Academy of Sciences of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics AN SSSR

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Academy of Sciences of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (AN SSSR)


the highest scientific institution of the USSR, whose membership includes the most outstanding scholars of the country. Its personnel is made up of members (academicians), corresponding members, and foreign members. The fundamental tasks of the AN SSSR are developing fundamental research in natural and social sciences and long-term scientific research immediately connected with the further development of production; uncovering means of technical progress which are new in principle; and aiding the most complete utilization of scientific achievements in the practice of communist construction in the USSR. The AN SSSR exercises general scientific direction over research on the most important problems of natural and social sciences in the country, carried out in the academies of sciences of the Union republics, in other scientific institutions, and also in higher educational institutions. The Academy of Sciences is directly controlled by the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

All the organs of administration of the AN SSSR are constructed along elective lines. The supreme organ is the General Assembly of Academicians and Corresponding Members. It discusses questions of the development of science in the country, resolves the basic organizational questions of the academy’s activity, and selects members, corresponding members, and foreign members. Scholars are elected to membership in the Academy of Sciences without regard to the departmental classification of institutions in which they work. The General Assembly selects a presidium every four years to direct the academy’s activity in the periods between the assembly’s sessions. The AN SSSR includes a number of divisions—the scientific and scientific-organizational centers—for academy members in their respective fields and orientations. The academy’s divisions and scientific institutions are directed by four sections of the Presidium of the academy, which unite groups of divisions according to their respective areas of knowledge.

The section of physical-technical and mathematical sciences comprises mathematics, general physics and astronomy, nuclear physics, physical and technical problems of energy, mechanics, and control processes.

The chemotechnical and biological sciences section has departments for general and technological chemistry, physical chemistry and the technology of inorganic materials, biochemistry, biophysics, and the chemistry of physiologically active compounds, physiology, and general biology.

The earth sciences section includes departments of geology, geophysics, geochemistry, oceanography, atmospheric physics, and geography.

The social sciences section includes departments of history, philosophy and law, economics, literature, and linguistics.

The Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR unites members who are working in scientific institutions in Siberia and the Far East and who belong to divisions of the academy in their specialty.

The General Assembly of each division chooses a bureau for the division every four years; the Siberian Division chooses the Presidium of the Siberian Division. The institutions of the academy located in the Urals and the Far East serve as bases for the Urals and Far Eastern scientific centers of the AN SSSR.

There are branches of the AN SSSR in a number of autonomous republics, krais, and oblasts of the RSFSR. These branches unite the scientific research institutes and other scientific institutions of the academy located in their respective raions. They include the Bashkir, Dagestan, Karelian, the S. M. Kirov in Kola, Komi, and Ural branches. The Siberian Division includes the Buriat, Eastern Siberia, V. L. Komarov Far Eastern, and Yakutsk branches.

The scientific research work of the academy is conducted in institutes, observatories, and other scientific institutions. In 1968 the AN SSSR included more than 210 scientific institutions, including about 50 in the Siberian Division. The scientific institutions of the AN SSSR include the V. A. Steklov Institute of Mathematics, the P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute, the A. F. Ioff Physical-Technical Institute, the S. I. Vavilov Institute of Physical Problems, the Institute of Crystallography, the Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics, the Institute of the Physics of Metals, the N. S. Kurnakov Institute of General and Inorganic Chemistry, the N. D. Zelinskii Institute of Organic Chemistry, the Institute of Chemical Physics, the Institute of Organic-Element Compounds, the Institute of Macromolecular Compounds, and the A. N. Bakh Institute of Biochemistry, the Institute of Molecular Biology, the I. P. Pavlov Institute of Physiology, the Zoological Institute, the O. Iu. Schmidt Institute of Earth Physics, the Institute of Geology, the Institute of Economics, the Institute of History, the N. N. Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnography, the Oriental Institute, the Institute of Philosophy, the Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House), and the Central Astronomical Observatory. The Siberian Division has institutes of mathematics, nuclear physics, hydrodynamics, catalysis, geology, and geophysics.

The Academy controls a network of scientific libraries—as of Jan. 1, 1969, over 170—with four library centers: the Central Library of the AN USSR in Leningrad, which was established concurrently with the academy in the 1720’s, the Institute of Scientific Information and the Main Library in the Social Sciences of the AN SSSR, the Sector of the System of Special Libraries of the AN SSSR in Moscow, and the State Public Scientific and Technical Library under the auspices of the Siberian Division of the AN SSSR in Novosibirsk.

The academy primarily expands with the development of new scientific orientations. In 1969 the academy had 231 academicians, 414 corresponding members, and 65 foreign members. Over 30,000 scientific workers were engaged in the institutions of the academy, including more than 2,000 doctors of science and more than 12,000 candidates of science. The academy devotes much attention to the training of scientific cadres; graduate students are attached to its scientific institutions.

There are more than 200 scientific councils (organs of scientific consultation) on the most important questions of natural and social sciences attached to the Presidium, the sections of the Presidium, and the divisions of the Academy of Sciences. The scientific councils work out recommendations and coordinate research in their respective areas.

The publishing activity of the AN SSSR is carried out under the direction of the Editorial and Publication Council, mainly in the publication Nauka (Science); in 1969 around 2,000 book titles and 150 journals with a total volume of 46,000 author’s lists (an author’s list equals 40,000 typographical units) were published. The journals are edited under the auspices of the respective divisions and institutes of the academy; the Presidium of the academy directs the editing of the general academy journals: Vestnik Akademii nauk SSSR (Bulletin of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR), Doklady Akademii nauk SSSR (Reports of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR), Priroda (Nature), and Kosmicheskie issledovaniia (Space Studies).

The Academy of Sciences of the USSR has broad connections with foreign and international scientific organizations. As of 1968, it was a member of 129 international scientific organizations. Members of the academy have been elected to the managing bodies of many of these organizations. A number of Soviet national scientific associations are affiliated with the AN SSSR and its divisions. The academy participates actively in large international scientific undertakings such as the International Geophysical Year and other scientific research programs dealing with the Antarctic, the world oceans, the sun, and outer space. The academy has concluded agreements for scientific collaboration with foreign academies of sciences and other scientific institutions, first and foremost with those of socialist countries. In accordance with these agreements, the academy has engaged in joint research in many important problems of science.

The academy is very active in popularizing the achievements of science and disseminating scientific knowledge. A number of scientific societies are affiliated with it.

In order to encourage outstanding scientific works and discoveries, the Academy of Sciences confers gold medals and prizes in honor of outstanding scholars; its highest award is the M. V. Lomonosov medal. One is conferred annually on Soviet or foreign scholars for outstanding work in the area of natural and social sciences.

History. The Academy of Sciences was founded on Jan. 28 (Feb. 8), 1724, in St. Petersburg by an edict of Peter I; it opened at the end of 1725. It was initially called the Academy of Sciences and Arts; from 1803 it was known as the Imperial Academy of Sciences, and as of 1836, the Imperial St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. From February 1917 to 1925 it was known as the Russian Academy of Sciences; since July 1925 it has been the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

In the first decades of its existence, it was composed predominantly of invited foreign scholars; in particular, L. Euler and D. Bernulli worked in the Academy of Sciences. In 1742 the great Russian scholar M. V. Lomonosov was selected to the academy. Lomonosov made an enormous contribution to the development of many branches of science and exerted a great progressive influence on the academy’s work. In the 18th century, the academy’s activities developed mainly in the areas of mathematical and natural sciences, including the study of the natural resources, geography, and population composition of Russia. A number of scientific expeditions were conducted, including the major Siberian expedition of 1732, which led to the discovery of various natural resources. During the 19th century the Pulkovo Observatory (1839), a number of laboratories, the Mineralogical Museum and the Asiatic Museum were organized by the academy. In 1841 branches in physical and mathematical sciences, Russian language and linguistics, and historical-philological sciences were established. A number of great scientific figures appeared in Russia in the 19th century. The Academy of Sciences included such outstanding scholars as P. L. Chebyshev, M. V. Ostrogradskii, B. V. Petrov, A. M. Butlerov, N. N. Beketov, and I. P. Pavlov.

Until the Great October Socialist Revolution, the academy had no significant material base; it only controlled a small number of scientific institutions. The tsarist government placed members of court circles at the head of the academy. Only after the February Revolution of 1917 did the Academy of Sciences get the right to choose its own president.

The Great October Socialist Revolution opened a new era in the activity of the Academy of Sciences. The Communist Party and Soviet government attributed enormous importance to the role of science in the construction of socialism; they constantly displayed their concern for the development of scientific research and they directed the activity of the academy toward a solution of the pressing problems of the development of the socialist state. In the spring of 1918, V. I. Lenin, in his Outline for a Plan of Scientific and Technical Work (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 36, pp. 228–31) listed a number of the most important economic problems whose resolution required the scientific resources of the Academy of Sciences. In 1919 the academy began to expand research on the Kursk magnetic anomaly, the natural resources of the Kola Peninsula, the Kara-Bogaz-Gol Gulf, and other regions of the country. As early as the first years of Soviet power, large scientific and research institutions in the majority of the basic scientific fields were created and affiliated with the academy: the Institute for Physical-Chemical Analysis, the Institute of Physics and Mathematics, the Radium Institute, biochemical and biogeochemical laboratories, and so on. In 1925 by a resolution of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars the academy was recognized as the “... supreme all-Union scholarly institution.”

In the period of socialist construction the activity of the AN SSSR expanded rapidly. In 1928 it included nine institutes; by 1934 it had 25. In the second half of the 1930’s, a number of social sciences institutes were added, among which were the institutes on economics, philosophy, and law. In June 1927 a new charter for the academy was confirmed. It linked the academy’s activity to the greatest tasks of science, the resolution of which was vital for the development of the national economy and culture of the country. The new statute made it possible for the academy to exert greater influence on the development of science. While in the prerevolutionary period the academy’s activity was concentrated basically in St. Petersburg, where the majority of its members lived, after the October Revolution the situation changed; scholars working in different cities of the country were selected to the academy. During the 1929–32 period its personnel was considerably expanded; along with many outstanding scholars in the natural and social sciences, important engineers and public figures were selected to the academy. In this period the academy held a number of field sessions in various regions of the country, in which production workers participated.

In the 1930’s the organization of branches and scientific research bases of the academy in the republics, krais, and oblasts of the USSR began. The first to be created were the branches in the Urals, the Transcaucasus, and the Far East. The training of scientific cadres intensified; in 1929 the academy instituted graduate studies. All this aided the consolidation of the ties between science and practical socialist construction. The Academy of Sciences began to carry out the planning of scientific research work in 1931. In order to heighten the role of the academy and strengthen its ties with practical socialist construction, in 1933 the academy was put under the immediate jurisdiction of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR; until then it had been under the People’s Commissar of Education of the USSR. In 1934 the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR adopted a resolution providing for the transfer of the Academy of Sciences from Leningrad to Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union.

In 1936 the Communist Academy became a part of the Academy of Sciences. As a result of the growth of the Academy of Sciences and the expansion of its activity, eight divisions, corresponding to basic groups of sciences, were organized in 1938 in order to improve the management of scientific research.

During the Great Patriotic War, the Academy of Sciences aided the destruction of the enemy in every possible way. Under difficult wartime conditions, research connected with the perfection of military equipment and the discovery of new resources of raw materials unfolded. A number of new institutes of the academy were formed; its branches were further developed, and it was on this basis that most of the academies of sciences of the Union republics were created.

The postwar years were marked by the further growth of the academy and the expansion of its network of scientific research institutions. The Siberian division was organized in 1957 to aid the development of science in the eastern regions of the country. The research undertaken in the AN SSSR began to embrace an ever-broader front in the sciences. A high level of fundamental research in the area of the natural sciences was achieved; this research laid the basis for the solution of the greatest scientific and technical problems—first and foremost, the harnessing of the energy of the atomic nucleus and the opening up of outer space—in the shortest possible time.

New and vast tasks have confronted the Academy of Sciences in the period of full-scale construction of communism. In 1961 and 1963, in accordance with resolutions of the Party and government, important measures to enhance the role of the academy in the organization of fundamental research in the country were carried out. The academy was charged with directing the development of natural and social sciences on an all-Union scale. In this regard, the academy was reorganized; still more specialized divisions were opened, and corresponding sections of the Presidium of the academy were formed to guide them—for example, the earth sciences section was organized in 1968. The academy’s network of scientific institutions has become increasingly oriented toward the development of fundamental research in the areas of natural and social sciences. The material resources of the academy have grown enormously; the technical equipment of its institutes and laboratories has increased; very large complexes of institutes on solid-state physics, chemistry, biology, and other very important areas of contemporary science have been created. The academy’s ties with the branch ministries, departments, and their scientific institutions have been strengthened. The AN USSR plays an important role in the technical progress and cultural construction of the country. The basic research conducted in the Academy of Sciences has a great influence on the development of new branches of technology, in particular radioelectronics, computer technology, polymer chemistry, and the development of the social sciences. The academy’s scholars make a great contribution to science; under Soviet power, the Academy of Sciences of the USSR has been transformed into the greatest center of world science. In 1969 the academy was awarded the Order of Lenin.


Istoriia Akademii nauk SSSR, in 3 vols., vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958–64.
220 let Akademii nauk SSSR. Moscow-Leningrad, 1945.
Vavilov, S. I. “Akademiia nauk SSSR,” in Bol’shaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia, 2nd ed., vol. 1. [Moscow, 1949.]
Vavilov, S. I. 30 let sovetskoi nauki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Nesmeianov, A. N. “40 let sovetskoi nauki.” Vestnik AN SSSR, 1957, no. 11.
Keldysh, M. V. “Sovetskaia nauka i stroitel’stvo kommunizma.” Vestnik AN SSSR, 1961, no. 7.
Keldysh, M. V. “Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia i nauchnyi progress.” Vestnik AN SSSR, 1967, no. 11.
Topchiev, A. V. Stroitel’stvo kommunizma i nauka. Moscow, 1957.
Kniazev, G. A., and A. V. Kol’tsov. Kratkii ocherk istorii Akademii nauk SSSR, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1957.


Presidents of the Academy of Sciences

December 1725–July 1733: Physician-in-ordinary Lavrentii Lavrent’evich Bliumentrost

July 1733–December 1733: Count German Karl Keizerling

September 1734–March 1740: Baron Iogann Al’brekht Korf

April 1740–April 1741: Karl fon Brevern

May 1746–April 1798: Count Kirill Grigor’evich Razumovskii, hetman of Malorossiia

April 1798–February 1803: Baron Andrei L’vovich Nikolai

February 1803–1810: Count Nikolai Nikolaevich Novosil’tsov, honorary member from 1801

January 1818–September 1855: Count Sergei Semenovich Uvarov, honorary member from 1811

November 1855–February 1864: Count Dmitrii Nikolaevich Bludov, honorary member from 1826

February 1864–April 1882: Count Fedor Petrovich Litke, honorary member from 1855

April 1882–April 1889: Count Dmitrii Andreevich Tolstoi, honorary member from 1886

May 1889–June 1915: Grand Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich (Romanov), honorary member from 1887

May 1917–July 1936: Aleksandr Petrovich Karpinskii

December 1936–July 1945: Vladimir Leont’evich Komarov

July 1945–January 1951: Sergei Ivanovich Vavilov

February 1951–May 1961: Aleksandr Nikolaevich Nesmeianov

Since May 1961: Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh

Note: The Academy of Sciences had no president during 1741—46, 1810–18, and 1916–17.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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