Vernadsky Celebration Organizing Committee Has Laid Out an Extensive Program
January 2, 2013 • 11:38AM

Following President Putin's call in December, a committee has been set up in the Russian Academy of Sciences under the vice director of the Academy, Nikolai Laverov. The members of the committee include a broad array of scholars, including Erik Galimov, the head of the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry, as well as a number of other Academicians. There are also a number of key figures, including Vladimir Grachev, who is the head of something called "Greenlight," as well as the head of the Non-Governmental Ecological Fund Named for V.I. Vernadskii. While the organization sounds very bad, Grachev has legitimate scientific credentials, and will probably be playing a prominent role in the commission, as he is one of its co-chairmen. This gives you an idea of the different "takes" on Vernadsky which will be a part of this Jubilee.

There is, however, a commitment by the commission to the complete publication of Vernadsky's work in Russian, this time uncensored. This had been the subject of a heated debate over the last few years, according to Galimov, as most of Vernadsky's published works, including his extensive "Diaries", have always been subject to some form of censorship. This involved elisions from his work as well as extensive "editorial notes" explaining what Vernadsky really meant. This was not only the result of "ideological" motives, Galimov indicated, but also related to some rather straightforward comments Vernadsky made in the "Diaries" about some of his contemporaries, who have since been placed on a pedestal. This problem has been generally recognized for some time, and hopefully the more recent publications of Vernadsky's works have been less affected by the problem. But it seems as if the arrival of the 150th anniversary has given a boost to those in the Academy who feel that a fresh airing of all of Vernadsky's writings is in order.

In an interview given by Galimov in 2008, he indicated that there would also be cooperation with the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in this publishing effort. The first publication of Vernadsky's "Diaries" was in fact done from the Vernadsky archives in Ukraine, which covered the years 1917-1921, the period of the Bolshevik Revolution and the Civil War, when Vernadsky was living in Ukraine. Galimov indicated quite rightly that the wide circulation of Vernadsky's comments in this critical period on the important scientific relationship between Ukraine (which at the time was under the control of the Whites) and Russia, would be very beneficial to the relationship today.

The commission is also intent on revamping or reconstructing the various museums and memorials to Vernadsky, including the Geological Museum and the Vernadsky Kabinet-Museum in Moscow, the Mineralogical Institute in St. Petersburg, and the Vernadsky facilities in Tambov.

The commission has also committed itself to publishing in English an edition of Vernadsky's "Selected Works." There will be a series of conferences throughout the year in Russia, in Moscow, in St. Petersburg, and in Tambov, but also an "expedition" sponsored by Grachev's Ecological Fund, with the title "Parallels to Vernadsky," which will organize conferences throughout the year in other countries, in cities which have a Vernadsky connection: Kiev, Astana (in October), Prague (in August), Paris (in March), and in Boston (in 2014). (I'm not sure where Boston comes in, as Vernadsky's one trip to the United States did not take him to Boston, as far as I know, although the Boston leg will be dedicated both to V.I. Vernadsky and to George Vernadsky, who was a professor at Yale.)