“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.