[Seven by Nine Squares home page] [Neoism]


" It's Akademgorod, quite simply the academic model town, where Elvira Rudolfina Babashine is guiding us through. The philosophy professor spent more than 25 years of her life here, first as a student, then as a teacher and reseacher. And while this impressive woman keeps on talking and talking, her very personal tour along the communist-grey department buildings and the even less enticing faculty homes becomes a surprising journey through a piece of soviet history.

The museum. It is moving to see the warm-hearted and rigid custodian Margarita present her treasures: With a bamboo, she points at the glossy and the gloomy exhibits in the show-cases, always reciting their names in flawless English: feldspar, glimmer, jade and whatever their names may be.

The community center. Another faceless concrete building from the sober Chrushtchev era. No longer Stalin baroque and not yet Breshnev's pretentious classicism, it mirrors the transitory period of the years between 1956 and 1966 when Akademgorodok was completed. A strange era in which, as Babashina underlines, the party leader himself gave the order to build the neighboring academy hotel with eight floors instead of nine, arguing that eight floors would be sufficient in the midst of the woods.

The kitchens. They were factual places of free speech in this smalltown whose remote location three thousand miles East of Moscow had always permitted a more liberal atmosphere than in the European part of the country. Back in those years, we are told, it was custom to visit one's neighbors for a cup of tea at half past midnight and discuss the new books. And even further years ago, at the end of the sixties, everybody, regardless from which department, used to read an "Instruction for Machine Engineering" that had Solshenizyn inside, forbidden Samizdat literature they all devoured.

The Sea. It's evening, but the sun has warmed the sand during the day, and we glance at the horizon. A ten minutes walk away from the colony, there are still people swimming in the "Siberian Sea", the Ob reservoir spreading over 150 miles from here. One can imagine to stand in front of a real ocean. The academic smalltown behind us would then be a blessed island where there used to be freedom like nowhere else."

Reymer Klüver, Letter from Akademgorod, Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 17/18, 1994

Akademgorod in The Seven by Nine Squares