ARCHITECTS OF KNOWLEDGE
This year the All-Union Society “Znanie” celebrates its 60th anniversary
At one time it was called “the Academy of Millions”. Formerly known as All-Union Society, now it became an International Association (IA). And its capabilities have grown considerably – especially with the advent of the latest space technologies and telecommunications. In particular, we are talking about distance learning.
Znanie unites educational and enlightening organizations from Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine. Today we talk to its president, academician Efim MALITIKOV.
– Efim Mikhailovich, the All-Union Society “Znanie” was an unprecedented phenomenon, wasn’t it?
– Absolutely. World history knows no other example of implementation of such a large-scale program of familiarizing millions of people with scientific knowledge. Just a few years after its creation, the All-Union Society became a powerful factor in the formation of social ideals and values in the Soviet Union. In particular, the social status of scientists, engineers, researchers … It became prestigious to study at technical universities. More than that! Little was said about it – but the achievements of science were in many ways overshadowed by the glaring shortcomings of public administration: so impressive were the successes in the development of nuclear energy, aviation, astronautics.
In the U.S. they still remember the shock caused by the launch of our country’s first artificial satellite, the launch of the first cosmonaut into Earth orbit. Americans began then to thoroughly study the system of training of specialists in universities of the USSR – indeed exemplary for that time.
One of the secrets of the impressive achievements of Soviet science and technology in those years lay precisely in the fact that behind the academic school was the “academy of millions” – the All-Union Society “Znanie”. It covered the work of thousands of lecture halls (from the Baltic to the Pacific Ocean, from the Arctic Circle to Transcaucasia) and had a very elaborate system of dissemination of popular science information.
And in the mid-60s the infrastructure of people’s universities emerged. This is a qualitatively new stage in the development of the “Znanie” society. What was initially a system of lecture and printed distribution of educational information began to acquire a coherent form of more profound and specialized education. For young people such universities became a natural form of pre-university training. For specialists in enterprises it is a powerful reserve for advanced training. For enterprises it was a convenient scheme of involving academic science in the solution of practical production problems. It was a very promising form of scientific-industrial tandem. It was symptomatic that it was at folk universities that departments that even academic universities did not have (cybernetics, radioelectronics, applied mathematics, scientific organization of labor and management…) began to appear. It was a unique experimental site, where many ideas were tested and then implemented in higher education.
By the early 1990s, lecture halls and universities of the “Znanie” society reached almost 4 million people in their classrooms. Over 25 million lectures were given annually. Society united 2 thousand academicians, more than 25 thousand doctors and professors, 383 thousand engineers, 208 thousand doctors, 184 thousand specialists in agriculture. Its material base included the Polytechnic Museum, Central Polytechnic Library, thousands of houses of knowledge, houses of scientific and technological propaganda, lecture halls, libraries, as well as folk universities, planetariums, publishing houses, rest houses… Only its own publishing house (“Znanie”) annually produced over 200 million copies of brochures, books, magazines, visual aids. These included the best popular periodicals such as Znanie – sila (Knowledge is Power), Nauka i Zhizn (Science and Life), Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn (International Life), Argumenty i Fakty (Arguments and Facts)… Millions articles were printed in 34 series of issues of the New in Life, Science, and Technology series. Still on the shelves of personal libraries of Russians there are popular science books of the famous series “Lives of remarkable people”, “Science and Progress”, “Creators of science and technology”.
The international authority of the society was given by the world famous scientists: Academicians S. I. Vavilov, A. I. Oparin, N. N. Semenov (Nobel Prize winner), I. I. Artobolevsky, N. G. Basov (Nobel Prize winner) and others. For a certain period, V.A. Kirillin, First Deputy Chairman of the USSR Government, Chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, was the Chairman of the Board. Most recently, K.V. Frolov, vice-president of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
Unfortunately, the colossal infrastructure of Znanie has suffered irreparable damage, becoming an object of indiscriminate privatization and embezzlement. However, the real assets of such an organization are not in buildings, lecture halls or publishing houses. They are in the ever-increasing importance of global information exchange. Alas, even many academics at the turn of the century were not aware of the importance of this factor…
– In what areas does Znanie work today?
– Education, continuing education, culture and ecology.
– You are one of the enthusiasts of distance learning…
– Three years ago I came up with the initiative to create the World University of Distance Education (WDDE). Its main task is to ensure mutual exchange and export/import of knowledge between the world’s leading universities. The WDDE will become an accumulator and distributor of knowledge transfer from the world’s best universities and professors – using space teleports based on the achievements of Russian space science. Without exaggeration, the WDDE is a project of planetary scale.
Developing their partnership, Znanie and the CIS Interstate Committee for Knowledge Dissemination and Adult Education created the basic structure – the Modern Humanitarian Academy (MHA). Now people can receive education in the remotest corners of the world, through modern satellite communications. With a shortage of educators, this is the key to increasing the productivity of teaching. After all, the classroom-lesson form significantly limits the audience, but in our case this limitation is removed. And if necessary, the audience of listeners can number in the hundreds of thousands! In addition, such education is accessible even to the poorest segments of the population. Today it is a leader among the European, CIS and Russian institutions of higher education in terms of the number of students (about 175,000).
– The Soviet Union was the largest Eurasian center for generating new knowledge. And how are things today in Russia?
– With the stabilization of the economic situation there is every chance to restore and strengthen its positions. Let us not forget: with the transfer of knowledge comes the spread of values! This is why in order to participate equally in the global information process it is necessary to exchange this knowledge, literally – to deal with its import and export. In Russia, for example, the positions of the physical and mathematical sciences are traditionally strong. So, in the field of education, we can be a global center of knowledge export in these areas…
It is necessary to raise the status of science in the economic development of the country and the social life of society. An indispensable precondition for this is the revival of the culture of mass continuing education. It can only be organized within the framework of wide spreading of distance education, using the achievements of space and cable communication.
Academician of the Russian Municipal Academy
On May 1, 1947 the Soviet press published the appeal of a group of prominent scientists, socio-political and military figures (among them – S.I. Vavilov, B.D. Grekov, N.S. Tikhonov, E.V. Tarle, A.I. Oparin, K. Simonov, G. Ulanova) to all representatives of science, literature and art, to scientific, public organizations and institutions of the USSR. They proposed to create the All-Union Society for the dissemination of political and scientific knowledge.
The USSR Council of Ministers by its decrees signed by Stalin on April 29 and December 16, 1947 approved this appeal and approved the organizing committee.
During its first meeting on May 12, 1947 the organizational committee decided to organize the Society’s branches in the union republics and major regional centers of Russia.
On July 7, 1947 the founding Congress was held in the Bolshoi Theater.
On July 10, 1947 the Board Plenum of Znanie elected S.I. Vavilov, the president of the USSR Academy of Sciences, a world renowned scientist, as its chairman.
On June 2, 1964 the IV Congress of the All-Union Society “Znanie” was held. It went down in history as the congress of birth of national universities. By that time each adult citizen listened to an average of 4-5 lectures a year.
Political events of 1991, proclamation of the sovereignty of the RSFSR, the withdrawal of a number of republics from the USSR caused the need for decisions determining the future of the All-Union Society “Znanie”.
In order to ensure continuity and preserve traditional ties among the intellectuals of the sovereign republics, the Soviet Union-wide Association “Znanie” was transformed into the International Association “Znanie” (IA “Znanie”) on November 4, 1991. K.V.Frolov was elected President of this Association and on June 29, 1995 E.M. Malitikov was elected as the President.
International global aerospace monitoring system (IGMASS)
Space for humanity. World university of a new type without language, national and cultural borders
Speaker at the Upper Segment of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Globalization