonfire theory”! I almost forgot about it.

I. M. Do you recognize someone on the photo from Belarusian participant Sergei Katsev, taken in Odessa at the 4th all-Soviet YPT?

S. R. I do not recognize anyone from our group, but I have also preserved some photos from Odessa, as well as the problems. In the Finals, the participants were SUNC MGU (1st place), Novgorod (with Boris Baryshnikov as captain) and Zaporozhye (Alexei Echkalo.)

[At the IYPT 1991], the second place was taken by Hungrary, however Wiki says they were at first place. I hope that Alexei kept his winner’s diploma, as he was in the combined USSR team.

D. S. I would like to recommend you to contact a priceless eyewitness of past times, Boris Baryshnikov, captain of combined USSR team in 1991. If I am not mistaken, he also took part in the Tounaments of 1990. I need to report with much regret that my archive of photographs is inferior to the Sergey’s and I simply do not remember other photos beyond those that Sergey has sent.

Sergey Romanchuk’s collection of photos and documents

4th all-Soviet YPT

Odessa, April 1991

4th IYPT

Olympiets, Moscow, June 1991

S. R. The event was held in Olympiets International Center, however the finals were at the Department of Physics, Moscow State University.

Officially, everyone of us represented a combined USSR team (see the document), but in reality there were two teams: SUNC MGU (Kolmogorov Physico-Mathematical School 18), which ended first at the all-Soviet YPT in Odessa in 1991, and the actual combined team, including the best boys from other teams,

The SUNC MGU team (with me as the captain) got the 3rd position in the finals (see the diploma), and the combined USSR team, the first. I do not remember, who ended second.

The SUNC MGU team:

  • Pavel Enin (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works in Moscow)
  • Dmitri Salov (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works at Metallinvestbank in Moscow)
  • Vladimir Onishchuk (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works in Moscow)
  • Ilya Romanov (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University)
  • Sergey Romanchuk (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works at Metallinvestbank in Moscow)
  • Sergey Sharakin (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University.)

The combined USSR team:

  • Boris Baryshnikov (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works at Microsoft in the US)
  • Dmitry Butrin (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works as head of economical politics section at Kommersant, a Russian business newspaper)
  • Alexey Echkalo (graduated from Physics Department, Moscow State University, works at Metallinvestbank in Moscow)
  • Alexander Osyka,
  • Irina Shcherbachenko..

S. R. Romanchuk at Moscow State University.

S. R. Team of SUNC MGU in the Central Physical Lecture Hall of Physics Department, Moscow State University: Varlamov (team leader), Salov, Onishchuk, Sharakin, Romanov, Enin.

S. R. Team of SUNC MGU near the entrance to Olympiets.

S. R. Participants of the YPT on the staircase of Physics Department, after the Finals.

S. R. Participants of the YPT on the staircase of Physics Department, after the Finals.

S. R. Romanchuk, Enin, French team captain, Sharakin.

I. M. I have forwarded the photo to the French team leader, Jeanne Stoliaroff, who wrote a detailed account on the event.

S. R. Nikolai Koblyakov (captain of the YPT team from Physico-Mathematical School 18 in 1989) with girls from the English team, on the staircase of the Physics Department.

S. R. I do not remember what is this team :) .

S. R. Teams from SUNC MGU and England near Olympiets before departing to attend the Finals: Romanchuk, Onishchuk, an English boy, an English girl, Koblyakov, Salov.

I. M. Many thanks for this very important information.

S. R. Thanks should go to you for such a painstaking work.

The interview was primarily taken on March 22, 2010. Further discussions and fact checking spanned between October 8 and October 29, 2010, with documents and photos traced and scanned by Sergey Romanchuk on October 12 and on October 14, 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

Interview with Konstantin Yufryakov on the 3rd IYPT (1990)

1990, Historical IYPT interviews — ilyamartch @ 1:13 am

“It was us who won the 3rd IYPT”, Konstantin Yufryakov confirms. His team has taken part at several national YPTs, including the selective Soviet rounds at the 2nd IYPT (1989) and the 3rd all-Soviet IYPT (1990). The memories shed significant light on the participation of international teams, on organization and on the results of YPT-related events in 1989-1990.

I.M. What YPT-related events took place in 1990? How and where the 3rd IYPT was held?

K.Y. The International Tournament of 1990 was held in June 1990 in the “Olympiets” Youth Center. The time schedules were revised for several times due to some organizational problems. I remember that the IYPT and the Soviet YPT were separate and were not combined or merged into a single event, like in 1989. The Soviet YPT was held earlier, perhaps, in January 1990.

There were discussions of holding the 3rd IYPT in Czechoslovakia but that did not happen. However, my team mates (Ilya Mashkov, Sergei Volkov and Fyodor Sigayev) went to Czechoslovakia in summer 1989 to take part in a somewhat like YPT-related conference.

I think that many complications in holding the Tournament were caused by the situation in the country. In particular, at the all-Soviet YPT, we prevailed over a team from Riga. We met them again at the International Young Physicists’ Tournament, but they were then introduced as the team of independent Latvia. If I am not mistaken, the Baltic States declared their independences in December 1989.

The Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR adopted the Declaration of the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia on May 4, 1990, subject to a transition period that came to an end with Latvian independence after the failure of the August Putsch of 1991.

All these political instabilities affected our team as well. In February 1990, our team made a special visit of friendship to Tbilisi (Georgia) to hold a Physics Fight with a Georgian team. Our permanent team leader Vladimir Vasilyevich Alminderov explained to us that the Georgian authorities expressed doubts in the results of the all-Soviet YPT and would like to send an independent team to IYPT. We had an improvised Physics Fight with the team of Tbilisi (possibly, it was a National team of Georgia.)

We won and that was our modest contribution to the maintenance of Soviet Union. Evidently, I was not familiar with the reasons underlying the events of those days but I well remembered a strange feeling of the trip.

If I compare the 3rd IYPT (1990) with the 2nd IYPT (1989), I would say that in 1990, the Tournament was organized at a more modest level than in 1989. That is my subjective feeling, but I was a team member in both 1989 and 1990 and I can make comparisons.

I.M. Who were the members of your team?

K.Y. Here are the members of our team:

  • Ilya Mashkov, captain
  • Sergei Volkov
  • Alexei Pechenkin
  • Konstantin Yufryakov
  • Alexander Fedotov of Nefedov (unfortunately, I don’t clearly remember his surname).

I.M. What international teams do you remember at the 3rd IYPT?

K.Y. I clearly remember the team of Netherlands. There were also a Hungarian and, probably, a Czech team. Out of Soviet teams, I should note a strong team from Odessa.

I.M. Were there any interpreters for the team of Netherlands?

K.Y. Certainly, when the team of Netherlands made presentations, there were interpreters. I think these interpreters were from the Organizing Committee.

We much communicated informally with the Dutch team. The language barrier was not an obstacle as they were also not very proficient in English. Their team captain was a nice girl named Icha, but I am absolutely uncertain in the correct spelling.

I remember that we accompanied their team when they were leaving. We sang ‘Dubinushka’ song just on the square outside Belorussky Vokzal (Belarusian Railway Terminal) :-) .

The Dutch were diligent in repeating the words of this traditional Russian song :-) .

‘Dubinushka’ is a traditional song at the Departments of Physics in many Soviet/Russian universities, humorously regarded by both professors and students. It is a comic interpretation of a traditional Russian work song of the similar name. The name means ‘Oaken Cudgel’.

The modified text included the following lines: “The Dean’s office is stressed and excited; the Dean says, „The educational results are unattractive“. However, at these circumstances, he forgets that he is a considerable Dubina himself”. The word ‘Dubina’ is usually omitted to increase the humorous effect and imply a political correctness.

I.M. What teams did pass to the Finals?

K.Y. The team of Riga played in the Finals with us. Their team captain’s name was Viktor Kutuzov if I am not mistaken. Best players from various teams and everyone of the winning team received papers that allowed them entering any university in the Soviet Union without entering examinations. Possibly, the best players could enter on such a basis the Moscow State University only. I am quite sure in that because I entered the Department of Physics of MSU and met the same year almost everyone of these persons.

I.M. Am I right that your team has ended up as the absolute winner not only at the all-Soviet YPT, but also at the 3rd IYPT?

K.Y. It is absolutely certain. It was us who won both all-Soviet YPT and the 3rd IYPT. Due to our victory at the all-Soviet YPT we were allowed not to pass graduation exams at school. (I remember that Kezina herself handed the diplomas in the Moscow Education Department somewhen in late May.) And when we won the International Tournament, we were admitted to universities without any exams.

Dr. Lyubov Kezina (b. 1938) has been the head of the Moscow Education Department since 1989.

I.M. Your brother, Yury, has identified you on a photo taken at the 2nd IYPT in 1989.

K.Y. Thank you very much for this photo. The clothes on me and on Sergei Volkov (left to me) and the presence of a guitar indicate that it was taken at the Opening Ceremony.

I.M. What were your general impressions of the Tournaments in 1989-1990?

K.Y. The atmosphere at the competition was friendly. However, there certainly was an amount of psychological tension, at least for me. In my opinion, it was because the competition required not only the best understanding of the physical sense of a phenomenon, but also an ability to effectively present it. One should also have been attentive to the “sport strategy”. I mean, it was necessary to choose what problem was preferable for a report, and what for an opposition or a review.

By the way, the experience in such a strategy has much helped the teams of School 710, School 18, School 679, the Fryazino School.

I must admit that it was my first serious experience of “public” performances.

A large portion of this interview was originally published on March 30, 2008 as a POISK Centre news release.

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